Lenehan Audio ML1 Loudspeaker - follow up

by admin on January 20, 2009 · 31 comments

in Loudspeakers, Stars

by Anthony Kershaw

I first heard about Mike Lenehan and his ML1 loudspeakers from fellow Audiophilia writer, Andy Fawcett. Andy is a very affable Aussie and is very proud of his country’s contribution to high end audio. And from his regular emails to me, the growth in high end design and manufacture in Australia reflects the country’s renewed faith in all things technology. He was especially talkative about Lenehan Audio, a company close to his Queensland town. The excellent feedback he was hearing from owners and fans of Lenehan’s speakers was making the Oz buzz around the internet and audio groups. Intrigued, he had a chance to follow the final development of the ML1 monitor, Lenehan’s first product to market. It followed that Andy would do the first review.

After Andy’s rave review (and this from a confirmed panel lover), I selfishly wanted to hear them for myself. Audiophilia’s Rick Nickel and other Toronto audiophiles also wanted a chance to listen. I placed a request via a subtle email to Mike. He was more than happy to ship a pair (at Lenehan Audio’s expense, making his kindness extra special with shipping costs to and from Australia!), and a week later, they arrived at the Audiophilia office.

The shipping is a work of art. I swear, the fatigue-draped cases could have fallen out of the hold of the Qantas 747-400 over the Arctic and the speakers would have survived. Bravo, Mike, for taking the packaging seriously and to ensure the fabulous finish of your speakers arrives at the purchaser blemish-free. As such, the ML1s were delivered in perfect condition. My pair is in Radiant Ebony, basically, piano black with sapphire flecks. Bloody gorgeous! They also can be purchased in the colour in the top image, Titanium Metalic.

The ML1 is a monitor-style speaker. Thus, you’ll need a stand — use a good one from Target, or the like. One you can fill with sand or lead shot. Use Blue-Tac to adhere the speaker to the stand. You want the glories of these speakers to shine forth. They reflect the quality of ancillieries as well as any fine speaker I’ve heard. They do not suffer fools gladly. They will also replicate in very detailed fashion the unique qualities of both your front and back ends. In this, they make fantastic reviewer speakers.

Setup is pretty simple. Visually, I like my speakers straight shooting. The ML1s sounded excellent this way, but a slight toe in with the tweeters ear height was even better. This positioning fine tuned the soundstage and depth perception ever so slightly. So, that’s where they stayed for the duration. Nine feet apart, four from the back walls, and three from one side (the other side is a little more open). They can play very loud without much bother, so prospective buyers can use them in small to large rooms. It could fill your standard North American basement setup, but I’d stay away from using them in very large rooms. That said, they are plucky little buggers!

You’re beautiful, and you know it!

The ML1 is one of the most beautiful small speakers I have seen. The workmanship is of artisan quality. Whoever Mike’s cabinet person is, kudos. I think my favourite line is ‘that they’d make a Totem or ProAc blush’. The Lenehans will grace any sound room or functioning living space. Your wife/SA will love them. My wife did. ‘They’re cute, beautiful, and they sound SO good!’. She knows her imaging from her soundstage, trust me.

The technical bit, courtesy of Andy Fawcett.

I’m sure folks will have already read Andy’s super review. He wrote of the technical specs, ‘On first appearances an unremarkable execution of a well-established formula – 5.5” mid-bass driver and 1” fabric dome tweeter in a compact 8-litre enclosure with rear-facing port – the ML1’s considerable weight (11kg / 24lbs) pays testimony to its extraordinarily thorough engineering. The cabinets (featuring a proprietary bracing technique) are laboriously hand built from HD3 composite; a denser, better damped and much more expensive alternative to the MDF found in almost all competing designs. The crossover is even more unusual – a wooden mounting board (not your typical PCB) dominated by three huge inductors, wound by hand from heavy-gauge copper wire, the largest of which alone weighs in at more than a kilogram (2.5 lbs)! Only hard-wired, audiophile grade capacitors and high power handling resistors are used. Hugely labour-intensive to produce, crossovers of this quality are rarely encountered, even at the loftiest altitudes of the high end; that they are found in a loudspeaker at this price point is astonishing, a paean to their designer’s uncompromising clarity of purpose.’

All hail, the confident one.

Lenehan is so confident of his design, that he describes (and shows) in detail the technical inspiration for his speaker. It’s right there on his website. No secrets here. Many designers eschew this openness. Some for fear of copyright infringement, some because they know their designs are crap. In our regular emails, Mike has explained his philospohy behind the ML1s and given me exact direction — even going as far to check the correct torque on the baffle screws. ‘Bass Driver 10 inch pounds, High frequency driver 10 inch pounds, inner screws on high frequency driver 15 inch pounds. Although they use thread lock compound because of the light tensions used so they shouldn’t come loose. If you need to take a look inside your welcome of course but you won’t get the high frequency driver out because it is held in with a heavy damping compound.’

Booty liscious!

The manual’s stated bass response of 50 Hz I found to be quite conservative. In fact, I got healthy information down to 40 Hz, which will give the bass fan a smile (this, without room bloom). A monitor with outstandingly clear bass and can go fairly deep. Once again, trust your instincts and taste. If you’re looking for a big ass thunder machine, don’t look here. This is a speaker for refined palettes. Great music, great sound, great looks. They’re all right here. Bass, too, but quality mid bass and a nice underbelly down to the C extension on a string bass. Some oomph as well, but you won’t be getting knocked back in your chair. Now, before the rickety old audiophiles start groaning about another small box with only ‘good’ bass, allow me to suggest that you could not be more wrong. The bass is in keeping with the mids and high. The balance is wonderful. Nothing sticks out and you’ll feel nothing is missing. But, even if you are a bass cracker head, allow yourself the pleasure of listening to the speaker with one of the best midrange and trebles you’re likely to hear. Sure, you could add a sub, even a Rel or other excellent examples, but don’t!

I listened for many weeks, using many of the CDs you’ll be reading about in Audiophilia over the next few months. The treble was very extended, detailed, but it was the midrange that was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For sure, one of the very best I’ve heard. It was perfectly balanced within the other tessituras, and glorious in its ability to give life to the most innocuous CDs. It didn’t overdo the makeup, it was bloody Coco Chanel. Halle Berry getting out of the water. Heidi Klum anywhere, anytime. Yeah, THAT good. It was about this time that Rick Nickel blurted out, ‘Oh God, listen to that midrange’. If you know Rick, that’s saying a lot!

A note about the ancillary equipment. At 86dB, the ML1 is like many monitors - it needs decent power to drive right. Sure, you can drive away with a 7 watt SET, but they sang under both the caring power of Audio Research tubes and NuForce Reference 9s Class D. They were quite consistent with good cables (single wire speaker terminals) from Transparent, Cardas, Wireworld and Microphonic Audio. The speakers did show differences in both amplifiers and a little flirtation it had with a NAD integrated. If your equipment is well made and designed, likely the speakers will make them shine.

So, there you have it.

The Lenehan Audio ML1 is better than most monitors I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot. It betters many at double or triple the price. That it is so reasonably priced, is a brilliant coup for the audiophile looking out for his dollars. If you are looking for a splendid monitor speaker that offers fantastic looks and sound and with such inherent value, and, who isn’t these days, may I suggest you email Mike and set something up. His tremendous expertise and your audio dollar will make for a very happy and musical partnership.

Very highly recommended.

[We are proud to award this product an Audiophilia Star Component Award. Congratulations! - Ed]

SPECIFICATIONS

Cabinet: 18mm HD3 composite, Differential Cancellation bracing.

Tweeter: 1 inch chambered textile dome.

Mid-bass driver: 5.5 inch Nomex cone.

Wiring: Solid core copper.

Input connection: Eichmann cablepods.

Frequency response: 50 - 25.000Hz +/- 1.5db

Sensitivity: 86dB @ 2.83V/m

Impedance: 8 ohms nominal, minimum 6.5 ohms @ 200Hz

Recommended amplifier power: 20-200W

Cabinet dimensions (HxWxD): 325 x 170 x 245mm (12.8 x 6.7 x 9.6″)

Weight (per speaker): 11 kg (24lbs)

All specifications may be subject to change without notice.

Each pair of ML1s is stringently tested, and supplied with their own frequency, phase and impedance plots.

Manufactured by Lenehan Audio

36 Nind St
Southport QLD Australia 4215

PHONE:
(07) 5571 1527

Source of review sample: manufacturer loan

Price: AUD$2500

E-mail: Lenehan Audio

Lenehan Audio website

{ 1 trackback }

Lenehan Audio ML1 Loudspeaker – A Technology Update — Audiophilia
09.28.09 at 9:35 am

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Fawcett 01.12.09 at 7:02 am

Great review, Anthony. Glad they made such an impression on you as well - they really are a remarkable product.

See, guys - it’s not just the women down here in Oz that are beautiful … the speakers are too!!

admin 01.12.09 at 8:35 am

Thanks, Andy. I’m hoping the man himself will write a Manufacturer’s Comment here.

They are extraordinary.

Cheers, a

Mike Lenehan 01.13.09 at 6:48 am

Anthony,
Thank you for giving the ML1s such a thorough and perceptive appraisal. It is a design that I am very proud of, so I’m gratified that you found so many nice things to say about them. Everybody here in the office has had a grin on their face all day!

Perhaps I could pick up on a couple of points you mention. We have been building loudspeakers since 1996, but this is our first move to selling online and making our products available internationally. Incidentally, the “fatigue-draped” cases you received have now been replaced by a less militaristic silver! The cases are perfect for storing and transporting vinyl LPs.

As regards bass response, the 50Hz figure quoted in our specs is measured quasi-anechoically; in-room, we would typically expect response to be flat to 40Hz. We have just added detailed response plots to our website, for the technically-minded.

Finally, a note on price. While exchange rates and freight costs vary, we can currently deliver a pair of ML1s to North America for around US$2000, including insured Fedex airfreight.

Best regards from myself and my small crew, Mike

Matt 01.13.09 at 7:00 am

Great review, Anthony. There’s a lot of good stuff being said about the ML1’s.

admin 01.13.09 at 7:25 am

Thanks for the comment, Matt. I think you would enjoy hearing them. They are a special product.

Just a note for the continued self congratulations :) I’m approving and writing comments to the magazine from the gym on my iPhone. Gotta love technology. And updating is such a breeze, you’ll all be getting sick to the death of my reviews and posts! :)

Mike, I’m so glad you enjoyed the review. It was certainly an absolute pleasure listening and reviewing your wonderful speaker.

It’s a busy day, today. It’s 7 a.m. Here in Toronto. The workout’s already done. I have one rehearsal, a lunch date, then a meeting. I’m already thinking about 4:00 when I can decant a 2006 Gemtree Uncut Shiraz (McLaren Vale) and listen to some beautiful Mozart on the ML1s.

Thanks for commenting. Talk soon, a

Andy Fawcett 01.13.09 at 8:52 am

So you’re on the Aussie wine too, Anthony! Sorry about leaving it uncut, that was careless … ;-)

admin 01.13.09 at 9:09 am

LOL!

The Aussie Shiraz’ are amazing. Had the 2006 d’Arenberg The Dead Arm. Epic! My wife bought me a Penfold’s RWT Barossa for Xmas. Supposed to be one of Australia’s best.

>>>>Back to Mike’s amazing speaks!

:)

Rick Calder 01.14.09 at 2:02 am

I took a pair of ML1’s to USA late 2007 as I did a bit of a tour.
(Including a drive around the lake from Niagara to Toronto to have a look around)

Customs x-ray operators at every airport (I did the West, Mid-west and East coasts in a 2 month stint of USA and Canada) eyes bulged as the one little speaker in my backpack as carry-on luggage went through the magic conveyor… (I couldn’t put two in a suitcase, due to weight/size issues) After calling their supervisor to view the x-ray (with puzzled facial expressions), always resulted with subsequent bomb swabs, I realised they must look suspect with so much going on inside them.

When I took them to a few different Hi-Fi shops to get some idea of how they would fare in the North American market, it was fun. Always fun being the kid with the cool new toy!
Especially a couple of times when other salesmen walked into the room, listened a bit then asked which subs were being used with them. Clarity and transparency was immediately recognised in every case; and that was before Mike put the new room correcting curcuit into them. So mine are now have the current crossover circuitry.

Martin Appel 01.23.09 at 2:49 am

The new version of the speaker, with the room correcting crossover circuiry was developed by DEQX and having a great deal of experience with DEQX it should make them markedly better. Think about that one Admin.

Andy Fawcett 01.23.09 at 4:44 am

“New version” of the speaker, Marty - do you know something I don’t?!

Martin Appel 01.23.09 at 6:55 am

Hi Andy, did the model you reviewed have the room correcting crossover circuitry in it? If not, then you haven’t heard them at their best.
Let me know.

admin 01.23.09 at 9:16 am

We had a audio meet at my place last night. I’ll tell you what, they sounded even better, if that’s possible. They are such great speakers. The other audiophiles listening were gobsmacked!

Andy Fawcett 01.23.09 at 8:16 pm

Marty,
some confusion here - I’ve just been on the phone to Mike Lenehan to clarify. The “room correcting crossover” is the name given to the company’s proprietary approach for dealing with off-axis dispersion; DEQX have had absolutely no involvement in any part of the development. Both Anthony’s and my review samples had this version of the crossover, as have all production ML1s for the last 6 months or so. I heard the previous model in an A/B comparison, and the difference was not subtle.

Seriously, mate, you need to hear these things - they are something else!

Anthony - I’m not surprised that they’re getting even better with prolonged exposure, as that was my experience too. As mentioned in my write-up, these are speakers for the long-haul; “I just know that, long down the track, [they] would still be thrilling and beguiling me”!

admin 01.23.09 at 8:30 pm

Bang on, Andy. The secrets are being revealed with more subtlety than dating a shy Heidi Klum, long term. :)

Bloody wonderful. Are you going to keep a pair and forsake the panels?

Marty, you have to hear them. I may be able to bring them down to NYC in May. If you want to add a sub, I’m firing you ;)

Cole 01.24.09 at 9:13 am

Mike Lenehan; Have you guys ever thought of using a distributor network and getting them into stores instead of selling online?

admin 01.24.09 at 9:17 am

FYI:

The Lenehan ML1 speakers will be staying in the reference rotation for a while. I’m looking forward to hearing them with different cables and with some classy integrated amps. Thanks, Mike.

Andy Fawcett 01.24.09 at 9:17 pm

Forsake the panels, Anthony?! A panel addiction is hard to break, and my therapist has his hands full with all of my other issues … ;-) I’m happy to mark time for now; I don’t think we’ve heard the last from Mr Lenehan.

Andy Fawcett 01.24.09 at 9:28 pm

Cole - without wanting to steal Mike’s thunder, I did mention the reasons for his decision to sell online in my original review. Had he not, we wouldn’t be talking about it now! It mostly comes down to dollars, of course, but it is also immensely difficult for a small Aussie manufacturer to break into crowded Northern Hemisphere markets

Mike Lenehan 01.24.09 at 11:19 pm

Hi Cole. Although we have made a committment to online selling,we are always interested to hear from distributors who may have an interest in our products. We envite them to contact us via our website. Best Regards Mike Lenehan
LenehanAudio

Martin Appel 01.25.09 at 7:05 am

Anthony, I would have to totally reconfigure my system to play a standard speaker with internal crossover. My speakers have no internal crossover and use the DEQX as crossover with bi-amplification per channel. If you can get an ML-1 sans internal crossover, it could be done. It would take going through the callibration process and this takes more time than you have.
It’s also possible to hook up the standard ML-1 and use the DEQX speaker correction function and room correction. As good as standard speakers sound, the DEQX will improve them. I’ve heard this done many times with different models and manufacturers and the look of surprise on people’s faces was always there.
As far as a subwoofer goes, I haven’t used one for many years. When you come to my abode you will understand oh great leader.

admin 01.25.09 at 9:03 am

Looking forward to hearing your system, especially with the Volvere. Rick will be with me. Last week of May.

The Lenehan’s are transportable, though. And those amazing cases make things very easy.

Martin Appel 01.25.09 at 10:34 am

Looking forward to it.

Martin Appel 01.26.09 at 7:59 pm

Hi Andy, what part of Australia do you live in?

Andy Fawcett 01.27.09 at 5:38 am

I’ll drop you a line, Marty. It wouldn’t be fair to taunt snowbound readers with tales of swaying palm trees, endless beaches lapped by the South Pacific, bronzed bikini-clad beauties, cloudless blue skies … ;-p

Adrian 04.21.09 at 6:36 am

Hi Andrew,
I’ve read Andy’s comments comparing the ML1 to the Proac 1SC. What’s your thoughts on this? Which one do you prefer?

Adrian 04.21.09 at 6:41 am

Hi Anthony,
Sorry, the above question is for you, not Andrew (not sure where I got Andrew from).

admin 04.21.09 at 8:52 pm

Hi Adrian:

Welcome.

It’s been some years since I heard (and raved) about the ProAc. I remember specifically an amazing Telarc/Baltimore Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances. The detail and transparency are what impressed me as well as their ability to play loud. But in every way, Mike Lenehan’s are speakers are better. Even the finish, which is really saying something.

I’m loving the speakers. The power handling, the transparency, the imaging, and yes, even the bass. They are astounding speakers. And for the price, an an absolute steal!

Be sure to hear them when they are broken in. Excellent out of the box, but the charms get really seductive after 200 hours.

Cheers, a

Adrian 04.23.09 at 6:29 am

Thanks very much. I’m really thinking of getting one now. Anyone know anybody in Sydney who have the ML1 and willing to let me listen to it?

admin 04.23.09 at 6:52 am

Why not contact Mike directly? A very approachable genius :)

Good hunting. They are worth it.

Andy Fawcett 04.24.09 at 3:55 am

G’day Adrian. If you go to the Lenehan Audio website, there’s a link to a local forum discussion where (if memory serves) a Sydney owner is among those to have posted their impressions. You’ll also find more opinions from people who’ve owned both ML1’s and 1SC’s … it’s fair to say that they’re unanimous, but you read it here first! ;-)

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>