There are, as noted in our introduction above, three signature sonic characteristics that define the LSA system, the first of which is smooth and neutrally balanced frequency response. I got confirming comments on this point from a competing loudspeaker manufacturer whose representative visited The Perfect Vision listening room while the LSA system was installed. After listening to the LSA system on several music discs and movie soundtracks the representative simply said, “You know, that is really a very good speaker system—it’s so smooth and even in its presentation.” This is high praise indeed when you consider the source.
I should mention that the system also offers very nearly full-range bass response, in that the LSA2 Towers produce meaningful bass down into the mid-30Hz range, while both the LSA LCR Monitor and LSA1OW On-Wall Monitor produce bass down into the mid-50Hz range. As a result, this is one system where, depending on your tastes, you could conceivably choose to use just the five main speakers and forego purchasing a sub. LSA’s President Brian Warford told me that some buyer’s of his system do just that, though I personally preferred using a good sub to help shoulder the bass workload in the bottom octave and a half.
Next, note that LSA speaker’s do a much better than average job of integrating the outputs of their mid-bass drivers and tweeters, so that it becomes easy to forget there’s any kind of sonic “seam” between the two. This means that as frequencies climb higher and higher it’s not easy to tell where the output of the mid-bass driver drops off and the output of the tweeter begins, which is a good thing. This characteristic really helps set the LSA system apart even from some very accomplished competitors, where I find you can more readily hear the “seams” between drivers if you listen carefully enough. What the superior integration of the LSA drivers buys you, I think, is a heightened ability to “suspend disbelief” and to listen through the speakers—not to the speakers—so that your attention can focus more fully on the music or movie soundtrack at hand.
Finally, perhaps as a direct result of the first two characteristics mentioned above, the LSA speakers—and in particular the LSA2 Towers—are very good imagers. Many speakers exhibit, at least to some degree, a problem where the sound, or at least sounds in some frequency ranges, seem to “cling” to the front baffle boards of the speakers, tugging at your ears and causing distractions in the process. But more so than many box-type speakers do, the LSA’s are able to release sounds from the confines of the speaker enclosures, so that you perceive sounds as emanating from specific points within a broader soundstage—not as originating from the speakers themselves. This, of course, is the very essence of good imaging and 3D soundstaging.
LSA speakers are capable of relatively high output and are comfortable, to a point, with large scale dynamic shifts in program material, though to be fair I would say that many competing systems (from Paradigm, PSB, and others) are equally good in this respect.
Above, I mentioned that LSA speakers are offered in three performance grades: Standard, Signature, and Statement. Let me start out by saying that even the Standard models (as reviewed here) are quite nuanced and detailed to begin with, so that they are at the least competitive with, if not somewhat better than, other like-priced systems. But what happens if you choose to step up to the Signature or Statement models? The simple answer is that detail and resolution levels increase, as does perceived transient speed, with the largest improvement occurring when you make the transition to the Statement level, which adds killer ribbon tweeters (plus some sophisticated crossover modifications to enable the mid-bass drivers to blend and keep pace with the lightning-fast ribbons).
What’s cool about this is that you can start out with LSA standard models and enjoy resolution/detail levels equal to or perhaps better than those of other systems in their price class. But later, if the urge to turn up the figurative Resolution Knob to “11” or “12” should suddenly seize you, LSA stands ready, willing and able to show you how to do just that—and for a sensible (though not cheap) upgrade price.
The acid test for any surround system involves its ability to create a believable and all-enveloping illusion of a three-dimensional space, and to hear the LSA system do this in a convincing and at time quite scary way, try viewing and listening to the “Behind the Moving Curtain” chapter from the film The Rundown. In this chapter, the film’s three main protagonists, Beck (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock), Travis (Seann William Scott), and Mariana (Rosario Dawson), seek to find a priceless, ancient figurine made of gold and sculpted in the shape of a cat (and hence called the “Gato”). According to legends, the Gato has been hidden “behind a moving curtain,” which as Travis correctly deduces is a reference to a waterfall. The scene opens with the trio diving beneath a waterfall to surface in a pool hidden in a cave whose underwater entrance has been concealed for ages behind the waterfall.