A Trip Down Memory Lane – Sound Too Good for Boxes

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One of the reasons I bought the original Magnaplanar speakers is because they sounded nothing else I had ever heard. They were not perfect, but at the very least they did not sound like boxes. After I listened to them it was hard for me to listen to a box speakers again, which, by comparison, sounded so closed in and, well, boxy. Some box speakers could have a neutral sounding midrange that rival the Magnaplanars in some ways, but they still sounded like boxes.

Well, I was flabbergasted when I first heard the Spendor BC1’s. Suddenly my early Magnaplanars had some very serious competition. American made speakers could not pass the muster, but the Spendor was British.

Spendor was founded in the 1960’s by Spencer and Dorothy Hughes, the name Spendor a joining of Spencer and Dorothy. The company grew out of expertise the Hughes gained in the engineering department of the BBC. The BBC had a much greater R & D budget than most commerce loudspeaker manufacturers. They developed all types of monitor speakers which were used on location and in the studio to check the balance and sound of their broadcasts.

The company has designed and marketed a number of outstanding speakers over the years, gaining a worldwide reputation for quality with models like the classic LS3/5. (The design of this speaker was actually developed in house by the BBC and not by the Hughe’s, although they manufactured a version of it.) What really set Spendo apart was their model BC1. It was simply way ahead of most speakers of its day.

vintage_BC1_FR_driversNotice that the woofer in purple is crossed over at a fairly high frequency to the tweeter in red. This means that the woofer carries much of the midrange sound, which avoids any crossover anomalies in the critical range of the human voice. The tweeter also helps cover the midrange which adds some quickness to the midrange. A price is paid, however, because the woofer is just not able to go low enough for deep bass. On the other end of the spectrum, the tweeter simply cannot go high enough and drops off sharply at around 12 kHz. Fortunately, Spendor added a super-tweeter which made the top end sound almost like an electrostatic. Critics who were not used to listening a real top end in most speakers often criticized the brightness of the speaker. In actuality, the Spendor sounded more alive and real.

In order for them to sound their best, the speakers must be placed on stands. They are not floor standing speakers, nor are they bookshelf speakers. They are monitor speakers. Put them on stands and move them away from the back and sider walls. Use the best affordable audio components available. They sound great with tubes. There is absolutely no coloration heard on female voices. They will make most other speakers sound nasal and constricted. The midrange is simply superb with just a little sparkle at the top end. Mid bass is very tight and defined. The very bottom end is simply missing.

A long line of British and American box speakers have benefitted from the pioneering work of Spencer and Dorothy Hughes. The BC1’s are a classic that will hold their own even to this day. Just add a good subwoofer and the best source material and mix. It is a recipe that will please the taste for all music lovers. Even today, Spendor still manufactures great sounding loudspeakers, but no longer the beloved BC1.

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