Spendor-Exposure-van den Hul
You get used to hearing expensive over-the-top systems at an audio Show, but the real delight is discovering more affordable set-ups that sound better than you expect. Such was the case when I entered the Bluebird Music room, where the Spendor A6 two-way tower speakers were being demmed with Exposure's 3010S integrated amplifier and an Exposure CD player, wired with van den Hul cable. The total system prices was $7500, and, again playing "The Mooche" from Editor's Choice, I was struck by how seamless the presentation was, with natural tonal qualities, well-defined stereo imaging, and good dynamics, if not quite in the same class as the much more expensive system featuring the Avantgarde horns I had heard just before.
The $1795, 110Wpc Exposure amplifier is a known quantityit was reviewed for Stereophile by Art Dudley in June 2008but the Spendor speakers are new. The reflex-loaded A6 ($3295/pair) combines a wide-surround 29mm soft-dome tweeter with a proprietary 180mm woofer featuring the technology Spendor developed for the woofer of the small SA1 (currently under review).
As good as the sound the system was producing for the price was, it was put in perspective when Bluebird's Jay Rein switched from the Exposure player's analog outputs to those of a Chord [QBD76] D/A processor driven from the Exposure's digital output. The soundstage expanded, the bass gained another octave, and the music reached out more. Which is what you should expect from Chord, which was favorably reviewed by Wes Phillips in August 2007 and which, at $6000, almost doubled the system cost.