Notes 005. S6e compared with S8e.

Listening Notes 001

S3e, S5e, S6e, S8e, SP2/3e, SR5, S3/5se

Listening Notes 002

Nait5i, CD5i, SUB3.

Listening Notes 003

S6e, S8e, S9e

Listening Notes 004

A9

The S6e has always been a favourite of mine. More than adequate bass extension coupled with a lively and informative midrange, a sensible size, and an affordable price means it makes a lot of sense for a lot of people including me. This is before I had spent a considerable amount of time with the S8e though! The S8e adds in a few extra notches of refinement to the sound and $1000 extra cost. It is also of a size that is no longer potentially invisible to ones partner and therefore the question maybe raised, "is the extra money well spent" or "do I need these bigger boxes to enjoy music" after all didn't the S6e win a best speaker of the year prize etc etc.

Recently in Stereophile the differences between these two models were discussed, but the author spoke only of the differences in bass extension and in his estimation the extra USD$600 was well spent on the basis of the extra bass. Those Americans must really love there bass (like we always said) because there really is whole lot more between these two speakers than any perceivable difference in bass extension.

I first listened to some female vocal in the form of "Adam at the window" by Mary Black. Through the 8's she sounded lovely. No hard edges and my notes remind me that busy passages did not fluster the 8's, they just sailed on through with finesse and control. The bass was in balance with the rest of the range and was well controlled. Overall the sound was such that you could sit there all day and not tire of the incredibly listenable and thoroughly enjoyable sound. Switching to the S6e's resulted in a very similar sound but with some reduction in perceived bass output and control.

Moving on to "School" by Supertramp. Yes yes I know its old pop music, but I had just purchased a new remastered version and was marvelling at the improvement in sound quality (as I remember it) and having a nostalgia trip at the same time. Anyhow back to the speakers, all I can say is wow! The S8e just about floored me with the impact and sweet clean sound produced on this track. I suppose the little Naim amp was helping with a solid and fast bass performance but this is special for an 8" drive unit that has to do almost everything. Loud, did I mention loud. The S8e really can bang out some sound and yet remain very much in control and surprisingly clean. The track after "School" is "Bloody well right" and I just could not wipe the smile of my face. The chorus just sounded amazing, so clean tight, the bass, so quick. Imaging was very good too with pretty good height and excellent width. Depth of the stage was not to bad but nothing seems to have much depth in my room with the location of the speakers/room acoustics as they are at the moment. The sax was very lifelike and clean too.

The S6e's also performed well on the Supertramp tracks. The vocal performance didn't seem quite as warm but I felt I could hear more of the 'venue' in the sound. There is probably a little more 'air' at the upper end of the 6's mid. The sixes don't seem to play off as blacker background as the eights though and sound the tiniest smidge grainy. The bass seems to loose only a little extension to the 8, but it definitely does not sound as fast as the S8e and does not quite have the same authority. Imaging on the S6e is very similar to the 8, but not as much width and perhaps not quite as stable a placement of instruments.

On to Kurt Elling's "Winelight". This enjoyable jazz track exposed again that the 8 is just that little bit more 'together' than the 6. This track caused me to ponder the place in the Spendor range that the S6e fills. The fact is that it is lovely speaker and it is $1000 less expensive than the model we are comparing it with here. It does have a place in the range, placed as it is between two future cult classics. The 5 just doesn't quite fill a bigger room with the size of sound that a lot of folk want, the 6 does and it saves you $1000 over the 8. Sounds like a sensible choice to me and one of the reasons I have always had a soft spot for it. On the other hand $1000 extra for 20 years worth of listening is not much when calculated on an annual basis. The S8e really does deliver a more enjoyable sound for most people most of the time, but is simply too big for some smaller rooms and there's the $1000 that could perhaps pay for an amp or CD upgrade. Decisions, decisions!

I then played some Rickie Lee Jones, an older recording from the Pirates album called "We belong together". The sound yet again was thoroughly enjoyable, but I felt a very slightly polite interpretation of the tune. Upon switching to the S6e's this feeling didn't really change in the way I suspected it might due to the 6's slightly livelier upper mid. In both cases though I got the feeling that I was hearing very much what they heard in the studio while recording the track. Spendors just have that 'rightness' to their sound. Which I put down to them being a very finely balanced designs with very consistent power response's. I also feel this makes them very tweakable to get them to produce the tonal balance you prefer. Cables, location, amp and CD player and not forgetting the room acoustics can all aid performance and also act as tuning tools to adjust the basic Spendor performance to your taste. When you take this fact into account the relatively subtle tonal differences between these two speakers being compared today can to some degree be cancelled out.

What can't be so easily fixed is the cost difference and the cold hard fact that the 8 is simply a better speaker in all ways. It really leaves nothing out in the improvement stakes, better timed and weightier bass coupled with a sweeter mid and a cleaner treble! Having said that I love the S6e for delivering such I a high level of build quality and performance at what is a price level affordable to all who hanker after something of quality but are not necessarily audiophiles. So yes the S6e's are still a favourite but if sound quality was my only priority, size and price not being issues then the S8e it would be, all the way!

Notes 006. S8e 'v' S9e.

(Finally, 'the' comparison)

The set up – I have used both of these loudspeakers in a variety of spaces and with quite a few different front ends, but for purposes of direct side by side comparing though I used our demo room which is approximately 6 x 6.5 metres and set the speakers beside each other (the 8 and 9 that is) pointing in at the listening position. They were a goodly distance from the side and rear walls. Certainly further than many would perhaps have to choose in a normal domestic environment, but I have also set up both speakers in customers homes at the normal .5 to 1.0 metre distance from the rear wall and quite close to side walls (1 to 2 metres). I have noticed a generally fuller sound in these 'normal' set ups rather than my demo room set-up and have not ever noticed any major trade off in imaging but I suppose in theory at least there probably should be. In the demo room I had the speakers perhaps 2.5m to 3m apart and 3m from my chair/lounge. Unfortunately there is a very long and low cabinet in our demo room to stack amps and CD players etc on and this stops the speakers from being located back against the wall. I personally feel I have heard the nines sound better in a few customers homes than at my place and this is in part the room and of course also the amp and CD/turntable. Some of these folk had serious front ends!

My reason for mentioning all this is to form the first part of the comparison. The nine is generally a fair bit tougher to set up for best performance. The S8e is almost always happy to sound sweet wherever you park them after removal from their cardboard sarcophagus. The nines on the other hand can be a bit distressing at times due to their somewhat ordinary performance until a) They're properly run in, b) They're sited in part of the room that they take a liking to and c) The partnering equipment is as much to their liking as the view from the room position that they seem most comfortable in. Once everything is right they really can sing though, but in a different way to the eights. In a bigger way!

Bigger not just in the general sense of more output at the frequency extremes but a bigger stage and definitely more detail than not just the eights but all Spendor loudspeakers with perhaps the exception of the marvellous SP100. The nine is definitely the big daddy of the range and not unlike most more serious hifi products they need more effort with set-up to get the pay-off that they are capable in theory to deliver.

So on to the listening-

I used the same tracks for comparison as the previous review of S6e versus S8e. I noted that compared with the eights easy to listen to version of 'Adam at the window' by Mary Black that the nines offered more detail and a bigger stage. Perhaps also an urgency to the performance that the S8e doesn't offer. Minor inflections in Ms Black's vocal and little odd sounds (percussion) were far more obvious through the bigger speaker and yet delivered still in a very listenable and non fatiguing fashion. The bottom line is though that the nines did not sound as 'sweet' on this track as the eights, and most other Spendors for that matter. The bass though was distinctly more tuneful and bopped along with more spirit than the eights. The extra bass extension (that the larger speaker in theory offers) was not of any great value on this track but the extra pace and articulation was enjoyable and offered less intrusion into the lower registers of the midband.

I have to tell you that it is very difficult to say one sounded as such 'better' than the other, but they are different.

On the Supertramp classic album 'Crime of the century' the nines could be played a little louder than the eights before any compression or distress could be detected. This was at very loud playback levels. The bass again was more enjoyable but the eight always amazes me with what it can do with only two drive units and a box! Strangely on this recording it was harder to tell apart the two speakers in the mid range. Maybe the male vocal range performance of the 8 and 9 is more similar than the female range? Again stage width was obviously superior on the 9 with instruments appearing at the very edge if not outside of the distance between the speakers. Both are very dynamically capable but the nine just has that extra vigour that can certainly add some extra excitement to big sounding recordings. This recording offered more through the 9's than the 8's and the 9 would be my preference for Supertramp and perhaps many other complex recordings that are meant to sound 'big'. Floyd comes to mind and certainly rock in general from my experience of listening to these two speakers is more impressive and enjoyable through the nines.

Rickie Lee also sounded more convincing through the bigger speaker but maybe lost some 'sweetness' along the way that the 8 offers in spades. I really am torn...

Moving on from music and the direct comparison... One of the reasons this review has taken so long to come out is that I just couldn't (and stall can't) decide which speaker I prefer for 2 channel music.

I have listened and listened and listened and really come back to very much what I have written above everytime. The nine is bigger, more detailed, has better bass and is harder to set-up for a nicely balanced performance. The eight is a typical Spendor loudspeaker with a modern level of sensitivity, dynamics and detail with a bass that is stunningly good considering what it has to work with. It is also gifted with a real balance that makes them very easy to listen to but at the same time very exciting.

I love both of them for music. If I listened mostly to modern dynamic music or big orchestra's I would take the nine, but there might be times when I would wonder how this or that would sound through the eight and perhaps wonder whether I made the right choice. But this is all in 2 channel, when you switch on some extra channels and put on a movie the choice becomes very easy.

The nine is the winner!! If you listen to and watch movies that is. The bass is simply stunning and as long as your amp/receiver has a decent amount of grunt you will never want for a sub. The incredibly well integrated bass that is on offer rather than the remote boomy one note garbage that comes out of most so called 'subs' adds a whole new level of enjoyment to movies. No longer do you have to listen to dialogue through rumbling and groaning. With the nine at the helm you hear deep tight bass only when you are meant too. I can only assume that the linearity of the bass response is so far superior because it avoids the various nasty side effects that the addition of a sub can/does cause in the 40Hz - 80Hz region.

Did I mention the incredible tautness of bass unlike any sub you will hear except of course the truly serious ones that cost maybe $5k+ (and most of those are ordinary). And you will certainly never get your sub system to sound as together as the nines do.

So the nine does have a place and its a very important one. Its the top of the 'S' series and that's an important position in itself. It also offers greater performance in a number of area's for those that listen to music only. The trade off seems to be that the sound loses some of the "Spendor Magic". Not much but a bit and I suppose considering it costs more than the eight you would hope to get more magic not less. The sound on music is maybe closer to an 800 series B&W or a top of line ProAc than an old school Spendor from 20 years ago. Unlike those other brands it costs no where near as much and I think is an easier to listen to option that sounds more like music and less like expensive hifi. Mind you the big ProAcs really are nice! But the $$$$!!! Phew!

If you have an interest in movies though then quite simply the nines are the go. The eights cannot deliver the convincing bass that many movies offer and demand. The nines sail through and also allow you to make savings by you not needing to purchase a subwoofer. The S9es coupled with a C9e and a few SR5's is one hell of an AV system. Very well tonally and timbre matched, they all sing the same tune and the result is movie (and maybe multi channel music) heaven.

I hope these notes give you some insight into the differences between these two excellent speakers. I have many happy customers who have S9e and many happy customers who have S8e. I don't think any of them would trade their speakers in. I don't think you can choose the wrong speaker as you would almost certainly be very chuffed with either as I feel they offer greater music listening pleasure than any other speaker in their price range but the nine has en extra few pounds of performance up its sleeve for bigger music and movies.

Feel free to ring on the toll free 1300 139 552 number or email to chat about which one might suit your needs best.

Bye, Andrew

This site was last updated 16-03-2010
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