Spendor S3 Speakers Reviewed

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OK - so we promised that October's coverage of the Cicable crossover and the Stirling would be the last LS3/5A-related piece for some time, but we hadn't reckoned on Spendor. Philip Swift, formerly of the late, lamented Audiolab, bought Spendor; the first speaker to emerge under his aegis is a sibling to the S-3/5. And we all know that the S-3/5 (1) uses a genuine LS3/5A cabinet rotated 90 degrees and (2) that it is one helluva modern surrogate for the BBC masterpiece. The S3 is identical to the S-3/5 in every respect save the crossover, internal wiring and the slightly sculpted, 'acoustically engineered' grille, these changes providing different voicing and behaviour.

Swift likes to think of it as a more 'universal' speaker, likely to find homes in systems ranging from non-audiophile (i.e. non-tweaked-to-the-limits) stereo systems to compact A/V set-ups. Although it's only a dB or so more sensitive, the voicing is punchier and seemingly louder, so you start to get the drift immediately. On the other hand...

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First, though, the facts. The S3 uses a Spendor-made 130mm bass/mid driver with homopolymer cone and a Vifa-made 19mm fabric dome tweeter, mounted in a cabinet measuring 165x190x305mm (WxDxH). The new crossover was designed 'from scratch' and features a new layout and completely different components, including low-loss polypropylene film caps. As the drivers remain the same, almost inevitably the crossover point is the same as the S-3/5's 4.5kHz. The system's nominal impedance is 8 ohms, and the frequency response is (±3dB) 80Hz-20kHz; Spendor matches a pair of S3s to within 1dB. On the practical side, the S3 boasts 'vintage' sensitivity of 85dB/1W/1m, and handles 80W. Spendor reckons that the S3 is good for maximum SPLs of 101dB at 1 metre; I made 'em go louder without breaking, but don't tell Phil.

Compare the factory specs with those of the S-3/5, and you see that - in addition to an extra dB of sensitivity - it handles another 10W, but its frequency response is less tightly defined; the earlier model is spec'd at 70Hz-20kHz, +/-2dB. Swift supplied a pair of S-3/5S for comparison, proving immediately that specifications hardly tell the story. But then we know that numbers freaks are sorry, misguided souls who can't get laid.

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