Spatial Audio Hologram M4 Turbo S Speakers - A Review


I received these speakers about three weeks ago and with a bit of run-in on them, maybe 75-100 hours, I am prepared to say that they are simply stunning speakers.  I have a bit of a bind in my room in that I only have 2-3' from the rear wall to position them, which is about what Clayton Shaw from SA said would be workable.  I heard his former design, the Audio Physics OB speakers, at an audio show a couple of years ago and was very impressed with them, but was waved off when I learned that the AP speakers needed 4-5' of clearance to perform their best.  Clayton now has his own company and the Holograms incorporate major design improvements from his earlier designs for Audio Physics, not least of which is their performance much nearer the back wall.  

Most notably, these do not sound like any speakers I have ever had and I have had a nearly a dozen over the past decade in my room.  I listened to them with a pedestrian SS amp to break them in (note:  don't form any opinion of them until they have a least 50 hours on them) and then swapped them for an excellent 6L6 tube amp with 6 wpc.  With the tube amp (and my tube preamp), these speakers just simply blossomed with a huge soundstage and a very warm liquid sound.  There is no question that the speakers mate very well with tube amplification.  I then swapped my venerable CJ MF-80 SS amp into the system thinking that they might lose the holographic soundstage and warmth, but as it turns out, the CJ amp provides a bit more control on the LF response and gives up only a bit of the warmth and liquidity that the tube amp provided.  So, my take is that they respond very well to both tube and SS amplification, but with good gear, reveal provide much better performance.  

The M4's have such an effortless, uncongested sound to them that seems very coherent from the LF to the HF.  They are neither forward nor laid back, they just make the music sound tonally correct and realistic.  If I had more room for placement, I might consider the M3's, which go down to 32hz whereas my M4's go pretty flat to 45hz.  No worries with the M4's, I am very happy with the LF response and if I get motivated, I might hook up my REL sub to catch that lower octave.  No doubt due to the open baffle design of the speakers, I sense an openness to the sound that I haven't ever experienced in any speakers I have had.  They are very detailed, with a clarity to the spittle sound of Miles' trumpet and a palpable leading-edge attack to Ron Carter's  double bass that just is simply amazing.   The sound from bottom to top with these speaker continues to astonish me the longer I listen to them.  If think they might tend to a bit warmer presentation, to my ears, but only slightly so.  Overall, they are very balanced.  

Clayton has a generous no-hassle 60-day trial with these speakers because it is a fair bet that few buyers will not be very happy with them.   I am just a guy who has loves jazz and have been in the quest for great sound in my system for the past 45 years so that is my point of view in this review.  I am not going out on a limb in saying that I think Clayton has significantly moved the ball ahead, from technological design and production standpoint, with his Hologram speakers.  I simply marvel at the pure enjoyment I am hearing with these speakers... just such pure enjoyment.    

For $2K for the M4 Turbo S version, I can't fathom a more fulfilling audio product than Clayton's speakers.  I urge my music-loving friends on this forum to think outside the box (speaker) realm and consider what Clayton has created with his well-engineered and beautifully-constructed  line of of Hologram speakers.  At least, seek out his room at the next audio show and give them a listen.  Cheers, Whitestix






whitestix
huge fan of this design . it seems they are a hard load to drive but your review indicates this is not a problem. open baffles should be much more popular imo
Veroman,
To the contrary, they are very easy to drive.  The 5 wpc tube amp had plenty of headroom.  With my CJ amp, the volume pot on my preamp never gets past 9:00 to create a substantial SPL. 
Could you say what types of music this speaker leans toward, if it does seem that way? You listen to jazz and like it on the M4s. I also do, but rock (not too hard, or not too often), acoustic and female vocals are also to my liking.

How would you describe the speed, detail and resolution aspects?

Thanks.
Well, I listen to 90% acoustic jazz and some classical music.  And a bit of blues. I found no deficiencies playing The Who "Who's Next".   Diana Krall's voice sounds just right to my ears with the M4's. Thinking back to my Cornscala's (modified Cornwalls), the M4's are remarkably quicker in their response, revealing much more inner detail and resolution.  I was playing a cut last night and seemingly out of nowhere was a succession of soft strikes on a music triangle and my head snapped around wondering where the sound came from. Their HF extension is wonderful.  I would not have expected 4 12" woofers would be so detailed and articulate, but indeed they are, due no doubt to the engineering work Clayton has employed with them.  They do need time to break and now at 100 hours on them, they still continue to improve.  Cheers.
Post removed 
Heard these at a show, it was close to the best sound at the event (SF audio show 2015)..

My M4 Turbo's. paired with a REL T7,  are simply amazing.  I have since been using a McCormack DNA .05 Deluxe amp with 140 wpc (and a tube preamp) and it provides control, extension, and detail that my SET amp can't.   They are the most satisfying speakers I have ever had and I have had several more expensive speakers than the Spatial Audio's.  They are in my room not placement sensitive at all, performing fine just 3' from the rear wall.   I think there are inherent benefits to the design of OB speakers and Clayton is a genius in his designs, 

Anyone use these as part of a home theater (e.g., 5.1, 7.1, etc.) setup?  For those who have, what did you do for a center?
I do.
My speaker setup is as follows:
Front speakers: Spatial Audio M4 Turbo S; surround speakers: Spatial Audio M2 Turbo.
I do not use a center speaker.
Prior to going to Spatial Audio my set up was all Anthony Gallo... 3.5 fronts, Strada center, Strada surrounds. My first step was to go to Spatial M2 in the front and put the the Gallo 3.5s in the surround position. I tried using the Gallo Strada center in this configuration, but it just could not deliver as well as the M2Ts could (especially dialogues) by themselves. Dialogue WITHOUT the Strada is much clearer and thus easier to understand.

Then I got the Spatial M4TS  and they went up front. The M2T were relegated to surround duty and I got rid of the Gallo 3.5.

My system serves double duty as both a two channel system and a 4.1 multichannel system.  

Two channel:
MacMini running Pure Music 3.2 > AMR DP 777 SE DAC > Crayon CFA-1.2 Integrated > Spatial Audio M4 Turbo S

Multichannel:
Nuforce modified Oppo BDP 93 NXE > Cambridge Audio 640 R (via analogue connection) > M2 surrounds. By using the 640 R's preamp option on the two front channels I am able to use the CFA 1.2 to drive the M4TS. Thus the 640 R drives only the M2T surrounds. 
For deeper bass I run a Velodyne SPL 1000 which, since it is connected to the CFA-1.2, can be used in both the two channel and and the multichannel configurations.

The M2T easily outperformed the Gallo 3.5's in ALL parameters (even in soundstage and holographic imaging which is one of the things the 3.5s are most noted for) but mostly in bass reproduction (tighter, considerably more tuneful, and more timbrally accurate.
The M4TS is noticeably better than the M2T in all ways (except sound stage where they are equal to the M2T). The highs in the M4 Turbo S are much better than those in the M2T... smoother, non-grainy (most likely due to the M25 tweeter). And surprisingly, the bass is also better. There is more of it. It is never boomy or lacking in tunefulness. It is just more ''there.'' And bass timbres seem a tad better than those reproduced by the M2T.

My system just simply makes music. It is very analogue sounding... never edgy sounding... and I can listen to it for hours without suffering any listening fatigue. While I know that every element of a system is important to the overall performance, I attribute this ''analogue'' sound primarily to my AMR DP 777SE and to the Spatial Audio M4TS speakers.

By the way, the Gallo 3.5s had been room corrected by Clayton. But the M2T sounded better even WITHOUT ANY CORRECTION. Clayton was going to correct the M2s, but when he ran the signal through my system and made the necessary measurements he discovered that they did not need any correction whatsoever. Same is true of the M4TS.
That demonstrates, to me, just how room friendly the Spatial Audio Hologram speakers are.     

One last thing:
As mentioned above, I do use the multi channel to watch movies... but rarely. The real reason I wanted multichannel was not for movies but rather for listening to multichannel music. Well recorded multi-channel Bluray music is, to my ear, outstanding... especially for large scale orchestral music. I have the same tracks of orchestra music by 2L in both two channel and multichannel Bluray and two channel cannot begin to touch the multichannel recordings. 

I went on for much longer than I had intended to when I started this post. But to reiterate my answer to your question,
I do not use any center channel in my all Spatial Audio Hologram multichannel system.  


   
Lolligager, 
Thanks for the detailed post, it is very informative.  I have long been a lover of the Gallo 3.5's, as well as the Strada's, which are exemplary as well.  I nearly bought the 3.5's at an audio show in CA, but decided against them for ascetic reasons.    I am unfamiliar with the Hologram 2T's, but of course am familiar with the "house sound" of Clayton's speakers.  

I have had many speakers in the past several years, all of which had performance aspects I liked, but kept moving on until I got the M4T's.   Price aside, they are the pinnacle of musical joy I have ever had in my 45 years of having good gear.  Life is too short not to enjoy these stellar speakers.  

I agree with you, Whitestix. The M4TS speakers are indeed stellar. 

I never had any issue with the Gallo 3.5s esthetics. I liked the way they looked and their slimness really helped them disappear. It was hard to believe that such a wide deep sound stage was coming from such small speakers. To me they seemed like two stylistic poles or, perhaps, sculptures that sonically weren't doing anything at all. 

The M4TS have that same wide deep sound stage with even better holographics in that soundstage. And they have just as wide a sweet spot as the 3.5s. The M4TS too do a great disappearing act especially when the soundstage goes way beyond, not only the speakers, but, most often, beyond all the walls. But being dimensionally wider they sometimes don't disappear as surrealistically as the 3.5s did. 


But they definitely do two things that the 3.5s were absolutely incapable of.

1. Room interaction: the MT4S needed no correction whatsoever. 

2. Unlike others, I never really felt that the 3.5s' image was too low, but when I stood up, the highs virtually fell of and I found myself looking down at the speakers.
To my ears, not only so the M4TS image overall higher, but when I stand up the image rises with me... that is, I get the exact same image standing on my feet as I do when I am seated... no treble fall off, no looking down at the speakers.

If you have not noticed this as of yet, when you are seated in front of the just close you eyes and stand up keeping them closed. You will see what I mean.    

There is a poster on AudioCircle who has talked with Clayton and he has suggested that the M3/M4 can be upgraded for better sound by making a super external crossover with world class parts and wiring and hardwire the wires to the crossover parts so that the only connector is the push on connector to the driver. This would allow for connecting the crossover in 10 minutes, and according to him it would make the M3/M4s much better speakers. He feels that the actual crossover and wiring used in the TS are good but nowhere as good as they could be for a little more money. He also suggest that the resistor on the tweeter and the coils and caps and wiring being all in the signal path could be replaced with higher resolution parts which would take the speakers to new levels of resolution and clarity and dynamics. He says that the stock wiring is inside the speaker frame and that this is not ideal and is neither the fact that the stock crossover is vibrating with the speaker. Having a separate crossover box that is damped off the floor with the wiring going straight to the drivers is optimal for best sound. He also suggests adding constrained layer damping material to the back of the large stamped frame woofers. Clayton could precut pieces so that all you would have to do would be to peel off the backing and apply. All of which would make for even cleaner bass, warmer sound, more natural sound and clearer upper midrange would result.

I wrote to Clayton a couple of months ago and asked him if there was any merit to the idea and if he was considering doing such an upgrade. He replied that he plans to look into this idea but right now he is too involved in setting up the X1 production to meet all the demands for the new speaker so he couldn't give me and details as to what the upgrade might include, as of yet.

Although I am very happy with the M4TS present performance, if he ever does get around to this upgrade, I am going to seriously consider it. You can never get too much of a good thing.

It might interest you as well.

If I those of us who are interested in this write and asking about it every so often, he might be motivated to consider it sooner.

 

 

Lolligager,
You and I are on the same page, my friend, and thanks for chiming in.  I have a DSPeaker Antimode 2.0 digital signal processor in my system that I have employed to great sonic improvements with previous speakers I have had in my system, but it is superfluous with the T4's.  I don't doubt that Clayton will come up with performance enhancements  that will make his speakers sound even better.  

Another impression. These speakers are easily the least placement-sensitive speakers I have ever had in my room.  I have a slight asymmetrical setup in my room and have fiddled for days locating earlier speakers, but I haven't found the need to do that at all with the 4T's.   They sound great about 2.5' from the rear wall, but do benefit in this position with some Aurelex foam behind them.  If I had more distance to the rear wall, I doubt I'd need the sound treatment behind them.  

I spent the afternoon yesterday on the sofa listening to the speakers and simply marvel at the openness of their sound, everything sounding so natural and tonally balanced, completely uncontested.  I will again provide this caveat:  I mate my 4T's with a sub.  Frankly, I would be happy with the speakers absent the sub in the system, but they are profoundly more full-ranged and balanced with the addition of the sub.  I listen to almost all jazz so I am not a bass nut, but the inclusion of the LF extension brings it all together.  This phenomenon is well understood in the audio world and I concur with the notion. 

My take is that if your room dimensions permit it, I recommend the Hologram M3T's over the 4T's for the bass extension, which clearly the former will have.  If you have a good sub, go with the 4T's and never look back.  I have enjoyed virtually every set of speakers I have had in my system over the past 45 years, but these Spatial Audio speakers are really magical and just do everything just splendidly right.  To wit, they are the only speakers that I have had in my system that my non-audiophile pals have commented that they look very cool.

If you a reader of this thread who is on the fence about trying these speakers in their system, Spatial Audio provides a period of time to a audition them in your system.  I absolutely think there is magic in the inherent design of open-baffle (OB) speakers and can't see myself ever going back to conventional box speakers.  I doubt anyone in the audio business will execute the design of an OB speaker better than the brilliant Clayton Shaw.  He is not a tinkerer... his speakers are based on years of design, testing, and refinement and he has the educational background to know what he is doing.  There a now lots of reviews of the Spatial Audio line that you can Google to see if my impressions are correct.  

Cheers, Mark




Yes, we are. Your experience with DSP and room placement exactly mirror mine... although I have no room configuration issue. You having an asymmetrical room is even more significant. 

Mine are just about 2.5 feet from the back wall. So far I have not complaint about the sound. But tomorrow I will try moving them further into the room to see what happens. But I would not want to leave them much further out than they are. 

So please tell me more about the foam treatment. 
Mark, on Audiogon forum is it possible to send a personal messages? I would like to send you one, but I can't figure out how to do it.

Peter 
I am not sure how to do PM, but here is my email addy if the forum always it:  msw2626@comcast.net.  Mark

I just moved my M4TS out another half foot from the back wall. A really significant change. Really quite a difference. Sound is simply more present... much more alive and dramatic and even more holographic. Bass really punches. I wouldn't have believed such a change possible to this extent. I am amazed. 

Your email address did come through so I will be sending you an email tomorrow to tell you of an experience that I had recently.
Hi,
Just thought I would take a moment to chime in to this thread.
I had a pair of M4's for around a year and a half. These were not the Turbo or Turbo-S models, but rather, the old, discontinued "standard" model, although Clayton was nice enough to put upgraded crossover parts in my pair, just not the more expensive binding posts (WBT).
My original review of the M4's appeared here, with a follow-up set of impressions here. Absolutely the best pair of speakers I have ever owned, and I, like many of us, have owned quite a few.  ;-)
I have just traded up to the M3 Turbo-S. I only have about 8 1/2 hours of playing time on them, so there is still quite a way to go before I know what they can do. But my initial impressions are excellent and I look forward to sharing them on my blog and here when I have more to contribute.
Enjoy your Spatial's, everybody. :-)
Oh my, my sage friend Rebbi, I am delighted to hear about your initial impressions of your upgrade to the M3TS speakers.  Clayton waved me off of them due to the smallish size of my room (which I judged to a thoughtful suggestion), and as I have posted, I am over-the-top delighted with them.  No doubt the M3's will go deeper for a modest increase in cost.  

I was unimpressed with the sound of the Holograms for the first several hours, but then they simply bloomed.  One must not judge them until they have had a time to break in.  Great that yours sounded great from the onset. 

For the 100th time, I will say that these speaker eclipse the SQ of any speakers I have had in my lengthly audiophile experience and I have had a lot of them, several costing 4X the price of the Holograms. I personally think that there is an intrinsic design advantage with open baffle speakers, and Clayton is a sheer genius in the OB speakers he produces.   I can't imagine that a box speaker could ever give me the realistic sound reproduction that I experience with my Holograms.   They are easy to drive, very affordable, and quite attractive in their appearance.  

Keep us posted on your comparison between the M4's and your new speakers.   Thanks, Mark






A further thought about that Hologram speakers.  I initially drove them with a Dennis Had SET EL84 SET amp and the sound was luminous with my Don Sachs 6SN7-based preamp.  Later, I swapped in a McCormack DNA .05 Deluxe solid state amp and was blown away with the improvement.  The sound now has much better extension and inner detail to the music.  I have long believed that the magical combination is a tube preamp and solid state amp and it is rewarding with the Holograms.  Other may see it differently, this is just my take.  Please check out the link to Rebbi's blog, it is excellent. 
Mark
Rebbi,
I second Whitestix’ request. As your M3 TS break in, please keep us informed. I am especially interested in hearing your impressions of the treble performance of the S as opposed to that of the M4's you were previously running.

Prior to my M4TS I had (still have, actually) the M2's. They are in fact the M2 Turbos... but no ’’S’’ (no M25 tweeter).

Even though Clayton feels that older ears may not be able to tell the difference due to inability to actually hear the highest frequencies, I still perceive a noticeable difference with respect to smoothness and lack of grain. Also, massed violins, unless the recording is really bad, are a joy to listen to... something which to me is important because I love listening to orchestra music.




I too have M4 turbo S and as I listen today they still excite me as if I am hearing them for the first time. (Purchased at Axpona last year). I have them paired with an Odyssey Khartago/Candela combo and am fully satisfied with this combo. Can't wait to get the recently purchased Oppo Sonica connected to it all. I use a small REL T7 sub with them and it pairs exceptionally well.
Erniek,
Your Odyssey front end ought to be great with the M4ts speakers.  I agree that the REL T7 is a wonderful match with the speakers to round out that lower octave.  Since I swapped out my Mogami 3013 speaker cable for Supra Ply3.4 cable, I haven't felt the need for the sub.  Thanks for sharing your impressions.  Mark
What are the room limitations for the m4’s? My room isn’t big but opens on one side to over 1000 sq ft living space. My current speakers are about 7’ apart and 9’ from my listening position. They’re about 2’ off the wall. The total room is about 10’x11’, but it’s more of a nook that’s open to the rest of the house. Do these need a lot of room around them?
You should be fine in that room with M4's. We used a pair in our smaller demo room with similar dimensions. Bass output will vary with the amount of space behind the speakers. They need some room to really open up. 
I have a 13'X26'X9' room with the speakers on the long wall and Clayton advised me that the M4's would be more suitable than the M3's, which I was prepared to buy.   I have the speakers no more than 3' from the rear wall and the are, in my experience, far less locationally-dependent than most conventional speakers I have owned.  Off-axis, where I sit at my computer, they sound fantastic.  I think 2' from the rear wall might adequate if the space it tight.

I will upgrade my earlier post about driving them with the Had and McCormack amps with my impressions of the Holograms since I acquired a Labs First Watt F5 amp.  The McCormack amp provides thunderous power to the speakers, but the F5 reveals inner details, with crystal clarity, that the McCormack amp can't match. It is by far the finest audio component to grace my system in 45 years of having audio gear.  

You have an overall expansive room, and Clayton would be the right guy to talk to about whether the M4's or the more robust M3's would be more efficacious in your room.  I am augmenting the LF of my M4's with a REL T7, but honestly I often forget to turn it on as the LF is quite adequate with out it.