Martin Logan Aerius i vs. Spica TC-60

I've just bought a used pair of Aerius i's to replace my recently-acquired Spica TC-60s, and I've had 'em for half a day now. It's been a very interesting adjustment. Before I get into the comparison, though, I'll first address a 'goner's concern that the Aeriuses might be too bright with my Adcom amps. They are a bit bright, but this is easily offset with positioning, at least in my room. First, my listening chair is quite low, putting my ears at 36". I figured I was too low, so I tipped the speakers forward a bit by raising the back foot 1/2". Whoa. Too bright. Horns were aggressive. Untipped the speakers and toed them in just a bit more than recommended, and that took care of any residual brightness. I like a solid center more than a wide stage, so toeing suits me.

Now, I've gotta say, as far as imaging goes, my old Spica TC-60s put up a bloody good fight, and are actually better on simple, intimate vocal material. The Spicas elicit a "Wow!" on Boz Scaggs' "But Beautiful" and Lyle Lovett's "I Love Everyone", and the Aeriuses don't. Boz' voice hangs in the air like a levitating brick on the Spicas, like a cloud of smoke on the Aeriuses. On "I Love Everyone", the beautifully recorded drum kit is rock solid on the Spicas, a bit see-through on the Aeriuses.

That said, the Aeriuses do just about everything else as well or better. Detail is finer, bass is deeper and rounder, more life-size, but fairly agile. Tonal balance is otherwise very similar to the Spicas. Both could use another dB or two in the upper midrange. Where the Aeriuses steal the show, though, is on more complex material with a bigger soundstage. On the Manhattan Transfer's "Offbeat of Avenues" and Manu Dibango's "Wakafrica", the layered voices are more distinct and have lots of space around them. Little Feat's live "Waiting for Columbus" is amazingly big, live, reverberant and exciting.

I can't see going back to the Spicas, but I'm loathe to give them up, too. Wish I had two living rooms. The whole exercise has given me a new appreciation of just how astoundingly good the Spicas are at what they do best. The going prices for used ones make them an absolute steal.

Not that I can afford to trade up, but I'm wondering what speakers in the $1k-$2k (used) range might combine the Aerius' huge soundstage and detail with the Spicas' rock-solid center imaging and meaty vocals. Any thoughts? I've auditioned Gallo's Reference 3 and a $3k Audio Physic, and neither did it for me.
I've owned both the Aerius i and the Spicas.
Yes they are both quite extraordinary. I've used a number of amplifiers with the aerius and they can be a touch bright with the wrong electronics. Unfortunately, the Adcom amps are NOT a good match for the Aerius. There are MANY amps both tubed and transistor that can make them sing with exquisite clarity and tonality. The areius can perform way above their price point with the proper electronics. I guess you need to chose between them and the adcom. I'm positive you can sell your adcoms and buy
other amplifiers that would match well far a very reasonable amount of money.
I used both the Audio Research Classic 60's and tne Cary V-12 amps with terriffic results. If you're not into tubes,
I'd think a Classe amp from a couple of years ago would also be economical and a wonderful match. If you're going
with a transistor amp I'd use AT LEAST 100WPC with good current delivery. If you can make the Aerius sing in your room,and it sounds like you're almost there, I'd suggest you keep them. One more point, keep experimenting with placement of the Aerius.......they will create a truly lifelike center image with true portrayal of real bodies in front of you. Don't settle for less. It's in there........I promise.

Just curious as to what type of amp your are using, SS or tube? I would recommend a tube amp with your Aerius if you already haven't tried this. Just my 2-cents.
Jdolgin -

I picked up a pair of Adcom GFA-5200 50WPC amps for $100 each and am using them to biamp & biwire. Even with these little tykes, though, I've got lots more power than I can use in the 12x19x9 living room of my thin-walled apartment. I'm not married to the Adcoms, but I'm all spent out now, so upgrading anything will have to wait at least half a year. I'll keep your amp recommendations in mind, though.

As for the imaging, are you saying that the Aeriuses can create a center image that's as solid as the Spicas'? The Aeriuses sound great when there are lots of performers, because they provide enough room to keep them all separate. But, when it's just one vocalist up-close, the Spicas are more solid. I've got the Aeriuses along a 12' wall, with the center of the panel 36" from the front wall and 24" from the side walls and toed in a bit more than the one-third rule dictates to keep the brightness down and focus the center. Any closer to the front wall than 36" and I get nasty bass resonance. I think the proximity to the side walls is defocusing the image a bit, but my room's too narrow to set up along a long wall, and if I move the speakers closer together, the soundstage starts to feel crowded.

geronimo -

A pair of Adcom GFA-5200s, successors to the highly reviewed GFA-535II, which was considered better-sounding than the popular bigger GFA-555. Small and cheap, but decent quality. At this point, I suspect that placement tweaking will have make a bigger improvement than better electronics. Too, I have to face the fact that my room is just too narrow, and nothing I do will change that. (Sigh.)

What tube or SS amp would you recommend in the $500 (used) ballpark? I'm totally ignorant about tubes. And remember, I don't need much power, as my listening levels are, by necessity, very modest.

Thanks for the feedback.
Hi, to answer your question about a speaker to try...I suggest you try a pair of recent Vandersteen 2Ce Signatures. If they're set up properly I think you'll like them a lot. Your electonics sound sufficient for them and as you upgrade they'll resolve everything.
MikeJ -
I think you misread my post. I'm not looking for other speakers. I'm very happy with the Aeriuses. I'm curious, though, about what amps, especially tube amps, people have found to work well with these.

After tweaking and spiking, the Aeriuses are now sounding really terrific, with central vocals that are as focused, if still not quite as solid, as the Spicas. I pulled the Aeriuses another 3" from the front and side walls (39" & 27"), toed 'em in a tad more, moved the listening position back a bit, and replaced the slider feet with spikes. Man, I was surprised at what a major difference the spikes made. It was not subtle. The imaging, spacious but fuzzy before, became spacious and razor sharp. These babies are cookin' now, and they're equally good on intimate material and big-stage material. I think the Adcom amps are a perfectly good match. But, then, I've always tended to favor a slightly bright sound, a la my Stax Lambda Pros.

All this doesn't make the Spicas any less impressive. But, I'm now very happy to have the Aeriuses and have no regrets about replacing the Spicas with them.
Keep the Spicas! Although I've neverheard the TC60s, I still have my TC50s (the first speakers I ever bought). I replaced them in my main system with very expensive monitors, which better them in many respects, but they still have a magic with vocals that can't be beat. I set them up in my bedroom, along with some other stuff from my main system that I wasn't using. I actually just plunked them on the floorhooked up with cheap wire, and they still sing! If anyone here actually saw how I have them "set up", I would get mightily abused, but they really do make music. They work well with almost anything, alhtough the better the euqipment, the better they sound. I am currently using a Sony 707 ES and Theta pro prime into a JJ828. Other things I liked with them were Acurus A150 and Pass Labs Aleph 3.

I odn't know which Audio Physics speakers you tried, but the magic ones were the Step 2 (from the early 90s) and the Virgo 2. I did not like the 3 series Virgo at all.
Don't forget to spike them on either some granite or a hard piece of laminated wood.
Sorry, I did misread it! Oooopps. ;-) No recommendations on amps...I haven't had the chance to listen to those speakers enough.

Good luck!
My Logan experience takes a slightly different tack from previous submissions, but you might be interested. I can't speak to the Spicas, but I did go through a series of Logan upgrades: Aeirius i - SL3 - reQuests (which I still have). Amplification was consistently S/S - Aragon 8008BB.

First: I found that, as the crossover frequency dropped with the increased panel area, the soundstage "depth" grew immensely. (Big surprise - right!) More to the point, the brightness (I thought) I had heard in the Aerius, was just more apparent in the compressed frequency range from the smaller panel. With the SL3 and reQuest upgrades, I could better assess the high frequency range and it wasn't bright at all, just annoyingly aggressive - and that had been consistent with all three models. I tried upgrading the Logan's power cords and, believe it or not, it was instantly smoother! I would try that fix first - before investing large in amps. (And yes, "Spikes" make a huge difference.)

Interconnects and Speaker Cables were also large contributors. Starting with Transparent Link/Wave Plus - the system is now completely wired with Transparent Ultra and the Logans just kept getting sweeter. Finally, I invested in an AudioPrism Foundation 3 - everything was "blacker" and less aggressive again.

Nowhere in any of this, does anyone identify "source"...? All three models of the Logans beat-up on CD Players. I started with a Krell 250, (too digital) then Classé CDP 1.5, (too flat) then Wadia 830, (it had dogs wailing) and finally a Krell 280..."music" at last. I'm wondering if Aerius is revealing the "digital" in your CDP?

I don't know if your into analog but, if you have an opportunity to listen to a decent T/T with your Aerius...well, just try it and see!

Anyway, just my experience - for what it's worth.

Good Luck!
I'm with Doncar, I have used Transparent with Martin Logan speakers for 10 years or so upgrading a little over time. Currently I have Ascent with Ultra mm speaker cable.

I had the original Aerius, they can take a LOT more power then you think. Upgrading from a 100wpc CJ (lower end... forget the model) to a Proceed HPA-2 with 250 a channel opened them up big time. I Picked up a used Adcom with 200 wpc while the Proceed was in the shop last year and it did pretty darn good as well for only being $350, just not as refined.
I've had Aeris I for about 10 years now. They can take a lot of Power. Although rated at 200 Watts, I Currently have McIntosh Mc402, which I can get them to clip on sometimes. (Use to have a Bryston Hooked up to them). Very sweet sounding with the Mac. Placement is critical though. I have mine in a small room. I don't think there is a better speaker for the money. My dealer would confirm that.
Thanks, All, for the feedback.

Much as I like and respect the Spicas, I can't keep 'em now that the Aeriuses are imaging well. I don't have room for them, and money's tight. The Spicas have more of a "Wow!" factor on some intimate vocals in near-field listening, and I'll miss that particular thrill, but the Aeriuses paint the entire front wall with sound from farther away, and that's a strength that's enjoyable on a wider range of material. They're very different listening experiences, but I'm finding that although a few CDs work better on the Spicas, most of the time I prefer the Aeriuses. In addition, the extra money spent on the Aeriuses (twice the price) buys more realistic bass and slightly better detail. For under $1,000, the Spicas are incredible. But, the Aeriuses are over $2,000 and worth every penny. (Of course, I bought used and paid only half those figures.) I hesitate to even compare them: it's like putting Sugar Ray Leonard in the ring with Muhammed Ali. They both punched above their weight, but it wouldn't be much of a contest. They're both champs.

I don't know which model of Audio Physics I auditioned, but they were current models retailing for $3k. Serious suckout in the upper bass, and imaging decent but not comparable to the Spicas.

As they're on hardwood floors, and I'm too cheap and lazy to go out and pay $50 for brass disks, I'm using pennies with tiny dabs of poster putty to stick 'em to the floor and keep 'em from slipping or rattling. Seems to work quite well.

Although I've never heard the larger MLs, I have no doubt you're right about the advantages of larger panels. Unfortunately, I have a brass wallet to go with my golden ears. The Aeriuses are probably the best speakers I'm going to be able to afford for a long time. From here on out, I'm strictly limited to cheap tweaks. The only thing I can see spending more than a couple hundred bucks on in the next year is the front end. As for cables, well, let me confess that I'm a heretic: I've always been skeptical about claims for expensive wire, and after reading the following articles,

I can't see spending more than $200 to find out if my skepticism is warranted. The first article, by one of the founders of ESL-maker Innersound, seems to indicate that the ESL panel may benefit from low-inductance & low-capacitance coaxial cable, whereas the woofer will benefit from heavy low-impedance solid or braided cable. It makes sense to me, too, that direct biamping would give the amp tighter control over the woofer more than any cable tweak used with passive biamping would. However, direct biamping of the MLs seems to be a complicated endeavor fraught with peril, so I'm content to sit tight and just enjoy the already stellar performance I've got right now. I'm already enjoying sound far better than I dreamed I could afford, so it feels ungrateful to keep pushing for more.

If a $200 set of cables would make a clearly audible improvement over my Monster XP, I'd be tempted though...

No Money & Barnes-
I'm sure the MLs can take more power. I'm just not sure what I'd do with it. Live levels on even low key stuff like Steely Dan is already running the risk of alienating my neighbors in this quiet prewar NYC apartment building, and Little Feat is definitely pushing it.

Thanks, everybody, for the conversation. I'm having fun both listening and learning. Ain't that what it's all about?
I'm sure you're right about the CDP - it's an H/K CD changer. Although the specs look good on paper (dual 20-bit Burr-Brown A/D converters and HDCD decoding), H/K has never won much praise for its CD players. Probably just competent mid-fi. Not sure where to go from here for $500 or less.

As for analog, I've got an AR table from the early '80s with a Sumiko Premiere MMT arm and a Dynavector DV-10x4 HO MC cartridge that's in need of replacing, but it has sat in a closet up in NH since the mid '80s, when I left the country for most of 14 years. Unfortunately, during that time of inactivity, the weight of the platter deformed the motor bearings, resulting a nasty once-per-rotation "thunk". The motor's gotta be replaced, and as I only ever had about 200 LPs, I'm not sure it's worth the trouble to rent a car (I live in NYC - no car) to drive up and pick it up along with my ancient LPs in unknown but dubious condition. A terrible waste, I know. Haven't decided what to do about it.

BTW, please don't take my skepticism about cables personally. I don't mean to snub anyone, as I'm sure you all have practical experience to back up your advice. It's just a pathology of mine - I don't believe things until I see/hear them for myself, especially when they threaten my tiny puddle of filthy lucre. I'll definitely keep your cable advice in mind, though, as I continue my audiophile education.
Hi Jacquescornell
I (sincerely) hope I didn't convey audio cable arrogance in my offering - that was certainly not my intent. In fact, I will freely admit to the same "brass wallet" challenge that you profess. :-)

Specifically, I wanted to reassure you that Aerius is a truly excellent speaker. I'm the dummy - I spent way beyond my means (upgrading) only to learn in the end, that my problem was "dirty power" and my (CD) source! (The "Silk Sock/Sow's Ear" thing)

We might debate "cable value" as I believe the ultimate villain is "Digital Noise" and all it's trappings. It's everywhere in your system...and add to that all the additional EMI/RFI running through your residential power environment. Compliments to Martin Logan Aerius - they are doing a marvelous job of reproducing it all. I wasn't smart enough to understand that, until I had spent my way into financial oblivion on larger panels that allowed me to "hear" exactly what I was listening to.

If you require evidence of that claim, see if you can "borrow" a good turntable and a couple of pristine records; disconnect and "unplug" the CD Player - then listen to your Logans (as late as possible) some "Sunday" evening. (When NYC's power grid isn't flexing it's muscles) I promise euphoria! (No cost!)

By the way, I also live in an apartment, in a heavily populated area.
Jacquescornell, why not try a California audio lab Alpha tube dac in your system? This should bring more out of your Logans. I have this dac with my transport, it sure made a big improvement in overall sound quality. For under $500 you won't regret this. By the way I have the Ascent i.
Geronimo, thanks, that's an interesting suggestion. I had always assumed that a product like that would be much more costly. My H/K CD changer does have a coax digital out, so adding an outboard DAC is a possibility. I'm kinda tempted, though, by a Rega Planet 2000, as it's only about $100 more than the CAL Alpha, it seems to have a much nicer transport and all-around build quality than my H/K, and the price is only going to get lower now that Rega's new Apollo is replacing it. Still, a tube DAC is an interesting proposition. Thanks for the heads-up.

As for the Aeriuses, now that I've had 'em for a few days, my feeling about them hasn't changed since my last post - they're great, even with my modest electronics. They still don't give me goosebumps on intimate vocals the way the TC-60s do, but they bring much bigger more open imaging to atmospheric material. Little Feat's "Waiting for Columbus" is absolutely thrilling - the sound from the audience is huge and very, very detailed. I feel like I'm standing on stage with the band. On Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue", the horns and drum kit are equally good on both speakers, but the piano is more life-size on the Aeriuses.

In almost every respect, the Aeriuses are exactly what I wanted. The tonal balance is nearly perfect, needing just a tiny tad more brightness on voices. Bass is very satisfying, if not quite as tight and tuneful as on my friend's Brentworth IIIs. I suspect this would be better in a bigger room with more distance to the front and side walls, and in any case, bass is what I care least about. Detail is right up there with my Stax Lambda Pros - I've never heard better from any speaker. Treble is the way I like it - balanced and open, but not exaggerated. I've heard more extended treble, particularly from the Gallo Reference 3, but I found it not bright but just a bit overwhelming. The only improvement I'd care about would be making the image more solid. If I hadn't had the TC-60s but had gone instead directly from my Mission 772s to the Aeriuses, I'd be in audio heaven right now. The TC-60s, though, showed me what a truly solid, reach-out-and-stick-a-fork-in-it image is. With the Aeriuses, the image is equally well-defined and dimensional, maybe more so, but somewhat insubstantial. I feel like I can see the musicians and instruments, but that if I reached out to touch them, my hand would pass through. I think this is just a product of the dipolar design. The late arrival of the reflected soundwave creates a feeling of space and depth, but also gives the image that ethereal quality.

The Aeriuses are easier to enjoy, though. The TC-60s demand that I really concentrate to appreciate them. The Aeriuses don't care whether I'm paying attention or not. They're just happy to put on a show. And, what a show it is.
Many Logan dealers use a small amount of absorption on the wall behind the Aerius to partially ameliorate the amplitude of the reflection off the back wall.
I used a wool oriental rug on the wall centered between the speakers. As an experiment you can just use a thin blanket held up by thumb tacks. See if you like the result.
If you do, you can seek out something more visually acceptable.
Have fun. The Aerius will respond to each improvement in your room and system.
I seriously think the Cal Alpha & HK combo will sound better than the Rega Planet 2000 in my opinion. Later on you can always get a better transport. Here is a link to some reviews of the Cal.
That's a good idea. There is a big window in the wall behind the Aeriuses. Perhaps I should replace the Venetian blinds with curtains. Might look a little better, too. Fortunately, my room is long enough to put the back wall a good six feet behind the listening position, and that wall is entirely covered with bookshelves. So, rear wall reflections are not an issue.

Thanks for the review link. I'll check it out.
Jdolgin -

"One more point, keep experimenting with placement of the Aerius.......they will create a truly lifelike center image with true portrayal of real bodies in front of you. Don't settle for less. It's in there........I promise."

Thanks for the encouragement. You were absolutely right. Further placement tweaking has made a substantial improvement in image focus. Moved 'em another 1' apart, pulled 'em forward 6", got out a tape measure and got 'em identically positioned relative to front and side walls and degree of toe-in. What had been a spacious but ethereal image suddenly became focused like a laser. They're now as good on center vocal imaging as my Spica TC-60s, and better at most everything else.

An audiophile buddy came over to check out the 'Logans for the first time today. I rewired my biamp kit to put one Adcom GFA-5200 through the 'Logans and the other through the Spicas. Since the 'Logans and Spicas have nearly identical sensitivity, A-B comparisons were as simple as switching amps on and off. After a while, I was getting dismayed, as we were both concluding that the Spicas rendered Boz Scaggs' "But Beautiful" with a more relaxed, natural and rock-solid center image. The 'Logans had more ambience and better image height, but we weren't getting the feeling of being able to reach out and touch Boz. "I just spent a thousand bucks on these 'Logans!" I cried in despair. We tried hanging blankets on the front wall, on the theory that backsplash was confusing the 'Logans imaging. Nope. Finally, I pulled the 'Logans out to 40", slid 'em over to within 15" of the side walls (which are 12' apart), and futzed with the toe-in.

Magic. The center image just went "ZAP!" Suddenly, the Spicas sounded shut-in by comparison.

Conclusion? The 'Logans really benefit from absolutely precise positioning. Having one speaker 1" closer or toed-in just a couple degrees different from the other makes 'em merely very good. Get it exactly right, though, and they suddenly graduate to superb.

You really need a tape measure - a quarter of an inch matters.
Spica's are great. I don't know anything about speaker manufacturing, but why someone cannot build a modern version of the spica's or just copy the old ones is beyond me.
Virgo IIs are the only AP speakers I like(and own). As far as I'm concerned the rest borderline on terrible (I haven't heard them all). I find the AP speakers very picky with equipment, placement, etc. Probably same case with the Logan's.
Statements like 'You really need a tape measure - a quarter of an inch matters'. Should be all the reason more you keep the Spica's.
Yep, I wouldn't use the Adcoms with the Aerius. The Aerius can sound a bit "hard" at times. This can be tamed with a musical solid state amp or a quality tube amp. I'd recommend looking at used SimAudio Moon amps (70W or more) for solid state or a good quality tube amp (30w or more) like the Music Reference RM9 or 10. Both these options would offer great value and great performance, and help the speakers to perform their best while dealing with the hardness.

With the Aerius, amp selection is critical. Fix that and you will enjoy them.

I'm done tweaking and futzing. Maybe I have a tin ear, but I don't hear the "hardness" that some have mentioned as characteristic of the Adcoms. A friend has an all-tube setup with Brentworths, and in many ways our systems sound quite similar. The main difference is that his kit has a slightly smaller but more focused soundstage and brigter presentation of vocals.

Some months ago, I added a Behringer DSP8024 as a DAC/EQ, and this has improved the tonal response tremendously. The 'Logans are fairly warm, and my room has major bass anomalies. The Behringer corrected both of these characteristics beautifully, opening up the upper midrange and treble and smoothing and extending the bass substantially. My only quibble now is that the imaging is still just a tad on the ethereal side. This would doubtless be improved in a bigger room that would allow greater distance to the front and side walls. As they are, the 'Logans are throwing a wide, tall and well-defined soundstage with more ambience and low-level detail than the Spicas could muster. Although my friend's kit retails for at least 4 times what mine does, I prefer my setup. Having auditioned Gallo Reference 3s and some other $3k speakers earlier this year, I still think this is about the best-sounding sub-$10k system I've heard.