Spendor S-3 Subwoofer Reviewed

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How about "If ever a speaker screamed for a subwoofer, the S-3/5 is it"? Or maybe even "The speaker is beautifully assembled, sensibly priced, almost universal in its unfussiness, refined to the point of gentility and so easy to set up with a subwoofer that Spendor really ought to produce a dedicated model if it doesn't want to appear to be subsidising REL." They're pulled directly from my review of the rather tasty Spendor S-3/5 mini-monitor last May.

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Was I second-guessing Spendor? Shame on me for not thinking that they didn't already have the answer to my pleas. For here it is: the Sub 3, and, naturally, it was made for the S3/5 and other models in the Spendor Elegance range. Hell, it even works nicely with the LS3/5A and with the small Martin Logans, but that's jumping the gun. It's just that there's no law which says it can only be used with Spendor speakers, so I went a little bit crazy.

Measuring 20.5x17.5x12.25in (HWD), the Sub 3 is slightly larger than the REL Strata III which graces my A/V listening room. The enclosure - cherry veneered for the review sample, but available in other finishes - is made from 'high grade' MDF, with substantial internal bracing; a knock merely hurts your knuckles. It weighs 20kg and houses a 130W amplifier which drove the Spendor-made, long-throw 10in woofer to levels high enough to cope with large rooms or the excesses of home cinema. The woofer, mounted to fire downward, is made with a rigid PVC cone and is shielded with a 'balanced magnet'. Frequency range is stated as 33-85Hz, with the user-adjustable crossover operating over 50-90Hz.

As seems to be the fashion for UK-made subwoofers, it bears a finned control panel, but on one of the narrow sides. If that, then, constitutes the back, then it's a welcome change: you get to look at the narrower aspect of the unit rather than the wider. The controls, as well as gold-plated phono inputs, are grouped on this panel; they include a phase switch, a level control and a crossover rotary with settings at 50, 60, 65 and 70Hz, the latter recommended for the S-3/5. As with the REL, there's no front panel-mounted on-off tell-tale light.

Matching this to other speakers isn't a problem, as the controls allow plenty of flexibility. But to provide it with a pure bass feed, I used it with the Lexicon MC-1 multi-channel processor in both 2-channel and 5.1 channel form, accessing the Lexicon's set-up regime for the bass adjustments; I used the Sub 3's volume control strictly for coarse setting, tuning it to the 10th of decibel with the Lexicon. Surprisingly, it does get that critical when using it for pure music; in A/V mode, there's a tendency to set it up for maximum output prior to the onset of severe break-up, finesse be damned.

What I didn't expect was such an audible difference in its performance when compared to the mighty REL. Given the paucity of essential information way down below, it was still far too easy to tell one subwoofer from the other - an experience which upset my wish to hang onto the audiophilic notion that subwoofers are for headbanging tossers.

Read more about the Spendor S-3 subwoofer on Page 2.

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