Spendor's new A6R floorstander is an extensively reworked version of an old favourite. David Price listens in
One of the best things about Spendor is that when its ranges are refreshed, it’s a worthwhile update. The company’s MD Philip Swift ‘gets it’ that buyers aren’t always taken in by the addition of an alloy trim ring, a five percent more expensive crossover capacitor and set of gold-plated spikes. So when it does something, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice. Any ‘R’ version (as it’s ‘Revised’) really is worth paying attention to.
Currently the A series is the subject of Spendor’s gaze. This is Spendor’s mainstream range, fighting it out with mid-price speakers the world over. They look rather underwhelming, but they’re really rather handy.
For the new A6R, Spendor claims “a dramatic uplift in dynamics, resolution and low-frequency extension”. This small-to-medium size box sports a new mid/bass driver that uses the company’s latest EP77 ‘engineering polymer’ cone, new surround and suspension materials. These are said to improve low-level linearity and mechanical stability. To go with this is a re-engineered crossover, devoid of series-attenuating resistors to minimise thermal modulation distortion. It also gets precision-wound high-linearity tapped inductors. At 4kHz, the new crossover begins feeding the same 29mm wide-surround tweeter with
a bi-elliptical acoustic lens, which is said to give smooth extended high-frequency response.
The cabinets have also been breathed on, although you’d not know it from the outside. Spendor’s linear-flow port is retained, sounding far less obvious than many rivals’ cabinet apertures. It’s also very forgiving when positioning; I can run the A6Rs pretty close to my back wall without any obvious nasties in the bass. Inside, the company’s ‘Dynamic Damping’ is deployed – these are small low-mass constrained polymer dampers at key energy interface points. Silver-plated pure copper wiring is used, with halogen-free dielectrics. The speakers sit on four machined steel stabiliser inserts, secured directly into the main structure of the cabinet and give a firm foundation.
The review pair come in a very attractive light oak finish; they look discreet and tasteful in my listening room. Other finishes include cherry, dark walnut and black ash.
Electrically, the Spendors prove to be a very benign load; quoted sensitivity isn’t earth shattering at 88dB, but a lowish power solid-state or tube amp will still drive them to decent levels in a largish room. And sitting just a few inches away from a rear wall with a subtle few-degree toe-in, they sound like they’ve been made for my listening room and Creek Destiny integrated amplifier. Very few of the 120W per channel are needed to get decent sound levels, and when more are deployed the Spendors take it like old pros.
Every speaker brand has a distinctive sound and Spendor is no exception. But rather than trying to voice in character, Spendors go the other way – they’re self-effacing, even and neutral. This is both bad and good, because initially they don’t sound so special; there’s no amazing bass to be bowled over by, or a treble that’s so sharp it could be emitting gamma rays. Nor does the midband come out and punch you in the face. But after you’ve got over your initial, slightly anti-climactic first acquaintance with these speakers, you soon begin to change your mind. You might find them over polite at first, but then you start listening in to the music itself.
This is the difference between the A6R and many flashier rivals. It doesn’t bowl you over, but instead just seems to step aside and let you and the music get along together. Rather like a car salesman who’s happy to leave you alone in the showroom to play with the object of your desire, the new Spendor has a very light, but deft and skilful touch. It knows how and when not to interfere, where less sophisticated, more impetuous rivals might be falling over themselves to demonstrate their punchy bass or laser-etched treble. Essentially then, the A6Rs are so boring that you’re not distracted by them!
This means you can play pretty much any type of music and they’ll still let it sing. Contrast this to all number of KEFs, Tannoys and Focals, which seem to be great with some types of programme material and rather less impressive with others. Take Manix’s Living In The Past; this is a slice of retro techno, a sort of latter day rave anthem. It’s pretty much the last piece of music I would ever imagine Spendor using to voice this new speaker, but still the A6Rs sing their hearts out – or rather let the music sing its heart out. Having recently lived with the higher-end Spendor D7, it’s a case of déjà vu – because the A6Rs play the very same trick.
Bass is excellent and I can vouch that Spendor’s special port design works very well. Even at high levels, there is no huffing, puffing or chuffing, and the low frequencies remain tight and supple. True, it isn’t ultra-taut like a good infinite baffle speaker, but it is still a very good implementation of a reflex port that lets the bass driver do its job accurately, with little interference. The result is a lovely, lilting musicality with just a tiny bit of softness and looseness, which any ported speaker gives. The low frequencies prove very even too; there’s no big ‘hump’ around 100Hz to give the (false) sensation of a strong bass. But when called upon to deliver vast tracts of low frequencies, the A6R doesn’t baulk – it proves able to dispense enough bottom end to flap your flares, if not quite blow your wig off.
The midrange performance of the A6R is lovely. It does that very special trick of being incisive and detailed without sounding like a speaker that’s trying to be incisive and detailed! Rather it has a smooth, gentle, delicate sort of character that seems to dissolve away and let you focus on the mix; there’s no honking or squawking from the cone, no sense that you’re listening to something artificial. In absolute terms, that mid/bass unit lacks the amazing translucency of a ribbon or an electrostatic panel, but it’s never muddy or grey or metallic sounding. Once again, it’s sheer even-handedness wins the day! Cue up some lilting jazz from Hank Mobley’s Soul Station and there’s a fantastic sound to the saxophone – never harsh, it’s nevertheless dripping with rich, resonant harmonics. Behind this, a wonderfully fluid groove gets going courtesy of great drum kit work; despite not throwing everything at you on a plate, the A6R still proves to be highly rhythmically adept.
It is very good at soundstaging too; it’s one of those speakers that seems to be able to throw out excellent stereo with precious little setting up or fine tuning. But time spent getting a few degrees toe-in, and the listening height right via the front spikes pays dividends, and they’ll end up projecting the music like a hologram in your lounge. Spring Rounds from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring shows the depth and breadth the Spendors are capable of; short of going up to £5,000 designs, you’ll struggle to get a larger, more spacious recorded acoustic. Within this, instruments are located with pin-point precision.
Spendor’s new A6R floorstander is actually quite a hard speaker to describe, as it really doesn’t draw attention to itself. Rather, it lets you play pretty much any type of music you like, and gives you a very clean, open, engaging and enjoyable rendition. It’s one of those speakers that gets straight ‘As’ across all disciplines, while never quite making it to A-star in any. Its sheer competence across the board means it’s really hard, if not impossible, to beat. You just can’t help really liking it, no matter what you’re currently used to and how expensive it is. As such, it comes heartily recommended – if you want your music to do the talking and not your loudspeakers!
LIKE: Clean, open, even sound; musicality; fine build
DISLIKE: Looks are perhaps a little underwhelming, but nothing else at the price
WE SAY: One of the very best mid-price floorstanders around
PRODUCT Spendor A6R
TYPE Floorstanding loudspeaker
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 192 x 875 x 280mm
• 1x Spendor 180mm EP77 mid/bass unit
• 1x 29mm wide-surround dome tweeter
• Quoted power handling: 20-200W
• Quoted sensitivity: 88dB/1W/1m
• Quoted impedance: 8ohms nominal (min.6ohms)
DISTRIBUTOR Spendor Audio Systems
TELEPHONE 01323 843474
ISSUE HFC 381
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