Back when I was just getting interested in audio, ahem mumble years ago, the Spendor BC1 was one of the darlings of the hi-fi press, and rightly so. But to some Spendor is a brand forever associated with those 1960s vintage, BBC-inspired monitor loudspeakers. The classic BC1 large monitor design made the company’s name but has, somewhat unfairly, linked Spendor with the slightly fusty air of the BBC of the 1960s; technically competent but a bit buttoned-up, which is as much a description of the BBC as it is of the BC1.
Of the current crop, perhaps the larger and rather more expensive D-Line does most to break Spendor out of that BBC straitjacket in most peoples’ minds, but the A-Line, launched a couple of years ago, pitches Spendor into that hotly-contested field; the relatively inexpensive, high-performance domestic hi-fi loudspeaker. The range consists of four two-way designs: one small stand-mounter, the A1, and a trio of floorstanders from the dinky A2, to the relatively capacious A7. Unsurprisingly, the A4 sits in the middle; it uses the larger bass/mid unit from the A7, in a 25-litre cabinet sized about mid way between the A2 and A7. It probably occupies something of a sweet spot in terms of performance versus domestic acceptability and flexibility. At £2,300 it works the ‘relatively’ bit of ‘relatively inexpensive’ quite hard, but then again it doesn’t perform like a budget loudspeaker either.
In terms of technology, Spendor has developed new drivers: the 180mm polymer-coned bass/mid unit has new surround and suspension materials, for optimised thermal and mechanical stability, good power handling, and low-level linearity. The 22mm polyamide done tweeter has been engineered to offer the high-frequency response of a small diaphragm while retaining the lower frequency characteristics of a larger dome, and a clever diaphragm profile is claimed to help dispersion over a wide listening area. The crossover network is a combination of 2nd and 3rd order filters, but uses precision wound inductors that allow additional fine control over the complete acoustic response. Spendor explains that this allows detail refinements in the crossover filter characteristics that can often have a significant effect on sound quality, especially in areas like soundstage and timing. The more complex the crossover, the greater the potential to mess with phase relationships in the music signal, which tend to be most apparent in the areas of focus, imaging, and timing, so Spendor’s care in this aspect of the design is going to be crucial.
One of my ‘go-to’ tracks for timing and imaging is ‘Untitled II’ by Graham Fitkin, from Flak[GFCD990901]. The sense of interplay between the two pianos, and their complex rhythmic interrelationships, were very well portrayed without obvious mis-steps, and it was perfectly possible to discern the two separate pianos, spatially and musically. The A4s also took the trouble to give a very good sense of the phrasing and piano technique which, considering all else that was going on, was a definite bonus, and by no means guaranteed in speakers at this price.