The Spendor S3/5 Minimonitors
|The Spendor S3/5 Minimonitors|
22 July 2002
Type: 2-way minimonitor
Cabinet dimensions: 305mm x 165mm ×180mm
Cabinet weight: 4.7 kg
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
HF Drive Unit: 19mm diameter coated soft dome
LF Drive Unit: 130mm homopolymer cone
Sensitivity: 84 dB for 1 watt at 1 meter
Crossover point: 4.5 kHz
Frequency response: 80 Hz to 20 kHz, ± 3dB
Pair matching: within 1 dB
Power handling: 70 watts
Price: $895.00 USD
Spendor Audio Systems Limited
Station Road Industrial Estate
Hailsham, East Sussex
BN27 2ER, England
Telephone: +44 (0) 1323 843474
Fax: +44 (0) 1323 442254
Since I live in a little apartment, I have been subconsciously seeking high quality speakers that would be proportionally adequate in the limited space my flat provides. I recently had an opportunity to listen to one of the most regarded model of speakers from legendary British manufacturer Spendor. The Spendor S3/5, with its diminutive proportions, fits perfectly both my musical needs and the requirements of my listening room.
When I traced the history of this model, I found that the original version (the BBC LS3/5a) had first appeared in the BBC recording studios more than 25 years ago. As a pure studio speaker at that time, they would hardly find any admirers among home audiophiles. They have always been primarily regarded for their capability to uncompromisingly render the middle frequencies in small recording studios. The company used to deploy speakers from another British manufacturer, KEF (model T27 as tweeter and B110 as woofer). After a brief time with KEF speakers, the company terminated its contract with KEF. Some time later, the ‘mini-monitor’ concept is innovated the speaker gets a new midrange-woofer (made by Spendor) and tweeter (made by a Danish based manufacturer VIFA). Still later, the crossover is re-designed, and we have yet another version. In 1999, when Spendor learned that manufacture of the LS3/5A drive units was to cease, they decided to develop their own 130 mm bass-mid driver to take full advantage of advances in materials and technology, and a brand new product.
I placed the set exactly as indicated by the manufacturer, 25 cm from the rear wall and roughly 40 cm from the side walls and toed in slightly toward my listening position. This layout placed my listening position some 2.3 meters from the plane of the speakers. The set had been running for two weeks in the KAS studio in Prague and as a result, I felt no additional burn-in period was necessary.
Spinning a number of notoriously known CDs, I was almost immediately struck by the reproduction of groups of string instruments. Try the Karl Bohm reading of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nacht Music [DG 435877-2]. It sounded very similar to what I can render with a violin at home. I’m absolutely serious about this claim, as I spent a great deal of time last week with T. Albinion’s Adago in G-mol. The Spendors really excel in faithful reproduction of the string instruments. The reproduction of piano music is very good too. Try the Patricia Barber Nightclub [Blue Note 72902]. It’s strengths lie in the ability to reproduce classical music in a modest, chamber-like setting.
The reproduction of middle frequencies is the biggest strength of the new Spendor S3/5. A great match (if not the best) for people who prefer listening to vocal or chamber-like music. The reproduction of smaller musical ensembles or solo instruments (e.g. guitar recitals) is flawless.
I was almost shocked by quality of localisation of individual voices in The Hillard Ensemble recording of Lasus [ECM New Series 1658 453841-2]. The quality of sound guarantees these speakers for long-term, non-fatiguing listening sessions. Joey DeFrancesco and his recording Live at the Spot [Columbia 474045-2], is reproduced with the fantastic soundstage and spatial composition.
The fact is, however, that when reproducing contrabass or organ, your pants won’t blow in the breeze. For people who like this kind of ‘massage’, the solution is to add a high quality sub-woofer. I myself have never felt this need, since the lowest region was always sufficiently present in my little listening room. After all, we mustn’t forget we’re listening to Mini-monitors! I have quickly gotten used to the sound of these speakers and become oblivious to any deficiencies in the lowest frequency regions.
You can listen to these little speakers attentively for hours, without any need to attenuate the volume. The need to do so with some other speakers is normally caused by sharp reproduction of middle and high frequencies that is unpleasant to the ear. Undoubtedly, it is the new tweeter from VIFA that is the chief contributor to this fact. The sound stage is rendered accurately, which is true for the great majority of compact monitor speakers available these days. The built quality is very solid, so vibrations are scarcely detectable. Even at high volume levels nothing is moving but the actual drivers. The sensitivity is relatively low (84dB), although a 50W integrated would be a totally suitable partner. As always, the primary concern here is the size of your listening room.
Let me conclude that although there are audible limitations on low frequencies (due to the size of the midrange-woofer), the rest of the spectra are reproduced without any compromise. My opinion is that these speakers really deserve a Reference Class sticker!
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