CTS Studios Lockwood Universal Loudspeakers - Review 2012

Discover the Ex CTS Studios Lockwood Universal Loudspeakers

The Tannoys are funny old things. They have a character in a very British way. With a quite focused hot spot on the treble you have a more recessed listening zone in comparison to other general kinds of speaker designs but when you're in there, man… there is no getting out.

Lockwood Universal monitoring loudspeakers

My original cabinets were the Lancaster's made by Tannoy in the late '60s, these cabs were approx 100ltrs with a reflex port. My Monitor golds are the 12” version of which the Lancaster cabinets are more suited to as opposed to 15” MG's in Lancasters. But I had a problem. Occasionally with some recordings the lower frequencies and the mids seemed compressed sometimes and tubby sounding.

After some work bracing an additional scrappy pair of cabinets and then re-foaming them it didn't cure their shortcomings for me. It was a shame as the Lancaster cabinets looked superb and sounded great but they were just not right.

Tannoy Lancasters on Something Solid stands

One experiment was to take the back panel off. I felt this would basically squeeze the sound clean of any involvement but when I did… wow… what a difference. They sounded very different indeed so this confirmed to me what these speakers could sound like and the potential they have locked away. So this then got me thinking… I needed some bigger cabinets.

Some Lockwood cabinets came up for sale that looked like they would fit the bill perfectly. They are Lockwood Universal cabinets from the late '60s. They are just over 200ltrs and which to be honest I had only seen one other pair like them before.

Back in 2003 I found a website with an article about a studio down in London called Toe Rag Studios. The article was absolutely fascinating and right up my street regarding vintage equipment.

Photo: Copyright Richard Ecclestone
Find the article on Sound on Sound - Toe Rag Studios

Since then I occasionally followed the studio's portfolio as it was producing some superb recordings with the likes of Supergrass, The White Stripes and Hugh Cornwell to name just a few. It was this picture that was totally inspiring to me. In fact the White Stripes album Elephant was recorded here.

Photo: Copyright Richard Ecclestone

Yes… that is an original EMI REDD 17 mixing desk from Abbey Road of which only a couple still exist, also in there are some Studer tape machines and an amazing amount of other goodies.

Photo: Copyright Richard Ecclestone - Liam and the Lockwoods

Note the speaker cabinets in the pictures… Those cabinets are the Lockwood Universals with ceiling hangers.

So when I saw the pictures of the advertised cabinets they had a grey/blue painted finish but I didn't realise that these were the same type as in the studio above until I got them home when I recognised the round metal hanging plate on each side.

I dropped Liam an email and found that the cabinets came from Toe Rag in Hackney.

Photo: (C) 2011 StayLooseDigitalGroup

Stripping the old paint off

So after nearly 10 years of enjoying the output from Toe Rag Studios I found myself with the actual speaker cabinets that had been used there for over 10 years. A quick email (with thanks) to Liam the owner of Toe Rag Studios confirmed this.

But the story doesn't end there. I asked Liam where he originally acquired cabinets from. He purchased them from an auction when CTS studios Lansdowne in London closed in 2000 ending a 57-year history at that location. The cabinets came from one of the projection rooms which was very interesting as they recorded a lot of soundtracks there like Casino Royale and James Bond as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Queen, and Paul McCartney.

Cabinets in detail

So…a very cool history. The sound from the 12” MG's in these cabinets is vast, no tubbiness or anything, and these really do shift some air with the recently updated crossovers too. After doing some research I found that the 12” MG's need cabinet volumes of 150 to 230ltrs so for the size of these drivers we are pretty much hitting the middle there.

Admittedly I did ask the wife if I could hang them from the ceiling but she just gave me ‘that look' to which I stepped away from but they do make magnificent domestic speakers and knowing the history of the cabinets is a great thing to have seeing as some of my all-time favourite bands must have sat in front of these listening to mixes is kind of satisfying.

And then, of course, is the most important thing… the sound. These speakers in these cabinets reproduce music to an amazing degree of accuracy in a domestic environment. And with them placed on the floor opposed to being hung the sound is at ear level and makes for a big and un-restricted level sound stage.

Equipment used at the time of writing:
CROFT 7R+ (Special lower-powered version)

To finish, a quote from Liam which I feel encapsulates studio production as well as home listening very well.

“You don't need to f**k around with stuff because if it sounds good in the room, if you're using the right microphones in the right positions it should sound good in the control room as well. The less you do, usually, the better it sounds. Go with your gut instinct — if it sounds good, don't start worrying about 'Oh, but what if it sounded...' Resist those temptations to suddenly switch the EQ knob on and start f**king around with it, because you'll lose your way. That's what I think, anyway."

– Liam Watson – Toe Rag Studios – Quoted from SOS 2003