Spica TC-50 loudspeaker Page 2
As for the soundstage, depth is slightly restricted by the limited bass response, but is otherwise excellent. Soundstage size is not equal to that of large arrays or planars, but is far more natural than with most small speakers. The rest of the soundstage information is excellent for a unit in this price range.
Low-level delineation of imaging and soundstage is superior to that of the Dayton Wrights and far superior to that of the LS3/Sas. The Spicas surpass the Thiel 04as in providing such information in the midrange and rival the Thiel 03as and Fuseliers. I would not say, however, that the TC-50s are equal to the ESL-63s in this respect or in their overall imaging and soundstage perspective, although the radiating characteristics of the Spicas produce a wider listening area.
Here, however, I should introduce a major caution. The Spicas require very careful placement to deliver their best performance. They should be standmounted, with the tweeter at approximately ear-level height when you are seated in The listening position. They should be angled so their fronts face the listener (rather than having their backs parallel to the wall), and placed in an isosceles triangle with the speakers equidistant from the listener, but closer to each other than to the listener. Two manufacturers will be selling stands suitable for the Spicas by the time you read this, and at least one will have adjustable height and speaker angling. Contact Spica for details.
The speakers are sensitive to rear wall proximity and should be 2' to 3' away from it in most rooms. The manufacturer recommends placement so that the speakers are not the same distance from the floor as from the rear wall. They also recommend placing them along the long wall of the room, as far away as possible from side walls. These recommendations are sound, and apply to all loudspeakers not specifically designed for placement in corners or close to the rear wall.
The Spicas are highly sensitive to the mix of placement, amplifier, and speaker cable. They require a transistor amplifier with high damping factor, or else they will sound excessively warm in the upper midbass and lower midrange. They require very good, fast speaker cables. Livewire and Straightwire match the speakers well. Kimber 8PR is slightly less good. Monster Cable and Powerline add warmth and roll off the highs and definitely do not complement these speakers unless you are trying to romanticize the sound of a bright cartridge or compensate for transistory electronics. The TC-50s are equally sensitive to interconnects, and you should try Straightwire, Peterson, and Livewire to see which best matches your system.
The TC-50s are also very revealing of cartridge and head-amp problems. They are exceptionally transparent from 5 to 10kHz, and many moving-coil cartridges and inexpensive step-up devices sound hard and edgy in this area. Wealthier audiophiles have already learned to compensate for this by buying very expensive cartridges and step-up devices. If you use such superior equipment with the TC-50s, you'll want to load your cartridge with a high impedance. With mediocre equipment, you'll want to load your cartridge down to about 80% of its recommended generator impedance; otherwise the distortion generated (and well-revealed by the TC-50s) will drive you crazy. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive cartridge to match the revealing imaging and transient response, you should try the new Grados, a Grace F-9E, or the new F-9E Super.
The Dayton Wright LCM-1 and Spica TC-50 are not perfect by any means, but their choice of tradeoffs is notably superior to those made for the LS3/5a, or for any of the other small British speakers I have heard in recent years. This makes them superior to the Mirages and any of the small US bookshelf speakers I have heard—none of which have approached the best British units in accuracy.
The respective virtues of the two systems are clear: the Spica has better midrange resolution, harmonic detail, and imaging; the Dayton Wright excels at dynamics, full frequency response, and accuracy of timbre. Each, however, does a good job of what the other does better. I could live happily with either pair of speakers, although I should hasten to say that I prefer the advantages I get with much more expensive units.
No, the Spicas and Dayton Wrights don't outperform speakers in the $1000/pair+ bracket. The Thiels, Fuseliers, and Vandersteens offer superior value, albeit for more money, and the Thiel 04a (footnote 3) remains a major rival for not much more money.
The true merit of the LCM-1 and TC-50 speakers is that they bring high-end sound much closer to the audiophile who has previously been forced to compromise so much at the below-$500 level that much of what this magazine discusses could not be accurately reproduced on affordable speakers.—Anthony H. Cordesman
Footnote 3: Reviewed in Vol.6 No.4.