Spica TC-50 loudspeaker Larry Archibald

Larry Archibald also wrote about the Spica TC-50 in August 1986 (Vol.9 No.5):

I think JGH misses some of both the positive and negative attributes of the TC-50/subwoofer combo. First, I think the subwoofers benefit from a lack of ambition as to awesomeness of performance. Bau has not tried to turn the system into an Infinity beater, but instead used the subwoofers to augment the TC-50's own virtues.

In this I think he has succeeded. In my room the subwoofers made the TC-50s into a more-or-less full-range system, with not much subjectively missing in terms of fullness through the midbass. (As JGH notes, low bass was there, but not impressively so.) Moreover, the subwoofers made the imaging of the TC-50s better—the soundstage was better defined and the individual images more specific. To augment a good small speaker and not destroy its inherent virtues is no mean feat.

This achievement is at significant cost, however. First, $1200 for two subwoofers—one doesn't work nearly as well, particularly in the specific areas of excellence mentioned above—is three times the original price of the TC-50s. At $1650, the competition is fierce. Also, I found the setup instructions and procedures a real pain in the butt, what with measuring the distances to your ears from four boxes, discovering the input impedance of your amp, etc. A subwoofer-mounted stand for the TC-50, just now ready, should help considerably.

And one other problem: the transformer for the subwoofer's built-in amplifier hummed quite noticeably on my pair (even with the "on-off" switch off—it turns off only the input). I ended up unplugging the subwoofers when not in use, another annoyance.

Overall I think that John Bau has succeeded at what he set out to do, but I will come down in favor of some other speaker in the $1200-$1700 category for the reasons specified. I await John's entry in the $1000-$1200 market, where his design techniques and production efficiency could offer something really terrific.—Larry Archibald