The Spendor A3 is a compact floorstander that puts mid-range detail at the top the list — but you should pick partnering components with care, and don't expect hell-raising volumes.
If you're in the market for a new set of speakers, Spendor is a brand that you may not have come across before. Spendor is a British speaker manufacturer, which, unlike more famous rival Bowers and Wilkins (which moved most of its manufacturing to China), still makes its products in the UK.
If you look at pictures of the new Spendor A3 speakers and the more expensive A6 speakers, it's hard to tell the difference; they look identical. But the differences are there: the proper and British A6s are to Austin Powers as the A3s are to Mini Me (dressed as Austin Powers).
The A3 is a small floorstander, which features a proprietary 150mm (5.9-inch) "ep38" woofer and cone and a 22mm tweeter. It stands at a diminutive 750mm tall, and features a rear-mounted reflex port. Meanwhile, the A6 features a larger 7-inch driver and is 875mm high.
The A3 speakers are offered in a number of real wood veneers, including Black Ash, Walnut and Light Oak, while we received a pair in Cherry.
The speaker came to us as part of a surround sound system that included the new Spendor S3/5R² in the rear and the C5.2 centre channel. As Spendor doesn't make a subwoofer, we completed the package with another British product, the REL T5.
In testing these speakers, we threw a mixture of both music and movies at them, and, despite Spendor's reputation for music reproduction, we found that movies were actually the most successful. Why is this? The C5.2 centre channel is an absolute superstar on its own, and it's almost worth buying the A3s just so you can partner them with it.
Both the A3 and the C5.2 are voiced for a natural midrange, and "talkie" movies sound fantastic. Combine this with a punchy sub such as the REL, and you have a fearsome system capable of a wide dynamic range and excellent surround steering.
That said, the A3 does enjoy music. Where some speakers are determined to uncover details deliberately obscured by sound engineers, the Spendor speakers simply present you with the information that is there. If the music is poorly recorded, that is what you get, and if it sounds good, you'll get that, too.
There is a slight treble sweetness, or "presence boost", to the A3 speakers that accentuates vocals, yet it isn't overt or crass. If you're a fan of jazz or big band, woodwind instruments such as flutes and saxophones also sound amazing!
The A3 speakers sound great at medium volume, with some decent amplification — forget your cheap receivers here, and seriously consider a stereo amp or a Rotel receiver. But while the speakers are quite punchy, the mid-heavy balance means that there isn't much bass energy present. If you're a fan of hard rock, it can seem top-heavy due to this lack of deep bass, and the speakers aren't capable of rocking out your party, either; at a high volume, the sound becomes thin and distorted. For example, the Naim Uniti system that we used for comparison has plenty of power in reserve, and, at about 75 per cent, the A3 speakers gave in and were just unable to shift enough air to make any sense of bass instruments. Even so, we were still able to get around 100db out of them before things went south.
Adding the REL sub to stereo listening lended low-end heft to Tony Levin's funky Stick work in "Sledgehammer", but the sound was still a little "cold".
The A3 speakers aren't as holographic as the bigger A6 speakers, there's less of a soundstage and the speakers require a little bit of a toe-in to maximise the sweet spot. As a result, sitting outside of this pretty tight range delivers music that isn't quite as precise or "present".
The Spendor A3 speakers are well-made speakers, and are capable of decent low-level reproduction. If you're looking for true "monitor-quality" floorstanders, these are about the cheapest on the market. We'd suggest looking further up the range, or at standmount speakers instead, if value for money or power-handling are your main aims.