Review: Spendor SP-100 Speaker

Category: Speakers

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.

Associated gear
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
VPI Bricks
Goldmund cones

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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.

Your timing is impeccable. I have just sold my Dunlavy SCIV's and need to replace it with somthing smaller to please my wife. I have always loved the Spendor sound, and have owned smaller models in the past. I have also dabbled in Linn speakers, also known for a great midrange.

The SP-100 have been foremost in my thoughts. Your honest and staightforward review has encouraged me, too, into considering a leap of faith.

Thanks again for your review!

Gerry Dunn
Another big plus is that they are frequently available on Audiogon for very reasonable prices.
My Spendor's are 16 yrs old! They're S100's, not SP's. For a little over 10 yrs I lived in Condo/apts so my system, while being used, was used very moderately. During the last 6 months I've been living in a house again and have been re-discovering my system. Man, what can I say about my Spendors, they sing, they soar, they rock! The rest of my system has been upgraded over the years but not my S100's. Doesn't matter what's driving them, SS or tube, they've MORE than served me well although I will say that they've never sounded better than with the all-tube set-up I'm currently using. The ONLY other piece of my system that's lasted the test of time is my Linn LP12/Ittok IV/Lingo TT. Bought it around the same time as the speakers and it too, has served magnificently. Spendor rules!!
i've had the spendors for over a decade, run now through a bat preamp and a RM-9 amp. I recently switched from a tri-wired kimber 8TC to their trifocal xl. you haven't heard what the spendors can do until you triwire them with the very best. have heard many other systems in new york city with more expensive speakers, but the triwired spendors with tubes is still among the best (and cheapest)
b. lee
Coincidence!! I'm using an RM-9 also, talk about a match made in heaven!!
Recently I brought Spendor S100 into my audio system. They put Soliloquy 6.3 into big shame. Other than deep tight bass, S100 shines at every other corner of musical aspect of audio system. It produces lovely music extremely well balanced. Sometimes I'm deeply moved by the music it conveys into my listening room. Looks it will stay for a long time for me. I'm just curious how SP100 stack up. I'm seriously interested if SP100 cures the only/minor problem of S100 in the bass region.
I would love to hear if anybody did serious comparison between S100 and SP100.
The last post bt Myungkong prompted me to pipe in again. He asks if the SP100 cures the problem of the S100 in the bass region. He doesn't state what that problem is, and I have never had an opportunity to hear the original S100, but it reminded me of a great, inexpensive and very effective tweak that I learned about for the SP100. I was reading an owner's review of the SP100 on, and he mentioned adding a Deflex panel to the inside back wall of the cabinet. I looked it up on the internet, ordered 2 sheets and installed them as follows:
1)unscrew the bass driver, and be sure to have something nearby to rest it on, or remove the clips, they are not soldered. The back wall is covered with thick white foam, like the type used in seat cushions.
2) the deflex is limp and rubbery like sorbothane, and as I remember, the sheet was about 12" square, with a number of raised concentric circles. all that you need to do is put (1) 2-21/2 inch thin nail through the deflex in each corner, and then push the part of the nails sticking through the back into the foam rubber on the wall.
3) make sure that the center of the circles roughly lines up with the center of the driver magnet.
4)carefully replace the driver.
The reason that I did this to begin with was that I thought that the bass should be tighter, and less "diffuse".This simple and reversible tweek tightens up the bass right away, and it is very easy to hear. It does not interfere with the midrange at all, because if you are familiar with the interior of the cabinet, you will see that the midrange driver is partitioned off from the bass driver. It is cheap, and it really works. Of course it doesn't make the bass reach any lower- that would be impossible, and that may be what the gent is complaining about.If you own a pair, try it, I bet you will like it.
Myungjong, back when I originally bought my S100's, the SP100 came out less than a year after my initial purchase. At the time it was said that the major difference between the 2 speakers was that the SP100 had added inner shielding to allow the placement of the speaker closer to a television.
Hi Roxy54,since you also own as I do Celestion Kingstons,how do you compare the Spendors with the Kingston,asking you about this because I bought recently an old pair of Spendor BC3 of which one need a tweeter replacement so still haven't the pleasure to compare them with my Kingstons,thanks for your advices. Regards.
Purenirvana, to answer your question, I will have to say they are very different, but thewy also have one important thing in common. I have a long history with Celestion. I the mid 80s, I bought a pair of SL6S, after a few years, SL6SI, and then the 700(which I did not like at all, and could never get to perform correctly. What is different about the SP100 compared to the Kingston most importantly I would say is that the Spendor creates a world that you look "into", as opposed to the Kingston, which, while not a forward sounding speaker, brings the music more into the room. It also has more energy in the last octave, although it isn't edgy at all. This is especilly noticeable if you are familiar with the sl6si. What they have in common is that the focus is always on a truthful midrange. That sounds simple, but most speakers don't get it right. With either of these, you feel confident that you are really hearing what was recorded in a truthful (if imperfect way). Perspectives are well proportioned and make it easy to understand the structure of the music, and it is easy after a short period to forget about the speakers. Again, that for me is not easy with many speakers. I must say that in the end, I consider the Spendors the more successful of the 2 for my personal preferences. It is so ordinary looking, but there is music in those boxes, and it is quite easy to make it come out. I guess you also know that the Kingstons love power.
I wanted to update those who may have read this review in the past. Last August, I answered an ad on Audiogon for a pair of Spendor 9/1 speakers which are essentially a floorstanding version of an SP100. They share the same drivers, but the cabinets of the 9/1 have a front baffle 54 mm thick, and they are tilted backwards. I bought them because I missed the SP100 so much. They are very similar, but not exactly the same in their voicing. They are slightly less laid back in the midrange, but still have the beautiful timbre and presentation. I upgraded the crossovers myself several months ago with Mundorf, Blackgate and Sonicap capacitors, as well as replacing all the thick multistrand internal wiring with clip connections for solid core high purity copper and silver wiring that is hard soldered to the drivers. It made a wonderful change that only enhanced the positive qualities of the speakers. It was not difficult, it only required some patience, and I reccomend it to people who like this speaker. I was using the speaker with McIntosh solid state , which was and is very good, but on a hunch, I bought a used pair of deHavilland 845 monos for them, and the timbre and dynamic shading are really special with these SET amps. It does have it's limits concerning bass output of course, but on balance it is really wonderful. I have to admit that the new amps have me curious about what they would sound like driving a pair of Khorns, which I used to own many years ago, but always drove with solid state.
I just bought a pair of Spendor SP100R after having auditioned quite a few famous British speakers at the price range. I am in love with them, and my wife, who also like the sound, even become a little bit jealous on them as I now spend as much time as I can listening to their singing. I can understood when Roxy54 said he wept when his S100 were sold.

They really do have an endearing character. Like all speakers, they have a personality, but the personality that they have is very sypathetic to the nature of music. Even though you can find fault if you listen (ultimate extension at both ends,(lack ofextreme resolution, razor sharp imaging), they never sound mechanical, which is a fault of many other speakers. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did. By the way, I own the Spendor 9/1 now(among other speakers)which were a floorstanding version of the SP100.
It took me 4 years since my last comment to actually purchase the Spendor SP-100's.

I LOVE the sound - and should have them for a very long time...
Wow, you are a slow mover...but I am glad that you are enjoying them. They are a special speaker.