Spendor S100 loudspeaker Page 2

The bass is less emphasized than it is on the Vandersteen 2Cis, which are a bit bass-heavy in my opinion. But the bass is there on the Spendor S100s—in ample measure, putting a firm foundation under large-scale orchestral works. Moreover, the bass is tight, taut, tuneful—no one-note boom. It's quite an achievement to get this quality of bass out of a box speaker without murking up the sound overall, and it's probably the main reason I love these speakers. Certainly, the person who purchases a pair of S100s should not be tempted to add a subwoofer.

The midrange is smooth and uncolored—no nasty peaks or resonances. This may come as quite a shock, because a lot of speakers have a somewhat forward midrange. The S100s don't, and as a result, the sound is more laid-back—literally—than what you may be used to. As for the treble, it's extended, but lacking in that ultracrisp articulation you get from speakers with metal-dome tweeters. The Spendors are also lacking that metallic quality you frequently get with metal domes.

About cable. I don't pretend to have spent enough time with the Spendors to know which cable is best, but it ain't OCOS—too rolled off. Naim NACA5 cable seems a good choice, and it's reasonably cheap ($8.50/meter). I intend to try other cables—as many as I can get my hands on without having to pay for them!—but, as you can imagine, cable manufacturers are hardly eager to supply me with product! I wonder why.

Incidentally, the S100 uses a 12" Bextrene-cone woofer, a 6" polypropylene-cone midrange unit, and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. The cabinet is constructed from medite, a dense fiberboard. The technology strikes me as conservative—not particularly innovative. The accomplishment is the execution.

The speakers can be bi- or tri-wired, bi- or even tri-amped, although I did all of my listening single-wired using a Krell KSA 80 with a Krell KSP 7B. I hope to try out some other interesting combinations soon—tubes on top, perhaps, and something solid on the bottom.

To be sure, the Spendor S100s lack that ultimate transparency—that "see-though" quality—you can get with such panel speakers as the MartinLogan CLS, for example. Other speakers image better—Spica Angeli, most small-box Celestions, the Acoustic Energy AE-1s, the Epos ES-14s. Quads and Martin-Logans (especially the Logans) are quicker—transients have more speed, more snap.

Martin Colloms got it right, in HFN/RR. Martin said that the S100's strength lies in its "overall balance of performance." The speaker does everything well. It has no significant sonic flaws. It is full-range—no subwoofer needed. It is reasonably easy to drive, since its impedance does not drop below 5.5 ohms—even a B&K ST-140, a bit flabby in the bass, was not overtaxed, although a Krell KSA 80 showed its superior resolution and better overall performance.

The speaker is beautifully made—more like a fine musical instrument than a pair of mass-production speakers. (I am sure these are not mass-produced.) Notice, for instance, how the front and back panels of the speaker are screwed into the cabinet, not glued on. And, finally, the speaker here is almost as big a bargain as it is in Britain. RCS Audio International has looked after your wallet further by having stands produced in the US.

But be warned: this speaker is not for those audiophiles who seek hot, sizzly, hyperdetailed, bass-heavy, knock-your-socks-off sound. It's made for people who like music.

The Spendor S100 is one of the finest products I have ever reviewed. Is it the best speaker I have ever heard? Well, it ain't perfect, but what speaker is? I can't think of another speaker that's so safe to recommend. I'm confident this speaker will work out for you as well as it has for me, and without an undue amount of hassle with trick cables and the like. Spendors very definitely do not need to be tamed.

When I think of all the truly horrendous speakers available for the same price as the S100s—or even more money—I have to wonder, people. The power of public relations and advertising hype, perhaps. More likely, though, most people actually prefer bad sound. How else to explain the success of some of the best-known speaker names in audio?

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