BBC Design Department and the LS3/5A

In the 1970s BBC Design Department was based at Western House, near Broadcasting House in London. See the excellent website for more information.

It had been found that variation in the specification of the KEF B110 and T27 meant that it was very difficult to produce the next batch of the LS3/5. So the speaker was passed to BBC Design Department at Western House with a request to modify the design to allow for more tolerance of drive unit variation. The specific changes made at Design Department are documented in The Little Legend.

My father, Maurice Whatton CEng MIEE, in the lab/listening room at Western House. The photograph on the right is reproduced from FM RecoPal dated 20 July to 2 August 1981, published by Shogakukan Japan. The copyright of this photograph belongs to Mr Tomitsuka. It may not be reproduced elsewhere without permission. It appears here by kind permission of Mr.Tomitsuka.

Propotype reference LS3/5As were made in-house. The Dymo label on the back labels this one as LS3/5A No. 1.

Design Department liased with the manufacturers who had been granted a BBC licence to make the LS3/5A. In Ariel, the BBC staff magazine of June 1980 it was reported that:

To date, Designs biggest money spinner has been a monitoring loudspeaker, originally developed for BBC use in limited spaces. Between them, three companies which have been licensed have sold over 25,000 units- reaping the Corporation £3 a sale.

And there’s a touch of the coals to Newcastle about this success. Japan my be flooding us with HiFi equipment- but the LS3/5A loudspeaker is going great guns in Japan!

25,000 units refers to single loudspeakers and so is equivalent to 12,500 pairs made by the 3 licence holders at the time, Rogers (who in 1979 announced their 10,000 pair), Audiomaster and RAM. £3 adjusted for inflation using the Bank of England inflation calculator is the equivalent of £12.50 in 2023, and so, in just its first 5 years of production, the LS3/5A had earned the BBC licence income in excess of £310,000 at today’s money.

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