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Loudspeakers | floor-standing

Graham Audio

Price (when reviewed): 21 000 PLN/pair

tel.: 0044 (0)1626361168


Provided for test by: AUDIOPUNKT

hen I looked into the drop-down table where we put our previous articles about the reviewed brand, I was struck by the number of Awards that Graham Audio products received from us. Out of four tested speakers, for received the awards. To tell the truth, I didn't even realize it. I could have suspected something because the approach of the BBC engineers and the logic behind their products are close to my heart - I understand and respect them. But I didn't know that I was so „enchanted".

And the logic behind this type of product is completely unique and never seen anywhere else. The loudspeakers, which were produced by the BBC or licensed by the BBC, had to meet precisely set requirements, both technical and sonic ones. In short - they were supposed to be monitors. And "monitor" in the world of pro audio is not just "stand mount speakers", but above all "speakers to monitor sound" - a recording or transmission. And these must offer absolute fidelity.

The history of BBC research department projects dates back to the mid-1960s, when KEF prepared its first drivers, which became the basis for new generation of BBC monitors. We are counting the new chapter since 1968. The Spendor company established at that time used woofers with a membrane made of a material called Bextren (model BC1), prepared jointly with the BBC research department. The second distinguishing feature of this design were thin walls of the cabinet, with selected spots that were not damped, and which were to "play" with the drivers. Other companies that offered their speakers under the BBC license - Harbeth, Falcon Acoustics, Rogers Audio, Chartwell, RAM, Goodmans, Stirling Broadcast, Graham Audio, etc, followed a similar path.


The LS5/9 model was also developed under the BBC license, and we wrote about it in August 2014 (HF | № 124 • August 2014). It was a relatively new project, from 1983 (BBC report The design of the prototype LS 5/9 studio monitoring loudspeaker, in PDF you can download it HERE, accessed: 23.03.2020). /p>

Paul Graham, the founder of the company (on the right) and Paul Westlake, the sales director of Graham Audio, at the premiere of the LS5/9 during Munich’s High End 2015

The designation of this model encodes information about its purpose and size. LS is short for Loudspeakers. The number '5' means that these are speakers intended for stationary recording and recording studios; the speakers with the number '3' in the name - for example the LS3/5a - were intended for mobile studios. In turn '9' means the size of the cabinet.

They were supposed to be speakers with medium power capacity, intended for studios that could not fit larger models (LS5/8 and S5/6). In the mentioned document we can find a brief description of the features:

A vented cabinet having a volume of 28 liters (1 cubic foot). Two drive units; a proprietary 34-mm soft-domed high frequency unit and a BBC-designed 200mm low-frequency unit having a polypropylene diaphragm and a high-temperature voice-coil. A low-lever cross-over circuit feeds a 50 watt stereo amplifier which drives the units separately; the cross-over frequency is 2,4 kHz. The axial frequency response is ± 3 dB from 56 Hz to 16 kHz, and the maximum sound level is 100 dB (A) at 1 m on axis measured in a typical room using light music.

By design, all speakers developed under the BBC license were stand mount speakers, even if they featured a 109-liter cabinets, like the large LS5/8. After a good reception of the LS5/9 model, Graham Audio engineers decided to go a step further and develop a floor set, using similar design solutions and the same drivers. Hence the letter 'f' in its name. It is also a reference to history - the letter after the symbol was used to mark subsequent versions of a given model (as in LS3/5a). At the time, however, they were the letters 'a', 'b', 'c' - here 'f' simply means 'floor-standing.

| LS5/9f

Speakers bearing the LS5/9f designation do not, however, use the BBC license, because they have no previous equivalent. Therefore, the designers decided introduce additional minor modifications to the original model so that - as they say - they could achieve a perfect compromise and „find the golden ratio between classic and modern features”.

Derek Hughes, responsible for the crossover, known from earlier SP1/2 projects by Spendor, then LS3/6 by Stirling Broadcast, and more recently LS5/9 and LS3/8 by Graham Audio, again participated in the design process for the LS5/9 floor monitor. Derek Hughes is the son of the founders of Spendor - Spencer and Dorothy (SpenDor) Hughes. The look of the new speakers is an absolute classic on the one hand, and on the other it is also more modern. However, if I were to point out what prevails, it is rather the classic - the wide front baffle and characteristic drivers are hard to be mistaken for anything else.

The loudspeaker cabinet is made of thin MDF (<10 mm) and damped in a manner characteristic of BBC monitors. The patent consists in speaker’s walls resonating in a specific, controlled manner. Thanks to this, the design is optimally harmonized with the used drivers in the full frequency range. The material used to dampen the speakers is mineral wool trimmed with cotton fabric.

The LS5/9f are equipped with a wide pedestal with a port forward-firing - well, it’s actually not really a bass-reflex. The opening venting the housing was placed on the bottom, but this is a lossy vent, not a bass reflex. The 200mm diameter polypropylene membrane is responsible for the low tones, and the tweeter is a large, 34mm textile dome. A very characteristic protective mesh is placed in front of the tweeter. We know both drivers from the stand-mount version and they correspond to the original BBC design. There is also a switch on the front panel that adjusts the tweeter level - it can be increased by 1 or 2 dB. This is also a change - in LS5/9 these were pins with soldered cables.

LS5/9f are manually assembled in Devon, England. Graham Audio emphasizes that people who work in production are real enthusiasts - people absolutely crazy about music and sound quality. The speakers are finished with natural veneer. When it comes to technical parameters, only the nominal impedance (8 Ω) remained the same compared to the stand-mount version. The sensitivity was changed (89 dB versus 87 dB in monitors), also crossover frequency (3 kHz versus 1.7 kHz), as well as the frequency response that now extends from 40 Hz to 20 kHz.


The sensitivity of the tested speakers is in higher ranges and amounts to 89 dB SPL (2.83 V, 1 m). Still, the company suggests using a fairly powerful amplifier. I can confirm that - for the LS5/9f to deliver powerful, rich sound they require a lot of power. It can be a tube amplifier, but rather powerful one - I can recommend Leben's CS600X, and if you choose a solid-state I can suggest the SoulNote A-2 SE. The loudspeakers will sound best toed in, though they do not have to be pointing directed at listener. During the test they were placed exactly where the reference speakers, Harbeth M40.1, usually are and were directed at me. Under the spikes I placed the Acoustic Revive SPU-8 and CP-4s.

GRAHAM AUDIO in „High Fidelity”
  • AWARD | BEST PRODUCT 2018: Graham Audio CHARTWELL LS6/f | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Graham Audio CHARTWELL LS6/f | loudspeakers
  • AWARD | BEST PRODUCT 2017: Chartwell LS3/5a | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Chartwell LS3/5a | loudspeakers
  • AWARD | BEST PRODUCT 2016: Chartwell LS3/5 | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Chartwell LS3/5 | loudspeakers
  • AWARD | BEST PRODUCT 2014: Graham Audio LS5/9 | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Graham Audio LS5/9 | loudspeakers

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • Clannad, In a lifetime, BMG, Promo, 4 x CD-R (2020)
    • Frank Sinatra, Come swing with me!, Capitol Records CDP 7 94520 2, CD (1961/1991)
    • Kazuo Yashiro Trio, Love Is Here To Stay, Takt Jazz Series/Nippon Columbia COCB-54090, „Dig Deep Columbia”, Blu-spec CD (1968/2014)
    • Madonna, Music, Maverick | Warner Bros. Records 9362-47865-2, CD (2000)
    • Radiohead, OK Computer. OKNOTOK Edition, XL Recordings/Beat Records XLCDJP868, 2 x Ultimate HiQuality CD (1997/2017)
    • Santana, Supernatural, Arista | BMG ‎07822 19080 2, CD (1999)
    • Takeshi Inomata, The Dialogue, Audio Lab. Record/Octavia Records OVXA-00008, SACD/CD (1977/2001)
    • Terumasa Hino, Terumasa Hino Concert, Takt/Nippon Columbia COCY-80505, Swing Journal Jazz Workshop 1, „CD On Demand”, CD-R (1969/1997)

    Listening to audio products it is sometimes difficult to predict who will like them. Even if we have absolute clarity about their sound. Yes, I own speakers that have BBC roots. Because they have an extremely characteristic set of features that are perceived by many listeners as "coloration”. On the other hand, one cannot forget that the BBC was an extremely "engineering" institution in the 1960s and '70s, focused on measurement results and technology. And that leave no space for coloration, even for the "pleasant" to the ear one.

    The BBC loudspeakers were to be - nothing less than and nothing more than - monitors in every sense of the word, i.e. speakers without coloration. And that's how I perceive them. And what people take for warm sound, for rolled off treble, etc. is, in my opinion, a return to normality, to how the sound reproduced at home should sound like. But it's just me and my interpretation. What is "normal" is not permanent, it changes over time. And that's why it's hard for me to predict who will like a product in a case like this.

    It is much easier for me to say who will NOT like it. The Grahams will not be liked, I think, by those who like highly detailed sound. The LS5/9f will not offer it. Also those who like a rigid, clear attack and precise sound will not be satisfied. These speakers will not be their first choice. They won’t also fulfil expectations of those for whom the bass must be perfectly controlled at all costs.

    Grahams don't do that. They do something completely different: they are unbelievably natural. Already the stand-mount LS5/9 were incredible in this respect, but the enlargement of the cabinet introduced a breath to their sound, which gave the speakers the opportunity to play in a very dynamic way. This dynamics is manifested in subcutaneous changes. That is - audible and obvious, but those that are not there just to be there, but to serve something more.

    As with Terumasa Hino's concert album Terumasa Hino Concert. It was recorded by Mr. Okihiko Sugano on November 22nd 1968, in a minimalistic microphone setup at Yamaha Hall. The sound on it is fantastic in its credibility and beauty. The Graham Audio loudspeakers, which I am talking about, played it very well, mainly due to the "tangibility" of the presentation. They were not feeding me with details, they were not cutting out the bodies from the background, and yet I had the impression that there was so much information in this sound, as if it consisted exclusively of details and subtleties.

    The same situation repeated a moment later with the The Dialogue album recorded by Mr. Sugano-san nine years later in a smaller concert hall - the Lino Hall. The opening dialogue between drums and double bass is often used by Japanese producers to show the dynamics and the extension of the bass. During the premiere of the TechDAS Zero turntable, which was run by Mr. Hideaki Nishikawa in Munich, the grilles fell off of the Vivid Audio Giya G3 speakers, that’s how hard this bass hits (you can find our report HERE) .

    Graham Audio LS5/9f played it in a warmer, closer and more dense, but also in an extremely dynamic way. They deliver bass, which is natural on the one hand, but saturated on the other. They do not go as low as the bass-reflex speakers of this size, and yet it seems that this range is presented by them more accurately. Which reminded me of an anecdote about Peter J. Walker, the founder of QUAD.

    Well, his ESL57 electrostatic loudspeakers were loved by many music lovers for the absolute precision and lack of coloration coming from the cabinets (because they did not have any). But their disadvantage was early rolled off bass with a small mass. Mr. Walkers response to complaints was that if they lack the bass, then "they should kick a cardboard box" to have more bass. By the way - the frequency response of the original ESL57 began at 45 Hz and ended at 18 kHz (- 3 dB).

    The tested loudspeakers do not lack anything in this respect. They sound like a large broadband driver in an open baffle, but with an uncolored treble and an extended bass range. But this is a bass that I would call rather "natural" than "powerful". This is how the close-cabinet loudspeakers sound like, and Grahams add to this the lack of dynamics flattening at the very bottom of the band, characteristic for this type of design, even there they sound very natural.

    Which came out with the Frank Sinatra swing album Come Swing With Me in the excellent remaster by Larry Walsh from 1991 (this is the best digital version of this album). There is a large swing orchestra on it, with trombones that sounded wonderful on Grahams. Just like the vocals. As expected, it was placed close to me. Unlike many "warmed up" loudspeakers, it was not too close and did not step out in front of the line connecting the speakers. His palpability resulted not from the fact that Sinatra "sat on my lap", but from the fact that his vocal was of natural size was not a point in space, but a guest of flesh and blood.

    And all this due to the above-average Graham’s resolution. It's not like "they sound like much more expensive loudspeakers", because in this way there would not be those that "play like much cheaper loudspeakers", at least not in the ranges of good brands. But in this respect they go head to head with competitors twice as expensive. They do not offer such a deep soundstage as the latter do, nor do they have such a extended frequency response at both extremes. You can't have everything at once. But in terms of resolution they are phenomenal.

    One can play every album with them, because except for special ones from Japan, it is masterpieces (it’s a pity that the term is used less and less often) by Mr. Sugano-san, equally well sounded the Supernatural by Santana, and then Music by Madonna. Both recent excellent productions, but clearly different from each other. Santana plays mainly in the midrange, with clearly rolled off extremes, while Madonna is using first and foremost both range extremes, with strong bass and withdrawn vocals.

    Both discs were presented by Graham speakers in an equally coherent, orderly way. When I set the switch to "+1 dB" I got the best tonal balance and the treble were never exaggerated. These are not the loudspeakers of this type and even with recordings that play poorly on loudspeakers with a more "strained" sound, they will show something different, a better version of the given disc. They will not fix compression, they will not add information where there is none. Instead, they will show music in an unrestrained and natural way.


    The Graham Audio LS5/9f present the best of what the top audio has to offer. They disappear from the room, they are natural, they deliver full range performance without any noticeable compression. They will play music intended for the car radio in as good way as possible without annoying listener with brightness, and the best recordings will sound amazing with them.

    They also offer an extremely good phase coherence, because the elements out-of-phase are excellent with them. The trumpet opening the Terumasa Hino Concert was recorded with an inverted phase (probably unintentionally), which only a few speakers even notice at all. Grahams did notice that immediately. And listeners will notice too. These are not speakers for everyone, but for those who will like them, these may be the last ones they will ever buy.

    The Graham Audio LS5/9f is a floor version of the LS5/9 speakers. These are two-way loudspeakers with two drivers, with a lossy opening - its outlet is in the bottom of the cabinet but thanks to the wide plinth, the opening is led out to the front. The loudspeakers are really easy to set up, maybe thanks to this particular solution. Steel spikes are screwed into the plinth.

    Cabinet | Their proportions are very good, but they resemble more of the speakers from the A and D series rather than modern designs with a narrow front panels. And this is because they use a large, 200 mm woofer, and there are 33 mm space left on its both sides. The cabinet is made of not very thick panels, finished with natural veneer. The original LS5/9 featured birch plywood cabinets. What’s the case here - I do not know. I could only see that the back is made of MDF. The whole is enforced inside with a single MDF wreath, glued-in below the woofer. The back wall is also reinforced with a wreath.

    These are very well made cabinets. Looking at the details, it is hard to resist the impression that they were made by the Polish company Pylon Audio. Nobody can confirm it, but the chances are quite - Pylon produces cabinets for many European manufacturers from the top shelf. Anyway, the veneer is really nice. The plinth of glued MDF boards is painted black.

    The housing has been damped in a way specific to BBC monitors. The idea was for the speaker’s walls to resonate in a controlled manner. The company comments on this choice as follows: "Thanks to that, the design is optimally harmonized in the full frequency range with the used drivers. The result of such tuning is a natural and organic sound coinciding with the natural character of the instruments or the timbre of the human voice." Usually it's plywood, but in this case, since we are not in the BBC license regime, we decided to use MDF. The material used for damping the speakers is mineral wool inside cotton fabric. It was used on all the walls and crossover.

    Crossover | It is assembled on a single circuit board. Although it is a two-way design, the crossover is extremely complex - there are as many as four coils - two air and two core ones. Capacitors are nice Cross-Cap Jantzen Audio polypropylenes. Thanks to the larger cabinet, the sensitivity is now at 89 dB. The crossover frequency is also different - it is now 3 kHz. The frequency response ranges from 40 Hz to 20 kHz (± 2 dB). Internal wiring is made of OFC copper braid.

    Drivers | And finally, the drivers – the pride and joy of the manufacturer. The 200mm low-midrange driver has a milky-white, translucent polypropylene membrane; that in the company's nomenclature is called Diaphnatone. The composition of this material was established by Graham Audio years ago and resembles the formula used by Spendor. The driver features a solid, cast basket and a powerful magnet; it is screwed to the front baffle with screws, not bolts. This driver is manufactured according to Graham's specifications and by Volt Loudspeakers.

    The tweeter was fastened with bolts. It is a large, 34mm in diameter, soft dome, protected with a mesh with large holes, purchased from Audax (HD13D34H). Other manufacturers of "BBC speakers" - Falcon Acoustics, Spendor and Rogers also use the same driver. Its characteristic feature, apart from its size, is the lack of ferrofluid, that many blame for losing a lot of details. The level of treble can be adjusted using the toggle switch on the front panel. There are three positions: 0 / +1 / +2 dB. It's just an attenuator - there are resistors right behind the switch.

    All the rest | The speakers come with magnet grills. The look very nice, have classic proportions and are easy to set up.


    Reference system 2018

    1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
    2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
    3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
    4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
    5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
    6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
    7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


    Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
    Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
    Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

    AC Power

    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
    Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
    Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
    Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
    Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


    Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
    Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
    Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

    • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


    Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

    Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

    Record mats:


    Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

    Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC