Review: Spica TC-60 Monitor

Category: Speakers

When my Magnepan SMGas flat wore out about six months ago, I decided it was time to try something other than planar speakers. My budget was extremely limited, however, so whatever I chose had to be under $500; I realized finding a pair of dynamic speakers that could satisfy an ear tuned to Maggies was going to be extremely difficult at that price point, but I also knew it was going to be fun trying!

After some research, it appeared that a time and phase coherent monitor would bring me closest to the type of sound I wanted: open and airy in the Magnepan tradition, but with a more focused soundstage and depth. It would also allow me to better integrate a subwoofer at a later time to provide the extension I wanted when funds allowed. Home theater was not a factor in the decision: this was strictly for two-channel listening.

For comparison, I checked out offerings by B&W, Wharfdale, and KEF at some local dealers, and was struck by how painfully bright and forward they sounded to me (no doubt a result of years with a quasi-ribbon tweeter). I then came across some Vandersteen 1Cs; they were as close as I'd heard to what I was looking for, but were a touch pricey and the wife was not a fan. Finally, I found these TC-60s offered for the right price on ebay. I had never heard Spicas, but based on reviews I read I knew they possessed at least the basic characteristics I was seeking, and they were frequently mentioned as being similar to Vandersteens. Plus, the wife gave them the thumbs up with their walnut finish. I took a chance and bought them, and haven't regretted the decision once.

I listen to a variety of music, but generally lean towards jazz and blues with a smattering of classic (read: psychedelic) rock thrown in. The Spicas with the Jolida simply disappear into the background, leaving me with an expansive soundstage and, on the right recordings, distinctive placement of instruments and microphones on a three-dimensional stage. It took a lot of time to place them correctly--far apart and very toed-in, but the result is truly satisfying on its own. The system is almost mind-boggling at the price point with the addition of an inexpensive Velodyne sub recently. Keep the power down and the crossover just under 100hz so as not to overtake the Spica's inherent magic, and I'm happier than I ever was with the Maggies.

On the downside, the Spicas get congested quickly as the power goes up, so they're better for small rooms that don't need excessive volume. There's nearly nothing under about 60hz and the highs begin to roll off over 13khz (though I find this pleasing rather than a drawback--some will disagree). They're finicky to set up, and of course the company is long gone (though TC-60 drivers are still available I'm told, unlike those for the TC-50/Angelus). Bottom line, if you can find a pair for $350-400, grab 'em. They're a blast for the price.

Associated gear
Jolida 1501 hybrid integrated amp
Cambridge Audio D500 CD player
Velodyne CHT-8 powered subwoofer

Similar products
Closest to these, Magneplanar SMGa, B&W monitors, Mission monitors
Hi Andrew,

I first bought used TC-50's in the early 90's. They sounded great, but the fit and finish was very poor. Around 96 or 97, I bought the TC-60's as a demo for $400 and they are still my main speaker today. As with much of my equipment, I could probably get almost all of my original purchase price for them today. I currently have the following set up:

MusicHall MMF5 turntable
MusicHall MMF-25 cd player
C-J pv10a preamp
Musical Fidelity 3Acr pwr amp (Spica's)
Audio Concept Sub One's stereo subwoofer powered by a Carver tcf-15 power amp.

The Spica's are great for pop, jazz, blues and especially female vocals. I agree they get a bit congested at to high of a volume, but I don't listen that loud anyway. The Musical Fidelity amp is much cleaner than the Hafler it replaced and I can play louder, but still with in limits.

In summary, the Spica's are still a very satisfying speaker for me and highly recomended to someone looking for a musically satisfying speaker on a budget.

I recently purchased a NEW pair of Spica TC-60s from Audio Advisor (Sep '03) for $599.

Tried them with Croft Charisma pre/Audio Mirror 40w monos; too dark and soft.

Picked up a Linn Majik w/mm phono here on Audiogon - BINGO!!

A perfect match. The Majik's music-making capabilities are extremely good, and it provides just enough snap and liveliness to balance the TC-60's laid-back sound.

I like them better than a pair of Audio Note Js, and that's saying something!

The TC-60 coupled with the Linn Majik gets my highest recommendation - amazing musicality for a very modest sum!!

Associated Equipment:

Audio Note TT1/SME 309/Clearaudio Virtuoso w/ Cardas Neutral Ref cables (great combo)

Sony DVP-NS755V DVD/SACD/CD player w/ Harm Tech Truthlink cables (very good sound thru all formats)

Magnum Dynalab FT101A tuner w/ Discovery Signature cables
(sounds excellent thru the Majik)

Flatline Gold MKII speaker cables.
I do not believe the Spicas are truly time and phase coherent. They use a different higher order crossover function for both the woofer and tweeter. Neither is first order.

This in itself does not invalidate them as a good choice or a bargain necessarily, imo, but it seems to be a common misconception.
I too bought the AudioAdvisor close out of this speaker. I was in high school at the time and hastily threw together my first attempt at an audiophile system. My father had (and still has) the Spica Angelus speakers with a Muse Model 18 sub (w/proper crossover card for the Angelus). He's one of those rare exceptions who buys a complete system and never looks back. In any regard, I was never fully satisfied with the TC-60. I think it has more to do with my choice of amplification, Audiolab 8000a. The amp is way too harsh for these speakers. Other than that I never got used to the fact that I could only listen to Jazz and folk rock with any satisfaction. Rock and classical need not apply. The last critisism comes from the fact that I used to walk down the hall and A-B against my father's aforementioned system. Moral to this story is that the Angelus speakers blow the TC-60 out of the water on vocals as well as general listenability with all sorts of music.

I too bought my pair of tc-60's from audio advisor close out sale many moons ago and it's amazing how these "plain Jane" looking speakers with their 30$ Peerless woofers and 25$ Vifa tweeters sound! It shows you what a good designer can do with modest yet decent drivers and a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish.Kudos to you John Bau! It's the midrange and the imageing that really hooks you. Though it's true that they are a pain in the butt to set up(Think tape rulers and fractions of inch here!)they will reward your efforts with sweet MUSIC. PS I'm thinking of taking care of that rolloff above 10 khz with a pair of LCY ribbon super tweeters.YUMMMM!
I have the TC-50s, TC-60s and the Angelus.

My personal favorite of them is the Angelus but the TC-60 should not be sold short. They are indeed time/phase aligned, a halmark of these John Bau designed speakers. They go lower than you would believe for a speaker of this size. I just put together system I am giving to a dear friend of a rebuilt Fisher 500C with these Spicas, some bi-swired Canary cable for the speaker wire and a Denon DVD-1920 with Magnan IIIi interconnect and some Sanus stands. They sound awesome, with imaging a depth galore and that fabulous Spica midrange. My friend is totally psyched.

The one tthing I will say is that if you don't take the time to set up these speakers properly, you will miss their magic. They do totally disappear and just make music.