Spica Angelus loudspeaker Sam Tellig 1990
After maneuvering the Acoustat Spectra 11s and Epos ES14s down to the basement, I set up the Spica Angeluses again—I'd had them for a few days before the Vandersteens arrived.
Not much bass. I might as well tell you that at the start. If you want deep, rich, full bass at this price point, you have to go to the Vandersteen 2Ci's.
But if you like detail, delicacy, pinpoint imaging, smoothness, and unfatiguing treble, then the $1275/pair Angeluses may be heaven-sent for you.
"They look like bow ties," said a friend of mine.
"Nuns," said another.
"They look weird," observed my wife. "But then so are you."
Yes, they do look rather unorthodox. The cabinets flare out at odd angles—quite unconventional. But I like their looks.
Keep telling yourself that it's the sound that counts. The bass, of which there is not much, is nonetheless tight and surprisingly extended—at least when driven by the Krell. The top end is slightly rolled off, taking away some crispness from transients. But the midrange is glorious—smooth, sweet, neutral.
Interestingly, the Angeluses share the same venerable Audax tweeter as the Vandersteen 2Ci's—a tweeter which may be showing signs of becoming dated. On both the Vandersteens and the Spicas, the treble is just not as crisply articulated as I have come to expect from most metal-dome tweeters, for instance.
The freedom from cabinet colorations is remarkable with the Angeluses. I couldn't hear any cabinet colorations, and I think I am extremely sensitive to this—it's most of what drove me nuts with the Spectra 11s' bass. This freedom from cabinet coloration lets the detail come through.
Is there more detail and delicacy here than with the Vandersteens? A difficult call. With their lighter tonal balance—not as much bass—the Spicas seem subjectively more detailed than the Vandersteens. When you remove deep bass you often hear things you wouldn't have noticed otherwise—one reason, perhaps, why people prefer certain speaker cables.
The curious cabinet shape is determined by the baffle-board slope and shape, according to Spica. The slope, as explained in the excellent owner's manual, is designed to synchronize the arrivals of sounds from woofer and tweeter. "The large surface area above the tweeter helps it operate better down to lower frequencies, and the small area around the woofer lets it operate more optimally up to higher frequencies." Does this work? Well, who knows how the combination of drivers would sound in a different cabinet? But there is a seamless quality about the Spicas' sound.
Take care with speaker placement—the manual is uncommonly helpful in this respect—and you'll be rewarded with superior sound. Take care, too, with speaker cables. AQ Clear Hyperlitz was an excellent choice, but a 10' pair of these will cost almost as much as the speakers. A more rational choice might be one of the Kables from Kimber (I'm using 8TC at the moment).
Like the Quad ESL-63s, the Angeluses do well on tubes—a pair of Quicksilver KT88s drove these quite well. Not surprisingly, the Krell KSA-80 worked even better: tighter, firmer, much more solid bass. I'm told the Mark Levinson No.27 is a killer combo with these speakers, too. Putting a pricey amp on these speakers is not as dumb as it may seem. In fact, buying a more expensive pair of speakers could turn out to be much more dumb.
At a lower, perhaps more realistic price point, the new $1195 Counterpoint SA-100 might be a fine choice, too: 100Wpc of tube/solid-state hybrid power. Even a B&K ST-140 (sorry for mentioning it again) does surprisingly well on these speakers—I thought the amp might sound too soft. The amp does sound soft, but not, I feel, objectionably so.
"I was somewhat disappointed with the ST-140," said JA. "Tubby bass, hashy highs." I'm sure you'll hear him tell it.
"Well, John, you should be disappointed. If I were entirely happy with the ST-140 I'd still be The Audio Cheapskate and I wouldn't have purchased a $3950 Krell KSA-80."—Sam Tellig