Spatial Audio M3 Sapphires

Phillyb

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May 31, 2012
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Open Box speaker design. One design I've not tried though one of my 1st speakers the DQ10 were open baffle except for the woofer which was a sealed boxed. I am not one to change gear as some do, I usually keep what I find I enjoy and tweak the system as I see fit to. For the past 8 years, my speaker of choice has been Quad ESL 63's rebuild to as new along with an upgraded power supply. Worked done by Kent at Electrostatic solutions. These Quads had all that the golden ERA of Quad had and then some, better dynamics, more extended top, and bottom. Imaging was scary good where 3-4 voices stood in completely there own space in the sound stage. I Still love them and what they do no speaker can do and current designs with hyped up highs need not apply. In fact, I heard two major brands at 20K that could not touch the Quads.

I wanted a change while keeping the Quads for an awhile longer perhaps or for good or I might sell them if I could find a speaker that I could live with. After doing some research I can across Spatial Audio, and I used YouTube to watch interviews with Clayton who is the designer and seemed like a straight shooter. He can across very knowledgeable on open baffle design speakers and their benefits over boxed dynamic speakers. I gave him a call and sure enough, he gave me straight answers to my questions and even the tough one on what will I give up from what I enjoy about the Quad ESL 63's. His answer was some of the coherency, and transparency that all Quads have to do to their inherent design. But I would find much more dynamics, better extension both top and bottom, and a speaker still with very fast transit speed along with more realistic imaging height wise and while still sounding unboxy and open like the Quads.

Well I took the leap in faith and purchased a set I found from a reviewer who had high praise for them and who lived in my state, Spatial was running 6-8 weeks backlog due to sales. So with one-day delivery vs. 6-8 weeks and $1,000 savings made it the way to go. He told me most of the long burn-in was done when he arrived. He stayed to help me set them up as a starting point then left. We set them up 3' from the front wall where I left them for 2 days. During that time I just let them run and took note of what I was missing, and it was bass and low-end dynamics. It was there but not present as the mids and highs.

So I finally read the owner's manual! Really, Duh.

One suggestion made was 36" out front from wall to start, which I did. It then stated wait 48 hours and either pull them further out 6" from the front wall or back 6", whichever one gives you the most mid-bass and bass is the distance to keep. Meaning you were in a bass canceling zone, (nordal area in the room). The louder dynamic bass area is a better location.

Well in my room and I believe due to not having the wall behind me where I sit, loft with the family room behind me and below on the main level, going back 6" to 30" from the back wall made a huge difference, now they had bass, full rich and deep, I also tried 33" also and that was very good also with better depth to the image away from the speaker. Going to do the final measurements of toe-in. My room of course as bass traps and other diffusion panels.

I decided to stay with 33" front the front wall today.

The speakers disappear, imaging is not bloated like planar speakers or lacking height like my Quads (on some records they image way above the speaker top). Bass is dynamic, impressive buy unlike box speakers clean with no bloat or room incurred bumps in smooth bass transition. The bass is different in that it is not pushed at you or ahead of the mid's and highs, they work together evenly which if you only had boxed speakers that would take some adjustment, but with owning Quads not much so. But I will have to adjust to such extension in the upper frequency where the Quads never reproduced.

Quads due to being limited at extension gives you the most important reproduction of music, the areas that our ears love, and you don't miss the rest, bass in my room with my rebuilt Quads was around 35Hz and even some bass at 33Hz at normal listening levels, with a good mid-bass that added body to vocals and was addicting. so what the Quads do right no speakers can do, they are seamless, natural and due to the roll-off at the top, what you hear and what you focus on is really where music lives, and you don't miss the very top end that is a bit rolled off, but what they give you is so very real-sounding.

The SA M3's sound more open and pure, deep vocals have weight but are more open, highs are fast, yet not in your face, mid-bass is not bloated so the mids stay open and uncolored, while the deep bass remains firm and clean like an open baffle speaker should if done correctly and that is the key if done right using the right woofers designed for open box applications. In the past woofers used were for sealed or vented speakers and they did not work well, thus the loss of bass due to cancelation from the back wave canceling the front wave.

Like the Quad a speaker and unlike 99% of speakers sold, the open baffle is off the tried and true path also. So they will sound different to some extent, but they sound good on all music, details are excellent, and it is coherent and balanced. They are not a dark and full sounding speaker, which I do gravitate towards but I enjoy my music being soulful and fun to listen to. That I am enjoying the Spatial M3 shows an old audiophile can learn a new trick and throws the old bias out the window that open baffle cannot reproduce bass. Not true with this design. Will the bass as upfront and always present as a sealed box no, but when the recording has the bass it is there in spades. Stand up bass is the best I've ever heard.

I don't always like to spike speakers, it all depends and there is no set rule you have to, though people automatically do because they think they have to. Yes, they can tighten the bottom end up, but they also can shift the presence areas from the top down, and take the soul out of the music, and leave nothing but a clean sound that as nothing to do with how real music sounds, my Quads with spikes sound aggressive, bright and the highs stick out like a sore thumb, took me 30 seconds and they off, and the round pucks used for the feet and balance returned. I've tried the SA M3's both ways and I am most likely keeping the front spikes off. They are solid with the back spike left on and very stable.

I must note the design quality, this is a well designed and beautifully constructed speaker. WBT speaker connectors, real wood front panel, weighs about 65 lbs, so easy to move and setup. and they look good in the room, my wife saw them and said wow they look nice to fit into the room. My speakers are walnut.

With Quads, my McIntosh power amp showed 40 watts being used at times if not more on some dynamics, with the M3's 4-10 watts. This speaker would be great with a 70-watt tube amp, even a rebuilt Will Vincent Dynaco stereo 70. I think with tubes you have true magic and these speakers are shown with tube gear a lot. With my solid-state gear, they sound musical fast and open but not analytical at all. I've played several types of music from the '30s, '40s, '50s, Jazz, Blues, Swings, Vocals, and Audiophile favorites, like For Duke, Jazz at the Pawnshop, SACD, and Redbook CDs, the feeling you get listening to them is what on the recording which is what a speaker should be.

I will say this where they beat my Quads is upper-mids and up, on the 1930's recordings, you can hear the noise from the vinyl they had to use as clear as day, like your playing a record, with the Quads you hear it at such a low level. Things like shakers, snare drums, kick drums came to life with the M3's, with the Quads all there but very laid back but nice to listen to, the Quads do not offend, that is the beauty of them. I played some Big-band music to see what the M3's could do, and my wife said it best "that sounds like a Big Band playing" Horns and the speed and bite of live instruments and the dynamics and ebb and flow of the music was superb.

A Spatial open baffle speaker is a game-changer for this type of design. The "past" limitation is gone, for the most part, they also make models higher up the product line with powered woofers with DSP, AMT drivers for the highs.

You can purchase directly currently $4,950 plus shipping with a 30 day trial period. With so few Audio stores remaining this is not an issue for many because its very heard to hear a speaker you like locally anymore, some areas no high-end audio stores so this is the future plus you save the extra cost of the dealer marking up the selling price so to make a profit to stay in business. So look at it as buying at dealer cost.
 

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Phillyb

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May 31, 2012
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Folsom, You are so correct.

After 6 days of playing them they have changed night and day, the woofers have opened up and become much more dynamic, deep and the midrange has gained body and the highs extended and airy. I will comment on this in a few weeks. How much change? I pulled the subs out of the system. I put the taller spikes on and that really made a positive effect, unlike when I first hooked them up using the shorter spike. In fact, I like no spikes, this is how much everything has improved.

Anyone who buys these speakers needs to allow time for those woofers to open up, if not you will want to give up, don't they only need time in use. The M3's are not thin or bright sounding, they are dynamic sounding, depending on your past speakers that can take some adjustment. Mid-bass has improved as the woofers loosened up. Much more output now from the lower mid-range down, but the clarity of the midrange and highs remains. Just listened to the Cleveland Orch under Szell. The sound was dead-on correct, the Orch and Szell had there own sound signature. It was reproduced properly.

I am sure these will continue to improve over the next month, so I will update this post then. So far these speakers are living up to the high expectations set by owners and reviewers, and Clayton himself. He has built a classic at a great price.
 

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Phillyb

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Today I finally found the best spot for the M3 in my room, after moving them in and out, closer and then further from my seat, and then after these breaking in, I wound up about where I had my Quads, and this spot when I first received them was the spot I felt the bass/Mid-Bass was lacking. Well no more. I played a big symphony Dvorak Symphony No. 7. This was one of the recordings I played on day one, so I felt this be a good one to see how far these speakers had come. Well, night and day might be a touch rich, but dam close. The weight was there now, the Tympani drum was there and the more realistic that I've ever heard it, the low rosin tone of the cellos was nicely rendered in fact the whole section was there now in full. The midrange was still very open, and alive, so the improvement in the mid-bass down did not color the midrange on up. This recording sounded like a Merurcy Living Presence should, Next, I played the same movement but now from the Cleveland Orch, under George Zell, they had their own sound, and being from Cleveland I have heard the Cleveland Orch, and this recording came across as the orch. sounds, rich full and 100% Cleveland Orch, the recording is typical for Columbia back then, a touch hot in the strings, but the M3's still gave you an enjoyable listening, even with the slight touch of the strings being hot on this recording, not the speakers.

The big thing about these speakers and well any speaker is finding the right spot to make them work in your room. I had them more spread out and toed in so the hit me between my neck and shoulder. I then toed them in another 1/4" and the sound stage lock-in, but I was still feeling something was not as focused and as could be, so I walked behind my chair, about 18" and listened and sure enough, the whole presentation was lock-in and sounded like you were listening to a full-sized orch as one would live. This told me I had to pull the speakers close to getting this same imaging and sound, so 3" in for each speaker, checked toes-in and played the recordings again and bam nailed it, Speed, Dynamics, Bottom End, all there.

2nd thing I've learned depending on your seating and distance, you have to try both sizes of spikes, in my room the smaller set makes the tweeter hit me to direct and throws off the balance so more upper midrange and highs, take the spikes off and just use the cone fit that you interest the spike into brings a big improvement in presence, and dynamics, I could live with that, but I added the taller spikes and kept a lot of what I liked with no spikes, but gained in detail in the bottom end. So for now the tall spikes are my choice.

I've read where some say the vocals sound hollow, well it's not the speaker it is your setup, your tilt is off on the speaker from where you are sitting, so if you're using the short spikes, then try the taller ones, also toe-in you must play with it, so in other words, its takes no time and effort to get them right and NO different than any other good speaker.

Everything Clayton says about his speakers is a fact, we cannot hear them at a dealer so it is good to know what he says is not just a sale pitch but honest information. On top of that he willing to talk with you, and in fact called me to see how the speakers were coming along and answer some questions that I had but had no info to understand some of my concerns about toe-in and how it affects this speaker, etc. He answered every question and give me all the time I needed. The main thing he said and something he hears a lot is where the bottom end, and in almost every case they call him back in a month and said "I am glad I allowed the time to let the woofers break-in. Well, I can a test to that, add me to the list. Buy these expect a break-in period that just the nature of the beast. These speakers also do not break up as the dynamics increase, sometimes, I have to turn the volume down because they can soar as the music demands it, getting used to this dynamic range takes some getting used to. Finally, my wife says "they really sound good" that means a lot because she is not an Audiophile, she just enjoys the music, but today she said from downstairs the Cleveland Orch sounds terrific it sounds like they are in Severance Hall. (This is where they perform). Great acoustics.

A friend of mine purchased Shanahan speakers and they told him about a year, in fact, warned him, the speaker has 17 drivers, I spoke with him about mine, and he said Clayton is most likely right, his took almost a year to come into there own. So he told me also to hang in. Also, corner bass traps are a must, they are misunderstood by the general public, they don't kill bass they improve bass, Clayton suggests for me to by a 2nd pair and use them from floor to ceiling in the 2 corners behind the speaker, I may try that down the road, the pair I have now are doing just fine to my ear if it keeps getting better wow!

Well to end this, I will say those who own these know how good they are, for the money a value off the charts. I am sure over the next 2-3 weeks this will continue to improve. They love my McIntosh 400 watt, the ease and dynamics are unmatched in any speaker I've owned, perhaps my Dynaudio Confidence 5's were good in that area, but not close to the M3's. I also must note due to the size and weight these are easy to move and position by oneself in fact easy even when the spikes are on, you can toe them in and out with ease. Even moving them side to side is doable.

So if you have interest in open baffle speakers, then give Clayton a call, he will help you pick the right speaker for your room, for mine, it was the M3"s not the X-series. and he was correct. Call me one happy customer, and glad I took a chance on these speakers, hang in with them learn them, set them upright, and then sit back and enjoy for many, many years to come. The only change I may make is to add a tube preamp, just to see what tubes might add. Speakers, I think I am finished for a long time. I have 2 world-class sounding speakers now the Quads ESL 63's and the M3's. Not sure I'll keep 2 sets so I might sell the Quads and just enjoy the M3's, and let someone else enjoy my Quads who may have never heard them in their life.

Hope my feedback is helpful to folks with an interest in OB speakers.
 
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Phillyb

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May 31, 2012
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9/22/2020: The Spatial M3's continue to improve. No sub needed, in fact adding subs with these speakers really impairs the sound no matter the setting as low as 35 Hz, it throughs the balance of the speaker off, the Woofers on the M3's are just to fast and open. They actually made the speakers sound bright. Go figure. Another thing about these speakers, they tell you in a minute on any changes you make in your system down to the power cord powering the amplifier. If I had to say one thing that took some time to adjust to is how open and boxless these speakers are, the music is just there in space with details, speed, and realism. I have them locked into my room now, but I am sure I try them a bit further apart to see if they can be further improved. But now I just want to sit back and enjoy them. All recordings sound fresh, with new insights, I would not call this speaker analytical, it an open window to the recording. Bass is strong but clean, a stand-up bass sounds natural, not slow or booming like a sealed bass tends to reproduce, sounds like a real stand up bass, light and agile at times, then a growl yet while remaining open sounding like live. Vocals are another strong point, you hear all the nuances and the power of the vocal range. Highs are very open, in fact on a Dead Can Dance recording I heard the faintest ring of bells towards the end of one track, I've never heard them before. My journey with these speakers has been an education, how far they have come and improved and how I learned about them and setup, but also to follow Clayton advise, give them time to break-in and you will be rewarded. Far as I know these still are not fully delivering what they are capable of. Along with my Quads ESL 63 speakers that were fully rebuilt from the power supply up, these are some of the best speakers I've heard/owned in 30 years in this hobby. Pictures of my room along with room treatments which I am sure really help me get the sound that I am enjoying, your room is a big part of the final sound you hear.
 

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abrich

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Thank you very kindly for your excellent overview, @Phillyb ! Have you had a chance to audition any of the X-series speakers, please? With my modest amplification 92 dB Sensitivity may not be quite suitable...
 

Phillyb

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May 31, 2012
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Abrich, No I never heard the X series. No store to do so, but I took Clayton's advice with the M3's being best for my room and my gear. Looking at my meter on my amp, I rarely go over 10 watts, I have a 400-watt amp. They are really efficient. But the X series has the powered subs, so your amp drives the mids and highs. So they would be perfect for you. 97DB is really high, I worried about hearing any system noise at such a level. I hear a faint hiss now barely if I put my ear to the tweeter/mid-range Good luck, and I think you will be very happy once you set them up properly.
 
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abrich

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I rarely go over 10 watts
In this case I should be O.K. even using my little PASS XA30.5, I guess...
I totally missed the system noise factor! The MC462 (similar to yours?) is very quiet and has the S/N below rated output of 122dB (!). Is my XA30.5 anywhere close to this (I am not a hardware Guru, sorry)? What is the role of the preamp here, @Phillyb please? As far as I can tell, you are employing Luxman pre? Can't tell if it is the C-900u or C-700u... Both are exceptionally quiet with the S/N below 122dB!
 

infinitely baffled

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Shame they have no UK or European distribution.
I inquired a while back and was disappointed. Fingers crossed it happens in the future, i would love to hear these

Thanks for the write- up, Phillyb
 

Phillyb

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Shame they have no UK or European distribution.
I inquired a while back and was disappointed. Fingers crossed it happens in the future, i would love to hear these

Thanks for the write- up, Phillyb
Hopefully, this will happen down the road. I am sure it's a big undertaking to go worldwide. They have a sound much like panels and Electrostatic speakers buy that I mean very open and natural, yet with more dynamics and bass dynamics. They are not difficult to set up once you play with them a bit and learn how movement back or forth 3-6" changes the sound and pulling them closer together or further out depending on the size of your room, tilt in is the last step and this is room depended also and personal taste, some folks like a huge sound stage that is more diffused, others like a solid center image with less spread and again each room will dictate the setup so they work the best for your room. I've heard speakers that cost 3 times the price of these and were no better sonically and many not as good. The bottom end stays out of the way of the mid-range and highs so you hear a very coherent response top to bottom. I am a Quad Electrostatic man, so for me to praise these speakers says a lot about Spatial Audio designs. Clayton did one hell of a fine job.
 

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infinitely baffled

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Have you ever heard Alon - Nola speakers?
They are my current reference for OB designs. But Carl Machisotto tends to use sealed bass drivers, as opposed to OB all the way down
 

Phillyb

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Yes, I know Nola. The DQ 10 were very similar in design back in the '70s and early 80's, it really was a nice speaker and designed to try to mimic the Quad 57 speakers even in profile. Carl worked on that speaker also if I recall. They used a sealed woofer due to not having OB designed woofer so they did OB midrange on up and sealed woofer for the bottom. Clayton designs have an OB woofer(s) that were designed for OB speaker use thus no sealed box woofer. Cannot use a sealed box designed woofer for OB speakers they just don't work well. This is where Clayton hit the home run in OB designed speakers that work well in the bottom end as it does in the midrange on up.
 
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infinitely baffled

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Fascinating.
How would you compare the Nola - Spatial sonic characters?

I also wonder how the sensitivity and power handling compare.
My Alons' achilles, both pairs, were blowing drive units. I just 'had' to drive them a little too too hard in order to get the spl's that satisfied. Even with sealed bass drivers.

But i have little doubt, when i do replace my Stellas it will be with either dipoles or omnis.
Currently, in the absence of Spatial from these shores, Bayz and SoundKaos are on my radar, with Nola ever present if the right pair of (deep breath) Concert GrandReference Golds come up.
Or if i can ever afford to commission a new pair:)

Point being, ime nothing else satisfies once you've lived with dipoles.
I love my Stellas. They energise my difficult room effortlessly, play as loud as long as i want without breaking sweat. Their timbre, texture and separation are all superior to my Alons

But they're not dipoles
 

Phillyb

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May 31, 2012
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You have to really overdrive the Spatial speakers to damage them, I use a 400 watt McIntosh amp and my meters read 10 watts most of the time. The X-Series is even more efficient 97DB! I believe the M3's are 93-94DB.

Sonics for both (Alon) in the midrange and up are very open due to being OB speakers, the M3's are seamless due to design and how the tweeter operated down to 568Hz-40K if I recall. No crossover used in that range. This can play loud but clean, I never really push them to rock levels, nor do I ever. I am a Quad man, and every recording clicks in at a certain volume level, once they feel in the room, I am done raising the volume. But they can swing the dynamics of any recording with ease. Maybe Spatial could get a pair of speakers to you from one of their dealers in Europe?

Concert GrandReference Golds are a huge speaker. I see them used from time to time. A store in Ohio had a used pair for sale, store was called Play It Again Sam, in Lakewood, Ohio. They were black if I recall. Best of luck.
 
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