What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 2 Jun 2010, 11:00am

Spendor A9

Tested at £4395
100100
5

Best stereo speakers £3000+, Awards 2010. Four grand is an awful lot of money to spend – but then again, the Spendor A9s are an awful lot of talented speaker

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For

  • Amazingly clean and transparent sound
  • agility, seamless integration
  • relatively unfussy about positioning

Against

  • We’ve heard weightier bass for this kind of size and money
  • can sound clinical if poorly partnered

It's easy to underestimate a speaker like Spendor's A9. After all, it costs four grand and looks ordinary.

But, as always, it's all about the engineering details. Spendor makes its drive units (bar the tweeter) in-house rather than sourcing them from an OEM supplier.

This gives its engineers a freer hand as a drive unit can be designed for a particular job. Spendor has done much work on cone materials and settled for a polypropylene cone for the midrange unit and Kevlar for the twin bass drivers.

The 103cm-tall cabinet is strategically braced and the port is a well-proven slot design the brand has used for years. Its advantage is that it contributes to a decent bass output without making the speakers particularly fussy about positioning.

Tracks bass with precision
Up and running, the A9's bass is taut and agile, perhaps trading sheer quantity for the ability to track a fast-moving bassline with precision.

Don't get us wrong: spin Massive Attack's Heligoland and there's no denying the punch on tap. Notes are tightly defined with no overhang, while bass textures are beautifully described.

But those hoping to get their innards rearranged are in for a mild letdown: the A9 is just not that type of speaker. That said, the speakers that do deliver oodles of bass weight couldn't hold a candle to the Spendor's low-frequency agility.

Move up the frequency range and these speakers continue to impress. Voices display intimacy and insight, while high-frequency detail comes through with pristine clarity, much bite and lacks nothing for refinement.

There's an impressive amount of communication and an unswerving ability to reveal the inner workings of a recording.

Not overtly sweet or smooth
What the A9s are not is sweet or overtly smooth in any way. If your kit veers towards brightness or harshness, you'll know about it. Also, in nature these speakers err towards analysis. If you want an easy, comfortable listen, look elsewhere.

Pleasingly, however, the A9 hasn't lost the naturalness of past Spendor models, and it's that quality, more than any other, that separates this floorstander from its rivals. Match with care, and we're sure you'll be impressed.

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