Upgrade from Spendor BC-1: need ideas

For more than twenty years I have been living with a pair of Spendor BC1's that I love. When I bought them, I lived in NYC, passed via London a few times, and had a lot of time to listen and compare. Looking back, I did well. Starting with zero knowledge of anything, I ended up with a short list consisting of Quad ESL, but no way they would fit in my room, and the BC-1, which I did purchase.

I am beginning to think about a possible "upgrade", under circumstances that are similar as well as different. My apartment still has no room for the Quads! So it has to be a tower like design again. I don't have time or circumstances to easily listen to and compare a large number of good speakers. That's why I turn to you for advice. If you know BC-1's or similar sounding models (KEF, Rogers, B&W, etc), please suggest specific models that would constitute a meaningful upgrade now,

A few words of clarification:

1. I mainly listen to classical music, but then everything from symphonies to solo flute or vocal. I am not trying to duplicate the concert hall acoustics in my room because I know that is impossible and even good halls sound different anyway. I don't know most singers and musicians personally and don't know what they or their instruments sound like. In other words, while I want my speakers to be "accurate" in the sense of avoiding obvious distortion, I don't have the "original" reference to judge "accuracy". I know and accept that it is all an illusion, and want the illusion to be as beautiful and convincing as possible. I would be happy if chamber and solo sounded like artists were right there. Such effect is difficult with complex orchestral works but I'll take what I can get.

2. The speakers cannot take up too much floor space. The BC-1's footprint is fine. They could be taller though.

3. My present amp is Audiolab 8000S (60w/ch). The room size is 15'x18' (x12' ceiling). But this could change. Therefore, while the speakers should work well with what I have, they should not be overly fussy.

4. Certain brand names keep coming up. Friends suggest Spendor, Dynaudio, Proac in almost the same breath. However, I am also open to smaller less known brands. If there is an extremely talented person making much better speakers in some small town somewhere, let me know!

5. Please suggest specific models. They need not be current models, I am open to discontinued and used. Please give me an idea what a good used pair might cost though.

My plan is to make a short list and see what I can do about finding a pair to listen to (I am in Chicago area). If there is one outstanding candidate, proverbial head & shoulders above all the rest (as Quad 988 would be if it was 1/2 its size!), then I may buy a pair anyway, listen to them and BC-1's side by side for a few months, and then sell one or the other.

Thank you.
Unless the drivers are getting aged your BC-1's, I doubt you'd find much today that is significantly better than the BC-1's for your taste. In fact, your attempt at an "upgrade" could easily become a siginifcant downgrade with most speakers available today.

I know an audio shop owner who has BC-1's too and has never found anything that made him want to change other than possibly the newer S9. Even now though, he still hasn't made the switch and he's heard (and could own) just about everything out there.

Therefore, my suggestion is to tread carefully. If not Spendor, I'd stick to the Harbeth, Proac, and Living Voice families. Vandersteen is another brand that may suit your taste and budget too. Also, if you like the Quad's, but they don't fit, here's a curveball. Find a used pair of Acoustats and perhaps mate it with a sub (Vandersteen preferably).
Thanks Labtec. As for the drivers aging, well they *are* >25 years old. The BC1's power handling was never legendary, and I have always been careful with volume so as not to blow the tweeter. In fact Spendor once brought out a BC2 just to address that issue but it wasn't well-received, or so I understand.

However, I don't plan to do anything in haste. If nothing better which is affordable too turns up, I may just settle for Spendor SP1/2 (e?) which is supposed to be the "final" version of BC-1, actully very good, just differently numbered.
Your question intrigues me and I'd like to propose one possible solution. Let me begin by saying that I'm a retired university professor who's been an audiophile for 40 years and was a silent partner in a high-end audio business for five years (from 1977-1982). (I no longer have any commercial connection to audio at all, so I'm not trying to sell you anything.) I've been to the high-end demonstrations at CES many times, as well as countless demonstrations in audio showrooms over a 40-year period. Like you I'm a classical music buff, with currently some 2,400 classical and opera recordings. When I used to be in the high-end audio business 20-25 years ago, with two partners, all three of us were keen on "the British sound," and we carried Spendor, Rogers, and Quad. We sold lots of Rogers LS3/5A's, Spendor BC-1's, and Quad electrostatics, and the then-new Quad ESL-63 when it came out in 1981. As you have no doubt learned, speaker design was a fundamentally mature technology a long time ago (as was amplifier design), and despite all the hype about terrific breakthroughs and colossal improvements in "the latest and greatest" gear from those eager to sell their new wares, a great speaker from 20, 30, or even 40 years ago is still a great speaker today (and the same can be said of great amps).

The Spendor BC-1 is one such classic speaker design, and I agree with the post that advises you of the difficulty of finding a new speaker you will find an improvement on the BC-1. I tried BC-1's in my home for a time, and I always liked them, but found I wanted something with a little more headroom and deeper bass, so I wound up with a pair of Spendor BC-3's, which I've owned and loved for 20 years and will never sell. This is the large, 4-way BBC studio monitor that Spendor made from 1980 to 1984. It was the BC-1's big brother and Spendor's top-of-the-line speaker at the time. It's a much larger, heavier (90 pounds each), costlier (they were $2,400 the pair 20 years ago) speaker than the BC-1, with an elaborate construction including a completely separate sub-enclosure for the 8" bextrene midrange driver (the same one that's in your BC-1), and a 12" bextrene woofer. This speaker solved the quibbles I had with the BC-1 (it will play louder and has much more extended, as well as better controlled, bass), but has all the musical virtues of the BC-1. It is one of the great, classic, full-range dynamic speaker systems. But it too is not flawless; it's problems are (1) that it's relatively inefficient, and (2) it evidently has a pretty horrendous impedance curve, because many amps sound unhappy trying to drive it (indeed, I've never heard another speaker that made differences in amps so dramatically pronounced). It has the further disadvantage of being very little known in the USA. (We knew the Spendor USA distributor pretty well in those days (he's now deceased), and he never made much effort to distribute the BC-3 here, perhaps because of the difficulties I've just mentioned.) Hence I hesitate to recommend the BC-3 to you. (And I assume that your problem with Quads, which you evidently admire (as I do), has to do with the fact that they are dipoles, because your listening room doesn't seem all that small, not with a 12' ceiling. I'm not quite clear on why the Quads couldn't be made to work in your listening room.)

I've got what may sound like a somewhat radical alternative to propose to you, but hear me out. You obviously like the sound of the BC-1's you've been happily living with all these years. My proposal is that, instead of spending a fortune on "new" speakers that you might wind up not liking as well, you acquire a second, used pair of BC-1's. You will need a second amp, and if you're pleased with the amp you've got driving your BC-1's, I'd suggest a second, used one. My suggestion is that you run "stacked" Spendor BC-1's, two per channel. The way to do this is to place the second pair of BC-1's on top of the first pair, but upside down (that is, with the tweeters next to each other). To drive the two amps you will need simple y-adapter interconnects from the preamp to the two amps; these are widely available.

I have considerable experience of "stacked" dynamic speaker systems, going back to the 1970s, when I started with a "stacked" system of four Large Advents (this was suggested by an article in TAS), then stacked Dynaco A-25s, then Dynaco A-35s. Today I have, in a secondary system, stacked Advent AS2's. In every case (always assuming adequate amplifiers), the stacked system has offered performance an order of magnitude superior to the single pair of speakers. The soundstage opens up dramatically, bass response is improved and extended (you'll have four 8" drivers moving air instead of two), and dynamic headroom is greatly increased, giving the system a sense of effortlessness and ease, especially noticeable in climaxes, that can't be approached by a single pair. The reason for this is obvious: all drivers, and both amps, are working half as hard to produce the same SPL, so everything is basically coasting, and there is no sense of strain when the music gets loud/complex. My experience is that most listeners who have never tried "stacking" are astonished at the difference it makes. It won't work with all speakers, but it will work with the BC-1's. It is essential, if you're going to try this, to invert the second pair and keep the tweeters next to each other; this will preserve the fine imaging/soundstaging of the BC-1's intact.

Finally, as the ultimate step in an improved system for you, I'd suggest a really good subwoofer. My own favorite is the Paradigm Reference Series Servo-15, a 90-pound 15" servo-controlled sub of superb quality, with an abundantly powerful amp built in. This sub goes all the say down to an honest 20Hz and has plenty of power for abundant undistorted low-bass output. It will extend the bottom end of the BC-1's significantly. I run one of these with Paradigm's X30 electronic crossover, which gives complete control over all parameters of the sub's performance (and you don't need to run the BC-1's through the crossover at all; preserve their purity by playing them flat out; that's what I do and there's not a problem). As top-quality subs and crossovers go, these two Paradigm products are bargains, and you should be able to find used ones at reasonable prices. But any one of a number of first-rate subs will work, and will extend the bottom-end performance of your system in a satisfying way to make it a truly full-range system.

With such a system, properly set up and adjusted, you'll have it all: the superb qualities of the BC-1's, a new ease and effortlessness of presentation with a dramatically opened-up soundstage, plenty of dynamic headroom, and true deep bass that you're not getting now (and I think you'll be surprised at how much deep bass there is in modern digital classical recordings that you haven't been hearing on the BC-1's).
I own the 988's and feel ,like you that they are simply the best; but try the Spendor 1/2. It is in my opinion, Spendor's (2nd?) masterwork.
Your post brings a lot of memories regarding Spendor, Quad 57 and Rogers and I agree it will be difficult for you to find something today that is much better. I suggest you check Spendor (1/2) and Harbeth (Compact 7ES-2 and Super HL5).

I have similar situation and like the same music, Iv bin A audio nut for 30+ years, Iv had Proac, B&W, Quad, and A pair of used Wilson watt, I now have spendor s9e and to me they are the best sounding speaker so far for my taste. The s9e's like allot of power I use 2 krell 300 watt monos with them and they do everything very well. Check out the s9e' I think youl like them. (jeb83r)
I'd stick w/Spendors (SP 2/3s or 1/2s) -- slightly smaller and a very nice sound.
I have owned a few BC1 type speakers and have enjoyed them all.B&W DM2s,Rogers Export Monitors and Tangent RS4s all have a similar drivers and sound.I owned the RS4s for many years and foolishly sold them.There is just something right about these and I would advise you not to sell them even if you buy something else.It would be quite easy to let your head decide something else is better but over time your soul will hanker for the BC1s.
An altrenative would be to have the crossovers rebuilt with new premium quality capacitors-but you need to get good advice on this because different capacitors have different sounds and you need to determine the type of sound you prefer even if these differences are reasonably subtle.You should also probably look into tube preamps.The Supratek preamps sound superb with Spendors.Supratek uses BC3s and BC1s amongst other things as monitors.


you didn't indicate budget constraint, so 2 speaker systems come to mind. you may want to check with aerail acosutics and devore fidelity fo check for suitability of amplifier.

the aerial 10ts and one the lower priced devore fidelity speakers are worth considering.

also, if your amp is kind to the ear, the proac response 3s are pretty good.
Drubin: I am very happy with my Spendor BC1's and under no pressure to buy something in a hurry. I continue to educate myself and audition contenders as and when opportunities arise, but haven't run into anything that would be just right. I have heard SP1/2 and a couple of Harbeth and Proac models, and they did somethings better than BC1's, but I didn't perceive enough of an improvement to justify the expense.

In a way this is not surprising: I bought my speakers after searching far and wide and even after buying them kept checking them against other contenders, always deciding to stay with them. So they match my taste and while it may be possible to better them, that should not be easy. I am curious about newer manufacturers like Salk, Tyler, or Zu, but have't had a chance to hear them.

Jtgofish: Sorry to hear about your Tangents, never heard them, but always heard good things about them. Didn't they get a really glowing review in one of the high-end magazines once?

Your advice is good. Even if I get something esle, I will be in no hurry to sell my BC1's. In fact I plan to listen to both side by side and compare them at least for a few months in my own room. It is almost silly to throw them away for a few hundred dollars in today's used market, if I had space I'd rather use them in second system.
Mrtennis: When I am buying something for the first time or replacing something I can't live with, then I shop aggressively and work with a budget. When upgrading something I am happy with, my approach is more relaxed, a component has to sell itself to me. That said, there are always "constraints" and I probably couldn't go beyond "a few thousand" without having to sleep alone on the couch for an intolerably long time. :)

This process is necessarily slow. Unlike my first purchase, I am not spending all of my weekends at local dealers or driving several hundred miles to one. That a credible direct sale model has emerged bypassing dealers is a new opportunity and a complication as well.

Choices I see at present fall into two broad groups.

(A) I can remain within the British family with Harbeth, Spendor, Proac. But the models I have heard, even when they seem better than BC1's, don't seem enough of an improvement to justify the expense. Still, if a good used opportunity comes along, I may take the plunge. At least I will gain a few hz of extra bass and better power handling.

(B) I am intrigued by newer direct-sale models like GMA, Salk, Tyler, Zu. Unfortunately these are difficult to compare among themselves. Still, I will learn what I can as I find opportunities

But I am not in an active search. I have very good speakers and great music. I am simply open to change if an opportunity seems just right.
You may want to add the Daedalus DA-1 to your list. If you poke around the archives a little you will see that this speaker won over at least one long-time British sound enthusiast.
Drubin: Thanks. I will dig the archives when I have more time, but if you just happen to know, are there reports of direct comparison between the Daedalus DA-1 and the speakers I know (Spendor, Harbeth, Proac, Quad) or otherwise mention (GMA, Salk, Tyler, Zu)? What drivers do they use?

BTW, does anybody know if it is possible to do AND/OR searches at A'gon, for example "spendor AND harbeth", "spendor OR harbeth" etc. ?
I believe you can search that way. Here's a review and discussion of the Daedalus by a former Harbeth owner.

Thanks for the link to DA-1 review. Since DA-1 costs $7000, I was not shocked to hear that it is better than Harbeth Compact 7 which costs around $2800! A comparison with Harbeth M-40 would be more meaningful.

I do understand that one can only compare what one happens to have on hand, but it is also our job to place the result in perspective.

I feel A'gon community should slowly accumulate A/B comparison results among models that people swear by: GMA, Tyler, Zu, Daedalus, etc. We don;t have dealers to rely upon, and media reviewers were never reliable for such purposes. Perhaps formal and informal groups of audiophiles can organize local listening sessions and share their findings with the rest of us.
You are correct that it is apples and oranges when it comes to price. I thought the Daedalus discussion would be of interest to you because Dodgealum listened to a LOT of speakers in his search for something that improved upon or at least equalled his beloved Harbeths and met his floorstanding requirement. His writings about this journey – you might want to look at other threads he initiated – were very enlightening and insightful into the process of zeroing in on what one cares most about in a loudspeaker.
For your environment and listening tastes the Shahinian ARC speaker is a viable candidate.
I went from Spendor 1/2's to ARC's. I have zero buyers remorse and if money and room size ever improves I'd get the bigger Shahinians in a heart beat.
Hbarrel: Thanks. I have heard of Shahinian but never heard them. It may be irrational, or call it Bose effect, but I have tended to shy away from speakers that emphasize "reflected" or "omnidirectional" features. Still, if an opportunity came along I'd give them a listen.
The spendor BC1 is and always will be a benchmark for mid to upper midrange response. The mid on opera and most vocals just "sing" like a voodoo doll! There was definetely a magic touch that Spencer Hughes built into these little guys and as such, its hard to part with them.

Having said that, the sp1 is a big bass improvement as well
as sound pressure levels on large orchestral recordings. By some strange chance, the same celestion driver is a touch more tamed in the sp1,(with a coles super tweeter i
believe) but you lose a touch of the midrange "magic" with
the polyproplyne cone versus the BC1 bextrene.

The sp2/2 is wonderful and is almost like the mid-high range of the BC1, and i hear the sp2/3 might be the closest
with more bass. Im wanting to audition sp1/2e to compare to both bc1 and sp1 to make the final tally. The Harbeth should be worth listening to (shl5 as Derek Hughes, now
No need to stay within the BBC family, however. I would certainly enjoy hearing about any comparison between British speakers---as an old Spendor loyalist, I sadly must say that the torch appears to have been passed to Harbeth, ATC, and Proac---and comparably priced modern ones: Tyler, Salk, Zu, Silverline, etc.
I went from Spendor BC-1's to SP-1's, and in my system it was quite an improvement. The SP-1s are more efficient, more dynamic, image much better, and seem to have a more natural tonal balance. As you might expect, they retain a lot of the BC-1 qualities as well - you know right away that you are listening to a Spendor. They also have the same footprint as the BC-1's in terms of height and floor space, and can use the same stands. You do sacrifice a little bit of detail in the upper mids and highs however, although not much.

However, I must stress that I heard these differences within the context of my own system, including a relatively low powered Scott 222c integrated amp (about 24 wpc). Also, my BC-1's were very old and may not have been in tip top-shape. Some also assert that in the BC-1 days there was much more sample-to-sample variation, so we might be talking about differences other than those caused by the actual model change.

Whatever you decide, I would urge you to try to audition any contemplated replacement speakers in your own system. Otherwise, there are just too many variables to deal with -
component interaction, sample-to-sample variation, room interactions, your individual priorities in listening, etc. BC-1's are a classic speaker with many strengths, and if you aren't very particular, you might end up trading sideways or even downwards.
I am anxiously waiting to audition the Harbeth SHL5! I will
not go in with any preconceptions except that they should
be superb. However, with their good bass response and power
handling(as ive heard) they have to have the mid to upper
mid quality of the BC1,(with the spendor tradition of superb woodwind, oboe etc, sound).
I wish somebody could direct me to a review by Martin Colloms of Harbeth (read his books and orginal BC1 and SP1
reviews!). Id love to also find a review by him of the sp2/3e vs harbeth shl5, though for some reason he is hard
to find these days.
P.S. Reviews dont take the place of auditions; but Martin
Colloms is the only reviewer I trust when it comes to loudspeakers.
This is a bit funny I guess. I would respond by saying
that when I first got my auditon sp1 I also thought they
were better than the BC1! After much time of enjoyment,you
learn the BC1 has something that the sp1 almost, almost
reaches...... The phenomenal, magic mid to upper mid of the
BC1. It almost makes it.
Not having heard the sp1/2 or 2/e ,I wish they could get that BC1 magic mid in the above models with more bass and
sound pressure levels. Derek Hughes left for Harbeth but the new owner can hopefully work on it. Any comments by anyone??