So here it is, my first audio review in the COVID-19 world, and it’s a real game-changer. I’ve been listening to a lot of music using the LSA 20 Statement loudspeakers (website), yet as much solace as I’ve gotten from the music itself, I really haven’t been in much of a mood to write about it. Well, that stops now. There is hopefulness on the horizon. As a dear friend ended a recent email to me: “There is a collective grieving for the world as we knew it, but I believe it’s a time of great transformation. We may be in a seemingly dark place right now, but we will emerge from our place of struggle having gained the strength to fly to greater heights than we’ve ever known before. Who wants to stay a caterpillar, anyway?”
There you have it; I don’t intend to caterpillar around for much longer, thank you very much, but will do my thing in isolation as long as I have to. To make that work, what we really need in these trying times is something that makes us feel comfortable. Like a familiar pair of jeans and a favorite t-shirt. Or a really good friend.
Which brings me to the subject of the speakers I have here for review: the LSA 20 Statements. These speakers make me feel comfortable–and in a really good way.
The statement and the LSA 20 Statement
Statement. That’s a fighting word, a bold declaration saying “we are the best, not just now, but well into the future.” According to Walter Liederman, whose company Underwood Hi-Fi bought out LSA some five years back, these speakers are meant to be an all-out assault on the affordable end of state-of-the-art. Maybe even the whole loudspeaker industry if we want to really think boldly. Any way you cut it, Walter’s goal is to offer a compact, yet full-range loudspeaker that can easily compete with anything else out there at three or more times the price.
Now, I won’t claim to have heard every contender circulating in the crowded sub-$20k realm of loudspeakers, but I’ve heard enough be able to comment with some degree of authority on Mr. Liederman’s claims.
The Statements are constructed overseas in China under very tight quality control, using top quality materials and custom drivers. Each pair, once it hits U.S. shores, is carefully examined and tested to meet stringent quality control guidelines set in place by Walter Liederman himself.
I didn’t really know what to expect when the speakers arrived and were un-boxed. What I did find out was that they are truly beautiful and beautifully constructed. The glossy finish on the real wood veneer is stunning, to say the least. I was also pleased to see that as floor-standing towers, the Statements have a satisfyingly parsimonious footprint. While lovely to gaze upon, they don’t dominate a room from a gargantuan size perspective (like, ahem, my ATC SCM 100 monitors). Even so, they are eye-catching to the max and more house-friendly than my cat, though that’s not saying much. In short, the Statements look more than comfortable in a well-appointed living room environment … And even better in my listening room.
LSA 20 Statement, an overview
Here’s the skinny for you more technical minded folk. Looking straight-on at the LSA 20 Statement’s baffles, we find a complement of four drivers: a single copper-beryllium tweeter, a carbon fiber conical midrange unit, and further down, two 6.5-inch aluminum bass drivers. According to Mr. Liederman, all drivers use patented XBL2 technology to obtain longer excursion at lower levels of distortion. Around back we find on each cabinet a trio of rear-firing concentric race-track sub-bass drivers, just to make sure the low frequencies, reportedly down to 25 Hz, are properly covered. Also, there is a single pair of gold-plated copper binding posts per speaker.
Another notable feature of the Statement 20s is their curved side panels, which give the cabinets a nearly teardrop-like profile when viewed from above. My old ATC SCM 19 monitors had this same sort of shape, and it’s not just there to look nice. The purpose is to break up standing waves in the cabinets, thus cutting down on vibration and audible distortion.
Besides the gorgeous finish, the cabinets seem exceptionally stout and well-braced. Overall fit-’n’-finish is exceptional. These speakers are real lookers.
My evaluation system while the LSA 20 Statements were in-house was quite simple. My Bricasti M1 SE DAC (Editors Choice winner, reviewed here) directly fed my trusty Pass Labs X250.8 stereo amplifier (Editors Choice winner, reviewed here), which in turn aptly powered the LSA speakers. I was so smitten by the symbiosis between the Pass amp and the speakers that I really wasn’t in any mood to mess with near perfection. Furthermore, while the LSA 20 Statements are reasonably efficient at 86 dB and present a not-so-difficult load to the amp (6-ohm nominal), they do go deep, so having a lot of power in reserve seemed like a good idea to keep those woofers under control.
As our Editor would say, it’s always a good idea to “geek out” a bit, so I just had to try the Statements out with a really good tube amp that has recently come my way: Border Patrol’s superb P20 300B push-pull stereo model. Would 20 watts of well-regulated vacuum tube power helped along with some extra gain provided by my LTA microZOTL 2 preamp be enough to light up the Statements? We shall see…
Walter Liederman let me know that the Statements should sound fine right out of the box (they did…), but that they would slowly improve with around 200 hours of play (they did…). With COVID-19 restrictions in place, I’m sure that I have way more than 200 hours on these puppies, with me sitting in front of them pretty much the whole time!
My impressions of the LSA Statements really haven’t changed since my first listen. Yes, they have gotten more refined, but the basic characteristics have remained present during my entire time with them. I’d summarize these boxes as smooth, exceptionally well-integrated across the audio spectrum, and boasting plenty of extension at both extremes. I have a good friend who has Wilson Audio MAXX speakers, and these much smaller LSA towers remind me a lot of those. What I hear is an expansive soundstage in all directions with plenty of detail shining through. However, this degree of resolution doesn’t pound my skull in an offensive way at all- it just flows over me. I can easily pick out little details of the recording venue, especially in live recordings, all in an exceptionally natural acoustic the speakers afford me here in my listening arena.
I normally don’t gravitate much toward imaging and sound staging capabilities when listening to larger boxes. Yeah, these capabilities are fun and all, but why do we really concern ourselves with them in the first place? The answer is because we can.
Before this whole coronavirus thing went down, my wife and I attended a concert in a local church that featured duets between the large church organ and a single trombone. As I sat there, I thought about the importance of imaging and soundstage in a live concert venue. The sound of the organ came from all around me, while the trombone seemed more localized (plus, I could see the trombonist playing, so I knew his exact position). Did any of it matter? Of course not. I was too engulfed in the sound and captivated by the immediacy and emotion of the live performance to give much of a damn.
Why, then, do we concern ourselves with such trivial things when we sit before our two-channel systems? Like I said: because we can. Stereo imaging is a neat trick our systems do that we pay a lot of money to hear and enjoy, so it, therefore, becomes a benchmark of performance when characterizing and describing our gear.
I only mention these trivializations because the LSA Statements do imaging and soundstage so well, especially as larger speakers. We often speak of how small stand-mounted monitor speakers do the “disappearing act”; well, the Statements are pretty good at it too.
One thing about the LSA Statement speakers that really impressed me was how versatile they are at playing all kinds of music. These transducers are “comfortable” with pretty much any fare. Be it stadium rock, easy jazz, large or small scale classical, the Statements will have you covered. I hate to admit it, but I sometimes find myself somewhat genre-limited (as I’m sure some of you do as well). Fortunately for me, the LSA Statements had me moving freely outside of my usual circles. For that, I’m grateful, as there’s so much good and interesting music out there. And with streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz now available to pretty much all of us, exploring outside of our normal boundaries has never been easier and more fulfilling.
I’m just now listening to (for the first time…) Jamael Dean’s album Oblivion, which today showed up on my Qobuz feed (streaming 16/44.1 kHz flac). Wow, that piano. The weight of the instrument, its tonality, and the air around the notes are astounding. Not to mention the dynamics, which are explosive. While I don’t feel that this is really an audiophile recording, there’s something about its close mic’d intimacy that really grabs my attention when heard through the LSA speakers.
Next up is a recent favorite from jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his album Big Vicious (24/88 kHz flac, streamed via Qobuz; CD and vinyl available on Amazon). I’ve followed Cohen for a while now and have always enjoyed his offerings, but I really like this one. The music is aggressive, yet ethereal, featuring Cohen’s take on some old classics such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” When I first encountered this cut, I was doing something else, and I kept wondering where I’d heard that lovely tune before. Funny how something so obviously familiar can elude you when it’s taken so far out of context and when you’re not really thinking about it! An ECM recording, this one seems less dry and impersonal than some others from that label- it’s really quite artful and fun. Via the LSA 20 Statements, Avi Cohen’s trumpet is resplendent in its tonal color and inflection; it’s simultaneously metallic and mellifluous in a most satisfying way. The drum kit is fun to latch onto as well, as it has a fine sense of gravity and impact, especially in the lower registers provided by the kick drum, which reverberates through my room in a manner that would satisfy any refined headbanger!
How about some large scale orchestral fare? No problems here either. In fact, I think this is where full-range speakers such as the Statement 20s can strut their best stuff, especially when powered by the nearly endless reserves of Pass Labs’ “big iron.” Trying out Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” performed by the Minnesota Orchestra on Reference Recordings (16/44.1 kHz flac, streamed vis Qobuz; available on CD and vinyl at Amazon), the LSA 20 Statements let me turn up the volume and enjoy! The famous bass drum thwacks had all of the impact and texture that they should, and the brass was appropriately “blatty” to borrow a wonderfully descriptive term from Sam Tellig, formerly of Stereophile. The sheer enjoyment of full-out orchestral playback at realistically high volume is one of those sick pleasures enjoyed by lucky audio enthusiasts, and it can be truly fulfilled only by high-quality full-range speakers. I’d say with no equivocation that the Statement 20 floor-standers satisfy this requirement, and handily indeed!
Moving over to the Border Patrol P20 (a push-pull 300b-based amplifier, greatly favored by our Editor, and holding an Editor’s Choice Award for as long as Part-Time Audiophile has been announcing such awards), the LSA Statement 20s remained in top form. Yes, the sound was different, as to be expected. I won’t use terms such as “better” or “worse” here, as much of what we hear comes down to personal preference. With tubes in the chain, the soundstage burst out even further in all directions, with a certain “glow” surrounding the instruments. Here, I mean to imply that tonal texture was brought even further into focus, adding a sense of welcome lushness to the aural picture. Treble seemed more open, if not extended. Bass, however, while going deep, took on more of a looser character compared to the vise grip the Pass Labs amp commanded. Even so, 20 watts of vacuum tube push-pull power was plenty for my normal listening habits, though I found myself shying away from the higher-volume, hard-driving fare in which I had indulged with the solid-state amp. For female vocals and chamber works, the combination of the Border Patrol amp and the LSA speakers provided a lingering glimpse of audio heaven.
Against the ATC SCM 100 monitors
Can the LSA Statement 20 speakers hold their own against a pair of perfectionist studio monitors costing around $25k? The answer is “yes, sometimes.” As expected, my ATC SCM 100 speakers are superior in some vital ways. For instance, the SCM 100s do low-level detail retrieval better, and they definitely boast tighter, more nuanced, and defined bass. None of this should come as a surprise, given the purpose of the ATCs or their intended audience. However, the LSA Statements performed more than admirably against the ATCs in areas that will be important to many audio enthusiasts and music lovers. To be sure, the LSA speakers provided a lush, nuanced, and involving midrange that seemed to elude my reference speakers. In fact, it took me a few days to re-adjust my ears to the very honest, but slightly reticent midrange tonality offered by my ATCs. For the all-important reproduction of this region, the LSA Statement 20s are most definitely not boring! I would also wager that the fuller, somewhat livelier bass offered by the LSA speakers will be more to the liking of many listeners compared to the over-damped and very tight presentation offered by the SCM 100 monitors. Besides, the LSA Statements seem to dredge deeper into the low bass than the ATCs; again, this trait will please many listeners.
All in all, I’d say that these “statement” transducers compare quite favorably against a very well-regarded speaker costing almost four times as much! Both are excellent and the choice of one over the other will come down to personal taste and preference.
I’ll always be indebted to the LSA Statement 20. Unintentionally, this was the speaker that just happened to show up at the right time to help get me through the initial phases of the pandemic whose long-term effects we are now all facing. These speakers have given me comfort in tough times, and they also seem quite “comfortable” in my system. They are beautiful to behold, and also possess a sonic “rightness” that both excites and soothes my spirit. I have no doubt that Walter Liederman has achieved his goal of offering a highly satisfying, if not near perfectionist, product to a price level within reach of many regular, hard-working audio enthusiasts.
That such a lovely and accomplished full-range tower speaker can be offered at a price just shy of $6k is a testament to what can be achieved in today’s high-end marketplace. What a balm in today’s troubled world!
LSA 20 Statement Loudspeakers
- $5995 USD (per pair)
- Available direct from Underwood HiFi
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web: https://www.underwoodhifi.com/products/lsa-group
- Phone: 1-770-667-5633