Spendor’s smart but diminutive A2 floorstanders are easily underestimated. But as it turns out, one shouldn’t always judge by appearances: these Brits deliver more than expected.
Based in Sussex, Spendor is a quintessentially British loudspeaker manufacturer. Founded nearly a half-century ago by Spencer and Dorothy Hughes (the Spen and Dor in Spendor), the company’s success was built on the foundations of the Spendor BC1 – a monitor designed by Spencer for use by broadcasters and recording studios.
Today, the product line-up consists of three ranges – the Classic, D-Line and A-Line – all of which share the same Spendor DNA, but target different preferences and budgets.
The recently revamped the A-Line is Spendor’s most accessible offering, with a line-up of four models, of which the A2 under scrutiny here is the most affordable floorstander. But don’t for a moment consider the A2 a budget speaker – both finish and performance prove otherwise.
AT FACE VALUE
As floorstanders go, the Spendor A2s are unexpectedly slim and compact, managing to reach just 755 mm high, and boasting a narrow 150 mm baffle. With a depth of only 250 mm these Spendors are unassuming, and thus easily incorporated into any décor.
That said, the A2s are handsomely finished loudspeakers featuring real-wood veneer. The attention to detail and quality is evident throughout: from the crisply crafted cabinets and the well-executed binding posts to the integrated bases and the solidly engineered, threaded seats for the locating spikes.
The bass-reflex enclosures feature a flared rear port exiting just above the single pair of binding posts. As mentioned, adjustable spikes allow levelling of the enclosures on uneven surfaces, while ensuring that the cabinets are efficiently coupled.
The A2s are not supplied with the usual cloth grilles, leaving the drivers exposed. The result is aesthetically pleasing and acoustically preferable. A metal grille protects the tweeter from physical damage, though.
UNDER THE COVERS
The two-way A2 makes use of a pair of proprietary drive units. The 22 mm polyamide dome tweeter is liquid-cooled and has a wide-dispersion design.
It’s partnered here by Spendor’s EP77 mid/bass driver, which uses a special polymer cone. The crossover point is at an unusually elevated 4,2 kHz, suggesting that the mid/bass has a particularly broad operating range. The crossover features selected capacitors and hand-wound inductors, both designed for ultimate linearity.
The A2 enclosures use a dense 15 mm fibreboard and are thoroughly braced and damped to prevent vibration and resonance, while providing a stable platform for the drive units.
At a slightly less than optimum 85 dB efficiency, the A2s are best off partnered with something a little beefier on the amplification front to fully exploit their talents. I powered them with our Parasound Halo A21 power amp, linked to Primare’s clean and versatile PRE32/MM30, which turned out to be a very appealing combination.
The Spendors arrived already run in, so needed no extended break-in period before concerted listening could commence. Set-up was as simple as screwing in the threaded spikes on the base, hooking up the speaker cables, and positioning them in the listening room.
I chose a free-standing location, with the A2s about 70 cm from the side walls and approximately 1,7 metres into the room. They were toed in towards the listening position, which was about 3 metres away.
SOUNDS LIKE …
The Spendors produce a smooth and engaging sound that is immediately appealing. There’s more mid-bass than expected, and when linked to a rich and textured and midrange, the result is a substantive, commanding sonic presence.
No, they don’t deliver the kind of pounding bass that will rattle doors (and the cage of your neighbours), but the low-frequencies are represented with sufficient foundation to provide a robust tonal platform.
The trebles are lucid enough to extract plenty of well resolved detail, but remain easy on the ear, adding to an overall benign approach. Staging is generous and open, affording the music ample space, while creating a believably scaled, enveloping sound picture.
The Spendors made the smoky, spine-tingling vocals of veteran French chanteuse Francoise Hardy on her new release, Personne d’autre, come vividly alive. They projected her voice with an empathy that captured both the underlying tenderness and the emotion of her delivery to goosebump-inducing effect.
On ‘Un seul geste’ the keyboards are spread wide across the soundstage, with the drums providing plenty of dimensional clues, and an intimate bass adding to the meat of the music. Hardy’s vocals were allowed to soar unfettered above the accompaniment, allowing the full emotive impact of her voice to be appreciated.
As floorstanders go, the Spendors have a real talent for transparency, which contributed to the realism and the accessibility of the music. The expansive stereo image was delivered with confidence, easily immersing the listener in the music.
Moving onto the grittier, blues-laced collaboration between Ben Harper and Charlie Musslewhite on No Mercy In This Land, the Spendors couldn’t quite deliver the slam demanded by the rousing ‘Movin’ On’.
However, they did reflect the ambience and richness of the recording, while a seamless delivery and overall transparency created a full, detailed and thoroughly entertaining music picture.
The strolling guitars, rollicking bass and splashy percussion were all propelled into the room with enthusiasm and gusto, while still allowing Musslewhite’s rousing harmonica to assume the starring role.
The A2s weren’t intimidated by the scale and splendour of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, performed with such precision and pathos by the Bach Collegium Japan. The production’s exceptional clarity and painstaking accuracy was a good match for the A2s, which prevented the recording from sounding too clinical while capturing the full extent of the performance’s considerable emotive content.
Again, it was the ability of the Spendors to weave a wide and deep sound picture, and to meticulously contextualise the orchestra, chorus and soloists in this generous space, that made the listening experience a riveting and rewarding one.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It would be easy to typecast the Spendor A2s as affable and polite. Instead, these attractively crafted floorstanders don’t allow their humble dimensions to get in the way of delivering their musical wares with generous scale and thrilling musicality.
In this age of mass production, the close attention to manufacturing detail and the commitment to bespoke, in-house design and production is equally refreshing, keeping the tradition of British-crafted loudspeakers alive in the best possible way.
Most of all, the A2 allow the music to sound – well, like music. And that’s arguably the strongest recommendation of all.
By DEON SCHOEMAN
Thoughtfully crafted, compact floorstanders that deliver music with entertaining intent.
Easily underestimated. Deserve decent amplification.
Enclosure type: Floorstanding bass-reflex, rear-ported
– 22 mm wide-surround, fluid-cooled tweeter
– 150 mm EP77 cone mid/bass
Impedance: 8 ohms (6,2 ohms min)
Sensitivity: 85 dB (1 watt/metre)
Frequency response: 36 Hz – 25 kHz (typical in-room)
Power handling: 30 – 150 watts
Dimensions (HxWxD): 755 x 150 x 260 mm
Weight: 12 kg each
The Audio Visual Boutique.
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Primare PRE32/MM30 pre-amp
Parasound Halo A21 power amp
KEF R500 loudspeakers
Synology 214se NAS
Francoise Hardy – Personne d’autre (Parlophone/Warner 96/24 FLAC)
Ben Harper & Charlie Musslewhite No Mercy In This Land (Anti- 96/24 FLAC)
Mozart – Requiem in D Minor – Bach Collegium Japan (BIS 44/16 FLAC)