Spendor A4 Review

My Story with Spendor A4

There weren’t many speakers that captured my interest during my visit to Bristol HiFi Show in February 2020 (you can read more about my impressions in my review of Bristol HiFi Show). One of the few that did, with their vivid and punchy presentation were Spendor A4. They not only captured my interest, but also grabbed attention of my good friend (an owner of Harbeth M30.1), who afterwards decided to borrow a set from a local dealer for a home demo. Before making a decision if he should keep them, we both spent significant amount of time listening to them, not only in his but also in my room. Read on…

Speaker Info

Spendor A-line range was launched in 2017 as a more affordable way to enter into Spendor ownership. It is comprised of four loudspeakers and the Spendor A4 sit just below the highest model from this range, Spendor A7.  Spendor A4 feature 180mm Spendor bass/mid unit, with diaphragm made of EP77 polymer (developed by Spendor). Although Spendor does not mention it anywhere, the tweeter looks  like a 22mm soft dome Seas unit, most likely produced to Spendor’s specification. Their slim and compact cabinets are designed with smaller spaces in mind. Made in the United Kingdom.
 
 

Spendor A4 Specs
Frequency Response: 34 – 25,000Hz (+/- 3dB)
Sensitivity: 86dB (1W input, measured at 1m)
Impedance:
Recommended Amplifier: 25 – 150W
High Frequency Driver: Seas 22mm Soft Dome Tweeter
Low Frequency Driver: Spendor 180mm EP77 Polymer Cone Woofer
Crossover Frequencies: 3,700Hz
Enclosure Type: Bass Reflex
Enclosure Dimensions (HxWxD): 831 x 165 x 284mm
Weight: 16kg (each speaker)
Production Year: 2017 – Present
Price When Launched: £2,300

 

Look & Feel of Spendor A4

Although Spendor has some thin-wall classic BBC originated speakers in their range, Spendor A4 are not one of them. They are slim and modern looking floor standing speakers with fairly rigid, asymmetrically braced cabinets. In order to reduce vibrations, the cabinets feature small dampers located at key ‘energy points’ within the enclosure. The speakers are covered in natural wood veneer and finished with a thin layer of mat varnish which means that you can see and feel the wood texture underneath it – very nice. There is a black plinth at the bottom of each cabinet with four metal cylinders attached to it, each with a hole to accommodate a spike.
There is a single set of gold plated binding posts with transparent insulation around them – nice touch. Acoustically transparent grills are fitted with small neodymium magnets which clip onto the woofer mounting bolts – simple, yet very effective design.
Both the tweeter and the mid-bass unit are are well made. The crossover features precision-wound instructors and audio grade capacitors – nothing excessive, just a good old fashion engineering.
Overall, Spendor A4 are rather attractive looking speakers. As you may know from other reviews on my website, I’m not a fan of small speaker, yet there is something very appealing about their design.

Sound of Spendor A4 Speakers

I started my listening tests by putting the Spendor A4 next to Harbeth M30.1 and switching between two and adjusting the volume to accommodate the different speaker sensitivities. I then repeated the same procedure but with Harbeth M40.1. My initial impressions were similar in both comparisons. Spendor A4 seemed more engaging and vivid during quieter listening sessions, however, no as engaging and somewhat tiring during normal to louder listening sessions. As will all other listening tests, I have moved all other speakers out of the way and I began listening to Spendor A4 speakers only.

One of the things that surprised me about them was the amount of bass that they can produce form a such a tiny cabbinets. On occasions I had a feeling that they output more low-end bass than my Harbeth M40.1! I’ve noticed it for the first time when listening High Heels track from the Above and Beyond – MTV Unplugged album by Mando Diao. This is a welcomed addition when you listen to your music quietly as it makes it sound full bodied and more organic. However, at normal and louder listening levels, the lower bass is too relentless and there seem to be too much of it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like deep bass, but when listening to these Spendor A4, the low-end bass distracted me from enjoying the music. These speakers exhibited the same behaviour in different placements and, but to slightly lesser extent, in my friend’s room. In contrast to the lower bass, the upper bass has a good resolution and decent kick to it, capable of providing a very dynamic presentation.

The midrange and treble are of a high quality. Voices sound very real but towards the cooler side of natural, which makes the Spendor A4 sound less warm than speakers such us Harbeth M30.1. Some people may find this quality attractive others, including myself, may prefer slightly warmer presentation. Moreover, an open sounding top end can be very attractive on some tracks but makes the ‘ts’ sibilants a lot more noticeable on others, such us Lament sw. Franciszka track from Takie Moje Wędrowanie album by Antonina Krzysztoń, which in turn makes them not as involving to listen to. One thing that I must mention at this point is dynamics related to midrange. These little Spendor A4 can really rock. When compared directly with Harbeth speakers playing at the similar volume, the Spendors seem to produce more volume at the frequencies around the voices, giving an impression of a greater dynamic range. This makes them sound very vivid and attractive, but not as forgiving for long term listening. This is also the area where the Spendors show their limitations… they can sound very dynamic for their size, but when I compared them side by side with Harbeth M40.1 they lacked the effortless and authority of larger 3 ways speakers. On the other hand, in comparison to other 2 way speakers of a similar size, they don’t lack anything in this area.

Based on all of the above, I was expecting string instruments to sound very good. In isolation they sound do sound OK, however, they lack a bit of body to them. To illustrate my point, with acoustic guitars I paid more attention to the sound of actual string rather than to the resonant box of the guitar. What’s even stranger is that despite strings being more prominent, the guitars seem somewhat withdrawn in comparisons to all other sounds in the recordings. For instance, on majority of speaker the Stalkers In Tokyo album by Whitesnake made me pay equal attention to vocal and guitar. For some reason, on Spendor A4 tracks on this album made me pay more attention to vocal and almost ignore the guitar.

Clapping sounds OK, but in my perception not as real as on most of Harbeth speakers that I auditioned so far. Despite this, Spendor A4 can produce a good sound stage illusion, providing that they are setup far enough from the side walls and wall behind the speakers.


 

Conclusion

Spendor A4 are very vivid and dynamic sounding speakers. They can sound open and very engaging in large rooms at high volume levels, but too bass-heavy in small to medium size rooms, unless listened to at relatively low volume. Quality midrange and treble but towards the cooler side of natural.

Balance of Sound: 3.5 grey stars
Neutrality of Tone: 4 grey stars
Transparency: 4.5 grey stars
Soundstage: 4 grey stars
Attack: 4.5 grey stars
Engagement: 3.5 grey stars
Total Score: 4 red stars

 

Reviewed: March 2020 | Published: March 2020