Jordan Eikona 2 and the BBC LS3/5a

 

The BBC LS3/5a monitoring loudspeaker is a true hi-fi classic. Apart from the QUAD ESL57, it’ is difficult to think of a loudspeaker that has been held in so much respect for so many decades.

The LS3/5a was designed as a compact monitor for use outside broadcast vans, but its performance outstripped the original brief and it found its way into monitoring suites throughout the BBC. On a visit to Bush House, shortly before the BBC World Service moved from there, I noticed dozens in use in studios and newsrooms throughout the building.

The BBC completed the design in 1972 and licensed its production to a number of companies from 1974 onwards, most famously Rogers. The loudspeaker continues to be manufactured by licensees today, although most of the companies now making it (with the honourable exception of Falcon Acoustics) use different drivers from the KEF B110 and T27 originally specified.

This unassuming, high quality monitor was quickly adopted by hi-fi enthusiasts for its natural, uncoloured sound and its glorious midrange. In 1976, UK magazine Hi-Fi for Pleasure featured a ground-breaking comparison between 30 commercially-available loudspeakers. In the articles, Martin Colloms subjected an experienced listening panel to a series of blind auditions, the conclusion of which was that the LS3/5a was more accurate than most of the tested designs including the Spendor BC1 and QUAD ESL57.

Critical to its performance is the very tightly-specified cabinet construction, which one writer estimates costs as much to make as many complete loudspeakers. We were curious about this and for a couple of years have been running a pair of Jordan Eikona 2 full-range drivers in genuine BBC cabinets, manufactured by one of the current LS3/5a licensees. The internal volume is an excellent match for the Eikona and we have been very pleased with the system’s performance; the sealed enclosure rolls off the bass below 85 Hz with an ideal 12 dB per octave slope. Combined with a good sub-woofer such as the BK XLS200, they make a superb, full bandwidth, stereo system.

We recently had the opportunity to test our Eikona/BBC cabinet speaker against a pair of original Rogers LS3/5as.  These were serial numbers 357 and 358, so a very early production pair (over 43,000 were produced by Rogers and up to 60,000 have been produced overall). These were the 15 ohm version, which is generally preferred by aficionados over the 1980s 11 ohm variant. The speakers had been carefully restored and brought back to full specification.

 

The LS3/5as sounded wonderful; warm, involving and with an excellent stereo image. They couldn’t handle a lot of power but they certainly benefited from a good amplifier; their owner had been disappointed by the sound when originally purchased and only recently found out what they were capable of when he upgraded to a high- end amplifier.

We then switched to the Eikona/LS3 cabinet combination. Some adjustment was necessary as the crossover-free Eikona is 4-5 dB more sensitive than the LS3/5a – once that was done, we could enjoy the differences. The Eikona gave a broadly- similar, accurate sound but it was cleaner in the treble and throughout the mid-band. It also sounded quicker, with a wider and more focused stereo image. The LS3/5a owner preferred the Eikona’s presentation and commented that the midrange was noticeably better.

The LS3/5a sounded warmer in the bass and at first sounded as though it reached lower. This was due to the famous ‘hump’ in the LS3/5a’s bass response, a slight boost around 160Hz designed to give the impression of more bass than the design is truly capable of producing. By comparison, the Eikona/LS3 enclosure is more accurate in this region and rolls off at a slower rate. It doesn’t sound as beguiling on first listen, but it makes the system more amenable to tuning or the use of a separate sub-woofer.

It was a fascinating comparison. It may seem odd to compare a modern, full-range design with a 40-year-old speaker with a complex crossover, but the LS3/5a’s reputation for accuracy made it a very valid test. It is rare to have the opportunity to compare designs like this in what is basically the same, tightly-specified cabinet.

The Rogers BBC LS3/5a is a wonderful loudspeaker and we are pleased that it demonstrates just how well Ted Jordan’s Eikona 2 performs.

 

Honeytone retro open reel tape recorder

Vinyl and turntables are becoming all the rage at the moment, and not only among audiophiles. Turntables have a retro appeal that reaches a wider market. Although there is something even cooler than a turntable – a good, open-reel tape recorder.

Here at Jordan Towers we’re big fans of open reel. A good machine can provide recordings and playback that rivals digital. They also look good, especially the larger, studio-orientated machines.

But how about something a little smaller? Currently on eBay there is a Japanese Honeytone machine for spares or repair.

It only takes 3 ¼ reels, so you’re not going to get Wagner’s Ring Cycle recorded on it. On the other hand, it does have a groovy, Mission Impossible vibe. These machines date from the early 1960s, so they’re definitely retro!

You’ll need some repair work to get this one up and running. For help, you could start with the Vintage Radio ForumAnd here is a Honeytone recorder in operation on YouTube

These machines look so good, you could buy one purely for display purposes – just to prove how cool you are.

BK Eikona Reflex 7 bookshelf loudspeaker

The simplicity and purity of Ted Jordan’s full-range approach to loudspeaker design lies outside the hi-fi mainstream. The conventional approach is to split the music with a crossover and send it to multiple, dissimilar drive units. But more manufacturers are seeing the benefits of the Jordan design ethos and, in particular, the clear advantages of using our Eikona 2 drive unit.

The latest company to release a complete, Eikona-based system is BK Electronics. Although BK are more famous for their world-beating range of subwoofers, they have already featured the Eikona in a loudspeaker based on Ted Jordan’s VTL design. They have now released the elegant BK Eikona Reflex 7, a bookshelf speaker which uses a single Eikona full-range unit in a compact, 8-litre enclosure.

The speakers are available in gloss black or white and have a couple of unusual features. The first is a speaker grille held in place with concealed magnets. This avoids the usual, visually-intrusive fixing points if the loudspeaker is used with the grille removed. The second is a dual set of connectors which enables the loudspeaker to be used with an optional small resistor in series with the unit. This helps to give more bass weight to the sound when the Reflex 7 is used on stands, away from nearby walls.

The BK Eikona Reflex 7 is available now, direct from BK Electronics, for £734 including VAT and UK shipping.

EJ Jordan Designs in October Hi-Fi News

Hi-Fi News & Record Review is probably the most prestigious audio journal in the world. It was first published in 1956 and it is home to a range of respected journalism and technical reviews.

Ted Jordan’s writing has featured in its pages on more than one occasion. We are very pleased to announce that the October 2017 issue features a profile of EJ Jordan Designs written by Hi-Fi News’ former editor, Steve Harris.

We met Steve recently at an event in London and he was keen to find out how the company is developing since the passing of founder, Ted Jordan. Steve’s article explores the history of the company and gives some hints of developments to come.
For the full article, rush out and buy Hi-Fi News! It is also available on subscription here.

EJ Jordan Aurora 800 – Customer Review

A recent EJ Jordan customer had an interesting journey to arrive at his ideal system of a pair of Jordan Aurora 800s. Michael is an enthusiastic music-lover with a wide experience of hi-fi systems, so we thought it would be of general interest. Here is his story:

Imagine a room with speakers that simply disappear, with a soundstage that is wide, precise and stable across a wide range of listening positions, where the sound has real depth and height and has the ability to surprise you with little nuances that you hadn’t heard before.

If that wall of sound appeals then the action to achieve it is quite simple – start saving up for a pair of EJ Jordan Aurora loudspeakers.

How did the journey start? Back in the 1970s, I became convinced that active speakers made more sense than any other approach. I started to build some but never really got them finished – there was very little available at the time for DIY approaches and I couldn’t afford commercially made ones. I also thought that eliminating the crossover altogether would be a good idea but never came across anything (other than electrostatics that I couldn’t afford) that sounded OK. I read some comments about Jordan Eikona VTL speakers, thought they sounded interesting, then read about Jordan Auroras and thought “surely not … how can speakers facing each other along the wall give a good stereo image?”

How wrong I was. I contacted EJ Jordan Designs and they put me in touch with Andrew who lives about an hour away from me and who was happy for me to visit and listen to his Aurora 800 setup. Well, all of the things that I had read about – wide image, positioning independent of where you sit or stand, depth, height – were there in bucket loads.

Three things stopped me just buying the Auroras. The first was cost – they are not cheap and I wondered if they would work as well in my room – and how I would react to spending that much if they didn’t. The second was finish – I wanted white and only veneer was available. The third was my DIY streak – I wondered how close I could get to the sound of the Auroras by buying some Eikonas and building something myself.

First step was to buy an Eikona Reflex kit from Wilmslow audio. This sounded very good indeed but not in the same league as the Auroras. I then bought a second pair of Eikonas and experimented with different alignments (including transmission line and MLTL). Overall, the MLTL version sounded best when the speakers were fixed to a wall but there was still something missing.

In the end, through much help from Colin at Jordan, I now have a pair of Aurora 800s finished in white and I am more than pleased with the results. I hear all of the things that users of Eikonas report – particularly the midrange clarity that comes from having a well-designed single drive unit. With the Auroras, the curved cabinet design helps to further reduce cabinet resonances but the most important difference is the sense of depth, height and ambience that is provided by the reflectors.

A further tweak, which makes a small but worthwhile difference, is the use of a stereo power amplifier for each speaker. This means that each drive unit has its own amplifier instead of having to decide whether to run the Eikonas in series or in parallel. To do this, I used a pair of stereo Class D amplifiers, which are based on Hypex modules, from IOM. I am using a customised version of the Chromecast amplifier which, at around 100W per channel into 6 ohms, is ideal for the Auroras. The amplifiers sound good, look good and are very good value for money.

Is all of this expectation bias? Having put a lot of time, research and money into this, wouldn’t I be bound to think they were better anyway? I think not. The differences are also clear to others – my partner, neighbours and friends. None of them have any interest in hi-fi but they can all hear the differences very clearly. And they all say that they are a substantial improvement.

For me a good test has always been whether I hear differences when I am not listening. By that I mean when music is playing but I am in another room. With the Auroras I have found myself thinking: “I haven’t heard that bass line so clearly before”, “The lyrics are much clearer”, “I can hear the individual elements of the performance much more easily”.


Finally, it’s worth reading Ted Jordan’s papers on stereo reproduction and his early use of reflectors in the 1960s and 1970s. Stereo is an illusion – an attempt to give the impression of something that isn’t really there. The Auroras do this better than anything else I have encountered. The word genius is sometimes awarded too easily. In Ted Jordan’s case, I think that it is more than justified.

Project – Lenco Heaven / Eikona DCR

Lenco is a venerated name amongst turntable enthusiasts. The company was founded in Switzerland in 1946 and is still producing turntables today (the company is now Dutch-owned). UK audiophiles may know the Goldring Lenco GL series of idler-driven turntables from the late 1960s and 70s.

Today the brand has a lively online forum at Lenco Heaven. It not only covers the Lenco brand but quality audio generally and has an active loudspeaker section, with a thread currently devoted to Jordan speakers.

Ian, one of the forum members, has built a number of speakers based on Ted Jordan’s designs. He has already built an Eikona VTL cabinet and has now moved on to the Jordan Eikona DCR, which is featured on our website. The DCR features twin Eikona 2 full-range units for extra headroom and improved imaging. Ian has slightly modified the design by including an extra extension to raise the height of the cabinet to 90 cm. The result is very elegant – so much so that we may revise the DCR plans to include the idea! The photos below show Ian’s enclosure under construction.

Here are Ian’s comments on the performance of the DCR:

“Sound wise, everything I’d hoped for and more.  Biggest change … is the micro-detail that has appeared.  Soundstage feels wider and deeper and it was pretty good before. Notes decay way into the distance, maybe it’s the extra separation that allows you to hear the finer detail, don’t know but the fine texture really is impressive.

As to music, I’m not into heavy rock but do like a bit of Massive Attack now and then. Tracks such as Angel sound superb, it is quite a complex track but the twin Eikonas separate out the components very well so no muddle at all. Other electronic stuff like The XX also sound superb, in fact any well recorded music sounds excellent. The drum on Hotel California from the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” has a real thwack but also lots of reverb and texture so other than the deepest of bass notes I don’t think much is missing here.

Given the sound quality, I think these may well be in the system for a long time to come so worth getting right.  That extra Eikona unit does seem to add extra energy all round.  … I can’t see any commercially made speaker performing anyway near as good for the money.”

You can visit the Lenco Forum here and the Eikona DCR plans are here.

(We would like to point out that the Eikona DCR is not an official Lenco Heaven construction project, the title refers to where it first appeared.)

Project – Jordan Eikona Triangular Array

The Jordan Eikona full-range drive unit is capable of being used in many ways as well as providing the basis for a range of excellent loudspeakers. Some of these were covered last year in our series, Audio Building Blocks. The culmination of the series was a project for a 4-Eikona Linear Array in a 32-litre reflex enclosure.

The advantages of an Eikona Linear Array as opposed to a single Eikona include greater sensitivity, higher power handling and holographic stereo imagery. The Reflex Array gives these benefits down to bass frequencies but if you prefer a smaller enclosure with less reach into the depths, a sealed array is the way to go.

Each Eikona requires a minimum of 4.5 litres for a sealed enclosure. This gives a rolloff which starts at 80 Hz but is more gentle than that of a reflex design- in fact by 35Hz both produce the same level of output.

Correctly positioned, an Eikona Linear Array ideally stretches from below to above ear level. So the uppermost Eikona should be around 1 metre from the floor – it depends on seating position but this gives good coverage. As four Eikonas will require only 18 litres, this opens up the possibility of a tall, elegant column enclosure. We can go one step further by making the cross-section an equilateral triangle. It looks unusual but the lack of parallel surfaces enhances the sound and, when it is placed against the listening room wall, the Eikonas are angled inwards correctly.

A floor-standing equilateral triangle column with internal surfaces 16.5 cm wide gives an internal height of 153 cm, which gives room to adjust the height of the array. The ‘corners’ of the triangle can be rounded or planed flat depending on the desired final look and the end result takes up less floor area than a small, stand-mounted bookshelf speaker. Not bad for a speaker with unparalleled imaging, 92 dB sensitivity and 400 watts power handling.

The plans for the Eikona Triangular Array can be downloaded here.

BBC Proms Concert Sound

The BBC Proms are underway and already we have enjoyed some spectacular music. The John Williams Prom on July 20 was great fun with the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing his best-loved film scores, including (of course) Star Wars, Superman and Harry Potter. Aa highlight of this year’s season will be the music of John Adams to celebrate his 70th birthday.

This year’s Proms are also notable for being broadcast online in a new, high quality sound format called Concert Sound.

A few years ago, the BBC began to broadcast Radio 3 in HD via the web. It was higher quality than traditional FM or DAB radio whilst maintaining a moderate bandwidth – so it didn’t gobble up vast amounts of download capacity.

The 2017 Proms will go a stage further and use the even higher-quality FLAC format. The BBC claims that Concert Sound offers “a bit-perfect representation of Radio 3’s live output exactly as it left the studio”.

To maintain a reasonable bandwidth – so that slow broadband connections can access it – Concert Sound is tightly integrated into the new HTML5 standard and only available via the Firefox browser. You can read the technical background on the BBC’s R&D page.

Concert Sound is available now via the BBC Taster website. There is also a second stream in binaural, enabling headphone users to listen to the Proms in surround sound.

Proms Offer

To celebrate the Proms, we are offering the Jordan Eikona full-range drive units at a very special price. See the offer page for details.

Project – Jordan Eikona Reflex 7 review

One of our customers has recently moved from a high-end, floor-standing, active loudspeaker to a seemingly more modest system built around the Jordan Eikona 2 Reflex 7 kit. The results surprised him:

I’ve been meaning to write this for a fortnight – but have been too busy just listening to music!

I looked at the designs on the EJ Jordan website, thought about building DCR (which has 2 Eikona 2 units) or even the 4 unit line array, but decided to start with something simpler first – the Eikona Reflex 7. I bought a kit from Wilmslow Audio – they are very helpful and a pleasure to buy from. Also had some extremely helpful email exchanges with Colin at EJ Jordan – he is a mine of useful information and references.

So, what does the Jordan Eikona Reflex 7 sound like? Well, to say that I was surprised would be the understatement of the decade. I really hadn’t expected a small box with single-unit to sound this good. As Steve and others have said, the level of detail is exceptional. For me the best thing is a feeling of ‘coherence’ – everything sounds just as it should – especially live recordings, jazz, blues, vocals. I could go on and on (but won’t). Stereo imaging is also superb.

Are they as good as my previous, floor-standing, active speakers? Well, in some respects, no. They don’t quite have that sense of authority that the actives have (especially when playing rock music at high volume) – but we are talking about a drive unit with half the cone area here and lower power handling. Top-end treble might also be a little lower … but where they are better is in the midrange – the lack of crossover causes this, I expect. The Eikonas provide more insight into the recording and were more involving – my foot taps just a little more often.

The Eikonas provide more of what I want – stereo image, coherence, insight, they make my foot tap etc etc. Every day I hear things that surprise me (little nuances on tracks I know well) and the change to Eikonas feels better and better.

Interestingly, a neighbour who isn’t at all into Hi Fi popped in. He had previously heard my active speakers and thought that they were good – but he was amazed by how good the Eikonas sounded. My partner also agrees – and she has a very good ear. So I’m beginning to think that maybe it isn’t expectation bias and that I’m not deluding myself.

What next? I have yet to decide whether the eventual solution will be 2 or 4 Eikonas per speaker, what sort of cabinet / alignment, whether or not subwoofer will be needed (even the Reflex is not exactly bass shy) .. but, for now, I’m just enjoying hearing little nuances on that I hadn’t quite detected before. It’s a cost-effective way to get a new music collection!

You can find details of the EJ Jordan Eikona 2 here and plans for the Reflex 7 here. Wilmslow Audio can provide a full kit for the Reflex 7.

As ever, if you have questions about any of our designs, drop us an email and we’ll be happy to help.

Binaural Berlioz

Binaural audio on the BBC has a history which goes back  to 1978 and the ground-breaking, wordless radio play The Revenge, by Andrew Sachs.

The experiments continue to this day and you see frequent updates on the BBC Research Blog. One aspect they are exploring is synthesised binaural sound, based on existing recordings.

You can listen to how well this works with this new BBC recording from Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall of the BBC Philharmonic playing Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Grab your headphones and enjoy!

Please note that this iPlayer recording may not be available to overseas listeners and is only online until 25 June 2017.