Chartwell LS3/5a Speakers, Rare 15 ohm Early Edition
I’ve been reading for many many years about the merits of the classic LS3/5a design, but never had a chance to experience them in person until this pair arrived.
They came to us from the collection of a well known speaker manufacturer from the 70s. I imagine he had them to study their design and learn from the years of evolution and engineering. I can surmise this because he had other pairs that were highly modified, but this pair remained intact and well cared for.
The cabinets look respectful and do not have any significant gouges or very deep scratches. They have a nice warm patina like a piece of vintage furniture that has been well cared for.
The drivers are in perfect working condition and each has been carefully tested through its entire listening frequency range. The rubber surrounds are intact and supple and should last another 30 years.
The grill frames are solid and do not have any cracks, and the cloth cleaned up nicely without any significant tears.
On the back you will find the stickers indicating that these are in fact earlier 15 ohm speakers, although some of the labels are missing.
They sound wonderful and provide punchy mid bass and warm and neutral highs typical of a British speaker.
This particular model has been revived and is currently under production under the Chartwell name and retail for $5000. Why buy a reproduction when you can have the real thing for essentially the same price.
Here is a bit of background I “borrowed” from an eBay ad:
These beauties were manufactured in early 1978. They are the real Chartwells made by the original Chartwell Electro Acoustics, Ltd. in Mitcham Surrey, England before they were acquired by Swisstone.
Real, original Chartwells are considered the finest LS3/5A's ever made. They were tested more stringently than Rogers and other varieties. Their QC was second to none. The quality of the crossover glass epoxy board and components is top notch also. The ITT film caps used are known for their smooth, musical sound quality.
No current production LS3/5A (Falcon, Graham, Stirling) can even come close to the sound quality of these speakers.
They have a very smooth response from top to bottom. The midrange in particular is to die for, absolutely sublime. Never peaky or bright. It is the equivalent of the fabled Quad ESL57 in a much more manageable size.
Imaging is spooky real with these. Instruments exist in their own space in the sound-field. No wonder these are so highly regarded!
The 15 ohm impedance makes these speakers perfect for vintage tube amplifiers. Tube amps perform their best when the 16 ohm tap is used.