Review: Spendor S8e Speaker
I know this isn’t the first review of the Spendor S8e on Audiogon, and its is not a new product, but I thought I’d put my two-cents in, especially now that I’ve had them for four years and finally feel qualified to write about them.
When I bought these speakers I was using a Rotel pre and pa (RC & RB 1070) with a Jolida JD100 CDP and Audioquest Copperhead ICs. Shortly thereafter I added Speltz anti-wire speaker cables, and this was the system for about three years. Somewhere in there I added vinyl with a SOTA Star Sapphire, AQ PT6 and Audio Technica OC9, and it all sounded pretty good.
Eventually, after hearing some really high quality gear, including Audio Research, some older Threshold amps, McIntosh and a few others I decided it was time to upgrade. The Rotel had served its purpose, but it was time to go. A dead CDP in a bedroom system provided the opportunity to obtain a Cambridge 840C, a friend loaned me some Nordost Blue Heaven ICs, and finally, I took an opportunity to grab a Musical Fidelity Nuvista M3. Topping that off with some LAT International SS1000 Mk II bi-wires (which sound like hell until they’re broken in, but at about 100 hours – WOW!) and I was good to go. I’ve had this all together for about three weeks now.
The remarkable thing about the Spendors is that no matter what I upgrade, the speakers clearly reflect the improvement. I don’t know whether I’ve reached the full potential of these speakers, but I have to be getting close and they sound better than I ever imagined they could, given the old equipment.
The Cambridge CDP has terrific bass, which was evident with the Rotel gear, but I didn’t realize how deep the Spendors could go until I started driving them with 275 watts. The change with the addition of the Nuvista was almost startling. Not only is the bass deep, but its really tight, controlled and actually has timbre. Double Basses sound like wood. Kick drums have good ‘whack’. You can feel the bass through these speakers. Is it as deep as it would be with a sub, or a fuller range speaker? No, but for acoustic music – the jazz and classical that I listen too – the bass is rock solid and very satisfying. Power is important. These speakers clearly like to be muscled to get the most out of the bottom.
Mid-range – as they say - is where the music lives, and the Spendors reproduce it beautifully. I was listening to a Highnote Houston Person album recently and his tenor sax just sounds so sweet and real. The highs are just as good. Cymbals sound like resonating metal. Art Blakey’s Keystone 3 album – on vinyl – features some very small high-pitched cymbals and they sound defined. Not like some random high frequency, but like cymbals with impact, vibrato and decay.
The Imaging has been an interesting series of experiments in placement and adjustment. With the Rotel amps I had settled on a position where the speakers were about seven feet apart, crossing axis about two feet in front of my chair. This provided reasonably good image stability and clarity. Through trial and error it was clear that moving the speakers further apart caused the image to break up a little and lose clarity. At seven feet severely toed-in the soundstage was pretty small.
With the Nuvista and Cambridge the clarity was sufficient that I could move the Spendors further apart without distorting the image. They are now about ten feet apart, toed in directly at my chair. Not only did the lateral images remain solid, but they also grew taller and developed something approximating the real scale of the instruments. This varies from recording to recording, but again, the Spendors really show off the qualities of what you feed them.
A couple of other notes: These speakers do sound marginally more transparent if you take the grill covers off. Not a problem for casual listening, but worthwhile if you’re really listening hard. They do have four binding posts and are bi-wireable. I’ve found that they respond really well to bi-wiring and would recommend it. They are also sensitive to placement. Having one speaker off from the center by six inches or so creates some funny dead spots and bass drop off. Again, I learned this from trial and error.
The Spendor S8e is now an aging product, although it is still available. They’ve also gotten considerably more expensive than they were when I bought mine, in large part due to the value of the dollar. But good used pairs seem to be a bargain. If you’re in the market for a good all-rounder you’d be hard pressed to beat to beat this speaker. I imagine myself keeping these for a long time to come.
Musical Fidelity NuVista M3 integrated amp
Cambridge 840C CD player
SOTA Star Sapphire Turntable
Audio Technica OC9 cartridge
Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects
LAT International SS1000 Mk II bi-wire speaker cables