The minute he walked in the joint, Hugh Robjohns could see they were real small Spendors. He decides whether he'd like to spend a little time with them...
Spendor are one of the oldest and best‑known manufacturers of professional monitor loudspeakers in the UK. The company was named after its founders, Spencer and Dorothy Hughes, and was set up in 1969 to bring Spencer's experience of helping to design the BBC's own in‑house monitoring loudspeakers to a wider audience.
The key words that define any monitoring speaker are neutrality, consistency and accuracy, and Spendor's speakers have always embodied these qualities fully. The newest member of the family is the diminutive QT100, a powered two‑way monitor intended for nearfield applications such as project studios and video or audio editing suites.
The QT100 is very compact, measuring 305 x 192 x 212mm and weighing 7.5kg. Overall, it's a little smaller than the company's SA200 powered system, but retains the chamfered top and side edges of the latter design to minimise diffraction. Like its elder sibling, the QT100 is a two‑way reflex design, the ports ending in a pair of small triangular openings at the bottom corners of the front edge. The port openings are filled with a very open‑celled plastic foam, presumably to prevent 'chuffing' from the ports.
The cabinet is constructed from high‑grade MDF which is well braced, and damped internally with copious amounts of foam rubber to minimise vibrations and resonances. The amplifier/crossover pack is very similar in appearance to that of the SA200 and is mounted within a recess on the rear panel. But, unlike the SA200, the QT100 has a single 60W amplifier chip and employs a passive crossover to split the frequency bands to the two drivers. The speakers have been designed for freefield use and, in any case, a sensible gap must be left behind the units to allow air to cool the large heatsink on the rear panel.
Spendor have designed their own bass unit for this model. Called the 2000 series, it is a 6Ω unit with a peculiar 100mm elliptical polymer cone incorporating a solid centre‑dome plug. The unit has a very large motor assembly and should be able to withstand a moderate amount of abuse without too much trouble. It is also fully magnetically shielded and can be placed right next to a TV or computer monitor without problems.
The tweeter is a stock unit, a Morel MD112 28mm soft‑dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet. It has been mounted in a bespoke plastic collar which provides the front mounting plate; two LEDs show when the unit is powered and when the protection circuitry has been activated. The only potential problem is the absence of any protection for the exposed tweeter dome, which is proud of its surround. These monitors would make a great portable reference system if you could be sure the tweeters would still be dome‑shaped after they had bounced about in the back of the car.
Connecting the QT100 up is child's play. The rear panel has an IEC mains connector, a power switch, a 3‑pole XLR socket and a gain trimmer. The mains socket has an integral fuse holder which also doubles as the voltage selector, and the amplifier will happily accept balanced or unbalanced connections, provided the XLR plug is suitably wired.
Once the unit is plugged in and powered, a small green LED just above the tweeter illuminates and the unit is ready to go. The gain trimmer on the rear panel alters the input sensitivity of the amplifier between ‑6dBu and +14dBu — a range of 20dB. As set up at the factory, from an input of ‑6dBu the unit can generate 100dB SPL at one metre and tolerate brief peaks of 103dB SPL. I found the QT100s excessively sensitive with the line‑level monitoring feeds from my mixer, so I tweaked the sensitivity down, but a stereo pair of these speakers can produce an impressive wall of sound should the need arise. The specifications claim a frequency response of 70Hz‑20kHz, ±3dB, and each pair is matched to within 0.75dB across the full range. The crossover is set to a remarkably high 5kHz, so the bulk of the effort is very definitely coming from the bass unit. Most two‑way designs are forced to cross over at about 3kHz, which is slap‑bang in the middle of the most critical region for our hearing. The Spendor avoids this troublesome area completely, which is probably a major aid in getting the neutrality and sound quality it has. The amplifier and drivers are equipped with a pretty comprehensive protection circuit. This provides a switch‑on delay of five seconds and a switch‑off muting of 100ms, to prevent damage to the drivers from the potentially very large switch‑on and switch‑off transients when an entire room of equipment is powered up at once (as is the norm in professional video‑editing suites, for example). During use, the circuitry also monitors the drive levels to each of the loudspeakers, and mutes the input if it senses impending overload. When the protection circuitry is activated, the red LED mounted above the tweeter lights up.
The QT100s really are cute. I worked my way through my usual test material from CD as well as live guitar, piano and vocals, and was left feeling mightily impressed. After years of listening to soft, floppy BBC monitors, I found the QTs a tad bright for my tastes — but it really was only a tad, and careful positioning did a lot to correct the situation. Ideally, there would be a tweaker to trim the HF sensitivity (as there is on, for example, the SA200) but, since this model uses a passive crossover, that is unfortunately not possible.
The QT100s provide very finely etched stereo images which remain stable over a sensible listening area. Transients are projected well and with plenty of attack, decent piano recordings sounded nicely balanced, and natural perspectives came over as exactly that. On voice and vocals they are remarkably accurate, although with perhaps a slight tendency to over‑emphasise sibilance. The bottom end has a damn good go at letting you know what is going on in the lower octaves too and the overall balance is very credible.
If you like a lot of level, these monitors won't disappoint. I was astounded at how loud a minuscule 60W amplifier could make these things go! And without getting the heatsink into meltdown or sounding excessively strained into the bargain.
Putting the QT100s in a head‑to‑head with the little Genelec 1029s (and matching sub‑woofer), I felt that the 1029s had the edge, but this was mainly due to the added presence and weight of their lower octaves. In terms of accuracy, transients and neutrality, the Spendors were very comparable indeed. Perhaps Spendor should consider adding a matching sub‑woofer system, which could turn a good mini‑monitor into a very powerful one.
Overall, these little monitors share all the attributes of which Spendor are so rightly proud. Although a small monitor has its inevitable limitations, the QT100s — like the other smaller members of the Spendor active monitor family — do a very fine job of presenting a full and well‑balanced sound stage. Accuracy, neutrality and fine imaging are the main strengths here. There are more accurate and more neutral speakers around, of course, but most of them are bigger and more expensive than the QT. So this is another speaker to add to the audition list, I'm afraid — decisions, decisions...
- Very compact package delivering a professional sound quality.
- Ideally suited to use in project studios as well as many other (equally critical) applications.
- Limited bass extension means that you may not be aware of all that rumbles in the deep.
- Perhaps a tad on the bright side of accurate.
Well‑designed mini‑monitor for the cost‑conscious quality freak. Excellent imaging and transient response, with well‑balanced and well‑extended frequency ranges (for the size) and a credibly accurate and neutral sound. Hard to break, easy to install and portable to boot.