I listened to both in the Spendor room at CES Vegas January 2003. The show conditions were pretty bad, so any nuances each monitor could convey were mostly lost, but I was able to discern differences between the two. All components upstream were Talk Electronics. In the environment I heard them, I felt the S3/5s sounded a bit bland. In contrast the S3/5SEs were much brighter and livlier.
Beyond that, I think how they would ultimately impress you depends on what you're searching for in a monitor, and what amplification you're planning on using them with.
Any Spendor dealers near you?
Gunbei, thanks for the input. Unfortunately there is no Spendor dealer near me.
I want to replace my Nautilus 805's which I find very bright (razor sharp quality) and unforgiving in my small room (9.4'x 15'x8'). On the other hand I would not like the sound to be too polite and slow.
Do you think the S3/5 SE's are as bright as the N805's? Did you find the S3/5 boring or slow?
Musical Fidelity A300 int.amp.
Musical Fidelity A3CD (transport) + Belca Canto DAC2
Analysis Plus cables/interconects.
The S3/5s are definitely verging on the boring and slow in my opinion. I have never heard the SE versions. The s3/5's sound is pleasant but in no way exciting. You'll either love the lack of edginess or be bored to death.
(I was driving with Densen B100, which is quite a dynamic and transparent amp).
I would urge you to include a Harbeth speaker in your selection if you are considering Spendor.
S3/5 and S3/5se are not the same speaker once you hear those. The S3/5se yields more resolution and a bit brighter side of the phases of the music. The S3/5se places itself on the side of 'standard hifi'. So it is your taste and, certainly, your system comes in heavily when you decide which one to choose.
I chose S3/5 because it produces classic/jazz vocal and solo violin/cello so well, the best I'd say. The S3/5 does very good job for chamber music as well. Since I have B&W matrix already, S3/5 over S3/5se was rather easy choice.
So the choice depends on what music you mostly hear. For instance, if you like to hear orchestral music, which is not very good idea with either S3/5 nor S3/5se, I'd suggest S3/5se. But, if not, you know.
Hope it helps.
Size of room is very important. I've found the 3/5 to be better in the near-field listening position and did a four day in-house audition of the 3/5SE. Found a slight upper midrange etch or glare and forwardness, but this was in my small 11 x 13.5 x 8 room. Have to say it does mate very well with my REL Strata III - seamlessly, in fact. Based on hearing the SE version, internet and mag reviews, and the opinion of a trusted friend (who's owned the standards for 3-4 years) I've just ordered a pair of 3/5s in rosewood. Would've bought used but after 4 weeks of checking A'gon didn't find any.
I've never heard the SE version, but I just bought another pair of the standard S3/5s and love them. To me, they are "just right" and aside from their LF limitations, one of the best speakers period. However, I pretty much like all the Spendors, at least the Classic series; not everyone has the same opinion. The Spendor sound is a little fuller/warmer and not as bright/thin as most speakers on the market today. I find it sounds more like live music (classical/jazz/vocals). Spendors also have incredible resolution of low level musical information, but not "in your face" detail. The standard S3/5s work great in my 13/15 ft. room, even with a 27W triode amp. Too bad you can't audition in person.
The SE version uses the Classic Series' Scan-Speak tweeter, a very fine driver also used by ProAc. The S3/5 I believe uses a Vifa that to my ears is brighter (I own SP2/3s and have heard the S3/5 in my system).
I'm reviving this long-asleep thread because I've been wondering about the same thing, and the descriptions here (apart from Bojack's) are the opposite of the description and measurements in the Stereophile review of both speakers. Stereophile ain't my bible, but I'd been leaning toward the "se" because they'd described and measured it as the more laid back--and in my small room that's what I'm going for. Listening before buying seems unlikely for me, especially as both models have apparently been supplanted by the 3/5r. Of the three (plain, se, and r) I'll probably go with the plain or se to fit my price range used, whichever is the more reserved in the treble. Any input would be valuable. Thanks!
there is new version spendor s3/5R coming out or already in market. Should include with your consideration
I was able to audition at home for a few days both the SE and newer R. Before going on, I must say that I bought the SE, and have never been happier. Other pieces include Bryston B-60 integrated amp, Arcam CD72 and Magnum Dynalab FT-11 tuner. I've never heard the original S3/5 model, but only read suggestions the R is similar. My impressions are aligned with the stereophile measurements, which are inconsistent with many blog comments. What I found as the following: (1) The SE was overall smoother than the R, and having a more gentle (gently rolled-off), rather than extended, treble. In addition to their different tweeters, perhaps another factor is the crossover, which in the R is set at a higher frequency. For example, on one particular Diana Krall song ( forget which one) she sets the beet by snapping her fingers for a few bars. On the SE it sounded very natural. Not so with the R--it seemed too high pitched and without texture, more like a computer generated "click" sound. This was a characteristic I heard with a variety of music. The R has great treble, but it seems concentrated/shifted to the higher registers; not a smooth transition from the low/mid driver? (2) The SE had more bloom. Very hard to pinpoint the SE speaker as the origin of the music, even in my very small (10 x 11 ft2 room). I had to check that I hadn't hooked them up out of phase. This effect approaches what I once heard at a stereo shop with perfectly set up Martin Logans --a wall of sound without a source. This is not to say the various instruments/players are diffuse; they were extremely well positioned with the SE and R; (3) The R has a pronounced boost in the upper base, which, in my situation, sounded boomy--like a ported speaker too close to the wall, or akin to a "loudness" setting on an old amp. The SE has none of this. The base drops off to be sure, but in a quiet room, one can hear way below what is advertised. I could easily hear the 40 Hz Stereophile test CD signal, and it was very articulate/tight. In a small room the bass is way more than I expected given the numbers on paper. I think the R might actually sound better (at low levels mind you) in a bigger room; (4) I found the R more fatiguing, I can only surmise this was because the larger driver is reaching too high due to the relatively high frequency crossover point. It was not the extended treble that got to me, it was a slightly more harsh upper midrange. Again, I bought the SE and love them. I might have better enjoyed the R if my amp had tone controls to make adjustments. Also worth noting the R has two terminals, not four. Interestingly, I had a minor issue with one of the speakers (not really relevant whether SE or R) and sent an email to Spendor. I got back a very thoughtful response in little more than a day--very impressive.
Mfm6--I recently bought but ended up selling the standard S3/5 because I found its sound very similar to how you describe the S3/5R. I found the treble fatiguing even at 50-60dB and figured it was probably because of my room. The highest highs rolled off, but the octave below that seemed very forward. I did, however, find the bass to be more natural in my (larger) room than you describe. I could definitely see why people love them: vocals were positively alive and stringed instruments had a lot of presence and body. In the end, my ears just didn't enjoy their emphasis. Glad to hear the SEs have been winners for you! I have some different speakers on the way now but will definitely give the SEs a listen if I get a chance down the road.
Good discussion here as the Spendor S3/5 in whatever version, are some speakers I'm definely interested in when I do my next speaker upgrade. Just from what I'm reading it looks like the SE version might be the one that suits my listening taste the best.
I'd like to add to my previous comments on the S3/5R, that they had fewer hours on them than the S3/5se I compared them with. If the R were not fully broken in, perhaps this contributed to my experience with them....(?)