Spendor may be one of the oldest (and most respected) names in the UK audio industry, but since its acquisition by Philip Swift (once of Audiolab) its products have been anything but old-fashioned. Admittedly, the Classic Series products look the ‘pipe and slippers’ part – all nostalgic finishes and appearance – but even here, beneath the skin these venerable designs have benefitted from carefully considered upgrades and technological improvements – developments that have filtered down directly from the unmistakably modern A- and D-Line products, whose slim cabinets are themselves anything but ‘me-too’ versions of modern thinking. You don’t have to look too far before you find the evidence that Spendor may build on the solid foundations that made speakers like the BC1 world famous, but it is only too ready to invest in modern technology and investigate practical solutions to modern concerns. The A6R, a slim, floorstanding two-way that looks remarkably conventional is anything but, at least in musical terms. Instead it manages to offer all the advantages of two-way operation in a compact enclosure that (in stark contrast to the competition) doesn’t sing along with the music. Then there’s the D1, a compact standmount of such remarkable musical coherence that it’s capable of challenging all those high-end miniatures that cost many, many times its modest price. And that’s the thing: it’s not just what these speakers do (which is impressive enough), but how they do it for the price that is the burning question. The arrival of the D9, a new flagship for the line, neatly encapsulates current thinking at Spendor, offering the opportunity to dig a little deeper into what makes these products not just perform, but exceed expectations.
Outwardly at least, there’s little to separate the D9 from the other tall, slim floorstanders lining the walls of your local dealer’s showroom. Narrow, deep cabinet – check: Plinth base – check: Vertical array of multiple drivers – check. But examine the detail and the differences soon start to emerge. Even a cursory glance suggests that there’s something different about the tweeter, while the plinth base barely extends beyond the cabinet footprint itself. Meanwhile a look round the back shows a complex port arrangement that’s a world away from the simple drainage pipes of yore. Look at the numbers and you’ll see that Spendor suggest an in-room bandwidth that goes as low as 27Hz – not in itself unusual, but difficult to do well from a cabinet this size. Most speakers claiming that sort of extension achieve it at the expense of lumpy, uneven, and often one-note bass. Yet listen to the D9 and the first thing that strikes you is its clear and linear bass output. The bottom end of this speaker goes lower than you expect (suggesting that 27Hz figure is a lot less fanciful than some manufacturers’ numbers), but it’s also articulate, tuneful, and agile, with no overhang and no thickness to clutter and smudge the midrange.
To understand why that is, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper and take a look at the D9’s constituent elements – and what’s been done with them. The 180mm Kevlar-coned bass drivers were developed specifically for the D9, their physical and electrical characteristics tuned specifically to match the requirements of the bass enclosure. So what we have here is a bass system, in which the various parts are designed in tandem to create a coherent whole. That’s not unique, but it’s the rest of the box that makes the D9 stand out from the crowd, both in terms of what’s in it and how it sounds. The box itself is constructed from specially selected HDF, and the walls are thinner than those on much of the competition. Instead, resonance in the structure is dealt with by strategically sited low-mass resonators, small, constrained layer slabs placed at vibrational nodes to absorb energy and dissipate it as heat. The result is a cabinet structure that’s both better behaved and stores significantly less energy than conventional constructions. Add to that the lack of internal wadding and the use of Spendor’s Linear Flow port technology, and you have an incredibly quiet cabinet that prevents stored energy belatedly finding its way back into the enclosed air-mass to muddy the output and limits spurious output from the port itself polluting the room.
With all that attention paid to low-frequency linearity (and it’s a lot easier to describe than it is to achieve) you might well think that Spendor would want to provide the most stable footing possible – and you’d be right. So what’s with the diminutive plinth that barely extends beyond the cabinet edges? Look underneath and you’ll find that each corner of the solid plinth is supported on a substantial steel disc, 45mm in diameter. On the outer edge of each disc is the threaded hole for the M8 spike. It’s an arrangement that combines a narrower plinth with the wider footprint associated with much more obtrusive structures, a happy match of aesthetic, domestic, and mechanical requirements. The discs deliver a strong, stable, precision coupling of spike to cabinet, making for easy attitude adjustment and good energy transfer. Best of all, the mechanical stability allows the use of nice, long spikes, which allow easy adjustment in the crucial vertical dimension. The end result is both more discrete and more effective than many far more obvious (for which read ‘ugly’ or ‘intrusive’) arrangements.
At the other end of the range, we find Spendor’s innovative LPZ tweeter. This soft dome, coupled-cavity driver is familiar from both the D1 and D7, but it should still be noted just how effective and musically accomplished this apparently simple design really is. The perforated face plate acts to equalize phase and pressure across the face of the driver, producing time- and phase-coherent output, while the equivalent cavities in front of and behind the diaphragm means that the moving parts constitute a linear, balanced-mode generator: simple but effective.