Spendor S8e, Dynaudio Focus 220, VA Grand Mozart

Help! I have a new dedicated Media Room 13.5 x 14.5 with 10 ft ceilings. I'll be spliting my time between music and movies. I listen to rock, pop, acoustic and jazz (Tears for Fears, Aimee Mann, Sinead O'connor,Queen,X,The The). I have a $5000 budget for a 5.1 set up; I'm looking for some guidance taking my needs into concideration Here's my set-up:
Anthem amv-30
Anthem pv5 5x300 amp
MMF-5 turntable
Marantz DV-9600 universal disc player (SACD,DVD-A,CD, DVD)
I have the Focus 220 mated with the Parasound A51 in our theater, which is 13.5W x 20L x 11.5H. The Parasound is 5x250 and the Dyn's appreciate the extra juice this amp delivers. The Focus lineup is great!!! I love them. Oh, I forgot to mention I'm a dealer, so naturally I am biased. :-). The 220 is nearly identical as the older Contour 1.8mkII, but in a more attractive package.

The Focus 5 channel would stretch your $5K budget, but I'm sure a deal could be made by your dealer.

Feel free to email me if you have questions that require more detail. I'll help you out where I can.
I cannot speak for the 220. A friend of mine swears the thing is world class. I once owned the 110 monitor and I can attest to what a marvelous speaker it is. I am tempted to say that when it comes to the total package, I haven't come across anything that can touch it in the price-range. Spendor and VA Acoustics do specific things very well, but the Danes can do it all with terrific aplomb.

Another cool thing is the Focus series is surprisingly efficient despite their ratings and works well on both solid state and tube... in small rooms to incredibly large rooms.

The major caveat with the Focus series is the ridiculous amount of break-in time necessary for the speaker to strut its stuff. I'm talking a few hundred hours here...
I'm running Focus 140's with 40W KT88's and they sound magnificent.

If youre using a sub I'd advise getting the 140's over the 220's. You'll be missing out on nothing IMHO.

Thanks for you responses........I'm also looking at Totem Forest, Von schweikert VR-2's and I've heard Proac's are terrific. Any feedback on these would be appriciated as well. I'm also currently using a Klispch ksw 12 Sub, which may have to go to keep up with any of these new choices. Will this sub work with these or does it have to go??

hmm. I don't know. Every review written by Sallie Reynolds in Absolute Sound the Spendor S8e's come out on top against the other speakers he/she is reviewing. I tend to believe those findings since I have extensively auditioned those speakers. Wish I had a pair. But I ended up with Usher CP-6371 speakers because my room is 25'x30' with 10' ceilings.
Plus I got them for less than any Spender deal at that time. So far I am realy enjoying these Ushers. :)
If you read sallie's comments, she does not place the Spendor as superior to the Tyler. She;'s says ? If push came to shove, my PERSONAL decision is spendor by a WEE TINY MARGIN". Make ot it you will. Just don't go blowing hotair that spendor blows away all other speakers. Ain't true. Remember Spendor is spending big $'s in her mag's ads, Tyler spends zero. You might want to add that up. Besides since spendor is "the new flavor/best selling of the month" it would be damaging if her magazine didn't pump the Spendor. Everyone wants to be on the same bandwagon.
I follow no one's advice but my 2 ears.
Bartokfan: If you read sallie's comments, she does not place the Spendor as superior to the Tyler. She;'s says ? If push came to shove, my PERSONAL decision is spendor by a WEE TINY MARGIN". Make ot it you will.

I finally read the review. What she says is something like this: If you divide up the sound spectrum into parts (lower mid range, mid bass, etc) then Spendor gets more of these right. However, in toto, she finds the Tylers more magical or special or whatever the adjective is. Still, she does seem to prefer the Spendors. Make of it whatever you will.

What I found really odd is that in the same issue she has a review Acoustic Zen Adagios, which are priced similarly. She gave them a glowing review as well. However, in neither review she says a single word of comparison. I find that baffling. Frankly, this diminishes my trust in the reviewer.

If someone is interested in Spendors, they should consider Harbeths too. The two companies had the same BBC roots and similar history and philosophy, but Harbeths has remained more faithful to that heritage. The Spendor founders' son eventually quit Spendor and joined Harbeth.
Now you talking my talk. "Strange that sally later on reviews the Zen and gives that speaker A GLOWING REVIEW AS well. However in neither review she gives a single word of comparison. I find that baffling. Frankly, this diminishes my trust in the reviewer". Thank you for seeing and believing what I;ve known for quite a many yrs now. Sally is only following a format in reviewing laid down decades ago by the old "professional audio critics". She follow the format to a T. I's dotted, T's crossed. I wouldn't pick up a copy of any audio mag even if it was free. If it comes to my door, goes immediately to the trash can.
Sally does call the Tyler/Seas "magical" How can a speaker be only in part magical in 3 of the 4 main octave ranges, low bass/midbass/midrange/highs.
I can agree with her the magnesium cone materila is 'not as forgiving" in the lower midbass as some softer cone materials , paper for one, or whatever the vandersteens are made of. No cone materail is perfect. What is truly unique and outstanding, "magical" in the Tyler/seas is the distortion level is so low , its nil. thus the fatigue factor is not an issue, which i cannot say about any other speaker i know of in my 30 yr experiences.
Take it or leave it, just IMHO.
I know of a place i can haer the Spendor, and will this week. btw like the Seas in sound, I also am not biased in reviews.
Heard the Spendor 8 today with a ARC + Cal Lab cdp set up.
Pretty difficult to judge since the cheap Cal Lab cdp and the usual smokey sound the ARC produces. But that aside, i wasn't impressed. The second issue i have is:A two way at $3100?
Of the 3 I heard today: Maggies @ $1700, Spendor @ $3100, Cabasse/Jersey(tweet/dual 7 inch midwwofers, poly cone) @ $1100. i'd walked with the Cabasse.
The hype is real about the Spendor S8e! Excellent speaker. I will name three things off the bat the others speakers mentioned in this thread can't do as well.

1. reveal sound of the hall

2. midrange neutrality

3. can render the texture instruments & voices

Good Luck!*>)
Kw6: Have you had a chance to compare SP1/2e and S8e side by side? I have been curious about how Spendor's classic and new lines would compare at similar price points.
Hi Aktchi,

I have never heard the Spendor SP1/2e. I started out with the S3/5 (which I still own). I was also tempted to go try the SP1/2e but didn't want to invest in the stands and the dealer didn't have that model in at the time. From what I am been told from people who have heard both say that the mids on the SP1/2e are creamier and more dense than the S8e. But the SP1/2e being more rolled off on top and bass not as deep but slightly richer. The S8e reveals the sound of the hall more and disapppear betters and still has the midrange accuracy, nuance, inner detail, coherence of the SP1/2e.

The S8e in a mid size room say 14'X8'X20' is among the best in class only losing out to larger speakers in regards to overall loudness and macrodynamics. BTW I don't believe in big speakers because big speakers have big distortions. If you want to reproduce music with lifelike dynamics and levels one should really be looking into custom horn systems.

I agree that the hype is real. I owned a pair of Spendor S8e's, and originally ran them with a Cary V12R tube amp and Audible Illusions pre. The midrange was indeed spectacularly lush and realistic. Bass response was excellent. I listen mainly to jazz, blues and chamber, but was surprised at how well they rocked. Things got better by far, when on the strength of Sallie's review, I changed electronics to a Musical Fidelity KW500 integrated. I've had some truly spine tingling moments with that system.

There is a caveat, however. I found the S8e's to be a bit too rolled off on top for my tastes. Alot of this was remedied by going to expensive Kimber Select KS-3035 cables, a silver/copper hybrid design. Also, while lateral soundstaging was excellent, I found them somewhat lacking in depth. This may have been related to my room setup. There are always tradeoffs, however, and I could have lived quite happily with the S8e's. Ultimately, I decided to try a pair of Reynaud Trentes, knowing I could always go back to the Spendors. While not having as much body as the Spendors, I find the Trentes better suited to my needs in the areas of imaging, transparency, and high end response. Of ourse, nothing is constant but change. I'm hoping to hold on to these virtues, but recapture a bit of what I lost from the S8e's by moving up to Reynaud Offrandes.

After 25 years of the agony and the ecstacy that is this hobby, I've certainly learned that there is no best component, some tradeoff is always involved, and something better always comes along. If you just want to enjoy your music, however, I feel confident that most listeners could be very happy with the Spendors for many years to come. Good luck with your decision.

Have you ever had a chance to compare Harbeth and Spendors?

If you want to reproduce music with lifelike dynamics and levels one should really be looking into custom horn systems.

Do you have any specific models in mind? What would be your thought if it was important to listen at both lifelike volumes when one can but also low volumes when one must (late night, big city apartment)?
Hi Aktchi,

If you can find a vintage Klipsch LaScala with Bob Crites crossover that could do the trick or sticking with whats available today I would look into Harbeth M40, Spendor SP100, Living Voice Avatar OBX-R2 (they might have an internal crossover version of this speaker out now) or look into the JM Reynaud line like Gary suggests.*>)
I have Dynaudio Focus 140s and Focus 220s and love them both. However, although close, they do not sound the same.

Aside from the expected greater presence in the lower and mid bass, the Focus 220s surpirsingly (by my ears of course) differ more significantly in the area of the upper midrange and treble (which is more open and clear with the 220s). The Focus 140s sound a little smoother and the 220s slightly more brassy in the upper midrange, but in a good way.

In all fairness, I have not fully broken in the 220s or the 140s yet, and although some of this may smooth out a little, the crossover difference (from my understanding lower on the 220) should still produce a different sound in the 220s over the 140s. So, the 220s aside from having a bit more bass, sound more diffent in having a clearer slightly more piercing sound (but not harsh) in the upper midrange. I personally prefer the 220 slightly more in that regard over the 140s, but am hoping that the more open upper midrange softens just a little as the speakers break in.

I know from listening and using a subwoofer with both, that a good musical subwoofer (REL, MJ Acoustics - my MJ sub is great by the way), running with the 140s will sound much better than the 220s by themselves in the bass department. So if you are watching your money, the Focus 140s with a musical sub is your best bet and will actually put out more better sounding bass than a stand alone pair of Focus 220s for a combined price roughly equal to the Focus 220s. (I strongly recommend an REL or MJ Acoustics sub if quality musical bass for music rather than home theater is what you want).

However, the 220s with one of these subs sounds much better yet also than standing alone. Overall, I feel that unless you want the more open midrange with the 220s, you will be better off if money is an object, in buying the Focus 140s and adding a good musical subwoofer. I love my MJ Acoustics sub. It makes the Dyns sound like they came with smooth powerful and tight 10" woofers. It is a very very musical sub and not boomy like your typical Velodyne or for that matter Martin Logan subs. When I turn on the sub, even the 220s (which have good bass by the way) almost double in equivalent size. Its as if the lights just went on in a dark room. The music becomes rich, meaty, and full like it would be at a concert.
A little note to add to my input: After much comparison I have found I prefer the sound of the Focus 220s to the Focus 140s. They bring out more detail without sounding harsh and a direct comparison showed me that they have more weight in the lower midrange and provide it at a frequency that a subwoofer cannot begin to reach up into without becoming directional.

The 220s for me are world class and also a remarkable piece of craftsmanship and beauty. The only thing that I have heard better is the much more expensive Confidence line. I prefer the 220s to the sound of the Contour series by a wide margin. The midrange and lower midrange simply has more texture and body for me.
My two cents.

I really like all three of these speakers.

You mentioned the Totem Forest too, and that is also one of my favorites.

Totem Forest: Great bass for moderately sized two way speaker. Terrific spatial images. Can be a little splashy in the treble. Beautiful understated cabinets.

Spender S8e: As stated above, midrange to die for and other good stuff too. Cabinets a little on the "boxy" side compared to these others.

VA Grand Mozart: with the right electronics (e.g. Primare) smooth and musical performance. These are such good all around speakers I am surprised they aren't talked about more often on here - perhaps too laid back for some, balance is not always perceived as a virture.

Dynaudio Focus 220: Detailed, punchy when need be, neutral, throws good images, furniture grade cabinets. The best all around performer in this bunch I think. Stiff drivers take several Congressional terms to loosen up.
In respect of the magazine mentioned earlier in the thread: VA came out on top (of the 3 mentioned in the thread topic) in respect of midrange, soundstage and listening page...

I am curious to know your thoughts on the VA midrange compared to the Spendor? Which is more open? Is the VA midrange more colored than the S8e?
Other way around. IMO the Spender is more colored, not in a bad way, but perhaps a bit overly glorious - like a tubed speaker. The VA on the other hand is a very neutral but terrific sounding speaker through the whole frequency spectrum.
Is the VA midrange recessed and quite laid back? Is it a dynamic speaker or flat?
Sorry one more thing - the Vienna tests (the charts of frequency response) seem to suggest a mid-range dip, I think its termed a "suck-out". Anyone know the implications and why its designed like this? Is it to get a more recessed mid-range?
The Dynaudio is the more dynamic speaker compared to the VA and Spendor but needs some power to sound its best.

I basically agree with Knownothing's comments as I own the Spendor S6e. Spendor does make a good speaker. But note that they are a rolled off on the top and bottom ends, may be too polite if you want to rock, and the upper bass is kind of thick sounding for lack of a better term...but they have a great midrange and have that addictive quality.

Sallie Reynolds of the Absolute sound did a review on the Spendor S8e, VA Beethoven Baby Grand and Moart a few years ago. Link is below which may give you some information that may help.

Hi Acdvd -

Copied this from a review from the Absolute sound. If this helps you any.

Finally: The three speakers of
crowning glory at the $3000 price
range that are guaranteed to hold their
own in much higher circles: Spendor
S8e, Dynaudio Focus 220, and now
the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand.
Try to listen to them all. The Spendor’s
highs are the sweetest, its overall balance
is nearly perfect, and its ease of
set up makes a spectacular monitor for
reviewing. The Focus has power in the
lows that the Mozart and Spendor get
only with a subwoofer.
But the Mozart has a soundstage and
midrange magic that brought tears to my
eyes. For sheer listening pleasure, it is
the best of the three. Indeed, with a good
subwoofer, you won’t find much better
sound anywhere. Only different. And
usually much, much more expensive.

Since I am at a loss for words right now, here are some comments from Michael Fremer of Stereophile Magazine regarding the Mozart's bigger brother, the Beethoven Concert Grand. I have listened to both, and suggest the Beethoven just sounds bigger, but not really different in character compared with its sibling. I will let you decide from this description if they are "recessed", "quite laid back", "dynamic" or "flat". In any case, Fremer's comments resonate with me.

An Associate of Fremer's to Fremer:

"They're designed more for music lovers than for audiophiles,"

And Fremer himself

"Long-term listening pleasure
For well over a month, the Beethoven Concert Grand provided me with exceptionally well-balanced, nearly full-range listening pleasure. On top, the speaker was silky smooth, airy, open, and neither overly aggressive (unless pushed) nor frustratingly polite and soft. Bass extension—down to the 30Hz area—was on the full, rich, supple side, but never sloppy or thick. The midrange was equally expressive and vivid, but not to where it was cloying or sounded like a coloration. The speaker's rhythmic agility was well matched to its transient performance: not the fastest and cleanest, but pleasing and natural to the point where I felt the best-sounding recordings I own were worth a spin, while the shriller, less listenable ones became more pleasing. That strikes me as an excellent real-world balance. Wine analogy: less Cabernet than Merlot.

While the Beethoven could rock and deliver large-scale symphonic thrills at reasonable listening levels, it excelled at putting me in the room with small acoustic ensembles—especially those recorded live. Then, its airy, smooth, somewhat laid-back, enriched harmonic presentation offered a sufficiently well-developed illusion of reality to keep me coming back night after night, never feeling as if I were missing anything, and keeping me guessing the speaker's price."
After thinking about this some more and given your musical preferences, going over the reviews of the other speakers, and noting that your Anthem amp nearly doubles output to into 4 ohms, I think you should go with the Dynaudios. They will stride proudly into rock and pop territory where the others tread lightly, and will do a very admirable job reproducing all other kinds of music as well. The key is gobs of current, and even the Anthem may be borderline under certain demanding conditions in this respect, although a dampening factor of 200 @ 1 kHz (ref. 8) is quite high.

Again, if you choose these speakers, patience of Jobe is required before you will hear the full benefits.