Graham Audio Launches the LS5/9f at Gig Harbor Audio

It’s a keeper. Those are the thoughts that stuck with me after listening to the British-made Graham Audio LS5/9f ($7999/pair), a two-way reflex loading loudspeaker that had its US launch at Washington state’s Gig Harbor Audio on Saturday afternoon, May 25.

Most of my listening was to a 15ips tape of select jazz and classical tracks prepared by Yarlung Records—everything from “Missing Miles” from Yuko Mabuchi Plays Miles Davis to Jung-A Lee’s Fantasia from A Private Organ Recital in Walt Disney Hall and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s Handel. Using an old Pioneer tape deck, Gig Harbor Audio cabling assembled with Dueland wire, and power treatment that included AudioQuest’s PowerQuest 2 and NRG Edison duplex wall outlets, we listened through two very different-sounding integrated amps, the 30Wpc, single-ended Line Magnetic LM845 Premium ($7500 right now, $8000 in a week due to tariffs) and brand new, hardly broken-in 200Wpc Krell K-300i ($7000, $8000 with streaming DAC; review forthcoming). The LS5/9f made it easy to hear how different those amps sound.

The three-hour launch event took place in a relatively intimate space. It was not a quiet space: Owen wants his shop to be friendly. To quote GHA fan Casey Richardson of Federal Way, WA, “How many other hi-fi stores are there where you can sit around and have a beer and talk to people and talk shop all at the same time? I’ve met new friends here; we all go to each other’s houses to listen. This isn’t just a hi-fi shop; it’s a community of people that love hi-fi.”

That’s another way of saying that while lots of people took turns listening on the store’s comfy couch or standing near the sweet spot—a bunch arrived well before the event started—just about everyone spent the bulk of their time sipping beer while chatting informally with new and old friends, including Graham Audio founder Paul Graham, Graham distributor Philip O’Hanlon (On a Higher Note), and store owner Erik Owen.

O’Hanlon was the impetus for the development of the LS5/9f. “[We] were listening to Graham Audio’s little LS5/9 last year, and we were smitten by its midrange magic and how it could sound so good with whatever electronics and cables I had lying around,” he told me. “But we felt that floorstanders would sell better in the US.”

Graham agreed. “A lot of buyer’s spouses didn’t like the look of the stands,” he explained during our 40-minute chat. “This new LS5/9f is based on the classic BBC LS5/9 monitor, but it has about 5Hz more bass extension. We’ve tried to retain the same studio-grade quality and strengths of its monitor predecessor while extending the bass lower. As for its price, when you take the monitor and figure in the cost of good stands, it’s about the same.”

Lovers of the BBC speaker sound probably already know much about the genesis of Graham Audio. “Over 30 years ago, I was buying and selling equipment and started buying stuff from the BBC,” Graham said. “Even if the BBC speakers were in poor condition, we were getting good money for them. So I asked the BBC if I could get a license to reproduce them. Since Rogers had stopped doing everything apart from the 3/5a, they said, ‘Sure.’”

Graham started with the 5/9, but after talking with O’Hanlon, began producing the 5/8, then the 3/5, and then the LS3/5A under license from the BBC. The crossover design remains, but Graham says the speakers are “much better than they used to be because they’re using better components. “Derek Hughes, the son of Spendor founder Spencer Hughes, does all our ‘re-creation’ work for us. Derek has the knowledge from working with his dad, and still has his dad’s notes at home. Everything we do has good lineage, as it were.”

Graham maintains that while the BBC designs were solid, the speakers weren’t particularly well-made. Their early propylene drivers deteriorated “quite badly” with the passage of time, for example, and their capacitors weren’t as good as many modern varieties. In addition, because the performance of supposedly identical tweeters varied widely in the ‘70s, the original 5/9 had a solder pin adjustment on a Traffolyte plate on its front, which enabled owners to solder wire from common to either +.5, +1,+ 1.5 or +2—whatever was necessary to balance the tweeters. The new LS5/9f follows that example with a HF level switch on the front. (We listened with the tweeters set flat.)

The LS5/9f is so new that it has yet to appear on the Graham Audio website, but Derek Hughes sent along specs: Sensitivity is 87dB / 2.83V/ m; nominal impedance is 8 ohms; recommended amplifier power is 50–200 watts; maximum output exceeds 100dB for a pair at 2m; and frequency response is 45Hz-18kHz ±3dB. Drivers are a 34mm soft dome tweeter from Audax and a long-throw 200mm Diaphnatone Polypropylene bass/midrange custom-made for Graham Audio by Volt.

Look for Art Dudley’s comparison of the Graham LS3/5, LS3/5A, and Falcon LS3/5a in our July issue.

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