One of these days, Part-Time Audiophile publisher Scot Hull is going to send me that pair of Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a Gold Badges he’s commandeered for most of 2023. That’s my speaker, I thought. I’m the Brit-Fi BBC-design king in these here parts, and ever since I reviewed the stunning Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a MoFi Edition a couple of years ago, I’ve been obsessed with the Gold Badges and the Kingswood Warrens and how they might be the two-way monitor of my dreams. In the meantime, I now have the new Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers in the house, and these aren’t mere consolation prizes. The LS3/5a bloodline is thick and sticky with this one, and I’ve been waiting for them to arrive since I first heard them earlier in the year.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Staring straight ahead at the front baffles of the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers, you might be reminded of the LS3/5a, or at least another speaker company’s “take” on the LS3/5a. But this is Falcon Acoustics, a company that has been making a completely faithful version to the original BBC design for quite some time. In my opinion, Falcon Acoustics deserves credit for bringing this tiny studio monitor back into the limelight–although MoFi Distribution also deserves kudos for making this happen in the US. The MoFi Edition, which is sort of a basic version of the LS3/5a in black and is now referred to as the Silver Badge, costs only $1,995/pr and it’s so good you might wonder why you need to pay those big bucks for so many other compelling two-way monitors in high-end audio.
There is a that catch to the LS3/5a, however. This extremely small and shallow monitor only reaches down to 70 Hz. You can approach this in two ways–find a suitable sub for the monitor, which is quite difficult in my experience because it has to preserve the magic of the LS3/5a, or you can move into the nearfield and discover the true purpose of those amazing little loudspeakers.
I said that the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers look like an LS3/5a from straight on, but once you shift your perspective you’ll notice that the M10 is a lot deeper. That allows the new model to go deeper in the bass–to about 40 Hz +/- 3dB. (The specs also mention 70 Hz, same as you-know-who, but down just 2DB.) When I first heard the M10 at the Florida Audio Expo last February, I was asked what I thought and my initial impression was that I was listening to an LS3/5a with just a little more oomph. Would I pay more than $1,995/pr for a speaker that sounds like an LS3/5a with more oomph? I would. How much more?
Well, the new Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers sells for a mere $2,295/pair. So there’s your answer–of course I would.
Inside the Falcon Acoustics M10 Loudspeakers
To understand the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers, you first need to understand the role of Falcon Acoustics in the history of British hi-fi. For example, did you know that Falcon founder Malcolm Jones was KEF’s very first Chief Design Engineer? He was responsible for the design of KEF woofers and tweeters such as the B139, the B200, the T15 and the T27 and more, and that’s his eternal link to the classic LS3/5a, which always employed KEF drivers. He left KEF to start Falcon Acoustics back in 1974, which was a surprise to me since I’ve only known about Falcon for the last decade or so. If you want to know more about the LS3/5a, Malcolm Jones is the person to ask.
I have to admit that the LS3/5a was on my mind back when I heard the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers in Florida for the first time–so much so that I kept pointing to them and accidentally calling them LS3/5as. As I mentioned, on first listen they did sound like an LS3/5a. There was one remarkable difference, however–I heard these speakers in a fairly large room, and I wasn’t compelled to scoot my chair forward or push the little monitors closer to the rear wall. The bass was full and natural with conventional placement.
Starting off with the vented cabinet, which is manufactured by the same Italian carpenters as the Gold Badge LS3/5a, the Falcon Acoustics M10 measures 12.4″ by 7.2″ which is very close to the 12″ by 7.4″ of the LS3/5a. The older design, however, is notable for its anachronistic 6.5″ depth, while the M10 is 10.23″ deep. (That’s the main reason why the M10 doesn’t quite look like an LS3/5a, in addition to the added doodads on the front baffle of the original.) The real wood veneers on the M10, both walnut and rosewood, are quite beautiful. This is one of those two-way monitors that looks fairly conventional from across the room, but the fit and finish reveal the true artistry once you come closer. In addition, the M10s weigh 16.5 lbs. each. The LS3/5a always feels hefty and solid despite its diminutive size, and so do these Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers.
The 5″ woofer is the Falcon B110, a Malcolm Jones design, and the 25mm soft-dome tweeter is custom made for Falcon by SEAS. The Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers feature a sensitivity of 86 dB with an 8 ohm impedance, which is a bit more “normal” than dealing with a vintage pair of LS3/5as and their 11 and 16 ohm impedances and their 82 or 83 dB sensitivity. (As weird as that always sounded to me, I’ve never used an amp that didn’t provide a compelling match.) That means the M10 will sound great with around 25-50 wpc–the kind of power you might find with a classic British integrated amplifier. That’s why I knew the M10s would shine with the Naim NAIT 50 integrated amplifier I just bought. The NAIT 50 has–you guessed it–25 wpc.
To my delight, the Falcon Acoustics is almost, but not quite, big enough for the top plate on the Acora Acoustics SRS-G granite speaker stands. Those MoFi LS3/5as looked a little ridiculous on the SRS-Gs, mostly due to their very shallow depth which barely covers half of the granite top plate, but there was no doubt in my mind that the Acora stands offered an important contribution to the sound–mostly in bass and image stability. Just after I sent the MoFis back, I joked about having Acora make me a custom stand for the LS3/5a. (They said sure, it’s just a matter of creating a different top plate.) The Falcon Acoustic M10 loudspeakers, however, looked perfectly fine on the SRS-Gs. A little small, but not at all weird.
For speaker cables I used ArgentPur AgPur12 speaker cables, which cost nearly three times the M10s. The ArgentPurs excel at coaxing a bigger soundstage from most bookshelf models, and I knew I would get outstanding performance.
In addition to the Naim NAIT 50, I also used the Audio-gd Master 10 Mk. 2 integrated amplifier with the Falcon Acoustics M10. That means 250 wpc, which exceeds the 100 wpc recommendation from Falcon. I’m not the kind of doofus who plugs in a pair of BBC-style monitors and cranks ’em until they blow up, but once I heard an angry squawk from the M10s while listening to some electronica with plenty of low frequency info. I backed off the volume and never heard another complaint.
Falcon Acoustics M10 Loudspeakers–Sound
The Falcon Acoustic M10 loudspeakers did stroll into a room full of bookshelf monitors, all of them at least three or four times the price. While the M10s couldn’t quite manage the lower frequency range or the intense inner detail offered freely within this crowd, I was quite surprised that the pure tonality of these British speakers remained quite competitive.
In fact, I did have a similar response to the first ten seconds of music coming out of the M10s that I did with the MoFi Edition LS3/5as, that the tonality was so pure and spot-on that anything else that was missing from the mix might not be a sonic priority to me. I’m not quite sticking to my guns in terms of the Falcon Acoustics M10s sounding just like the MoFis with a bit more sauce slathered around the plate, and I realized after a few days that I would need to hear the LS3/5as again just to pin down where the two speakers diverged. But that same sense of wonder was engaged, that feeling that spending a lot more money for a speaker that grabs a few extra Hz at the bottom of the abyss might not be worth it.
I’ll tell you one thing about the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers–as I mentioned, it was possible to push them into sounding strained and a little winded when the volume was cranked. That’s not really the point with some of the smaller BBC designs, especially LS3/5as. But with chamber music full of rich colors, such as 2L Recordings’ new The Trondheim Concertos, which features a small 9-piece chamber orchestra playing baroque pieces, the M10s were totally in the service of the music–just as much as any other speaker in the house.
The Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers are so fine and delicate in their presentation, I gravitated toward so-called beautiful music, the kind my father used to listen to when he got home from work, KOST-FM and K-BIG and anything that served as an antidote to the ’70s rock we kids used to play all hours of the day until our dad got home and gave us that stare. I’ve been digging the two LPs I bought from Rhymoi Music at the 2023 Pacific Audio Fest, especially The Dancing Girl from Izu. This is a collection of pop songs from different cultures, primarily Japan and China and the US, performed by the loveliest of female vocalists and backed by spare jazz ensembles.
This is just gorgeous melt-in-your armchair music, the kind that takes me back to all those wonderful Three Blind Mice LPs from the ’70s. I was so hypnotized by this elegant, pristine recording that I didn’t quite pick up that the song “Angel” was that “Angel,” the Sarah MacLachlan dog shelter commercial song that is usually a cue for me to change the TV station. (I can’t handle those poor sad-eyed pooches on most days.) But something compelled me to stick with the track because it sounded so rich and fluid and mesmerizing.
Again, the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers and I hit a wall somewhat when we tried to party. I’ve been revisiting Radiohead’s Kid A lately, focusing on all the low frequency information in the title track, and this is where the little British monitor started feeling a little lost in the big, big listening room. The lowest bass notes weren’t strained or distorted or culled from the music completely, but they did start to float out of the rear confines of the otherwise huge soundstage. (Still, no squawking.)
That led me to recall the LS3/5as, and how they tend to fill in all that missing bass information when you start scooting your listening chair forward for a more near-field listening environment. Yeah, that also helped with the M10s although I eventually returned to my normal seating position to recapture that brilliant and natural soundstage. Honestly, this test wasn’t quite fair since most British monitors tend to flourish in smaller rooms anyway, but moving forward seemed to throw a lasso around those stray bass tones and nail them back into their proper places in the room. Despite this very minor quibble, I suspect that the Falcon Acoustics M10 owner will not be buying them for the Sunday night Motorhead marathons, but rather something more sedate and rewarding.
Toward the end of my time with the Falcon Acoustics M10 loudspeakers, I stumbled into a somewhat modest and simple system that really made me smile–the type of smile I used to sport back when I was a journeyman audiophile newly exposed to British monitors and integrated amplifiers, and an equally simple turntable with an MM cartridge. This has been a year of review gear that isn’t necessarily compatible with other pieces of gear, especially when it comes to the digital side of things, but I took an audio vacation of sorts with the M10s, that newly arrived Naim NAIT 50 integrated amplifier ($3,599 USD) and the Music Hall Stealth direct drive turntable fitted with an Ortofon 2M Blue MM cartridge ($1,695 as a complete package). As usual, all was plugged into the AudioQuest Niagara 3000 power conditioner ($3,000 USD).
I’ll tell you one place where I cheated–on a whim, I connected the Naim and its inboard MM phono stage to the Falcon Acoustics M10 monitors with the Ansuz Speakerz D2 cables ($9,200) merely because they lower the noise floor to the point where I can clearly hear what the other components are doing. (I could have easily used my workhorse AudioQuest Rocket 33 cables to keep the theme consistent, but it’s been a while since I used the Ansuz and they’re just sitting there, dejected after several months of ArgentPur.)
This humble system took me back. Not backwards, which implies I’m back in a one-bedroom apartment in Encino with a small system designed to sound good without drawing the ire of my neighbors and landlord, but back to the time when I first discovered British hi-fi and immediately found myself raising my standards and re-arranging my priorities when it came to good sound. (Lesson One: midrange is more important for a natural presentation than deep, deep bass.) This system possessed that same stunning tonality that characterizes the LS3/5a–despite the fact that this is a much larger listening space than I had on Burbank Boulevard. The Dancing Girl from Izu was simply incredible and exotic and charming (especially since the Chinese and Japanese singers appear to be sounding out the lyrics phonetically, always worth a big smile).
At no time did I wish for bigger speakers, or a low-output moving coil cartridge, or more power from the Naim NAIT 50. I just listened to music, transfixed. If I had this system back in 1993, I might’ve never left that cozy little apartment.
Falcon Acoustics M10 Loudspeakers–Conclusions
By the end of the review period, I no longer thought of the Falcon Acoustics M10 monitors as an LS3/5a with oomph. It’s been a couple of years since I reviewed the MoFi LS3/5as, in a very different system and room, and the only similarities between the two speakers are my initial reactions to the amazing tonality upon first listen. After that, the M10s followed a very different course. I’m getting those Falcon Acoustics Gold Badge LS3/5as soon and maybe I’ll gain more insight from that review.
Okay, there’s the same issue with the price. Those MoFis made me believe that I could find eternal sonic happiness for just $1,995/pr. The Falcon Acoustics M10 elicits a recurring thought in my head–there’s an audacity in charging this low of a price for such capable and musical monitors, and it’s not exactly fair to Falcon’s competitors. (That’s what happens when you have someone like Malcolm Jones in your design arsenal.) I’ve heard countless two-way bookshelf speakers that cost much more than the M10s–we’re talking two to three times as much–and I’d much rather have these. It’s more than a matter of merely liking them on an objective level, but rather like Amélie Poulain returning that box of childhood memorabilia in that phone booth for Dominique Bretodeau.
I’m certainly older now, and more jaded, but there’s something about these Falcon Acoustics M10s that makes me wish I’d had them thirty years ago. I was looking for a pair of monitors this musical and this affordable back then. Who knows how different my life would be today? Highly recommended, and full of meaning for this lover of British speakers.