- Published on 30 July 2009
Not once but twice prior to solidifying the review I was "warned" that these speakers "need a really good amplifier to sound their best". Well I didn't start reviewing speakers yesterday so I knew that between the lines what was really being said was "the A5's efficiency is unusually low and they need more power than a typical speaker". Not that there is anything categorically wrong with a speaker which has a lower than average sensitivity, but there is a certain irony, and Spendor is not to be singled out here, when smaller less expensive models practically require rather expensive accompaniment (at least if you want them to maintain a semblance of output). It is ultimately a design trade off choice: by definition a relatively smaller speaker has to give up efficiency in exchange for extended frequency response, and to a lesser extent linearity. Spendor has chosen to favor sonic integrity over efficiency, and has somewhat offset this by making sure the impedance is as close to 8ohms throughout the speaker's range as possible (they quote a "minimum" of 5ohms at some point in the spectrum) making the A5 an "easy" load for even the most modest of amplifier topologies, but like love in Hollywood, that only goes so far.
That point aside, the A5s are on the whole simply marvelous. They spent the first couple weeks in our acoustically unfriendly living room and there managed quite well. Their fidelity is by all accounts not skewed or "voiced" per say but stays quite true to the signal and they are able to maintain good balance and imaging, even in less than ideal acoustics, which suggests much of their mid and upper end energy is thrown forward with the balance (the total power response) being on the smooth side. In this environment we tested the A5s with modest receiver-caliber amplification and as expected were tangibly limited in overall output level.
Next we moved them to our very intimate but acoustically engineered theater. As expected the A5s really took off with a razor sharp sound which never fatigued, even when listening sessions started being measured by hours instead of minutes. While difficult for any conventional speaker to compete with the focus and control afforded by the 3-tweeter array and clustered driver arrangement of my reference M&K MPS2510s, the A5s upper end is in fact close in character in that there is no character per sé which to me is excellence defined. They are somewhat disadvantaged by their slight stature though: with any normal seating the tweeter ends up quite a bit lower than the ear plane and they end up exhibiting a laid back response through the crossover and tweeter's range. Elevating them even just 4" on blocks proved to yield easily detected improvements in this regard, putting them more on par with my reference. Regardless, the speakers are in fact capable of some serious output so long as the amp behind them is up to the task. Indeed my aged but venerable Rotel coaxed decidedly more output from them, but it was hard to overlook how the system still lagged behind in overall headroom as compared to other more efficient speakers.
Bass, which is always difficult to gauge since it is so very dependent on the room, I define as quite satisfactory given the size and compliment of driver. Under the right circumstances one can indeed realize output "in-room" down to 40Hz, or even 30Hz, though this may not be the case for all installations. In the living room they sounded ever so slightly fat, but in the theater the bass was quite tight, with a delicious, almost latent quality to it which seemed commendable given the smaller drivers.