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Spendor Classic 4/5 review

The smallest Classics are a hugely capable pair of speakers Tested at £1600 / $2495 / AU$3495

5 Star Rating
Spendor Classic 4/5 review
(Image: © Spendor)

Our Verdict

Ideal options if you’re looking for unfussy speakers that sound great in smaller rooms

For

  • Balanced and unfussy nature
  • Insightful and refined
  • An entertaining listen

Against

  • Small size means limited bass output
  • Low sensitivity

If you’re after a great-sounding premium standmounter, there’s plenty on the market. But if you want those speakers to be small, unfussy in nature and sound great without being pampered, that choice dwindles significantly. This is where the Spendor Classic 4/5 come in.

These are the smallest speakers in the company’s retro-themed Classic range, but that doesn’t mean they’re reliant on nostalgia for their appeal. In many ways, the Classic 4/5 are as modern as they come, despite a heritage that leans on BBC research carried out half a century ago.

Build

Spendor Classic 4/5 build

(Image credit: Spendor)

We have long admired Spendor’s 22mm polyamide wide-surround dome tweeter so are glad to find it here. Having heard it in various models over recent years, we’ve never found it sounding less than insightful and refined. Here, it’s mated to an in-house 15cm EP77 polymer mid/bass unit via a carefully calibrated, single-wired crossover.

The crossover frequency is set unusually high at 4.2kHz (rather than the more common 2-3kHz range), meaning the larger unit handles the critical midrange region all by itself – which is likely to be a good thing.

Spendor Classic 4/5 tech specs

Spendor Classic 4/5

(Image credit: Spendor)

Type 2-way floorstanding speakers

Frequency response 55Hz – 25kHz

Impedance 8ohms

Sensitivity 84dB

Dimensions (hwd) 31 x 19 x 16.5cm

Weight 5kg

The Classic 4/5's cabinet design is unusual too, a sealed construction that prioritises low-end agility and tunefulness over muscle. Spendor’s engineers have made a brave choice here, as most rivals will be ported, giving them a (theoretical) advantage in sensitivity and low-end punch.

This cabinet is where the BBC influence is most apparent. It follows the fabled heavily damped, thin-walled construction method where the panels are allowed to flex a little, but in a well controlled way.

Most modern speaker boxes are made to be as rigid as possible. This has sonic advantages in low-end precision, but can push cabinet resonances up into the midrange where our ears are most sensitive. The BBC approach moves those issues to lower frequencies, where they become less noticeable.

We have no complaints about the Classic 4/5’s build quality. That 31cm-tall cabinet is neatly made and nicely veneered in two smart-looking real wood options, cherry and walnut. As with the rest of the recently revised Classic range, the styling is a little cleaner and smarter than before. The grille is now magnetically held and easier to remove, too.

Compatibility

Spendor Classic 4/5 compatibility

(Image credit: Spendor)

These speakers are impressively unfussy about placement. You’ll need to put some effort in if you want to optimise the results, but even if you don’t, they still sound more than acceptable. That’s not something that can be said for the vast majority of speakers at this, or any, price.

Ideally, these should be placed on solid speaker stands. Spendor makes a nicely engineered dedicated set, but they’re pretty pricey at £795 ($1195). We don’t think they’re essential either, as swapping the Classic 4/5 to the likes of Custom Designs’ FS104 Signature still gives fine results at little more than a quarter of the outlay.

We try the Classic 4/5 in all sorts of places – up against a wall, on a bookshelf and well into the room – and in each case they make the best of the situation. They never sound anything less than listenable, though aspects such as stereo imaging and outright clarity do suffer.

At their best, around 30cm out into the room with a touch of angling towards the loosening position, they set up a wonderfully open, focused and expansive soundstage. When we close our eyes, we can’t pinpoint the position of the speakers, which points to a well-behaved cabinet design.

These Spendors are almost as accommodating when it comes to partnering equipment. They will happily work with all-in-one systems such as the Arcam SA30 but still have enough sonic stretch to fully show the performance advantages of moving to premium separates. We get great results with the Naim Nait XS 3 stereo amplifier fronted by the likes of the NAD C658 music streamer and Cyrus CDi CD player.

Note that the speaker’s rated sensitivity is pretty low at 84dB/W/m, so while Spendor has taken care not to make the 4/5 an unduly difficult electrical load, don’t expect high volume levels from low-powered amplifiers.

If you accept that nothing the size of a shoebox is ever going to produce furniture-rattling bass or be truly comfortable at party levels, there’s little to criticise in the Classic 4/5’s performance.

Sound

Spendor Classic 4/5 sound

(Image credit: Spendor)

We can sum up the sound of these Spendors in three words: insightful, balanced, refined. They resolve so much detail and always present it in an understated yet organised way. There are no hard edges or brightly lit treble to add excitement, nor is there a significant attempt to flavour the frequency response to make the Classic 4/5 appear more generous in the bass than they are.

These are honest speakers that try to communicate the music in a natural and even-handed manner. When they do err from absolute transparency, it’s done with smoothness and grace.

We play Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and these standmounts are happy tracking the complex instrumentation. There’s a sense of assured calm coupled to expressive dynamics and a surprising amount of punch. And although there isn’t the scale or outright authority that larger rivals bring, the Classic 4/5 compensate with a seamless and cohesive presentation that makes most of their rivals sound uneven.

These speakers render instrumental textures superbly, capturing the energy and majesty of the orchestra well. Tonally, they’re well judged despite the limited low-end reach. Some small speakers can sound top heavy, but the Classic 4/5 have enough in terms of low frequency heft to satisfy, particularly when used in a smaller room.

We listen to a wide range of music in our time with these Spendors and their broad range of talents mean that they’re as happy playing Nina Simone as they are Kendrick Lamar.

Given our experiences with other members of the Classic family, it comes as no surprise that these too have an excellent midrange. It’s wonderfully articulate and fluid, conveying the passion in Simone’s performance of Strange Fruit brilliantly.

Their surefooted timing and ability to track rhythms is much less expected, though. While these are in no way a full-throttle dance machine, they do a surprisingly good job with Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly set. They even sound like they’re enjoying it, which is something unheard of with previous generation models from this range.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a top-class compact speaker to work in a smaller room or with compromised positioning, the Spendor Classic 4/5 are hard to beat. They’re undoubtedly one of the stars of the company's current Classic series.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Compatibility 5
  • Build 5

MORE:

Read our guide to the best floorstanding speakers

Read our ATC SCM19 review

Read our KEF LS50 Meta review

  • CHFels
    As an owner of Classic 3/1s, I am not surprised by the description of the sound! But my 3/1s are a bit more efficient and certainly go lower in the bass. I have useable output at 40hz at reasonable listening levels, but I wonder whether these 4/5s with a good subwoofer might not be even more satisfying . . .
    Reply
  • Mr. C Nation
    The stands are £795.

    Words fail me, which, for me, is most unusual.

    As for the spkrs, I made wild guess at £600. Only a grand short.

    I wish Spendor, a British company making quality products, all the best.

    Now, where's that Fyne Audio brochure....
    Reply
  • Gray
    Mr. C Nation said:
    The stands are £795.

    Words fail me, which, for me, is most unusual.

    As for the spkrs, I made wild guess at £600. Only a grand short.

    I wish Spendor, a British company making quality products, all the best.

    Now, where's that Fyne Audio brochure....
    Agree with you about the ridiculous stand price Mr C.
    But if you think you're gonna get a Spendor Classic (or any other Spendor) for £600......:)
    (I bought the cheapest speaker they ever made, the much bigger Prelude, which was £199.....but that was decades ago).
    Reply
  • vinyl fan
    as an owner of the 4/5, i just cannot state how good they are! yes, may be low efficiency....for some....may be limited bass output for others, (btw what bass output does the world famous ESL 63 HAVE?) but as far as musical engagement goes, mid band transparency, and all the makes music at home so engaging and enjoyable, i don't think there is another speaker that one would find at this price that comes even close.....and before i leave let me say that i drive mine with an old REVOX 40 tube amp, just delivering a beautiful 10 watts a side, and i never found it not giving me good enough volume, not that i want deafening levels. and as far as price goes, let us remember that this REVOX 40 sold for a hefty 590 swiss francs, in its year of launch, 1963, and a good one even today command anything from 1500 to 2000 dollars. one has to account for the price of producing quality within the uk, and spendor makes its own drivers and cabinets, (except tweeters i think). and for those who just want to consider price as the main buying factor, there are bookshelves available right from 250 pounds....dont ask where or how they are made!! cheers and enjoy your music!
    Reply
  • southleft
    Whilst I agree with many of the points made here in the comments, I feel sure that the single most important factor when listening critically is mentioned right there in the Classic 4/5 Review where it says: " ... with a touch of angling towards the loosening position ...". Honk if you agree!
    Reply