By Phil O'Keefe
Probably the most popular studio monitor of all time is the Yamaha NS-10. While they weren't the best sounding speakers ever built, nor particularly easy on the ears during long sessions, the fact was that if you could get a mix sounding good on them, it would probably "translate" well to other playback systems.
Since the NS-10 was discontinued, several companies have tried to cater to engineers who found it perfect for their monitoring needs. Trident Loudspeaker Company (TLC) seems to be shooting for that market with their LS-101 monitors.
The LS-101 has three drivers - dual 4" woofers (a typo in the docs says 5") and a 1" dome tweeter. The bass port is located on the back panel. Also on the back you'll find dual sets of gold-plated binding posts for connecting the speakers to your power amp. You can connect to a single pair of posts or run two sets of speaker wires from your amp for "bi-wiring." I couldn't hear a difference with bi-wiring. Trident says the benefits are more noticeable with long cable runs.
When using standard speaker wires, the two sets of posts must be connected together with the included gold-plated metal strips, which tend to want to fall off as you're trying to connect the wires. Fortunately you only have to deal with this issue when you connect the monitors to your system.
On the plus side, the LS-101 is magnetically shielded and the tweeter is covered with a metal mesh to prevent it from being damaged.
I hooked the LS-101s to three different power amps: a Crest FA901, an Alesis RA100, and a Hafler P3000. Trident rates the power handling of the LS-101 at 50W RMS at 4 ohms, but they performed better with a little extra power available. While the LS-101 can be oriented horizontally or vertically, I preferred the horizontal placement.
So how do they sound? The overall character is similar to NS-10s, but they lack the "ice pick to the eardrums" effect of the Yamahas. Not that they lack highs - they're just not as piercing as the Yamahas. Still, high-end detail and "sparkle" seemed a little subdued to me.
While frequency response is rated as 30Hz to 22KHz, I found the low end really doesn't start to fully kick in until around 50Hz. They definitely reproduce a 30Hz sine wave, but I measured it about 15dB down compared to their response at 50Hz; the bass seemed fairly flat from there on up. If you're looking for "kick you in the gut" low-end, you may want to look into a subwoofer.
Although they're not the most earth-shaking speakers down low, they do surprisingly well for a compact box. I had no difficulty differentiating kick drum and bass guitar tones.
Stereo imaging is solid, and subtle panning moves were easily audible. While the midrange is a bit boxy, the mids were more prominent and smoother than NS-10s.
The Trident LS-101 speakers reminded me of the NS-10. But I would much prefer using the LS-101 due to its extended frequency response and less annoying highs. For orphaned NS-10 lovers, Trident has provided an attractive alternative that improves on the weaknesses of the old workhorses. And users of other monitors, with a little time to acclimate, can certainly get the job done with the LS-101.