Spendor A7 loudspeaker

As Stereophile's lone New York City bachelor, I sometimes search for amore on Internet dating sites. One such encounter led me to Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I met a woman who, I soon learned, was at the top of the food chain of Manhattan's gold-encrusted arts community.

The single child of an upper-Westchester family, Jane So (not her real name) assists her employer in curating fine art for the city's premier galleries and museums. Her job also includes gifting her employer's millions to charitable organizations and the like. But in her off hours, when the boss isn't watching, Jane enjoys a bit of kink. As she told me over dinner, "Ken, I'm not looking for anything serious. I have several men who visit me during the week."

It dawned on me: I had stumbled into New York's subterranean sex world.

Back in her new high-rise apartment, Jane pegged me as "nice guy," and she spoke candidly on a number of topics. About sex clubs. About her fretful family. About how her every move was followed, via a 24-hour tracking device. And then she added: "But my ex-husband is an avid Stereophile reader, and he'd love to meet you!" And we walked the five blocks to her ex's apartment. (I'm not making this up!)

Jane's ex's system included an SME turntable, a McIntosh amplifier, and a pair of Spendor SP1/2s—loudspeakers I'd briefly owned in the late 1990s. He was happy to meet a fellow audiophile. But I was nervous—his dog was growling at me. Now what had I stumbled into?

The SP1/2 was cut from the same cloth as Spendor's classic BC1 studio monitor from the 1970s. I'd thought the SP1/2s made music sound a little buttoned-up and tight-fitting, but generally they were so listenable across the board that I kept my pair for a year before graduating to floorstanders from ProAc. Jane changes men. I change speakers.

That sordid tale still fresh in my mind, I was pleased when John Atkinson accepted my pitch to review the A7, the new floorstander in Spendor's newish A line. A simple coincidence? Synchronicity? Jane . . . ?

A clean mind, a clean speaker
Launched in 2017, Spendor's A line of reasonably priced models includes the A1 stand-mount speaker ($1749/pair) and three floorstanders: the A2 ($2595/pair), A4 ($3495/pair), and, introduced in February 2018, the A7 ($4995/pair).

Designing, manufacturing, and hand-assembling their products in Hailsham, in East Sussex, England, Spendor is one of the few speaker makers with its own cabinetmaking plant. In business now for half a century, Spendor also produces its own midrange and bass drivers and, for some models, its own tweeters.

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The A7 is a revision of Spendor's long-running and popular A6R model. Upgrades include a 7.1" mid-woofer with an EP77 polymer cone, and surround and suspension materials used in Spendor's flagship D7 model; a reengineered crossover with "precision wound, high-linearity tapped inductors," which reportedly smack down nasty distortions; a ¾" (22mm) silk-dome tweeter with a wide surround, made by a third party; Spendor's proprietary Dynamic Damping; and internal wiring of pure, silver-plated copper. The A7's most unusual feature is its larger-than-average, rectangular, rear-firing, "4th generation . . . Linear Flow port," which reportedly performs better than a tubular port.

"The A7 port is much larger than a conventional tubular reflex port," wrote Spendor's CEO, Philip Swift, via e-mail. "It is asymmetrical in cross section and specifically positioned close to one room boundary (your floor). It also helps to maintain a very rigid cabinet structure. The advantages of our Spendor Linear-Flow port technology are significantly reduced air velocity and pressure in the port zone and a freedom from internal port resonance, which deliver higher headroom and lower distortion than any conventional 'port'."

Internally, as well as bracing, the A7's enclosure has several layers of what appears to be foam rubber. "The [internal damping] material in the A7 is a new high-damping co-efficient polymer," Swift told me. "It's a rubber-like material (not foam) and it behaves very differently to any conventional natural or synthetic 'rubber' or foam. Small damping blocks are incorporated at strategic energy interface points within the cabinet structure, they are not visible." I assumed these elements comprise Spendor's "proprietary Dynamic Damping system," mentioned but not described in detail on the company's website.

Swift went on to say that the tweeter's "unique dome profile combines the extended frequency response of a small diaphragm with the low-frequency characteristics of a larger diaphragm to give stable low-distortion response over a very wide frequency range. It delivers a smooth extended high-frequency response over a very wide listening area. It specifically avoids (undesirable in a typical listening room) ultra-wide dispersion and the bright aggressive sound of many modern loudspeakers, which is caused by strong high-frequency wall reflections."

Of the new 7.1" midrange-woofer, Swift wrote that "the advantage of our EP77 polymer cone . . . [with its] new surround and suspension materials is [its] exceptionally low residual energy storage and break-up, which allows the A7 to deliver clear, natural sound with all types of recordings at all listening levels."

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Standing 36.8" high by 7.1" wide by 12" deep, the A7s looked fantastic in my listening den. Not only is it the best-looking speaker ever to grace my creepy-crawly bachelor crib, I soon learned that the A7 is perhaps one of the speakers best suited to this smallish space. Its superstraight, sharply cut lines and lovely oak finish brought much-needed lightness to my room.

Setup
Unfortunately, the A7s were very persnickety as to where they would and wouldn't sing. During the 2018 New York Audio Show last November, Spendor's US distributor, Bluebird Music, sent more-than-able setup man Chris Morris to my place, and dagnab it if he didn't make the A7s sing right away. Morris showed me how each A7's four floor spikes, which screw into a separate plate that fastens to the speaker's base, enabled rake, cabinet stability, and solid coupling with the floor.

But the next day, the speakers sounded unfocused. So I moved them. Then I moved them some more. You know the drill: too close to the front wall, and bass frequencies boomed all pulpy and bloody; too far out into the room, and treble goblins attacked and coherence was lost. Finally, I found the perfect spots: the speakers ended up slightly toed in and with their rear panels 29" from the front wall. I moved them no more. Now, the A7s' treble frequencies perfectly aligned with their more-than-adequate midrange and bass capabilities.

For this review, I played LPs with Kuzma's magnificent combo of Stabi turntable and Stogi tonearm with Hana EL cartridge into Luxman's EQ-500 phono stage, the signals then sent via Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects to a Heed Audio Elixir integrated amplifier, a combination of Mytek Brooklyn DAC/preamp and Mytek Brooklyn amplifiers, the latter bridged for mono, or a Parasound Halo HINT 6 integrated.

Editor's Note: Among the policies set forth for Stereophile's reviewers is the mandate that, in every review, the product being tested is the only variable in the reviewer's reference system—how else can one accurately assign credit for distinctions heard?—and the additional requirement that every other product in that system must, at one time or another, have been reviewed in Stereophile's pages: thus the reader can enjoy at least a provisional frame of reference. But we stumbled in preparing this review: When we requested the loan of Parasound's well-known Halo integrated amplifier, which had been reviewed by Herb Reichert in November 2015, they kindly complied—by loaning us its replacement, the new Parasound Halo HINT 6. The distinction escaped our notice until The Last Minute—ie, the moment at which I'm writing this apology—and we promise to up our game. (And yes, you can expect a Follow-Up report on the HINT 6 in an upcoming issue.)—Art Dudley

Listening with the Parasound
From beginning to end of the listening period, regardless of source or amplification, the Spendor A7s produced some of the most extended, tonally rich, and weighty frequencies ever to fill my room. Nor was there ever a dead zone or booming accent: bass frequencies were uniformly dispersed and endowed with outstanding touch and timing. Touch, it would turn out, was one of the A7's strong suits. Those rear-firing ports must have been doing their job—I couldn't disrupt the speakers' low-end extension, whether playing digital or analog sources. And because I'm dissatisfied if I don't hear every last iota of bass information from a CD or LP, the A7s had me at the lead-in groove.

COMPANY INFO
Spendor Audio Systems Ltd.
US distributor: Bluebird Music
1100 Military Trail
Kenmore, NY 14217
(416) 638-8207
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

"That's Amore" ........ Dean Martin :-) ...........

foxhall's picture

As always, a super informative and music centric review Ken!

I REALLY want to hear these speakers. Next step, find the dealer in my area.

Ortofan's picture

... post a list of dealers on their website instead of requiring you to contact them for the info?

Charles E Flynn's picture

Joseph Audio has the same plan.

Someone might want to know where their local dealer is, in case they happen to be in the area and might find a visit to be worth a detour, even if they are not planning an immediate purchase. In some cases, especially with high-end gear, the "local" dealer could be hundreds of miles away and unknown to the prospective customer.

william.meredith's picture

$5k is expensive for such a diminutive speaker.

JBLMVBC's picture

So a 7" mid/woofer, quite ordinary, usual regular sized magnet, nothing fancy, a silk dome, regular tweeter, and zoom, $5k!Spend (or) indeed!
There are plenty of alternatives to this easy money grabber: take top of the line drivers such as Davis 20 TK8 and TW26K2R for instance and you are already at 94dB/w/m instead of this meager 88db/w/m.

funambulistic's picture

(4) 6.5" bass drivers, 5" midrange, 1" tweeter (all aluminum - sorry almuminium) 90dB sensitivity, 51" tall, 83lbs. None of the specs or measurements matter if it does not sound great, which it does - glorious in fact. Oh yeah, the price: $5K

No, I have not heard the Spendor, so I really cannot pass judgement on its perceived value. Just saying KEF and others offer a lot of speaker for the same price. Who know, maybe the A7 is sublime and its performance alone justifies the cost... My nearest dealer is 300 miles away, so a demo is not in the works in the foreseeable future.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be Stereophile could review KEF R11 :-) ...........

Chances are KEF R11 has better midrange isolation (hence, better reproduction) and more bass extension than Spendor A7, for the same price .... and may be a 'better bang for the buck' :-) ..........

smileday's picture

Bass extension cannot be expressed by a single figure.

KEF's tend to have very steep low end cut off. The new R11 and R7 have that tendency, too, as seen in Stereoplay measurements.

Spendor's are different. D7 is spec'ed down to 27Hz in catalog, but the port tuning frequency is lower than 27Hz in Stereophile measurement. Few manufacturers do that.

johnnythunder's picture

KEF = made in China. Take it from here Tony from Michigan.

hb72's picture

KEFs are developed in Maidstone, Kent, by an unusuallly large team of specialised engineers, using highly advanced development methods. Production, these days, too requires a great deal of development to keep product quality up. KEFs are thus by no means Chinese speakers, low in quality or a betrayal of English workers, or whatever you want to say. They are however designed, simulated and virtually tested using computing power relying on Chinese made HW. So does the device from which you read my comment.

johnnythunder's picture

to the actual end product and I know that their world class R&D team is UK based.
Was really just stating facts about the "artisinal aspect" of Spendor vs. the larger international conglomerate aspect of KEF products. Apart from the old KEF 107/2's, I have not been a fan of their more recent products, finding them for a lack of a better word, sterile sounding. I know some people like the sound of their products, it's just not the sonic profile I enjoy enough to own. M

baldwin's picture

What does that have to do with it?

Mentt's picture

Had A7 for two weeks home demo and they are for sure excellent speakers. There are many more expensive speakers that sound inferior. So you can say that price is good if you consider insane prices that all main manufacturers have today. Of course there are still exceptions, you can still get excellent speakers for very reasonable price. For example Kralk audio speakers http://kralkaudio.com/

ok's picture

is that they actually look like speakers.

Topher's picture

So let me get this right. . .

Ken Micallef– DeVore Orangutan O/93
Art Dudley– DeVore Orangutan O/96
Rafe Arnott–DeVore Gibbon X
Michael Lavorgna–DeVore Gibbon X
Jim Austin–DeVore Gibbon X

I guess I'm gonna have to find a dealer and have a listen to some DeVores.

Ortofan's picture

... each of the reviewers has acquired the equipment that comprises their reference systems? Has it been bought outright (and at list/street price versus with a substantial accommodation discount), or is it on a free loan from the manufacturer/importer for some indefinite period of time?

johnnythunder's picture

whether or not reviewers own or borrow equipment. It reeks of jealousy masquerading as journalistic integrity. Hate to call him on it but it's pretty obvious that it bothers him. Sour audio grapes.

Ortofan's picture

... when you see a video of a certain speaker manufacturer schmoozing with reviewers at "the barn" it could cause you to further speculate about the specifics of the manufacturer-reviewer relationship.
HP of TAS was (in)famous for having equipment on indefinite loan, leading one to question the extent to which such arrangements might have biased the outcome of his reviews.
Thus, it would be useful to know whether or not the reference equipment a particular reviewer uses has been acquired with their own funds and on what terms.

michaelavorgna's picture

...for everything. This way you can trust me three times as much as anyone else.

Michael Lavorgna
Editor
Twittering Machines

Ortofan's picture

... will result in more traffic being driven to your website.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Glad you (ML) are reviewing active speakers :-) .......
There are not many things left to do with passive speakers ......... Almost every trick known to man has already been tried with the passive speakers ....... There is a good reason why most of the studio monitors (speakers) are active speakers, these days :-) ..........

smileday's picture

The discontinued Bose 901 is virtually active. There is nothing other than the nine drivers for the amplifier.

The line level EQ unit does the job of adjustment as in active monitor speakers. It just happens that the line level circuit is outside the speaker enclosure.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I was referring to the modern day active speakers, where multiple amplifiers are directly connected to multiple drivers (transducers) ........ An active crossover is placed before the amplifiers and, that crossover directs different frequencies to those different amplifiers :-) ..........

In most of these active speakers, the crossover, amplifiers and the drivers are all in the same enclosure :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Brave New World" .......... Greta Van Fleet :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be you (ML) could also review the Cube Audio top of the line 10 inch 'single driver' loudspeakers? :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is that 'collusion'? :-) ........

ok's picture

1) today’s widely accessible resources allow virtually any competitive design to achieve a decent level of relative performance and thus 2) it finally all comes down to personal taste, which is imponderably, well, personal – any kind of general consensus on the "undeniable superiority" of certain products (not only reccuring brands or models but also fancy formats, magic topologies etc) should promptly raise suspicions of vested interest, self-deception, hype-conformism or, most likely, an amusing combination of the three.

ken mac's picture

everything in my reference system, and I owned it long before I was a Stereophile contributor.

Ortofan's picture

... part of your reference system?

johnnythunder's picture

You should hold our corrupt GOP politicians to the same standard and with the same fervor that you want to investigate our audio reviewers and their owned, discounted or loaned equipment.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Now ... 'That's Amore' X 5 :-) ..........

johnnythunder's picture

I'd take a Gibbon 88 over the Spendors in a heartbeat. Upgraded to Spendor's MANY years ago from my beloved Spica TC-50s and while the Spendors were a "better" speaker in every way per se, they didn't have the musical magic of the Spicas. Recaptured that magic with Jean Marie Reynaud speakers but if I wanted to upgrade it would be new Reynaud's vs. DeVore Gibbon 88s. I've heard them and they are just natural and musical and tactile and warm and detailed. Not forgiving of crap sources but they sound like the artisinal wooden musical instruments that they actually are. Not metal not kevlar not ceramic not titanium. Not inert. Listen to them if you get the chance. If you like Dylan, any singer songwriter, Blue Note jazz LPs, string quartets, solo piano - this is a speaker for you. They can rock too. Ditto with the JMRs which are quite similar and also beautiful to look at. It's a speaker made like a violin not a car.

Charles E Flynn's picture

Here is something that strikes me as a really bad idea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4d7U2tEq4g

Spendor A7 Loudspeaker Deep Unboxing

No appropriate torque wrench was used in the making of this video.

dial's picture

5000 $ for a very simple 2 way design ?

beave's picture

$1000 for the speakers, then $4000 for the name badge that goes on the front.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Naming rights' can be expensive :-) .......

smileday's picture

We should examine whether a Stereophile style single set (vertical 0 degrees) of horizontal off-axis measurements is what we can depend on.

Spendors do not have smooth off-axis response curves in this style of measurements. However, many people feel with their ears the in-room response is seamlessly well balanced.

Revels do have smooth off-axis response curves in this style of measurements. Moreover, many people feel with their ears the in-room response is seamlessly
well balanced.

IgAK's picture

If the A7's black "finish brought much-needed lightness to my room", you seem to have met just the right gal the article begins with...

;>)

beave's picture

"In business now for half a century, Spendor also produces its own midrange and bass drivers and, for some models, its own tweeters."

The woofer and tweeter both appear to be Seas Prestige drivers made for Spendor. Very similar Seas tweeters cost around $40 each, and very similar Seas woofers cost around $100 each.

So that really is an expensive cabinet and Spendor name badge.

hb72's picture

Not sure about how the us price is determined, but taking the european price (3700euro which always includes VAT!) and converting it to usd would make it 4200.

Whether their price will reduce after uk will eventually leave the eu and may fall back to a wto customs arrangement with the US can be answered already with NO.

So much about social media engineered political decisions to the disadvantage of people, their jobs, companies, and consumers.

smileday's picture

A small single driver at that height can result in a suck out on the frequency response curve somewhere between 150Hz and 400 Hz due to destructive interference with floor reflection in typical domestic condition.

Mordaunt-Short, PSB, etc. put multiple woofers at lower position due to this problem.

The new JBL L100 avoids this problem by a little bit large size woofer (30cm) and low-height matching stand with tilt-back.

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