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October 2001
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
The Spendor Sub 3 Subwoofer And the Rebirth of Musical Content
Review by Herb Reichert
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

"Move, dance... be born!...
He who isn't busy being born -- is busy dying"
Boris Blank, Dieter Meier and Bob Dylan


Spendor Sub 3 Subwoofer   There is a very important phenomenon that relates to the experience of reproduced music that is hardly known or recognized at all. I am telling you now, (that) if you don't pay attention and begin to recognize its effect while it is happening to you in your home, I promise, you will wake up one day and discover that you have lost all interest in music -- and you didn't even notice this deceptive attrition while it was happening. That is right. I said "deceptive" because of noticing what kind of Hi-Fi you use tends to determine what kind of music you will listen to. No, it is not the other way around like you think it is. I am aware that when you bought your stereo, you bought it because you thought it played your favorite records better than the stereo you already owned. Right? Well Bucko, most probably it doesn't!

Let us take a moment and look back. Ask yourself honestly. What kind of records did you used to buy and what kind do you buy now? Better yet, ask yourself what new types of music have you began to listen to since you bought your present much better Hi-Fi. Any at all? Ask yourself also, if you love and understand music more than you did a couple of years ago. And most importantly (here's the killer question...) ask yourself as honestly as possible if you have become more interested in and more tolerant of, the types of music that didn't interest you before. (Aren't you at least wondering what all that fuss about Townes Van Saint or the White Stripes is about?)

It is so easy for a particular Hi-Fi to limit (or completely eliminate) your enjoyment of music, that I believe that the most important criteria for determining how good your playback system is should consist of asking yourself these questions:

1. Can you, and do you want to, explore all kinds of music?

2. Are you familiar with the music of all the World's cultures?

3. Has your Hi-Fi lowered your musical prejudice level?

4. Does your hi-fi make you anxious and greedy to listen to new and unusual types of music?

 

Now pay attention because I am not talking about peer groups, sub-cultures, economics, taste or social class. I am simply talking about what your hi-fi has done for you lately! Is it making you a wiser and more accepting person? Has it expanded your aesthetic viewpoint? Have you been seeking out radically new kinds of music to enjoy? Or, do you find (worst case scenario) that you are now only listening to and looking for, tasteful records that sound good on your Hi-Fi. Are you thinking while you are listening, yea, this sounds good. G-d, I can hear the third train car under Carnegie Hall has a bad wheel. When so-and-so comes over I'll play this for him. He'll be impressed. Look at that soundstage. Wow! Yeah, this singer is well-recorded. I can hear her lipstick smearing. Are you looking for new good music or new good recordings? (Please Lord, don't let it be the latter!)

Personally just assembled this modest new audio system using the little Spendor S3/5s with the Spendor Sub 3 subwoofer and can't remember the last time I was this happy. This system has opened up my head. It has me listening to new artists and buying new records like grandma the gambler stuffs the one-armed bandit. It has me taking big chances and buying records by some really weird groups. And baby, it don't get better than that.

The 3/5s are driven by the Kamuro push-pull 845 triode amps which is being stimulated by an Audio Note pre-amplifier and a 47 Lab Flatfish CD player. (The Sub 3 is driven by its own internal 120-watt amplifier). Totally love this scheme and it has shifted my musical paradigm more than any single audio thingy -- since first owning an Ongaku (Steve sez: this makes two Enjoy the Music.com™ writers who has owned this legendary piece!). It is reaffirming my long-standing belief that buying a higher quality Hi-Fi can and usually does (if you are not extremely careful), undermine your ability to understand and enjoy music.

Have lived with a lot of Hi-Fi gear lately and enjoying music a lot less. I have been struggling to get into the music. Now, suddenly life is better again. This Spendor-Kamuro-Flatfish "Hi-Fi" is showing me what I have been losing and missing and what I constantly need to be reminded is most important. It is showing me the meaning of songs.

This system is not only one of the most high resolution systems I have owned, it not only tells me what words the singer is singing better than (almost) any I've owned -- it also is uncovering and boldly showing me what the artist meant when he or she wrote and sang these songs. It reveals the sounds captured on the disc so thoroughly that the nuances of attitude coded into the lyrics are blatantly revealed. And that, as they say, is resolution. Just before this setup, my Hi-Fi was the devil and it was tempting me -- away from the music. It told me lies that I mistook for the truth.

Spendor Sub 3But now I guarantee you this, your Hi-Fi is talking to you too. Most probably it, too, is lying. It is whispering in your ear, subliminally, but very clearly and with absolute assuredness. It is telling you what kind of music you should like and what type of music you should be listening to. It is trying to make your taste match its own limited capabilities. It is telling you "I am perfect, it is your music/your disc that is defective". It is saying, "You are not the kind of guy who listens to ol' timey country and western". It is telling you who you are. Its telling you that you are better than some other people.

Your Hi-Fi has this little man standing on your shoulder like Jimminey Cricket saying "You are not a low life like those punks at the bar... you don't listen to no rap or disco. You don't like Sid Viscous. That is not real art". Maybe the little man is telling you that jazz sucks or that classical is for old fuddy-duddies. Maybe he is saying that rock is for idiot teens that don't know any better. No matter. The one thing you can be sure of is; there is a tiny fellow talking to you. He is making some music go right into your heart your mind and your bloodstream while simultaneously he is making it very unpleasant for you to listen to other music types that he does not endorse. (Actually the music he doesn't approve of is the same music that sounds stupid on his speakers.)

What I am saying is that there is a constitutional flaw, an engineering flaw if you will, that creates a situation where the majority of Hi-Fi systems will not allow their listeners to get close to and/or understand and appreciate a wide range of musical types. Every combination of Hi-Fi gear makes its own particular type of conspiracy. Has its own limitations. Every combination conspires against you and against the possibility that you will enjoy a wide range of music. Well almost.

Here is how it works. Loudspeakers, amps, CD players, wire... they all get together to form various and diverse culture clubs which (intrinsically) don't like to admit new members. Some are very snooty and think they are upper class. They don't like rappers and deep house and only consider jazz and classical players for memberships. Many don't like corn cobs or trailer trash or heavy-metal any type of white musical crackers. Almost every Hi-Fi conspires against Cajun, Zydeco, Blue Grass and Old Timey. Some are the opposite. They play the Rolling Stones and Dr. Dre but no way do they play Bach. Furthermore, the presidents of these various elite special interest clubs usually don't like monophonic or transfers from 78rpm records. Mostly they like simply-mic'ed stereophonic recordings of acoustic instruments in small controlled environments. 

Surprisingly, this phenomenon is not the province of Low-Fi. Actually, it is most prevalent in high-end hi-fi. Why? Well first off, low fi-can't afford to be prejudiced. Everybody buys it so if it doesn't play all types of music less people will buy it. Simply put, we can look around and see what people play on boom-boxes and mini systems: They play everything! But "high-end" Hi-Fi? What do you hear on these rigs? Not George Jones. Not Donna Sommers. Not Bill Monroe or Yello. Why? Simply because the designer's of "high-end" Hi-Fi equipment rarely have broad-based musical taste and so therefore, they don't bother to make playing a wide range of musical styles a priority.

You think I am kidding? Think again. Knowing many of these audio designers personally... and way too many of these suckers are listening to a baker's dozen of twin-mic'ed stereo-showpieces -- demonstration discs -- and nothing else! They don't read no Mojo, Spin, Gramophone, Fanfare, or Rolling Stone. They are not listening to old show tunes, techno or banjo music. But they are always on the lookout for new demonstration discs -- to better show off and sell their wares. Right?

I am not goofing on you here. This is deadly serious. This is absolutely the most true and important topic I have ever addressed in an audio essay. At the very least, I am telling you now. Beware! And be aware. Don't hesitate. Go to your Hi-Fi and to your record collection and pull out the weirdest most offensive disk you can find. The one you never play. Then play it. If you can, listen all the way through and pay good attention. If you can at least understand what the artist was hoping to achieve -- you are in luck. You probably have stumbled on a better than average Hi-Fi. If most of the discs you in your collection were recorded in monophonic then I'd advise keeping your present setup as long as you can cause it must work pretty well! Just listen and ask yourself if you feel you are understanding what you are hearing. Do you get the artist's point? Can you identify the artist's aesthetic, poetic and conceptual intentions? Does the bugger fill the room with the singer's attitude? Can you see the beauty and value of the music it plays?

 

If you can honestly say that on every disc you spin, the core content is being revealed to you -- then you must not touch your stereo until it has melted, cooled and reformed into irregular ashen globs. OK?

A system that loves all types of music is so rare. If you got one - keep it. I have only experienced this kind of unconditional love at the very bottom and the very top of the audio food chain. (Remember, I once owned a $1,000,000 + Hi-Fi.) But right now, as I type this, I have a hi-fi setup that is showing and telling me the new meanings and higher purposes of songs I have been listening to for decades. I am playing all my records again -- just to find out what they really mean. 

Songs I've always hated, songs that have always annoyed me, and songs that have consistently dumbfounded me -- now, I can't hardly wait to get home and play them. I have a hundred CDs scattered about on the floor. I am bopping to some weird new shit -- thanks to my stumbling upon a fortuitous combination of well engineered electronic objects. Thanks to the Spendor Sub 3 and the 3/5s and Komuro and 47 Lab and Audio Note. Thanks to the music G-ds and the worker bees.

I am now more than ever convinced that every Hi-Fi shapes your taste and conception of the music you listen to. Absolutely. You buy and ;listen to records of a certain type because your personal hi-fi makes that kind of music interesting and intelligible. 

You see I've had the Kamuro 845s and the Flatfish for a long time and . What all of a sudden is pulling all this together and up to a new level is the Spendor S3/5s combined with the Spendor 'Sub 3' Subwoofer. It is an amazing combination. Very effective at getting to the core of the musical content. QS&D sent me the and woof-woof and boom, in like ten minutes my life had changed completely. I became frantic and serene all at the same time. I played like thirty black and silver disks in the first five hours after I hooked it up. I wanted to play every song I ever liked and then next, I wanted to play every song I ever didn't like. I fell completely in l.u.v. and it feels wonderful. I am going wild playing all kinds of discs.

I didn't even have to jerk around setting it up. I have owned a bunch of subwoofers so by now I've gotten a few good set-up instincts and lots of practice -- which means I immediately set the crossover frequency low (below 60Hz) and I kept lowering the gain until I couldn't tell I had a subwoofer and that 'keep-it-down-and-unnoticeable" attitude got me quickly very close to the final settings. 

After the initial setup I experimented a little with placement and tried both the '0' and '180' phase settings. But all in all I do not think you need any special aptitude or knowledge to add bass octaves. Just remember, when in doubt, turn the gain and/or the crossover frequency down. Trust me. You can do it. No problem.

And trust me also when I say the Spendor S3/5s with the Sub-3 is one of the most satisfying and revealing loudspeaker systems I have ever experienced. The 3/5/Sub-3 has the same two big limitations as the 3/5s alone. Namely, they don't won't can't play loud. The sub lets them play a little louder and it makes the sub-satellite combination just right for my small room. But if you need spls and you have a large room you must look elsewhere. 

What this loudspeaker arrangement does is show me not only what information is on my disks -- it shows me with what attitude this information was installed on the discs in the first place. And this my friends is a mighty task. This is just what I need to do what I do which is -- search for new music to discover and enjoy and write about and tell my friends about. 

I must admit however, I have one question that (for now) I can't realistically answer. Is the Sub-3 the BEST subwoofer to use with the Spendor S3/5s? Don't know. Maybe. I know I said in my original review that I felt that the Spendor S3/5s were a better designed more musically directed loudspeaker than the Wilson WATTS. Which I still think is true. But right now, I cannot say with any certainty that my 3/5/SUB-3 combo is better than some of the Watt-Puppy combos I've heard. I think on the Spendors the music feels more human and flexible. The Spendors display a wider range of instrumental colors. On the Spendors music is more liquid and fluid feeling. On the Watt-Puppys maybe it is more vivid and present. But, I think the Spendor setup is way less robotic and mechanical sounding than the Wilsons. But, is it more accurate or truthful? I Don't know. I'm not sure. Maybe not. Are the Spendors less colored than the Wilson's? Probably not. Beats me. I do know that the Spendor scheme is tons more fun. And cheaper too. So? It is your choice. 

For now, the Spendors are just what I need. I like songs and singers better than ever now. I feel like I am being enlightened as well as entertained while I listen to music, and, I listen to music more. I really am digging a whole lotta new tunes. So, go ahead, you listen. Then, you tell me if I am crazy or not. For now, I feel lucky to have discovered them.

 

Specifications

Driver: Spendor 250mm rigid PVC cone
Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
Frequency Response: 33Hz to 85Hz (+-6dB)
Crossover Frequency Range: 50Hz to 90Hz
Amplifier Power: 120 watts 
Maximum SPL: 110 dB @ 1-meter
Input Connections: Gold-plated RCA phono
Dimensions: 20.4" x 12.15" x 17.45" (HxWxD) 
Weight: 31.5lb.
Price: $1,299

 

Company Information

Spendor Audio Systems Limited
Station Road Industrial Estate
Hailsham, East Sussex
England

Voice: +44 (0) 1323 843474
Fax: +44 (0) 1323 442254 
Website: www.spendor.mcmail.com

 

QS&D
33 McWhirt Loop #108
Fredricksburg, Virginia 22406

Voice: (800) 659-3711
Website: www.qsandd.com
E-mail: qsandd@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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