Paul White lends an ear to Westlake's new nearfield monitors and discovers that they have a distinctively Californian sound.
Westlake Audio claim 25 years of experience in the field of monitor design, but this is the first time, to my knowledge, that they've made a deliberate move to enter the project studio market, with the passive, nearfield LC 6.75 monitors.
Surprisingly little technical information was supplied with these speakers (a single‑sheet brochure), but I can tell you that that the bass driver is 6.5 inches in diameter, and is augmented by a 3/4‑inch soft‑dome tweeter. The LC 6.75s have a rated continuous power handling of 80W, are quite sensitive, at 88dB/Watt @1m, and have a frequency response of 60Hz‑18kHz (quoted at the standard ‑3dB limits). The cabinets are constructed from MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) and finished in black textured paint, and feature dual bass ports directly below the tweeter. A 'step' in the front panel is designed to time‑align the tweeter with the bass unit, though no mention is made in the documentation of the crossover frequency or slope characteristics.
This is a strictly passive monitor, with a nominal impedance of 7Ω, though it can dip to as low as 5Ω at some frequencies, so an amplifier capable of working comfortably into 4Ω is to be recommended. I used the well‑regarded AVI integrated hi‑fi amp (rated at around 60W per channel) for these tests and found I had plenty of power in hand.
The bass/mid unit seems nicely damped, using a doped paper cone in a roll surround, and the HF end is covered by a fabric dome tweeter set into a rebate in the baffle, so as to provide flush mounting. Judging by the size of the dust cap, the voice coil is probably 1.5 inches or less in diameter. A removable grille cloth and frame is fitted as standard, and this seems to have little or no detrimental effect on the sound, though most studio users will probably prefer to remove it.
Connection is via a pair of conventional binding posts set into a small recess in the rear panel, and these can accept bare wires, banana plugs or spade terminals. With overall measurements of 16 x 8 x 10 inches (as these are American speakers, there are no metric equivalents provided), these are relatively compact monitors, and at 22lbs each, they feel substantial while remaining portable.
All my listening tests were conducted using the same, very familiar set of CDs I use to test virtually all the monitors that find their way here, and by way of a benchmark, I also had a pair of ATC SCM10 monitors to hand.
The stereo imaging of the LC 6.75s immediately leaps out as being excellent, while the off‑axis response is particularly good, ensuring a usefully wide sweet spot. There's plenty of level, even with a quite modestly‑powered amplifier.
This is a strictly passive monitor, with a nominal impedance of 7 Ohms, though it can dip to as low as 5 Ohms at some frequencies, so an amplifier capable of working comfortably into 4 Ohms is to be recommended.
At the low‑frequency end, you wouldn't expect any really deep bass from monitors of this size, but at moderate listening volumes, you do get a reasonable kick out of them. However, I felt the rendition of bass‑heavy transients left something to be desired. Whenever I read a hi‑fi review that rants on about "pace, rhythm and timing" in the context of loudspeaker appraisal, I tend to think they're just talking their usual load of techno‑cobblers, but the LC 6.75s just didn't seem quite together when delivering kick drum and hard bass guitar sounds. This low‑frequency characteristic is relatively subtle, but less benign is an obvious sense of brightness, which seems to be centred between 4 and 5kHz. The subjective impression is almost as if aural enhancement has been used on the monitoring system, and though this makes it easy to pick out detail, it definitely imparts a harsh, almost sibilant characteristic to the test material, and this makes it difficult to believe what you're hearing. I don't know if this particular sound quality is an artifact of the crossover design or whether it's the result of deliberate voicing designed to achieve the 'Westlake' sound — West Coast US studios do seem to go in for bright monitoring, after all — but I'm afraid I wouldn't feel happy working with it. It's almost as though Westlake have used the NS10 as their role model, then decided to build a hi‑fi equivalent but with similar overall characteristics. Of course, if you're one of the thousands of engineers who like working with NS10s, this may be exactly what you're looking for.
The LC 6.75 is well engineered, it delivers adequate level and it has excellent imaging, but I've always felt that a studio reference monitor should sound as flat and accurate as possible. Clearly, the LC 6.75 is designed to have a certain kind of tonal character, and I accept that slight tonal tweaking is all part of making a monitor appeal to the market, but my own view is that Westlake have gone beyond the point at which the speaker is useful as a meaningful reference. In fact, I was so worried by this that I asked two other SOS contributors to join in the listening tests, and they very quickly arrived at the same conclusions without being prompted by me. Considering that these monitors cost almost £1000 per pair — not cheap for passive nearfield monitors — my personal recommendation would be to check other models in the price range first, including the Alesis Monitor 2s and Dynaudio BM10s, both at around £800, or put the same money into something like a pair of Event active 2020s (reviewed July 1996), which I feel out‑perform the Westlakes on all counts.
- Excellent stereo imaging.
- Good off‑axis response.
- Expensive, given their performance.
- Excessive upper‑mid brightness.
The LC 6.75s have an obvious 'sound', and are, to my mind, too coloured for those people used to working with flat monitors. However, NS10 fans may find them more to their taste.