Freedom from boxiness
Sounds a little small in both bandwidth and expression
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Spendor's baby SA1 sub-miniature has already proved quite a hit, commercially and critically, so it's hardly surprising that the company should use some of its elements as the basis for the A3 compact floorstander.
There's much more to it, of course, than simply transposing drivers and crossover network into a larger box.
Although the tweeter is the same for both models – the unusual wide-surround unit that Spendor now favours for most of its models – and the bass/mid driver is built on the same chassis, there are substantial changes elsewhere.
The very compact, sharp-edged enclosure is set low, with the drivers comfortably below seated-ear height, but the optimum listening axis is deliberately arranged to fire slightly above the horizontal to compensate.
The whole thing is attractively dressed in a choice of real wood veneers – black ash, cherry, light oak and walnut – and although the attached black MDF plinth doesn't increase the footprint, it is fitted with Spendor's metal discs that provide solid spike-fixing very near to the enclosure edge.
The bass/mid driver is a 150mm unit with a 90mm ep38 polymer cone and a wide surround. It operates up to a relatively high 4.2kHz before handing over to the unusual 22mm 'wide surround' tweeter with its 19mm dome diaphragm.
The back panel accommodates a single pair of high-quality WBT terminals, plus a port and came with the latter fitted by light foam bungs that were intended to damp (rather than block) the port output.
Experiments carried out prior to the listening tests suggested that under our in-room conditions, the A3 did indeed work best with the light bungs fitted into the rear ports. So it was this alignment that was adopted during the formal 'behind the curtain' presentations.
Because it tends to focus the attention primarily on the midband, somewhat at the expense of the frequency extremes, the A3 might be accused of some lack of ambition, or even a degree of underachievement.
However, this is not necessarily such a bad thing. The midband is the most important part of the audio band by a substantial margin, especially when it comes to communicating the essence of the music and the A3's midband is impressively delicate and well founded, handling voices particularly well.
The speaker as a whole does, perhaps, sound a little too polite for its own good. Indeed, adjectives like 'polite' and 'nice' appeared more than once among the panelists' notes. While its essentially dry bass attracted general approval, there was rather less enthusiasm for a mild lack of sparkle at the top end of the band.
Space, air and stereo image focus are all good, however, and the sound demonstrates a welcome freedom from midband boxiness, but dynamics seem a little softened and lacking in 'punch'.
The Spendor A3 is certainly a very pleasant little speaker, delivering superior midband coherence and fine voice band reproduction. However, its ability to deliver an overall impression of scale, in both bandwidth and dynamic expression, seems rather modest.
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