Spica TC-60 vs. Merlin & Totem

The Spica TC60 was a classic speaker design that evolved out of the equally renowned TC50. Both designs had sloped fronts/baffles and these time coherent speakers were built by Spica after they were purchased by Parasound in the mid 90's. So why am I testing a 15 year old speaker and comparing it some higher end competition? For fun! How will the classic Spica TC-60 do going toe-to-toe with the formidable Totem The One Anniversary Edition and Merlin's mini-miracle in the TSM-MXr?

The associated gear
The latest version of the Manley Stingray II integrated tube amp. Mine is just about broken and in and incredible sounding. Stands are the sand loaded Skylan 4 post on spikes through carpet and acoustic mat. Cables are Cardas SE9 and the CD player is the Audio Aero Prima with Cryo'd tubes/Sony transport version. While I had other gear to play with, this was certainly all I needed for the old timer to take on the new kids. Briefly tried with the Spica's, the SVS PC 16-46 and MJ Acoustics 150 MK II subs.

My reviews of the Totem The One and Merlin TSM-MXr are already posted, so I'll focus mainly on the Spica and it's relative performance/value as a used buy.

The Speaker
The sloped baffle has a rather ugly dense foam pad that surround the drivers. With the grill off this is a rather industrial looking speaker. The grill material seems very sonically transparent so I opted to leave it on most of the time. But even with that I don't find these much to look at compared to the Totem unique finish (only on these special anniversary models) or the Merlin's finish that puts many mirrors to shame. These speakers feature a 1" tweeter and 6.5" woofer with a 1.6" port in the rear. I hear that these speakers can be improved with a change to the internal wiring, but these are unmodified.

The Sound
Okay, let's cut through the blather! These speakers are impressive right away. They are transparent, open and image like the devil. And I do mean that they image right up there with "modern" speakers and even better than some models I've heard recently. In fact I feel confident that these presented a soundstage with more dimension than the Revel M22's I had used for a while.
The midrange was very transparent. I thought that male vocals could sound a bit nasal at times and there was some confusion on complex passages, which I attributed in part to the rear port-the speaker could not match the speed of the Totems or Merlins.
The bass was another matter. I couldn't get much out of them, my impression being a response somewhere around 60hz. My SVS home theater sub did fine, but of course it was the MJ that matched better and kept pace. I was impressed that the Spica's could play "loud & clear" though the best coherence was at mid level listening.
Like the Totems I found the Spica's a bit bright, but it was very obvious that the Totem's resolution is world class, if less than accurate at times. The Spica's just couldn't create that last bit of detail in spite of being bright. I noted that on a track from Ella and Basie's Tea For Two, horns took on a unreal tone, a whizzy kazoo interpretation while the Merlins somehow kept them sounding like horns. The Spica and Totem's high end occasionally reminded me of my now ancient Canton Quinto 540 monitors, which put the HI in high frequency! The Spica's were a bit less fatiguing but also less involving than the Totems.
The Spicas were very good, the Totem's great and the Merlins outrageous. Considering that the Spica's were bought for 650 dollars 12 years ago I wasn't about to complain. They were making terrific music and I don't think a lot of under 1K speakers can do everything these do so well.

Not everyone has thousands of dollars to blow on little monitors. A good used pair of Spica TC-60's can usually be found in th 400-500 dollar range. You may even luck into the cool stands! The drivers are aging, but if not exposed to too many wild temperature changes they should still be good to go. Properly setup, perhaps with an inexpensive Jolida amp, these are amazing creatures and give entry into high-end listening for a small sum.

Cheers and polite comments always welcome!

I was corrected that the Spica baffle had dense felt and not foam.

nice review, thank you.. I had a pair of TC-50's for 20 some years, modded them several times, they were about the same as you describe the 60's... alot of fun but I moved on...
Chario Academy 1 is now my fav. monitor and out does the Spica on every front (but the Chario has a very differnt presentation and voice than the Spica) but the Spica does have a certain magic and image projection.
Nice review, you are good at them.