Spica TC-50 loudspeaker Page 2

It would be a mistake to say that the bass was missing, however; indeed, when the program scoring omitted upper-mid and treble sounds, the bass section sounded quite even and extended; the problem was simply that its level was slightly subdued, overshadowed by the stronger output higher up the frequency range.

Its stereo performance was very good for the price. The sounds were not localized at the speaker positions, and image width was impressive. Interestingly, when compared with similarly sized direct-facing speakers, the TC-50 center image, though well focused, seemed quieter—as if some proportion of the available power had gone into the generation of stage width. The "brightish" balance tended to compress orchestral perspectives, moderating the spatial quality of good recordings, where the musicians can be layered in depth, the impression reinforced by the perceived tonal balance. In the case of the TC-50, recordings sounded more "close-miked." The level of detail was good, this aided by the light balance, but some loss of transparency was also evident, together with a degree of congestion on complex scores; ultimately this detracted from the impression of depth. In context, however, its recovery of image depth was rather better than that of its immediate US competitors.

Coloration was mild, again somewhat marred by the tonal balance unless you regard that itself as a coloration (a legitimate thing to do in terms of perceived orchestral color). Some harshness was evident in the upper midrange, the usual byproduct of the straight-sided type of pulp cone diaphragm used for this woofer. By placing the listener off-axis to the tweeter, the usual axial peak was avoided, however, and the treble sounded notably clean. Some "boxiness" was evident in the midrange, while the bass lacked dynamic drive, having a withdrawn, almost "spongy" quality which contrasted with the rather better dynamics available from the mid- and treble registers.

Turning to the SE version, it would be unrealistic to describe the upgrade as a transformation, but the difference certainly constituted a significant improvement. Some benefits to bass dynamics were noted, while the mid- and treble bands were clearer, more detailed, and more sharply focused. No great improvement in transparency or depth was gained. The extra cost for the SE means you get benefits, but not a transformed speaker; I would judge it well worthwhile, if you like the basic TC-50 in the first place.

In terms of US budget-speaker prices, this is a basically very good design; so good, in fact, that it encourages use in advanced audio systems, where it may then be a little out of its depth. When compared with neutral references, it did sound a bit brittle, lean, and bright, but not enough to rule it out; that sort of decision is ultimately up to the reader. For its price and size, the technical and subjective performance were good. If you really like the speaker, I recommend the SE version or similar upgrades, assuming they are available in the US at realistic prices (say $150-200 per pair). If Spica were actually to make an SE version themselves at their plant, I doubt whether it would add much more than $75-100 to the current price.

Stereophile has recently reviewed the Celestion SL6S (Vol.10 No.5) which costs $900/pair in the USA; it is amusing—and instructive—to compare it with the relative value offered by the Spica. In England, the SL6S costs £350/pair, the TC-50 £600/pair—the reviewer must cope with a 3.5:1 overall differential if reviewing these models in the US and the UK.

I can certainly see the justification for the good performance of the TC-50 on the US market; for my own taste, I would like to see it balanced a little more sweetly in the mid and treble, even if the price would be a small loss in clarity and sensitivity.—Martin Colloms