The S3/5 is a two way sealed enclosure design, incorporating the new 130mm bass/mid driver developed especially for this model. The introduction of this loudspeaker was prompted by the need for a compact, neutral monitor to fill the gap left by the demise of the long lived LS3/5A. The design concept was to include the positive benefits of the LS3/5A, whilst removing known response irregularities, and integrating this with a less dated visual aspect. The 19mm HF unit is ferrofluid cooled, and along with the LF unit is magnetically shielded, making this an ideal choice for monitoring close to CRT based equipment. The cabinet is optimally damped and finished in a high quality real wood veneer.
Speakers in general tend to distort the sonic picture rather badly and it is all most all ways a contest to see how little the speakers ruin everything, not how great they sound if you get my drift. I suppose beginners are easily impressed by ":detail" or "bass" or something else that causes their little hearts to go aflutter. The truth is a truly great speaker set up correctly will just get the heck out of the way of the music and have no personality whatsoever. It will in effect just allow the recorded product to be displayed exactly as it left the factory with no extra signature added to it. Once you hear how great recordings actually sound you won't want anything else "added" to them that makes them less believable. Believable is the coolest. It is the Absolute Sound.
When you hear such a speaker properly driven by clean, uncolored electronics the result is usually a sort of religious moment and a re-adjustment as to what great sound truly is. After hearing un-editorialized perfection you start hearing all the colorations that all the other speakers have all ways made and that you just didn't notice before. Sorry, but anything less than correct suddenly sounds sad. When you hear playback that is perfect it is simply a transparent window into the recording, along with the proper sense of scale and drama that were implicit in the design of the artists involved.
Now that I have said all that you can probably imagine I will not be raving about how wonderful these speakers are. They are not wonderfull. They have a slightly lispy tweeter and they all ways sound like a puffed up blowfish about to explode. Plus they have a fakey bass that is pumped up around 90hz or so in an attempt to imply more powerfull bass than the speaker actually posseses (the Gundy curve, in British speak).
However, and listen to me here, if you give yourself some time to properly set them up they will give you tons of information about the parts that are in the mix. Individual lines, individual instruments, vocalists and where they are in the mix---all these things will be laid bare. What they just don't seem capable of doing is assembling everything into a cohearent large seamless picture so you hear everything as a big clear finished picture. Instead you get detail and excitement, not a calm clear assessment of what is on the recording. They are like a little boxer that can punch hard as hell for his size. Then a big man comes in the room and you suddenly realize the little guy is gonna get seriously hurt if he tries to play with the big boys.
What makes the Spendor S3/5 remarkable is they are not so ruined that you couldn't use them for monitoring individual tracks in a recording and then later going to a big studio with better monitors to assemble the finished song. They do get a few things wrong and they are too little to be actually "correct" but that does not mean they are not still great in their own little way. As has been noted by other reviewers they are not raspy or cheesy and even super long recording sessions won't leave your ears bleeding. To step out of character for a minute I might even add they are a lot of "fun" to listen to. They have a slight excess of brilliance on playback somewhere around 6 to 8 thousand Hz.(part of their "lisp"). And the bass is a goof because it tries so hard, even if it is just a little too loud to be for real. It has sparkle too. A little extra sparkle that is all ways there whether or not it is on the song. And it is fun to hear that sparkle even if you have to adjust for it and not believe in it too deeply.
One more note. These little puppies have a very heavily equalized crossover inside them, one that is designed to play games with frequencies by soaking a lot of the power out of the mids and highs so as to make the bass seem more powerfull. This trickery will cost you when you try to power the resulting sponge-like hunger they offer to the partnering power amplifier. I tried 50, then 100, then 150 watts. They finally came to life using a 500 watt per channel pro sound reinforcement amplifier that is happy with low impedence loads. I keep the amp in a nearbly equipment closet so I don't have to hear the exhaust fan running, and my connections are studio balanced for long runs without signal loss. This worked out well for me. Be warned. They eat light weight amps for breakfast and sound thin and lifeless while doing it.
I have probably known a hundred different speakers that are popular big sellers as I have been in the home electronics business and studio recording business for over 40 years. Maybe two dozen that I know from experience are specifically aimed at the monitoring end of the business. I would classify these as worth the money as monitors which is high praise indeed if you have read all this poop I just wrote. Go ahead and buy them if they fill a need. Just don't ask them to be what they aren't. They are small scale wonders, not full range regular room speakers. And what they are is quite good indeed. If that's what you want.
These are the SE model. I was able to audition at home these and the newer "R" model of the S3/5, and much preferred the SE. Hat's off to Lorne and Ed at Executive Stereo (Toronto) for allowing the home audition and considerable patience. I'm using them in a small room (11 ft x 12 ft) and with a 60 + 60 W/channel Bryston amp and Arcam CD72 source. The sound is just excellent. They are very easy to place, since there is no port, and present a very wide soundstage--way beyond where the speakers are placed. Their sound is extremely non-fatiguing, and yet very detailed. They create a huge ambient feeling in my room, and yet individual instruments are easily identified in their respective positions. At the same time, the speakers themselves truly disappear. Forget about the stats on their bass response--there is plenty, at least in the small room, and it is quite punchy in nature. I feel no compulsion to use a sub woofer. I tested the bass response with the Stereophile test CD, and these went way lower than expected --I could easily hear the 40 Hz signal. While the amplitude at these lower frequencies is certainly down, the drop off is very gentle. These speakers are justifiably famous for their excellent mid range--enough said.
Great speakers for their size. Almost any amp can power them, but 50-70W of clean power, solid state, is best. These really sing when played loud, so you can hear all the details in the recoding and the percussion will sound nice too. They are essentially a lot like the famous BBC monitor the LS3/5a, but the drivers are on the narrow side of the cabinet, and a different type of tweeter is used. Compared to the LS3/5a, although I've not put them in the same room, they sound very similar, perhaps giving up a little of the mid range sweetness for better bass and power handling.
In the past, I have always spent money on electronics only, buying pre amps, and power amps, and kept changing them after every year or so, the speaker I had for over five years were, Energy C2s, stand mounting two way, they were pretty good, but I sometimes felt there was something missing. Then I bought Totem speakers, there bottom of the line, which was not too too bad, nice warm sounding. But me, I got tired of them too in about a year or so.
See if you can understand the following: Every time I got something new, a pair of speakers or new pre or poweramp, it will change the sound a little, I will enjoy it for a while, and then I will get tired of it, and then look for something else. I am looking for something which will give you low level detail without causing listening fatigue.
Then I bought a pair of used Thiels CS2, really liked them, they are not your typical floor standers, they simply disappear leaving you with music only, but no low level detail here at all, and found them kinda bright at times. So they were out too.
Then I decided to spend about $1500.00 Cnd, just for a decent pair of stand mounting speakers, I searched the net, including this site, and then decided to go and audition Spendor S3/5 and when I did, I knew these are the speakers I have been looking for. I bought them, brought them home and connected them with my Accuphase P300 power amp, a perfect match for these speakers since the Accuphase puts out about 150WPC into 8ohms, and they sounded even better in my home then they did in the store.
Spendor, you should be proud to have the engineers who designed these speakers.