Spatial Audio M3 Tubo S open baffle speaker review



I am by no means a qualified reviewer of audio equipment but thought I would give it a go with my new speakers, the Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S. Here is my first attempt at this......

I was actually quite content with them. My older classic box speakers that is, and so when I decided that at twenty plus years old it was time to update, I had planned to simply replace them with the latest iteration of the same model. It was while searching through speaker options on the web that I stumbled upon an ad for Emerald Physics open baffle speakers. Having never heard of them and since I enjoy learning about different equipment options, I was surprised by all the positive reviews of the open baffle design. “The best speakers I have ever owned” and “worth considerably more” were common themes I encountered. I then spent some time watching good old Youtube videos which piqued my interest further. I learned they were designed by Clayton Shaw and noted that he has since sold Emerald Physics and moved on.

Being intrigued by the open baffle design and having learned that the Emerald Physics speaker that I was interested in required bi-amping, I had pretty much lost interest in the concept. I love my big SS amp and didn’t really want to purchase new amps along with new speakers. A little more research led me to Clayton’s new company Spatial Audio. Ah ha, no bi-amping required with this design. Now my interest is piqued again! “Fantastic sound for the money” and “best speaker value ever”, “holographic” were additional comments I discovered. Upon further research I learned that the cost of most box speakers is driven by the cabinet itself. Those fancy finishes and internal reinforcements to battle cabinet resonances contribute significantly to overall cost. That’s the selling point of open baffle designs. Nearly the entire cost of the cabinet is gone. Other positive selling points were the fact that placement isn’t as critical with open baffle speakers and those nasty room modes don’t come into play as much. Since I have some restrictions on placement in my living room this idea appealed to me.

One model kept coming up in my research and that was the M3 Turbo S. At 4 ohms they are 95db efficient and can be driven to massive SPL’s without damage. (There is also a version for you tube amp folks called the M3 Triode Master which provides a uniform and higher impedance load for SET amps.) My only concern with this type of speaker is a repeated comment about bass response despite the twin 15” paper cone drivers. The open baffle design presents a different, yet more defined bass response than typical box speakers. They still reach down to 32hz and perform best with, you guessed it, big ole’ SS amps like mine. This is a speaker that disappears in the room, they say. I decided that at less than half the cost of replacing my box speaker I had to give them a try. So there you go, that’s the back story, here are my impressions of this speaker.

They arrived via UPS albeit with a slight hiccup in that one speaker arrived on Wednesday and the other the following day. No big deal; that allowed me time and space to un-box the first one and check it out. The following day with the second one ready to go, I moved the massively heavy box speakers to the side by sliding them across the carpet, then literally lifted the Spatials easily into place. They come with the bases separated from the baffle but a couple of simple hex screws attach them. The allen wrench is included in the packaging. Then it’s a matter of choosing between the smooth feet or carpet spikes and they’re ready to go.

I chose Dire Straits, Communique as my first test disc and sure enough, there it was, that holographic sound that everyone spoke of right on the first track. I was very impressed that they imaged so well right out of the box! I heard tales of people calling the shop (note: Clayton has decided to only sell direct now. Mine were the last pair that came from an Audio shop in Canada.) the following day and reporting that “there must be something wrong with them”. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. They supposedly take about 100 hours to break in so I resigned myself to getting through that period before making any real judgement.

 I then changed discs to Patricia Barber’s, Café Blue and chose the “Mourning Grace” track. Not only were the vocals outstanding but I could hear more detail in the drum head attacks and cymbal work. They sound very articulate and truly disappear in the room. These are both good quality recordings so I decided to give one of my prog. rock discs a try. I loaded up Genesis, Nursery Cryme and was not as impressed with the vocals in that presentation. Okay, so now I have a hunch about their limitations. It’s not that the disc sounded bad, it’s just that it didn’t have the presence I came to expect from my box speaker. Perhaps I just need to think “outside the box” a bit more. So right out of the packaging they are very articulate on good recordings and present a beautiful sound stage in my room (much better than my box speakers in the same position.) It’s time to break them in a while and then re-visit their performance……

Okay so I think I’m still just a bit shy of 100 hours but decided to sit down and do some serious listening since my wife and daughter were out of the house. I started with a track that I feel is quite revealing, Icicle from the Tori Amos, Under the Pink CD. Alright, wait a minute, I just realized that I should give some information about my system so you have some idea what is involved here. Everything I listened to is Redbook CD through a CEC TL-1 transport into a Holo Audio Spring level III DAC then through a Plinius Tautoro pre and Plinius SB301MKII amp. Okay, back to the music. I chose this track because of the vocals and piano. Each of which floated in the air between the speakers. I could visualize Tori sitting and  playing in front of me. The percussive attack of the hammers on the strings was clearly audible as was the engagement of the foot pedals which was quite a surprise. I had never heard this much detail before. There are portions of this song where Tori really bangs on the keys and the Spatials handled the dynamics with a yawn.  I decided to stick with female vocals for now and loaded up Patti Smith Group, Wave. If you have ever heard the title track it is really engaging with most of it as spoken word. It can be very emotional for some people and that’s just how I heard it. Recognized as the “Poet Laureate” of Punk and with the album produced and engineered by Todd Rundgren, the dynamics of this piece were just outstanding. Interestingly when I switched to the radio hit Frederick, I was very disappointed. The dynamics were gone. It sounded like this track had been compressed for radio and MP3 listeners. The Spatials were revealing the quality of the recording very accurately.

Looking to try one more female vocal track I pulled out Motherland from Natalie Merchant, she has been a long time favorite of mine. On the title track I hit play on the CEC with the volume turned up on the pre, when the first downbeat note was struck, I about fell out of my chair! The dynamics that were lacking on Frederick were back……in spades! This is a well recorded CD and the sound was very engaging once again. I then decided to try the one CD that I feel really shows off my system with its “movie track” opening and played the first “chapter” of Andreas Vollenweiders’ Book of Roses. The opening jumped back and forth between the speakers as the little creatures scurried about on the open and then bloomed into the full orchestral sound that filled my listening space as the crow flew overhead until the sudden closing thud bass note slammed the door. Now this was dynamic! (hmmm, that word keeps creeping into my descriptions) The strings following were very articulate and hung in mid air. This was certainly demonstrating what the Spatials could do. Since I was now in more of a jazz mode I decided that I needed to hear some saxophone. I loaded up my MFSL version of Traffic, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and listened to the title track. The subtleness of the sax was perhaps more apparent yet more distinct than I have heard in the past. Actually the instruments were all very distinct and I could identify each of them individually. Since that was so enjoyable I decided to try another MFSL mastered offering, Robin Trowers, Bridge of Sighs. I listened to the entire CD all the way through because it was probably the best reproduction of that CD I have ever heard.

To wrap up, I can tell you that the Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S’s are very…..you guessed it, dynamic! They reveal exactly what is on a recording whether good or bad. I have not heard such detail in the past and true to their name they are certainly “holographic”. While I had some initial concerns about bass response, I found the bass to be very tight and well defined. This is not a thump your chest or resonant kind of bass that you get from a typical box speaker but a solid well defined bass that will certainly never be “boomy”. I can see where some people may feel like they want to add a sub to supplement the lowest frequencies but I don’t see one in my future. These speakers will play louder than you can listen. I recorded a few momentary jumps to 106db and they handled it without batting an eye. You can tell that they can really handle power. My amp is rated at 470 watts per channel into 4 ohms and they easily responded without sounding like they were being over driven. Dynamic, revealing, musical, powerful and a great sound stage best describe the Spatials. They certainly in my opinion outperform their price point. I look forward to many years of enjoyable listening.


B0cac651 5a67 4320 a7db b21d82333c14falconquest
@falconquest


Nice write up...and I'm not surprised by your findings.  I've posted this a few times but I had the chance to hear the M3s in Salt Lake at Clayton's assembly shop...which does not have a good listening area set up...and they sounded great...pretty much just the way you described them.


Personally, I have a bucket list of speakers I want to try some day and the Spatials are on the list.


Tell us more about your room...length, width, height...spacing between the speakers...spacing from the walls...you know, the kinds of things that might help people relate to how they might position them and how they might sound in their own homes.
@falconquest  I've enjoyed and learned from your review. The depth and breadth of it, the background, as well as the flow of it offers more  than many of the ones by professional reviewers. Thank you for sharing your journey, experience, and impressions, and for taking the time it requires to do so.

I am by no means a qualified reviewer of audio equipment ... Here is my first attempt at this......

Congratulations on not only a terrific purchase but ALSO on your satisfaction and happiness with your new Spatial Audio speakers!!!
I’ve been curious about these too. My issue is I don’t relate musically to any review on hifi equipment. 

The music is safe and simplistic and probably sound good on anything (which I get means great speakers can be transcendent). But it isn’t challenging with layers of sounds to separate and thunderous bass to deal with.

Nice write up. Doesn’t help me but I’m still Intersted in these.

gochurchgo,

What kind of music do you use to evaluate speakers?

gochurchgo, thanks for reading my review.
Congrats! Having been a huge fan of Maggies, I'd love to hear these!
I had the chance to demo these in my home last year.  They are a very nice, fun speaker.  They do a lot right and for their price are really good.

They do not seem to hold value very well (looking at the used market).  

Dynamic as all get-out, great bass (until it rolls off, and it rolls off fast), and for 3k a really fun speaker.
falconquest, thanks for your efforts with this review.

I recently became interested in open baffle speakers as well, specifically the M3 Turbo S and the various PureAudioProject Trio 15 models.  The PAPs are more expensive, even for their least costly model, but there seem to be similarities. 

So I'm curious, did you happen to look at anything in their line before deciding on the Spatial Audio?

One specific question regarding your set up.  How wide is the sweet spot?  If you ever listened from 6-8 feet either side of that spot how much do you feel you lose?

Thanks for any further thoughts.
pryso, I am very interested in the PAP offerings as well. As a matter of fact being able to select a particular high end driver is very appealing to me. I have read all the reviews I could find and would certainly like to hear them. I may travel to Axpona in April and give them a listen. quite frankly I purchased the M3’s from a dealer that was closing out their inventory now that Clayton is selling direct only. I was able to get them at a favorable price so I pulled the trigger. I really wanted to know what the open baffle design was all about. They are also a dealer of ATC and said that the Spatials were their best selling speaker in the store.

As far as the sweet spot, I would say it’s pretty narrow when you are dialed in to the perfect position but that’s only for very intense listening. I tried pointing the drivers right at my listening position and that seemed to work best for imaging. I also arranged them so they were on a flat plane and that widened but also diminished the effect. I have them spaced about 6’ apart center to center and about 34" from the wall. They are located in an open floor plan room with a cathedral ceiling so there is lots of space. I quite often listen off axis when I am doing other things and while I lose the imaging effect they are still quite enjoyable to listen to. As a matter of fact I was thinking about that the other day while I was busy with something and it occurred to me they were still more detailed than my previous speakers even off axis. Also, my initial concerns about bass turned out to be a red herring. They have plenty of bass, just not the resonant bass you get from a box design. It is more detailed an refined. The more volume you give them the better the low end to some degree. I guess the best way to describe it is that if you really drive them, you can feel the energy from them.