Spendor D7 loudspeaker

Hi-fi firms have begun in garages. The English Spendor company was started in a bathtub. Or was it a kitchen sink?

By days in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Spencer Hughes worked as part of the BBC's loudspeaker research team. Among other accomplishments, he helped develop the 5" midrange/woofer for the fabled LS3/5A loudspeaker.

As speaker designers from Henry Kloss to Sonus Faber's Franco Serblin have told me, designing a successful 5" driver is "a doddle" (British for easy) compared to creating an 8" or larger cone. "It becomes harder to maintain clarity, focus, speed, and midrange accuracy," the late Sr. Serblin told me over a latte.

Hughes, apparently, thought the same. At home he struggled long and hard to develop an 8" mid/woofer cone of Bextrene, a mix of acetate and cellulose (footnote 1). Misshapen cones piled up in his garage, until he got the cone's consistency just right.

Since he was still on staff at the BBC, Hughes felt honor-bound to offer them his new driver and the speaker design that used it. But the bigwigs there told him they wanted something more suited to modern music—ie, raucous rock. Free to strike out on his own, Hughes agreed to pay the BBC a small royalty for each BC-1 that he and his wife, Dorothy, sold through their new company: Spen(cer) + Dor(othy) = Spendor.

Soon after Spendor Audio Systems started production, the BBC changed its tune. Maybe they could use a larger, more accurate studio monitor after all. They began ordering BC1s. (Civilization carries on at the BBC's Radio 3.) Later, the BBC developed its own version, the LS3/6, which it licensed to Rogers Loudspeakers, which was then owned by Hughes's former BBC colleague, Jim Rogers. Stirling Broadcast makes a BBC-licensed version today.

For the BC1, Spendor sent out for a tweeter: a Celestion HF1300. Using OEM HF drivers has been Spendor's custom ever since. Spendor makes their own midrange and bass drivers in-house, but producing tweeters is an entirely different process. Some companies, like Focal, make woofers and tweeters in separate facilities. I've seen men and women making woofers, but only women assembling tweeters.

Spendor is now owned by a chap named Philip Swift, himself a speaker designer and co-founder of Audiolab. The factory is in Hailsham, in East Sussex. The speaker cabinets are produced elsewhere in England.

Spendor's Classic series is still in production—the SP1/2R2 is a direct descendant of the BC1: same size, same lossy, resonant, thin-walled wooden cabinet, same BBC-studio sound—BBC 3, at any rate. (What a joy it is to have BBC 3, which remains devoted to classical programming, via Internet radio.) Sales are especially strong in Asia. I owned a pair of BC1s from 1974 to 1978, and a pair of original SP1s in the mid-1980s.

I'd describe the sound of Spendor's Classic models as extended and sweet in the treble, smooth but ever so slightly polite in the midrange, and somewhat warm in the bass. I used to feel a somewhat spiritual attachment to the speakers, especially the BC1—as if they were handmade musical instruments, something almost alive. I would stroke the cabinets before going to bed. Goodnight, Spencer (the left speaker). Goodnight, Dorothy (the right).

40 years on, Spendor is still known for getting the midrange right. I was delighted to discover that this has been carried over to their new floorstanding model, the D7. It sells for $6495/pair (add $1000 for a premium finish). No stands necessary.

The D7
The D7 benefits from all the things Spencer Hughes couldn't dream of. Computer-aided design. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) with computer-numerical control (CNC) machines. The ability to whip up and test prototype drivers within hours rather than weeks or months. Automation.

914spend7.speaks.jpg

The D7 has a small footprint, as they say on the sales floor: 38" high (including spikes) by a mere 7.5" wide by 12.5" deep. Each weighs 46 lbs. A built-in platform ensures stability around dogs, cats, drunks. Each speaker has a port in a recessed chamber under the speaker connectors. Spike 'em good. (When the BC1 was invented, spikes had not yet been thought of.)

The D7's claimed sensitivity is 90dB/W/m. Its nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, not dropping below 4.5 ohms. I preferred the 8 ohm taps on my Quicksilver Silver 88 tubed monoblocks—a superb combination with the D7s, as was my solid-state Musical Fidelity M6PRX stereo power amp. Preamp? None, of course. I used my Music First Baby Reference transformer volume control. A trusty, vintage Denon DCD-1650AR CD player provided digital output to my Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista DAC.

914spend7.cross.jpg

The D7s did take some running in to come on song, as the British like to say. Dynamics opened up as the midrange and bass drivers limbered up. The bass extension improved over time, to the point where it is now excellent. Indeed, the D7 is one of the finest loudspeakers I have had in my listening room. I take back everything bad I've written about floorstanding speakers: troublesome bass, poor integration of drivers in the nearfield, etc.

Jay Rein, of Bluebird Music Limited, Spendor's North American distributor, delivered the Spendors and plopped them down in my listening room, where I'd laid down tape to mark the positions of some other speakers. Since then, I haven't moved the D7s so much as an inch. They're about 3' from the sidewalls, 4' from the front wall, and about 9' apart. My listening chair is 6' from the speakers. I find it far easier to move my Throne (as Marina calls it) than the speakers.


Footnote 1: Martin Colloms clarifies that "the cone was of a moldable sheet plastic called Bextrene, a copolymer of butyl rubber and polystyrene previously used by KEF. Spen's labors concerned getting the choice of PVC plastic and its profile right for the surround/suspension, also the critical flare of the Bextrene cone, the mass and build of the voice-coil, and the hand-applied PVA damping painted on to both sides in multiple layers. He understood how to voice a cone assembly."
COMPANY INFO
Spendor Audio Systems Ltd.
US distributor: Bluebird Music Limited
2299 Kenmore Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14207
(416) 638-8207
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
fy415's picture

I appreciate the subjective reviews, but really look forward to the measurements. It's hard to compare different speakers (and other products) when different people reviewed them. Measurements, however, take away a significant amount of confusion and doubt.

John Atkinson's picture
fy415 wrote:
I appreciate the subjective reviews, but really look forward to the measurements.

The D7's measurements are published in the April 2015 issue of Stereophile and are now appended to this Web reprint.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

allhifi's picture

Quote: ...." Measurements, however, take away a significant amount of confusion and doubt."

Indeed, Stereophile's measurements can be very informative --and the magazines regular 'testers' no doubt can "interpolate" specific "data/readings" with subjective impressions.

Personally (with loudspeaker tests) I prefer to see a linear frequency response as wide as possible, but critically in the
50 Hz -to 5-KHz (preferably to 10-KHz) range.
LF loading is absolutely critical, preferring to see a damped (or over-damped) design.

With that said, I wonder if there is a distinguishable "measurement" differences between the PSB T-3, and KEF Reference -1's (same retail value) --and also one's I've auditioned side-by-side many times.

Quite simply, the (current) KEF Reference 1 is in a completely different league than the T-3's --the "subjective" impressions leave the PSB in the dust-bin. There is simply no comparing the PSB T-3 to the spectacular REF-1's (KEF).

Observing the construction details (not to mention million-dollar design investment of the KEF's)reveals impressive attention to (vital) details: Six-to-eight BOLTS, secure the drive-units to the (advanced) baffle board, while the impressive MF/HF driver itself is additionally secured (and strengthened)by a metal-plate (between driver and baffle-board) --again anchored my metal, threaded BOLTS !

(You'd think many/most similarly priced (and more expensive loudspeakers) also bolt the driver's to the enclosure --not so.)

Summarizing, test measurements are an essential tool, but so are design details (as described) that are almost NEVER examined or disclosed. Why ?

peter jasz

JunkyJan's picture

...I'm really tired of being treated like "Well-to-do Professional who knows Law / Medicine / whatever but baffled by technical mumbo-jumbo". Without seeing real measured values, I feel like I am being asked to part with cash based on a review writer's ability to write flowing prose and praise. I am in the market for new speakers at the moment - and I will do some listening tests - but my "candidate speaker list" selection should be based on more than just the most flowery -sounding reviews.

allhifi's picture

Listen to the current KEF Reference -any model.

Search over.

pj

andy_'s picture

Is the absence of measurements a blip, a permanent change to the format of loudspeaker reviews or perhaps something in between?

JunkyJan's picture

No, it's been going on for years. Some (paper)magazines will give you a full technical run-down with measurements as well - "HiFi News and Record Review" used to do that, no idea if they still do. IIRC "HiFi Answers" or "What HiFi" started this "pure subjectivity" trend back in the late 70s or early 80s.

Also remember that test equipment is DARN expensive, and people who know how to operate it even more so. So since the early 80s many magazines went the route of "Bombard the reader with enough pretty euphemisms and the advertisers will shower us with money" (increasing circulation is always the driving motivation).

The problem for me, being on the verge of shelling out the equivalent of (U.S.)$10,000 on a pair of speakers, is that I can no longer stomach the lack of actual measurement to back up however reasonable the claim of the author may be. Without it, it all becomes just one man's opinion :(

brian2010's picture

At current exchange rate these speakers are only $5,500. Only? Measurements in the lab are a part of the picture, I agree. But the part that matters is one's own ear and no measurement is going to make that much difference if you like the speakers. Outside of power handling capabilities I find measurements more than a bit obtuse, but to each their own.

remlab's picture

In the twenty years I've been reading Stereophile, I have never seen a measurement acompanying his reviews. In a way, It's like a having a little, tiny "Absolute sound" subscription!

John Atkinson's picture
Quote:
In the twenty years I've been reading Stereophile, I have never seen a measurement accompanying his reviews.

I don't routinely publish measurements of the products that are covered in our monthly columns. However, I do measure some of these products when I have the time and opportunity, even those reviewed by Sam Tellig. See, for example, www.stereophile.com/content/musical-fidelity-v90-dac-da-processor.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

remlab's picture

.

fy415's picture

"I don't routinely publish measurements of the products that are covered in our monthly columns. However, I do measure some of these products when I have the time and opportunity...."

I think I can understand how columns are autonomous, and don't necessarily follow the same format as full articles/reviews. But what are the chances that a product covered in a column will also be given a "formal" review (and measured in the lab), without the review becoming redundant?

Whatever the reasoning for the current situation re: whether or not a product is measured, it seems unfair (and is certainly frustrating) that, as a reader, I am not able to get consistent and complete information about the different products that I read about. With different writers having different musical/acoustic preferences and writing styles, the technical measurements are the only thing that provides all these different pieces of equipment context, and an even playing field.

I believe I read that a speaker manufacturer (Magnepan? My apologies if I'm mistaken) has repeatedly declined to provide review samples because they don't agree with the magazine's testing protocols (or, to be more precise, their speakers don't "measure well"). That is certainly their prerogative, and readers of this magazine can make their own decisions in response.

But I believe that more effort should be put into lab testing all products that are given substantial coverage in the magazine. In my opinion, measuring only "some" of these products is not adequate, and unfair to the the manufacturers whose products went through the rigors of lab testing, regardless of the results--products with "good" measurements may not receive enough credit for their achievement, and products with "bad" measurements may be unduly punished because their peers avoided the tests.

Is it possible that a manufacturer can exploit Stereophile's practices, i.e., the columns' autonomy (and logistical difficulties in arranging for lab testing), to get a subjecive review published without fear of having its technical deficiencies exposed in a lab test?

John Atkinson's picture
fy415 wrote:
I believe that more effort should be put into lab testing all products that are given substantial coverage in the magazine.

It comes down to resources. As I said, I try to measure some of the products that are covered in our columns, but it is impracticable to measure all such products. As was said in another comment, lab testing is time- and resource-consuming, which is why so many magazines and webzines don't do it at all. With Stereophile, we publish as many measurements as is possible within the constraints of budget and a monthly publishing schedule.

fy415 wrote:
In my opinion, measuring only "some" of these products is not adequate, and unfair to the the manufacturers whose products went through the rigors of lab testing, regardless of the results--products with "good" measurements may not receive enough credit for their achievement, and products with "bad" measurements may be unduly punished because their peers avoided the tests.

That's a fair point.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

GQ's picture

If you looking for measurement, you can see a very nice one in HI FI Critic magazine.

http://www.spendoraudio.com/Images/Spendor%20D7%20HiFi%20Critic%20Sept%2...

fy415's picture

Thank you for the link to the technical review.

It's not as thorough or as descriptive as Mr. Atkinson's tests and descriptions. The product was most likely tested in a different location, with different equipment, and possibly different protocols. Still, this gives me and other readers a more complete picture of the speaker being reviewed.

Thank you.

To Stereophile: I'd much rather not have to go to different sources for different aspects of a review for every product that interests me. Please, please try harder to publish complete reviews.

remlab's picture

John
Why doesn't Magnepan just use Sam's column to safely shield themselves from your evil measurements? That way, they can be happy and you can be happy!

andy_'s picture

I suspect Magnepan's concerns may be valid about how potential customers may interpret the standard set of Stereophile measurements of their door sized panel speakers. For example, how many manufacturers that have worked hard to get a flat bass response to within +/-X dB are comfortable with Stereophile showing a bass rise in the measured frequency response and their specifications appearing to be false? Despite JA's comments in the accompanying text I am pretty sure it is not going to stick with a fair few readers who have no interest in measurement techniques and the physics of sound.

corrective_unconscious's picture

That measurements with a review of their speakers would reveal proprietary design details. Now, they must mean "widely reveal," because a lot of manufacturers could do such measurements (and more) of Magnepan products on their own.

Magnepan must also mean "certain measurements," because their speakers have been reviewed within the half year in one of the British audio mags which did offer at least some measurements along with reviews.

Perhaps an alternate idea to yours of Magnepan being worried about how readers would interpret such measurements as we find in Stereophile would be that Magnepan is worried about how Stereophile's measurements are conducted.

Richard Vandersteen (among others) has voiced considerable skepticism regarding some of the measurements' procedures and findings in the past, as one example. But he said so openly in the Manufacturers' Comments after allowing one of the II series to be reviewed....

It would be interesting to know for sure.

Roger That's picture

One of the main reasons why I quit buying What-HiFi magazine back in the nineties was the lack of any objective measurements.

That’s one of the major assets of Stereophile, with all the (great) work made by John Atkinson.

Please don’t turn Stereophile into another (near) useless audio resource. It’s not like I don’t value the reviewers opinions (they’re actually fundamental), but without any kind of objective data it’s only that, one informed (but personal) opinion.
That’s great for a column article, but not so great for a review, imho.

Thank you for all your great work.

DaveinSM's picture

I agree! I really, really appreciate John Atkinson's measurements, plus they are always thoughtfully and insightfully explained to boot.

Bluebird Music's picture

Bluebird Music has repeatedly said the D7s are the best speakers Spendor has ever made. We are more than willing to back up this claim by providing a pair of D7s to be measured and tested as you do in your regular reviews. You only have to say the word and we would be delighted to send a pair. Frankly, I would like to see how they measure too! - Jay Rein, Bluebird Music

John Atkinson's picture
Bluebird Music wrote:
We are more than willing to back up this claim by providing a pair of D7s to be measured and tested as you do in your regular reviews. You only have to say the word and we would be delighted to send a pair.

That's an excellent idea. I will publish a measurement follow-up of the D7 in the March or April 2015 issue. (It's too late for the February issue, which ships to the printer on Monday.)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Shangri-La's picture

Does Stereophile have plans to review the Spendor D9? Really interested in the new flagship.

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