Westlake Audio Lcw10 Passive Monitor

Retro is in, and this new Westlake three-way mid-sized passive monitor is yet another good example. In the late '60s/early '70s the JBL 4310 reigned as the mid-sized monitor speaker.
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Retro is in, and this new Westlake three-way mid-sized passive monitor is yet another good example. In the late '60s/early '70s the JBL 4310 reigned as the mid-sized monitor speaker. Unfortunately, JBL went and improved it with the introduction of the 4311, which turned out to be a more of a step backward. Top engineers like Bruce Swedien clung to their 4310's as JBL came out with model after model that moved even further from the sound that attracted mixers in the first place.

The Lc3w10 ($2,795 per pair, in studio black) is a good example of how an older idea can be refined to meet the needs of modern-day, mid-sized monitoring. Glen Phoenix, president and chief designer at Westlake, gets very passionate about any new project he gets into and his interpretation of a good basic design actually takes this product to yet another level.

Features

Like the JBL 4310, the Lc3w10 is a three-way bass reflex design, but it uses a 10" base driver instead of a 12", a 5" midrange and a 3/4" tweeter. Westlake also offers the Lc3w12, which has a 12" woofer. This model, however, uses a 6" midrange and a 1" tweeter.

I have been using Westlake monitor speakers for more than 15 years, so I'm familiar with the Westlake sound. When I first unpacked and set up the Lc3w10s, I'll have to say I was disappointed in what I heard.

Good basic documentation on setup and positioning arrives packed with all Westlakes, but in this case nothing specific to the Lc3w10 was included. The driver layout is a mirror image - they can be positioned with woofers in or out. My gut feeling was to set them up with the woofers inboard. My gut gave me the wrong information. After changing them so that the midrange tweeter pair was inboard and the woofers were outboard (love those boating words), they sounded like Westlakes.

Good tonal balance, precise imaging and ability to extract low-level detail were all improved just by switching the left and right speakers around. Wow. My advice would be to experiment with woofer in, woofer out, as this phenomenon is likely to change depending on the room.

The Lc3w10 is unique in the fact that the mid/tweeter is like a small two-way, with the tweeter close and vertically above the midrange driver and an integrated subwoofer next to it. I say this because the crossover frequency between the woofer and the midrange is at a lower-than-normal 150 Hz.

This results in the detail and precise imaging obtained with a small, high-quality two-way, but with the addition of some real bottom end coming from the same location, and not over in the corner somewhere. The notion that low frequencies are nondirectional is just plain bull. I might be stretching it a bit when I refer to this 10" woofer as a subwoofer, but it does make it down to 40 Hz or so without any problems.

The 5" driver used here is actually a bass/midrange driver and is fairly smooth over its assigned frequency range, with only a slight rise in output in the 150 to 400 Hz region. The transition to the tweeter is set at about 4.5 kHz and is also very smooth. This high crossover frequency makes it possible to use a 3/4" tweeter, which makes for a nice extended and airy top end.

Two sets of five-way binding posts are available for biamplifying, which is highly recommended by Phoenix for maximum performance. My initial listening tests were with a single stereo Hafler 9505 (250 wpc into 8 ohms) and the low end was not as defined as I would like it to be.

Connecting a second 9505 and reconnecting in biamp mode improved bass definition considerably. Included with the Lc3w10s were a set of the optional Westlake speaker cables, which are four-gauge and huge, but quite flexible - no line loss here.

The nominal impedance of the Lc3w10 is rated at 5 ohms with a minimum of 3 ohms. Sensitivity is rated at 88 dB SPL at 1 meter with an input of 2.83V, so a good amplifier with plenty of power and the ability to drive 2 ohms is recommended. Frequency response is rated from 42 Hz to 20 kHz.

Having visited Westlake's manufacturing facilities in Newbury Park, California, I can attest to the fact that Westlake monitors are extremely well-built. The inside of the enclosures are treated with a dampening material that minimizes cabinet resonances, which is a real problem with so many speakers. Quality parts are used throughout, including the winding of their own air core coils for use in the crossover networks. Westlake even positions the crossover components for minimum distortion before mounting.

The Lc3w10 is a fine monitor and may be just the ticket for an upgrade from a two-way to a three-way, where a bigger sound and extended frequency response is what you're looking for. And if you like the way the old JBL 4310's sounded, you'll probably love the Lc3w10.

Contact Westlake Audio at 805-499-3686.