When reviewing budget speakers, I always wonder what if the designer was given the green light to spend an extra 25% to upgrade the parts on the speaker, how much audio improvement could be heard? It isn't hard to imagine the frustration in thinking, "For just X dollars more I can use these parts instead and the piano would sound so much better." Finally, a company has given a designer an opportunity. Walter Liederman of parent company Underwood HiFi green-lighted the LSA Signature 60 bookshelf speakers, a souped-up version of the well-received, $599pr budget gem Signature 50 is just such an audio unicorn .
Before getting into the upgrades in the Signature 60, these are a good-looking speaker, with the exterior cabinet taking a very similar look to the Sonus Faber Concertinas, with a vinyl wrap for the main box, and gradually beveled veneer side panels. The overall size is 15"H x 13"D x 10"w. This gives the appearance as well as a sound signature that is more weighty than other models in this price range. Much like the Polk LSi 7 & 9 speakers, I had some expectation of the "weight" that the Signature 60's would provide, but that's only the beginning.
Taking off the cloth grill (old school plastic tabs), reveals the first upgrade, a 1.4" folded tweeter (AMT) instead of a soft dome. I admit having a strong fondness for this type of driver. There is just a detailed ease to their output. Paired with the AMT is a 6.5” paper cone driver that is treated in semi-glossy black. Both drivers are inset into the angled front panel with about an inch gap between them. The back side of the cabinet houses a rear port near the top. I did detect a couple of times a bit of "chuffing” from the port. The five-way binding posts are the same as the Signature 50's. All new manufacturing runs will include a brushed aluminum name badge with the same binding posts as the Signature 80's! Rubber feet are attached to the bottom. Those needing stands, a sand-fillable pair can be purchased for $199.
Internally, the crossover network received a great deal of attention by designer Dr. Viet Nguyen. In comparison to the Signature 50 crossover (left photo), the Signature 60 (right photo) received a great deal of attention. Iron core inductors have been replaced with copper coil. Capacitors have been upgraded as well. If this model ever made it onto Danny Richie's GR Research YouTube channel I bet it would receive solid praise for the components. The crossover point did drop from 3800khz, to 3600khz. While that is rather high in a two-way speaker design the results speak for themselves.
The Signature 60's I received had already been broken-in. Starting with the same placement point as my reference LSA Signature 80's on my sand-filled Celestion si stands, I spent the better part of three hours tinkering with positioned, settled just slightly narrower at 68 inches apart and a bit closer at 31 inches to the front wall in my 11x12 listening space. Digital music was sourced from Qobuz and my personal collection via Roon software to the Denefrips Ares II DAC, and Parasound P5 preamp. With tube amplification, the DAC went directly to a 35wpc Vista Audio integrated amplifier.
Lately, thanks to a student, I've been on a Seventies music revival. From Edgar Winter to .38 Special. The Signature 60's responded with a gusto. The 6.5" driver had no problem providing plenty of energy powered by a vintage Adcom GFA-535ii amplifier that provides far more power than its 60wpc rating. Winter's lead guitar was powerful and quick with the Signature 60's recreating his heavy electric notes.
Jazz master Charlie Haden's string bass in "Passport" is both heard and felt. That's something one doesn't experience in all but a very few sub-$1k speakers. Most importantly, you can actually hear the different notes Haden is playing. The mid-song solo is an exceptionally full sounding and clean from the Signature 60's when the 110wpc Parasound A23 was providing the power.
Such live jazz recordings from Haden, etc. is where the AMT folded tweeter really shines. It's never harsh or soft, finding the sweet spot of naturalness with cymbals, whether the ring comes from a drumstick or brush. Whether this is due in part to the 3600Khz crossover point, or parts used, I'll let others decide. What I can say is that in the case of the Signature 60's, it's a terrific choice.
Switching over to the indie-style fun of The Avett Brothers, "Ain't No Man", delivers significant bass punch no matter which solid state amplifier (Adcom or Parasound), or the powerful 500wpc of the class D Peachtree amp500. I will say that at 86db efficiency, the Signature 60's need a decent helping of current to match the wattage to get them jumping. The PS Audio Sprout at 40wpc didn't have the torque to really make these speakers sing.
The acoustic bluegrass-infused track "Swept Away" from the album from The Avett Brothers Mignonette, has far more definition than I expected. The richness of the sparse harmonies is a reminder of the pre-auto tune days. Each vocal is both "live" sounding and truly unique to the individual member. The banjo throughout the album is insanely pleasant, not an ounce of irritating sharp notes. That is a true rarity at the $799 price range. Kudos to Dr. Nguyen for avoiding the shrillness compromise in a budget design.
Female rock vocals present an interesting challenge as they tend to be rather sharply presented by the recording engineer. Pat Benatar projects some serious soprano notes. In "Treat Me Right", she climbs the ladder during the chorus. The AMT tweeter never falls into crunchy surrender. Nor does Neil Giraldo's lead guitar. Once again, the quality crossover makes a big difference.
Digging deeper into harmonies, The Beach Boys iconic "Pet Sounds" is downright fun on the Signature 60's. The ability for these wallet-friendly boxes to avoid the muddy mess of multiple layering of vocals and instruments is special. "You Still Believe in Me", "Don't Talk" and "God Only Knows" are spot-on examples. One hears the subtleties of every note and the magic behind the construction of this masterpiece.
Shifting to orchestral music, Itzhak Perlman's violin in John Willians hauntingly beautiful theme to Schindler's List by the Boston Symphony reproduces every note to its edge, yet never falls into shrillness. Symphonic music has always been the ultimate test for me with budget speakers. Most struggle with the complexity of so many instruments. Congestion is a major problem, with the overall sound being muddied. The Signature 60's steamrolled my negative experiences. They manage to reveal the work of the recording engineer's attempt to recreate the concert hall effect with success. The entire movie soundtrack is beautifully presented, with a special nod to the children's chorus followed by the solo bassoon in the simply titled "Part 5". In "Part 6" the theme is reprised with the full orchestra and the Signature 60's deliver the performance with soulful detail.
There have been only two other times since I started reviewing in 2006, that I have been so totally taken by a set of sub $1000 speakers: The Totem Acoustic Mites and the ACI Emerald XL's. Now both of those are mini-monitors, and the ACI's still act as my simple 2.0 home theater system in my family room. The LSA Signature 60's at the same price as the aforementioned models, presents a much fuller sound. The bass is not only present, but detailed in both tone and richness. The midrange is natural, smooth, and full of depth including subtle background musical treats usually missing in budget speakers. Finally, the AMT tweeter performs at twice the price-point, completely lacking in shrillness while doling out the sparkle.
Honestly, I can't think of a better budget value on the market than the Signature 60's. Had I not laid claim to their bigger brother, the Signature 80's, the Signature 60's would take up permanent residence in my listening room. Bravo Dr. Nguyen and Walter Liederman, for upgrading an already praised speaker. If you're in the market, get your ears on a pair and enjoy!