|#425997 - 07/08/17 03:42 PM Listening session with the LFR 660s - brief review|
Loc: western canada
How brief should i be?
Ian kindly opened up the doors to the factory over the past week so that my family could not only take a tour (#3 and counting), but give all of us a chance to listen to the LFR series speakers, specifically the LFR 660s (M60 equivalents). A side note, we also had a chance to tinker with the Axiom Air.
Normally i would write a long descriptive review, but in this case i was interested in only a few aspects of the LFR series and not so much in trying to define and compare its total character to another speaker so it was a straight up listening session with no A/B pairing, but i did do listening with the LFR (rears) both turned on and off (but not an instantaneous switching).
The song set i brought along is the same that i've used for used and the short list can be found in previous speaker reviews:
One primary observation is that sonically the LFR 660s seem very similar to the M60 when the LFR rears are not turned on. I would not have known it wasn't an M60 with the LFR section out of the mix most likely. It would have taken an A/B test to hear those differences IMO. Ian somewhat disagreed but again without an A/B test, to say 'yes, i wouldn't need an A/B to hear that difference', i can only go based on my M60 reference memory.
After having heard about the LFR and read some comments, i'm not one to take terms such as "blow you away" and "way better than X" with any seriousness but sometimes some descriptive terms repeated in a few ways does begin to provide a possible truth to the sound quality/character. Some common terms i have seen to describe the LFR series has been soundstage improvement, spaciousness of sound, seamless left to right presentation but also a few negatives such as less articulate sound, too much blending of soundstage and loss of precision. Having heard bipole speakers many years back, i recall my observations where i liked the sound presentation, more diffuse, improved soundstage but with that described loss of precision as well. As left and right blended together, the stereo effect where a guitar IS on the left and a flute IS on the right seems lost. These speakers were often referred to as being good for movies but not for music.
Anyway, my focus was on these aspects of bipole designs. Did the LFR exhibit similar faults?
I had this primary question because of the problem with our media room; in its present configuration i just don't have quite enough distance back from the speakers to setup a really good stereo image. It pulls slightly left and/or right depending on which chair a person sits in. Hence, i was looking for a speaker that might improve this soundstage a bit. I considered going with a larger centre channel and still might, but obviously you can see how the LFR design might help fill this hole.
Long story short, the LFR series were very impressive. The left to right soundstage was actually quite phenomenal. The spouse sitting on the Axiom couch to the left of the left speaker, had a fairly strong stereo sound. When the LFR rears were turned off, you could ONLY hear the left speaker from that same position. With the LFR rears turned on, a person could walk completely from the left to the right hand side of the listening room and not lose much of the stereo image at all (and this is WITHOUT a centre channel in the mix!!).
Soundstage improvement-seamless left to right? Yes, tick off the checkbox.
Two items left. Spaciousness of sound and loss of precision.
The loss of precision was a bit harder to determine without having the ability to A/B with a standard M60. That being said, i did my best to take a few of the strong stereo image songs in my playlist to narrow down a one instrument and its location, then switch the LFRs on and off a few times. Although i will say absolutely that the left and the right sounds are still "left and right", with the LFR rears turned on, the instruments were pulled a bit more to the centre and rear. I suspect it is the very back echo from the LFR rears that does this, but the bottom line is that a guitar on the left still sounded as if it were clearly to the left side.
Loss of precision? No, but this particular sonic character might be a bit more subjective to an individual's preference for 'where' the sound should be. I recall many years ago doing a DD 5.1 vs DVD-A song comparison and the difference was in the location of the sound and not in the actual song quality. DVD-A was more upfront while DD 5.1 was almost a bit more overhead, immersive (the difference between being in the 8th row back vs. on the stage itself).
To each his own in this category.
Spaciousness of sound.
Now this was easy and yet hard.
Most songs still sounded the same. They were not any more spacious per se. It was a seamless soundstage, but they didn't sound anymore 'live' generally, but that wasn't true for all my song list. This is what i found surprising.
The strongest example was Sarah Mclaughlin - Icecream recorded Live. I swear she sounded like she was in the room doing it live. With the LFR rears turned off, that spaciousness disappeared and she sounded like she was just coming from the speakers.
Try another track of a good recording or a live recording (Patrica Barber, Diana Krall) and the echo recorded in the studio seemed to actually take away from a similar effect, almost as if the sound engineer put in the echo to make it sound 'live' but the LFRs could not correct for that.
Hence my last judgement of this category; improved spaciousness of sound? - i think yes but recording dependant (some recording cues such as background echo might actually work against the LFR presentation of sound.
As for my situation and original objective, looking for a change in speakers that might help with the room limitations, yes, i do believe the LFR series speakers would alleviate our issue and also update us from the M60Ti to the v4 series and all inclusive changes, plus provide a beefier amp as a necessary default.
The final question now is, should we pull that $4k trigger?
As usual, our hearty thanks to Ian for taking the time to open up the doors for us given the crazy holiday this past Canada Day 150 celebrations! The Axiom client service is nothing short of stellar.
"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."