Moving the Spicas closer (8') to the listening position, spreading them further apart (1' from side walls), toeing them in more, and lowering them from 26" to 18" has brought much better front-to-back imaging and a wider soundstage. Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms knocked me out at low volume. Imaging is definitely starting to show promise. Vocals seem to be slightly more accessible, but are still rolled-off at the top. Dynamics are still a bit compressed. I'm wondering if replacing my HK receiver with an Adcom GFA-535 & GFP-555 combo would open up the midrange appreciably.
Comments and suggestions would be appreciated, as would recommendations on good, affordable 18"-20" stands.
Spicas should be toed in almost until they point directly at you - if you had them set up more conventionally that may have been part of the problem.
The TC-60's will not image quite the same as the TC-50's you remember since the design incorporates a larger mid-woofer, a larger cabinet, and a port - all of which will create some amount of blur, relatively speaking.
Better amplification would certainly help, but I don't think I'd recommend older Adcoms. Even on a tight budget, IMO, there are better alternatives. Frankly, I'd rather have a big ol' high power, high current integrated amp like the Pioneer A-71 Elite. Or a better receiver, like a Yamaha R-2000 or Pioneer SX-1250.
Keep in mind, before going too crazy, that all the Spicas are now dated designs. They were superb, even revolutionary in their day, especially for their price. But that was almost 20 years ago. You may want to check out something like a used pair of Polk Lsi 9's eventually.
Thanks for the feedback. I've found that the listening position needs to be as far from the line between the speakers as the distance between the speakers. As for toe-in, I came to the same conclusion as you did - straight at the ears. Right now, the tweeters are about 3" below ear level, and I think I need to raise them to ear level, but definitely not above as they were when I started.
The TC-60s are growing on me. Although they don't project into the room, and vocals are still a little laid-back, the soundstage is quite precise, wide, and amazingly deep. I'm finding, too, that vocal presence is much more a function of the recording than I'd realized. Some of the tracks on Norah Jones' debut CD have her voice a bit muffled - perhaps she was eating the mic - whereas others are definitely more open. On my Mission 772s, everything sounds open and forward. I think the Spicas are revealing a lot more than the Missions about recording quality. On material with great soundstage depth, like Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" I feel like I can see mountains off in the distance. "Lyle Lovett and his Large Band", too, shows great front-to-back depth. Dynamics are not great, and this is where a more modern speaker will probably put the Spicas to shame. Even the Missions are better, delivering lively punch from Lyle Lovetts horn section.
My Stax Lambda Pros, like my Missions, have a much more up-close sound, which makes me suspect that the distant-but-deep soundstage of the Spicas is a bit inaccurate, perhaps a function of the old drivers' lack of fast transients. My personal preference is for a somewhat closer, faster, more ethereal sound. Still, the Spicas are very charming and involving in their own way, providing pleasures not afforded by the Missions. I expect I'll keep them until I can afford something significantly better - a used pair of Martin Logan Aeriuses, perhaps.
In the meantime, I'll take some baby steps on the electronics side. I've never owned better than H/K, and have long been attracted by the reported price/performance value of Adcom, so I'm going to try that for a while. For $110, I couldn't say no to an Adcom GFP-555, and I plan to mate this with a pair of GFA-535s if I can snag them for about $100 each, just to see for myself what biamping might do. Will repair my Mission 700as sub, and add a second if I can find one for $150 just for the hell of it. I'm thinking two subs crossed over around 100-120Hz might drain some of the mud out of the Spicas' bottom end. Might also consider replacing the TC-60s with TC-50s in that case. I know, I could probably do better by plunking down the cash all at once on something better. But, this way I can invest at a leisurely pace and learn a lot in the process.
One suggestion which yielded pretty amazing results with TC-50's when I did something similar some 20 years ago:
Once you have the position for the TC-60's optimized, and you've got a new amp(s) - try running the Spicas in parallel with the Missions. You'll still need the H/K receiver to run the Missions, since it will give you the ability to fine tune the volume of the speakers relative to one another. (The Spicas at 4 ohms will be louder at the same power level - which is probably how you want them to balance out anyway). The key to maintaining imaging and proper freq. response is to measure the distance from the Spica midrange drivers to your listening position and make sure the Missions are placed symmetrically at EXACTLY the same distance. By keeping them close together, you'll pick up some bass coupling. You may be amazed at what you hear.
The downside is that any movement by you, even a few inches, out of your "sweet spot" will have phase cancellation issues. But right in the spot and you will possibly have some very exciting audio.
I did this with TC-50's, literally sitting on top of a pair of a friend's Bose 501's in 1986. As we know, the 501's SUCK on their own - which was what I intended to demonstrate by bringing my Spicas over to his place. But as part of the combo they served to fill in the lows and the highs - and the imaging was spectacular. We were pretty blown away.
Connected the Spicas and Missions to the A & B speaker outputs on my H/K. Sensitivity is very close. The Missions add some presence and dynamics, but they completely muck up the Spicas' imaging. Not a good combo. Think I'll sell the Missions. And, now that I've got this bee in my bonnet, I'm going to audition some Martin Logans, Thiels and Gallo Reference 3s today. Dangerous, I know. I could be happy with the Spicas, though, especially if I get my Mission 700as sub fixed.
I'm still posting my findings just in case any other new Spica owners have trouble with setup. I hope my experience will prove useful to others, especially as I was about to give up and am now LOVING these speakers.
I've now found an even better position for my TC-60s in my 12x19x9 room. I was getting good imaging but distant, inaccessible vocals and drum kits with the Spicas 18" off the floor, 18" from the side walls, 5' from the front wall, and toed in straight at the listening position. As I reported, imaging was wide and deep, but a bit far away, dynamics were compressed, and bass was a bit muddy. All of these issues went away when I put the Spicas back on my 26" stands and positioned 'em 6" (yes, six inches) from the side walls and 28" from the front wall, still aimed straight at the throne. I moved the throne forward to maintain a listening position about one foot closer to the speakers than the distance between the speakers.
The sound stage has moved up about 10', putting Norah Jones right between the speakers, and front-to-back soundstage depth is now less exaggerated and more realistic, with very precise front-to-back positioning. I am now one very happy camper. This is the sound I was expecting when I bought the TC-60s based on 20-year-old memories of the TC-50s. Not only is everything now the correct apparent distance away, but the tonal darkness is gone, giving voice much better presence. In addition, drums and horns are now a bit punchier. All in all, the Spicas have really opened up.
Two days ago, dissatisfied with the dark tonal balance I was hearing, I went to audition some Martin Logans and loved 'em. I was about to plunk down $1,300 on a used pair today, but after hearing the Spicas really beginning to blossom, I'm putting my wallet away. All they need now is a modest sub. They don't have the Nth degree of resolution that the MLs offer, but in terms of throwing a believable image, they're really gratifyingly close. Amazing. Three cheers for John Bau.
Wow. These speakers just keep getting better and better. I wouldn't trade 'em for the $3,000 Audio Physics I auditioned yesterday.
Yet another position tweak makes these babies not only sing but also thump instead of bonk. Had to learn again the lesson of front wall distance. After having the Spicas three feet from the front wall for a week (I just couldn't give up the idea that more distance = better imaging), I've put 'em closer to the front wall (23" between the wall and the speaker's nearest corner - they're toed in) and a little further from the side walls (16"). The first move flattened out the upper bass hump that was pushing voices away and making me shop for an equalizer, and extended the bottom end very impressively. These speakers don't sound like small stand-mounters any more. The second move solidified the imaging ever so slightly.
At this point, a shift of three inches in any direction, especially front-back, affects the tonal balance substantially. I'm now moving the speakers an inch at a time to tune the bass. A 1" shift away from the front wall got rid of a resonance that was making certain notes on electric and acoustic bass stand out noticably. For the kind of material I listen to, I really don't need my Mission subwoofer any more, but it's already in the shop for repair. Mission is being completely unresponsive to inquiries about replacement parts. Makes me wonder if they're going out of business.
Anyway, the lesson for any new TC-60 owners is to experiment like crazy with positioning. I've never seen a speaker so dramatically affected by positioning. In the wrong position, these speakers can be pretty blah. Get it right, though, and the rewards are terrific.
Bass reinforcement is even better and smoother with the TC-60s two feet out from a long wall in my 12x19 room. Absolutely no need for a subwoofer on acoustic music, as kick drum and acoustic bass have plenty of weight. Though I don't have the manual, I've read that it recommends placement 2'-3' out from a long wall. However, my room is too narrow, and reflections off the back wall, just two feet behind the listening position, muddy the imaging and foreshorten the soundstage depth. So, the TC-60s are back along the short wall again. Bass is lighter and suffers mild resonance, but instruments and voices have lots of space around 'em.
Lowering the TC-60s eliminated the bass resonance. Replaced the 26" stands with 16" cinder blocks. I think the resonance was caused by the height (26") being too similar to the distances from the side walls (27") and the front wall (33"). My chair is very low, but the cinder blocks are still about 3" too short. Will eventually replace them with 18"-20" stands. Thinking of VTI RF 19".
Currently no sub in use. Tried a Mission 700AS sub using high-level pass-through connections, but it sapped the imaging and didn't integrate well. Now debating whether to add an active crossover or just sell the sub. Will add Straightwire cables & interconnects (found a great deal) soon to replace my cheap Monster stuff.
Soundstaging & imaging are now terrific. Bass is smooth, but slightly muddy compared to my friend's Brentworth Type IIIs. Lower midrange is a tad warmer than I'd like on vocals, but very nice on the right recordings. Treble is detailed and smooth, but not airy. Overall, pretty amazing for a <$1,000 speaker. Imaging is in the same league with some good $3,000 speakers.
Interestingly, I can adjust the soundstage for big sound (Lyle Lovett, Manhattan Transfer, Dire Straits) and intimate sound (Miles Davis, Boz Scaggs) simply by moving my chair front-back by about one foot: closer for big and farther for intimate. No need to move the speakers.
I have owned a pair of Spica TC-50's since 1988 and they were my main speakers until 1994. I used it with a Forte model 3. A really good amplifier will really make Spicas sing. I have heard the TC-50's with everything from a little NAD 3130 (30wpc) $200(new) to the mighty Threshold SA4e (100wpc pure class A, $6300 in 1989). The better the front end, the better the results with the Spicas. The little TC-50 mated with the SA-4e produced some of the best sounds I have ever heard in hi end audio. No kidding. Of course NOBODY would ever mate a $550 speaker with a $6300 amplifier but it did sound totally awesome. I also auditioned the TC-50's with the Threshold S/200, Forte'1a, Forte'3, Aragon 4004, and NAD 2600 amplifiers and the TC-50 is transparent enough to display the vast differences in the sonic signatures of the various amplifiers. You might try finding an old Forte'model 1A or model 3. They mate really well with the Spicas and really make them come alive. I am not certain which subs will mate well with the TC-60 but the TC-50 did well with the Vandersteen 2W. You will need separate amp and preamp to utilize the 2W because it utilizes a passive line level crossover.
Here's my theory on mating smallish ported speakers like the TC-60 with a sub(s).
1st part of the problem - if you're running the speaker level output from your receiver through the sub's crossover then into the Spicas, you have probably already scrambled the phase of even the high-passed signal. So the whole advantage of the TC-60's design is out the window.
2nd part of the problem is that the TC-60's port will still create it's "one note" bass even with the main speakers crossed over to the sub above the port's tuned resonance. The port output interacts with the sub's output and creates a hump in the bass response and mud.
3rd part of the problem is that to get full benefit, you need to crossover at a fairly high frequency since, without the ports reinforcement, the speakers just don't go all that low. So the sub drivers have to be small enough to accurately produce at THEIR higher end. And if you crossover high up - imaging from the sub becomes an issue. So basically, two 10" subs are better than one 12" or 15".
To attempt a solution -
Try this - pack an old tee shirt loosely all the way into each of the TC-60's ports. You don't want to seal the speaker airtight - you just want to interfere with and dissipate the bass response of the port itself. This will allow the sub to do it's thing without interference, and will improve the imaging from the mains.
If this isn't how you were doing it - Run the sub directly from the receiver's subwoofer outputs while running the speakers from the receiver's normal speaker outs. Experiment with setting the sub's internal crossover on the higher or lower points (which are both pretty high on the Mission, anyway).
Make sure that the sub is EXACTLY centered between the speakers AND the same DISTANCE from you as the Spica's midrange drivers.
If this works pretty well, consider adding a 2nd sub in a stereo configuration.
I haven't tried this with TC-60's specifically, but it has worked well on other ported designs I have played around with.
I used TC-50s for years (still have them in fact, although I no longer use them). Spicas were notorious for their small "sweet spot." If you're sitting in the sweet spot the Spicas have incredible imaging and clear mids, but I could hear the imaging collapse if I moved my head 2 inches. Peter Moncrief compared the Spicas to a Nikon camera lens which requires more fiddly, careful focusing than the lens in a cheap Kodak. The Kodak is easier to use but gives much poorer results than the Nikon. Anyway, I found that I had to position the TC-50s so that the bottom of the tweeter opening in the felt blanket was aimed precisely at my ear, and that the speakers were toed - in so that imaginary beams coming out of them intersected about where my head was. I'm 6' 2" tall, so to get the TC-50s' tweeter aimed at my ear meant either an impractically tall stand or tilting the speaker back. I made some tall spikes that allowed me to lift the front of the speakers about an inch above the stand. I even used strings taped to the front of the speakers to insure that the speakers were aimed correctly (I'd use a laser now). Lastly, in my experience the Spicas benefit from some bass reinforcement from being placed relatively close to a wall.
Opalchip and Robdoorack - thanks for the feedback.
Opal - I've ditched the receiver and now have an Adcom GFP-555 and two GFA-5200s and am running the Spicas biamped & biwired. Way more power than I could ever use without getting evicted. The volume control never gets past 10 o'clock. The GFAs drive a 4-Ohm load easily, and the TC-60s are nominally 6 Ohms.
1st part: You're right. I suspected the sub's built-in crossover might scramble the imaging, and it did. Hence the interest in an active crossover between the preamp and amps - no need to run the speaker cables through the sub, and no phase distortion.
2nd part: I don't hear the "one-note" characteristic you're describing. When the Spicas were on 26" stands, the resulting resonance created this effect, but now that the Spicas are lower (i.e. height no longer equals distance from walls), the resonance is gone and bass tonal response is fairly smooth. On plucked acoustic bass, no one note stands out from the others.
3rd part: The Mission 700AS is a 10" ported sub with a pretty smooth output from 30Hz on up. Not sure it's all that fast, though. I've got one working unit with a banged up cabinet, and one mint one with a blown amp and driver. The amp can be repaired, but I'm not having much luck finding a replacement driver. I hear what you're saying about a stereo pair, but if I can't get replacement parts, I might have to cannibalize the banged up one for parts to get the mint one working. I'm still hoping I can get 'em both working though, for the reasons you cited.
I'd really prefer to take the bass away from the Spicas, rather than running them full-range with the sub, as what they produce is a bit tubby and slow. An active crossover with a 24db/octave slope would do this. Would probably cost $120 for a Behringer CX2310 and some XLR-RCA interconnects (a little worried about the quality of those). I'm also hoping that replacing cheap Monster with Straightwire will tighten up the bass a bit.
Rob - The 60s' sweet spot is pretty narrow. Moving my head 3" left or right collapses the soundstage. Not a problem, though, as I'm the only one listening and my chair holds me firmly in place. As for speaker positioning, the 60s are aimed right at my chair. On the 16" cinder blocks, the tweeters are about 3" below my ears (which is a lot better than 3" above). My chair is very low. 19" stands would put them at exactly ear level. VTI makes a nice pair of 19" stands for $100. The 60s sound best to me around 30"-36" from the front wall. At 24" or less, soundstage depth decreases. For some reason, bass reinforcement was better with the 60s along the long wall. But, as I described in an earlier post, this position didn't work well for imaging. With the 60s along the short wall, I suspect there's some kind of cancellation effect caused by proximity to the corners that's weakening the bass reinforcement slightly. That's okay. I'm not concerned about extending the bass. I'm more interested in making it faster and more detailed so I can better hear the initial transient on a plucked bass string.
However, I realize that I'm probably asking too much from a small, affordable speaker. The main thing now is that the imaging is fantastic. At some point, I've got to either stop fussing and start enjoying, or plunk down some serious cash for a different pair of speakers. Martin Logan Aeriuses for around $1,200 used are tempting, as the Aeons imaged about as well at the 60s and offered better detail and transients. I imagine bass would be a little better, too. But, tax time is going to put a serious dent in my discretionary spending, so I'm waffling.
I'll probably try the active crossover and sub(s), and sell them if they don't clean up the bass.
A question for both of you: Have you heard the Polk Audio LSI9s? An audiophile friend of mine who owns Brentworths and likes my TC-60s keeps telling me I should hear them. I could pay for them by selling my Spicas. I'm a little skeptical that the Polks could image any better than the Spicas, though, and I'm not giving up imaging to get better bass or neutrality. Imaging is everything, and these suckers kick serious butt in that department.
Hi, just stumbled across this thread. I'm a big fan of Spicas. When I bought my first stereo, I couldn't find any speaker I liked at any price until I heard the TC50s. They were so obviously better than anything out there at the time that I heard, including much more expensive ones, I knew I had to buy them. I still have them inmy bedroom. I would not be too quick to trade them away. They are unique in their ability to sound good with cheap electronics (I was first using an HK380i receiver)and fabulous with really good electronics. The way they sound good at low volume is also very special. The best I've heard them sound si with a JJ828 tube integrated. A Pass Aleph3 was also magical.
The TC60 literature said they were supposed to address the dynamic shortcomings of the TC50. I did notice that at some point, you could turn the volume up, and the TC50s just wouldn't get any louder.
In terms of Audio Physics, you're right - the $3000 ones won't beat the Spicas. You ned either the $1800 Steps or the $5500 Virgos.
So are you still using them? What are your thoughts after a couple years?