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
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.