My Story I was on holiday in Rome and during a sightseeing break,
I decided to search eBay for 'vintage speakers' (I know, it's
sad, but I simply cannot help myself...). These little bookshelf speakers
caught my eye. There was hardly any auction description and no
branding visible on the speakers anywhere. However the tweeters
looked very familiar and the woofer diaphragms looked like Bextrene
cones from the LS3/5A. I decided to purchase these with an intention
of using them in my bedroom system, if they turn out to sound
When the speakers arrived, I inspected them properly and did some digging
around. It turns out that this is an
early version of the Audiomaster MLS1 from the 1970s.
Please note - usually before reviewing vintage speakers, I
recap the crossovers to ensure that capacitors are within
manufacturer’s specification. On this occasion, caps were within
spec from the original schematics, so there was no need for a
Audiomaster was a British brand that was launched
in the early 70s by a retail chain called KJ Leisuresound. The man
responsible for speaker design was Robin Marshall (ex BBC
engineer who later ended up working for Monitor Audio and then
set up his own brand - Epos). Due to demand on the market and
Robin's connection at BBC, Audiomaster obtained a licence from
and started production of the LS3/5a's. At the same time they also designed their own
speakers, with the first model being Image One, which evolved into
Image Two, which in turn evolved into the MLS-2. This speaker, the MLS-1, was a
newer and smaller design, that was supposed to sound like a slightly
bigger LS3/5A but at much lower price point. Audiomaster sold plenty
of MLS-1s and other models during the 70s, however, due to bad
management, they were not able to sustain the growth and ceased
trading in the early 80s. If you are interested in the history, here
great interview with Robin Marshall.
So what do we actually have here? A small, shoe-box sized closed
two drivers and a complicated crossover. Low sensitivity and
limited power handling. Sounds very much like LS3/5A...
Look & Feel
I really like the look of these little
speakers. Perhaps not as much as the look of LS3/5a's, but
still, I find them very presentable. The enclosures are made from
19mm chipboard, finished in a real wood veneer and dampened with large
amounts of open cell foam. They are quite heavy considering the
size. The finished quality is OK but with a couple (in my
opinion) of cosmetic
issues. The front panels were painted after the boxes were put together
and consequently some of the black paint transferred onto the veneered
The drivers were
made by a French loudspeaker manufacturer - Audax and look quite
neat in terms of finishing quality, especially when compared to
British drivers from the same era. The tweeters are 25mm fibre
domes, used in a number of other constructions during the 70s.
Woofers are 160mm Bextrene cones with rubber surrounds and
baskets made from pressed metal, powered by relatively small
ferrite magnets. The crossovers are relatively complex for a 2
way construction, made from components available at the time.
First impressions are important, and when I
hooked these up and played a couple of tracks, I thought to myself
"gosh, these are very well balanced". Whatever I threw at them,
they handled it pretty well, and made it easy and enjoyable to
listen. They give an impression of a fairly deep and wide
soundstage and they are quite good at imaging.
Midrange and treble appear to have some warmth
This is especially noticeable when listening to voices. Sam
Cooke's voice on Lost and Lookin, sounds velvety smooth and
rich. This warmth also positively affects how these speaker
handle saxophones. The warmth does not however mean that they
lack clarity - it just means that they are not as analytical.
Nonetheless, speakers are always about compromises, and it is
impossible to find
speakers that do everything as you want them to. One of
the shortfalls is how these Audiomasters reproduce stringed
instruments, especially guitars. Their warmth seems to mellow
the sound of guitars and make them somewhat softer. Having that sharpness
and attack there, would make guitar's sound a lot more
life-like. When exposed to busy tracks they do not handle them
as well as larger speakers with more drivers, but considering
their size, they handle them pretty well.
Bass... Well, if you read any other reviews on this website,
you will know that I am quite sensitive to this part of the
audio spectrum. I like pianos to sound full bodied and the bass
guitars to sound like bass guitars. This is the reason why my
main speakers were always of a substantial size. The majority of
small speakers that I have experienced, always left me with a feeling
that something is missing in that area. Audiomaster MLS-1s are
different. Despite the early low frequency roll-off, they sound
full bodied and do not make me feel like I'm missing something.
Perhaps the overall flatter frequency response contributes to
this, but regardless of what it is, it's a great quality. If I
was to criticise anything, it probably would be the lack of
attack, however, considering the size of the speaker, it is
actually pretty good.
Very balanced, and easy to listen. Clear and
warm at the same time. Despite limited bass extension, they never
make you feel that anything is missing. If you are after small
vintage bookshelf speakers, forget about LS3/5a's, and get yourself
MLS-1s for a fraction of the cost.
Balance of Sound:
Neutrality of Tone:
Please note - if you want to know what I
mean by the descriptions above, hover you mouse over them.
More detailed information will be available in a separate
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