August 20, 2011

10 Qs For Philip Swift, MD, Spendor Audio Systems Ltd.

Dick Tan, Organising Chairman of the KLIAV 2011 tells me that I should meet Philip Swift, now MD of Spendor Audio Systems Ltd, a veteran of the British hifi industry, and a man of many amazing stories! So I went and have coffee with him at the JW Marriot pool side terrace.

Big E: Philip, tell us younger ones a little bit more about yourself?

PS: Where should I start??? Let's see.....Now I was one of the founding members of Audiolab UK in the 1980's. You know about that brand, do you?

Big E: Yes, very much so, the Audiolab 8000A was an amp that I aspired to. Can you tell us what happened to Audiolab and how it ended up in Chinese hands?

PS: I'd rather not comment too much about that, but since you asked, I sold Audiolab to Tag Maclaren on the premise of their technology available, and what they could do to bring Audiolab to greater success. However, the market did not respond well to their radical ideas(at the time) about what high end audio should be. They subsequently sold Audiolab to the owners today, which is the IAG group.

Big E: How about Spendor then? How did you get involved?

PS: I've been really close to Spencer Hughes(who started Spendor with his wife Dorothy. He previously worked at the BBC's sound engineering department, and had a hand in the design of the classic LS3/5A monitor) when I was a young lad. I didn't have much money, but I saved, and did some part time work at Spendor that time. I used to have pairs of Spendor speakers with serial no.001 and 002 at home to try out. That's how close I was with the people at Spendor prior to setting up Audiolab. Some time after I left Audiolab, I heard that Spencer Hughes had departed and his son, Derek was running the company, he asked me if I could help out. Gradually, I ended up owning Spendor, which was far, far from my wildest dreams! I'd never thought one day, that I'd be in charge of Spendor.

Big E: What's your opinion of the LS3/5A monitor today?

PS: The LS3/5A monitor was a class 2 monitor, which was designed to be used in small places like a broadcast van to monitor speeches. I am not quite sure how it ended up being used as a hifi loudspeaker, but it's a very good one at that, even though the design had it's limitations like, it wouldn't go very loud, or did not have wide dynamic range. However, it was excellent with the human voices and most people can relate to a well re-produced human voice. There's still demand out there for speakers with the LS3/5A heritage today, and that's why Spendor today have the S3/5R2 which is the spiritual successor to the much revered classic, albeit with modern day drivers and x-over parts.

Big E: Do you agree that Britsh hifi, speakers in particular have their own distinct sound?

PS: Yes, I do some what agree with that statement in regards to some of the older British speakers. However, today's British speakers aim to be just as realistic sounding as all other speaker manufacturers.

Big E: Do you think that the characteristic warm mid range of British speakers is due to the use of Bextrene cone material?

PS: In the past, that would probably be logical due to the way Bextrene stores and releases energy within the cone it self. The latest Bextrene cone materials are very well damped and will store very minimal amount of energy. That reduces the time smearing factor, which contributed to the warm mid range impression of the older designs.

Big E: What about tweeter designs, much fuss have being made about the use of exotic material such as diamond and beryllium amongst others, is Spendor looking in to exotic materials for tweeters as well?

PS: I would agree that the new exotic materials do have their benefits, such as very high frequency break up point. I think they are more for marketing purposes than anything else, the prestige factor, if I may say so. However, for us at Spendor, we'd like to focus more on the frequencies that we, human beings can hear.

Big E: That means Spendor still based tweeter designs primarily on the silk dome?

PS: Not silk dome exactly, but it's still a composit of woven materials nevertheless.

Big E: What about stiffening the cabinets? What's Spendor's approach to the matter?

PS: Other than the usual bracing methods to the cabinets, we also have a very neat trick. We'd put polypropylene blocks in strategic areas such as at the corner bracing, where the polypropylene block would absorb the coincidental resonance and turn them in to heat.

Big E: How does Spendor plan to bridge the gap between the audiophiles and the non-audiophiles in this wonderful hobby of ours called hifi?

PS: We have the A line of speakers which are of the slim box design, which would allow them to integrate well with modern home decor. They can be used as stereo pair or in an AV system. They perform very well across all musical genres and movies. Our Classic and SA line of speakers targets the typical audiophile requirements, and our new ST line pushes towards aspirational high end taste.

It was getting late and Philip needed to pack for his trip home. I was the last of the many people he spoke to on the last day of KLIAV 2011.

1 comment:

junchoon2989 said...

let get this straight - if Spendor is to focus on what the human can hear, why can't i find speaker models from them that are 20hz-20khz? also, is Spendor implying i can't feel a below 20hz soundwave blasting at me? what about musical instruments that could reach 40khz and above? :)