Overview: Spendor Classics
SPENDOR is the speaker for tube addicts. They boast uniformly beautiful treble and mid-range, perhaps at the expense of ultimate bass, but throughout the mid-band they are ALWAYS just RIGHT. Compared to the smooth integration of Spendor, most modern transducers are exercises in tonal mismatch and discontinuity. The crossover of Spendor is always seamless, almost like a full range. Many models are best buys. I am a die-hard Spendor fan who speaks from experience. To date I have personally used the following Spendors: SP1, SP1/2, SP2/2, S20, SP100, and LS3/5A (old 11 ohm and modern bi-wirable 11 ohm), and I have listened to the BC1, Prelude/2, 7/1 and 9/1, and S3/5.
SP1 (and BC1)
---Basically these are very closely related 3-ways sealed speakers and they sound that way. They share the same tweeter and midrange units, and hence have much the same open and light, but refined treble and midrange, with VERY good details, and surprising speed. The SP1 has improved bass which sounds a bit tighter and not as lugubrious as BC1. But overall they are indeed similar, though I prefer the crisper sound of SP1. It's really unfortunate that HK people use BC1 in their small rooms and many suffer booming. If any complaint can be lodged at these speakers, it is that they are less textured than speakers like ATC. So, while nice for Teresa Tang and Aaron Neville, chamber music, jazz, or plucked strings, one sometimes wishes for a bit more weight for baritones and rock and roll.
There are those people who regard these as larger LS3/5A's. That's NONSENSE. These are much superior to the LS3/5A in ALL ways, including vocals. Of course some people listen to these in a room of 70 ft, suffer from booming, yet speak with "authority"! Put them in a large room, do the bass right and they walk all over the LS3/5A. Another virtue of these speakers is that they work well with SE amps if the room is not overly large. The SP1 is less often seen. The BC1, often, but usually in questionable conditions, so buy with care.
Beware there is a so-called anniversary edition, "updated", BC1-69, which sounds much inferior and should be avoided.
SP1/2 ---This date from relatively recent times. The SP1/2 is a 3-way ( 2 top front ports) but design and ALL units are different from the SP1. The only similarity is the dimension. Sound is notably different, indeed not similar at all. The SP1/2 has greater texture, but lacks a bit the open, airy nature of the original. The greatest problem with these refined and textured speakers is the speed. They sound slow with almost all tube amps and indeed much livelier with ss amps, leading one to suspect voicing with ss amp. So though they are efficient and can be used with 300B amp, the original is preferred. But it is highly recommended for ss amp users. These speakers are RARELY seen.SP2
---I have used the SP2/2. The SP2/3 has the front port in a different location. These are closely related to the SP1/2 in drivers but are 2-way and have a different sound. The SP2/2 I used is fast, open and quite well-controlled in the bass (but not that much; quality rather than quantity). Tonally it is leaner than the SP1, so partner accordingly. These are excellent even with relatively low powered amps like the Dynaco ST70. One caveat. I listened to the SP2/3 once and it seemed duller. So my recommendation is based upon the SP2/2. They are best buys, though not at current prices.
S100/SP100---These evergreens are forever on Stereophile's Recommended List, reference-grade 3-way speakers (2 front ports; similar to SP1/2) that give the B&W 801 a run for their money. IMHO these are possibly preferable in all but the deep bass, with beautifully clear treble and mid-band that bear more than a bit of resemblance to the BC1/SP1. That's accolade indeed. BUT it has the considerable advantage of much better texture. The bass goes REAL low and is tuneful, though a bit fruity when not handled right. No one-note bass here! For its size (12" woofer), it is surprisingly agile, much more musical than most of our monstrous speakers these days. It's also surprisingly easy to drive. A vintage Marantz 8B drives it to thumping levels. Even a good 300B SE amp (like AN kit one) will drive it in my 200 ft room, though of course with the inevitable flattening. But the stronger UR Smart 845 amp (~20 watts) did nicely. These are true references and, at current price, truly best buy. (click for reviews in HiFi+ and Stereophile)(click here for a recent experience)
S20 --- This is an unsung hero. It is a small 2-way (about 2x size of 3/5A) featuring the treble and mid-range units of the SP100. It shares the same characteristic of the SP100. Excellent weight, density and speed, and easy to drive. A modern small classic, sadly neglected. Should be REAL cheap if found (I guess ~$3-3.5k). A professional sound technician friend snatched my pair. He loves them. Truly best buy.
---- The Prelude is probably an ancestor of the SP2, sounding airy, light and similar but cannot play as loud. The 9/1 is SP100 in a floor-stander and sounds good and is worth investigating, though I hate its look. The 7/1 is derived from that and is a lesser consideration.
LS3/5A---- Old Spendor Ls3/5A, whether 15 ohm or 11 ohm, sound as good as any rival brands. Newer bi-wirable LS3/5As sound quite different, more analytical, a bit like KEF. I like my birdseye pair, but I did not at all like the rosewood versions, including the awful "Cardas" version. Avoid the bur-maple version too.
----This is a failure in my experience. Bass is way too lean and so it has to be placed closer to the wall for augmentation. Don't have it out in the middle of the room.
Go to the Spendor site, click History and investigate the family tree and read about the speaker that started them all, the BC1:
(Note: this article is the first of the OVERVIEW series, which examines a particular brand. This is revised from an article originally published in my Yahoo group)