Review: Spendor SP-100 Speaker
I decided to take the time to write this review, or maybe I should call it my long term impressions of the Spendor SP100 loudspeakers primarily as a service to Audiogon members who may be considering the purchase of a pair, and secondarily as a tribute to them, even though I no longer own them (which I will explain later).
I owned the Spendors for nearly 6 years, and used them on a daily basis. During half of the time that I owned them, I also owned a pair of Proac Response 1 speakers which I would use occaisionally in the same system.
I have always loved music, originally it was mostly rock, but as the years have passed (I am 51 and I bought my first system at 19)I have broadened my interest to jazz and classical also. After experimenting with all of the different types of speakers that I owned over the years, a profile started to emerge in my mind of what might be an "ideal" speaker for me, based on my listening biases and musical priorities. I realized that the most important qualities to me in reproduced sound were (in this order)
1)Accurate vocal reproduction.
2)Reasonably extended and smooth High frequencies without glare or hardness.
3)Authentic timbral textures, without plastic or metallic colorations
4)Good low bass response,(30hz)
5)Good dynamic headroom and the ability to be played loud if needed, without a feeling of strain.
With these requirements in mind, I began looking for a new set of speakers. I did and still do read most of the audio rags, American and British, so at any given moment, I am able to call to mind facts and figures about several hundred speakers. After about 2 years of thought and research, I decided that the Spendor SP100 speakers would fit the bill. Reviewers that I respected thought that they were really good at the things that I felt were important, and so, on a leap of faith, I bought a 1 year old pair from a good fellow here on Audiogon. He had been seduced by an exotic pair of SAP Italian horn hybrids. The Spendors had a black ash finish.
I don't want to keep readers guessing about why I sold the Spendors, so before I describe my overall experience with them, I will tell you that the reason that I parted with them was that I was looking for a speaker that went lower in the bass region.I will elaborate more on this later.
Now for the rest of the story. I loved, and I do mean Loved, the time that I spent with the sp100s. If they could be personified, I would call them Noblemen. They are honest and faithful and self effacing. They are never, ever mechanical sounding, and as others have said, they certainly make the best of what they are given, although they will certainly respond to better sources and amplification.Incidentally, they are a really easy load for an amplifier, not only 90db efficiency, but a benign impedance curve. Other speakers that I owned had more bass (k-horns and TDL)and of course others had more 3D imaging etc. Some reviewers have said that the polypropelene cones add a certain haze, or that they diminish small details. This may be true, but only by comparison to planars or other speakers known for superior detail. Once you are acclimated to them, you will realize that they are far from opaque. Going back to the subject of imaging/soundstaging, I think most people would be very surprised at the way they perform in this respect. To begin with, I am the type who always did and still do remove the grills for listening- except with the SP100s. they sound every bit as good with them, and I always played them with the grill in situ. Unlike mini monitors, the music isn't brought into the room per se, but occurs mainly in the space level with and behind the speakers. However, they routinely exhibit a wide stage in which intruments are clearly placed well outside of the speakers
outer edges. Yes, the stage is wide. Also, I don't want to give the impression that vocals are pushed back in the mix. Central images are delightfully specific and focused, and vocal placement relative to other instruments is , to me perfect. This leads me what I found to be one of their best features- their perspective. They are the type of speakers that present a sweeping picture which you look into, but unlike some other speakers that I have owned, it is pushed back just enough that you are able to take in the whole scene, sonically that is. Some speakers have a close up perspective that is like sitting too close to the movie screen. Another feature which I must mention, partly because I never experienced it with any other speakers that I owned, is a wrap-around quality to the sound on certain recordings. On some recordings, certain instruments seem to wrap around you on the sides, about 4 feet from the listeneing seat to the sides, and 10 feet from the front of the speaker. It is a wonderful effect when it happens. It seems all the more strange because the SP100 are meant to be toed in directly at the listener. I also want to add at this time that , despite their large size (for a monitor) they are also well suited for near field listening, and may be used in small rooms. (I have used both.)
As I said earlier, I decided that I wanted a speaker with the capability of producing deeper bass. I was missing the extension at the bottom of a string bass in jazz, and also the impact of a bass drum. If you look at these speakers, you would think that they go vey low, but that was not the case in my time with them. The bass was good to I guess 40hz.(just a guess). The quality of it was fine, and there certainly wern't any integration problems. Looking back now, I probably should have explored subwoofers, which probably would have only improved the already great performance. By the way, they are tri-wireable, and that is how I used them.
I will end with this thought for what it is worth. In the past, when it was time to upgrade, I put the speakers on the block, and it was onward and upward. When I made the decision to move on from the SP100s, I had to sell them to finance my new speakers. I wanted very much to keep them forever, and still use them, but I couldn't. The day they were sold, I wept.
If you are considering these speakers, I would say to you by all means DO IT. It is a leap of faith you will not regret. In fact, it is one that I may someday take again.
Morrison ELAD Preamplifier
McIntosh MC300 and 2105 Amplifiers
Quicksilver 90 watt Silver Monos
Pioneer pds 95 Reference Transport
Audio Note Dac One 1x converter
Cardas Twinlink Interconnects
Kimber 4tc speaker cable
I have owned in the past Klipschorns,Fried,Proac Response 1,Celestion sl6s, sl6si, 700, Celestion Kingston (still own)Dahlquist dq 20, TDL Monitors (the large transmission lines). For shorter periods I have owned Sonus Faber Electa Amator, and Klipsch Cornwall.