Edwards Audio SP1
Here’s yet another Stereomojo exclusive “Stereo for Cheap Bastards” entry. S4CB has turned out to be one of our most popular new categories ever! Apparently there are a lot of us Cheap Bastards out there. Of course, “cheap” is a very relative term and in our case it means stereo gear that sells for $1,000 or LESS. What it doesn’t mean is cheap quality or underperformance. Some you could easily label as giant killers. Are the SP1’s giant killers? Let’s find out together.
First you might ask, “Who is Talk Electronics”? If you don’t know, you must be new to Stereomojo because this is the fourth review of Talk products we’ve published. The others have been turntables and phono preamps for turntables, all high value to price/performance champs. But just in case you forgot, their website says, “TALK Electronics is a UK based designer and manufacturer of award winning hi-fi. For over 15 years we have designed and manufactured (in the UK) some of the world’s finest value-for-money high-fidelity equipment.”
Then where does Edwards Audio come in? “The Edwards Audio series from TALK Electronics is a competitive range of unrivaled high performance products, all designed and built in the UK. Don’t let their size deceive you as each has been designed to set new standards in this area and can compete with many ‘fully grown’ products out there. If reviews are anything to go by then we have achieved our goal with many awards and reviews from around the world.”
Now enter the Edwards Audio SP1 Loudspeaker, the subject of today's review. My review pair arrived courtesy of Carl James, 30 some-year proprietor of USA HiFi, in a luxurious high-gloss black finish. They were boxed for safety, doubled boxed together and did not present a difficult lift. Diminutive in size at 6.7” x 9.8” x 12.2”, they are a 2-way ported bass reflex design with a Nominal impedance of 6 Ohms but with a minimum of 3.9 Ohms, so they should be pretty amp friendly.
Rated at a Sensitivity of 87dB – 1W (2.83V RMS) at 1 meter, you’d probably want to use an amp of at least 50 good watts each side. I mainly used my Silk MC 100B tube amp that puts out 30 wpc in Triode mode and double that in Ultralinear. I never felt the SP1’s were underdriven, but if you’re prone to solid-state, the 50 wpc is a good guideline.
Frequency range is listed as 53Hz-20kHz +/- 6dB in room on axis at 1M. Not ruler flat, but you’d most likely detest the sound of a ruler flat speaker if you ever heard one. If you’re buying a compact speaker like this, you can’t expect a low end that will give you a hernia, right? Based loosely around an already proven design, Talk enlisted the services of Richard Allen, a renowned and experienced acoustic engineer to help advance the design further and to make it perform how they wanted. To this end they have improved the tweeter, optimized the X-over using high quality capacitors and air core inductors in addition to which they have shaped the front baffle to improve dispersion.
HOW THE TALK’S SPEAK
The first thing I listen for in any piece of equipment is tone which is defined as; “A musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength.” In layman’s parlance, does it sounds like it’s supposed to in real life? This is the key to getting it into my house. How does the Edwards stand in this department? A little trumpet from jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan on his 1958 Verve album “Candy” went a long way in answering this question. We’ve often written that over 80% of music is in the mid range, so what purpose does the low bass play besides shaking the room and pounding your chest? It helps lay the foundation for the rest of the spectrum. Ever thought why do you put salt in cookies? Because it highlights the taste of the sugar! Same with bass.
The trumpet was clean sounding with a touch of the upper registers sounding a pinch too aggressive. That lack of low bass made the instrument sound a little lean but you can still tell it was a trumpet. Brush strokes on the very first song, “Candy” were very articulate and lifelike. To me the piano notes were not as percussive as I am use to. As you’re about to learn though, this early stereo recording might not have been the bet first choice.
The guitar work on Clapton's 1992 “Unplugged” CD was fast, clean and lean. You could tell the foundation of the music was missing but yet the music was quite pleasing and musical. The crowd noise at the beginning of the CD was realistic where you could follow individual people in the audience. Detail was excellent. So revealing that one could clearly tell that the blond in the second row was wearing pink panties! I couldn’t tell if his wife sitting next to him knew that he was wearing them, but then all speakers have their limitations….
One thing that surprised me was how crisp and precise the sound of the guitar strings were compared to the piano on the ’58 Lee Morgan release. Clapton's voice was smooth and very pleasing with just a hint of the bass foundation missing. Perhaps the SP1’s were simply telling me the truth about the Lee Morgan ’58 recording in the first place.
Piano was much better on the Whiplash film soundtrack which just added credence to the SP1’s truth telling capabilities. The movie is about a talented, aspiring young drummer recruited to a prestigious school who endures unrelenting verbal abuse by its jazz band director, but amidst all that is an education about jazz music in general. The film has a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes movie reviews. It also won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing. The only song not written for the movie is Duke's Caravan.
The big band sound was rendered with good scale and overall balance. Try listening to “Too Hip To Retire” and “Whiplash” and be blown away. Also available on LP with a blood red disc - pictured.
And boy oh boy, take a listen to Shirley Horn's “Beautiful Love” from her 1991 You Won't Forget Me album. Total black background with her exquisite full voice along with the moaning, bluesy harmonica at the beginning and throughout makes the song completely mesmerizing. Piano is fully vindicated on this CD. Publisher’s note ~ Marvin has amazing taste in music and Shirley Horn is a great example. If you haven’t heard her recordings, no matter what your musical taste, you are missing something truly special. I’d recommend "Here's to Life" a Grammy Winner which a recent Downbeat Magazine poll of professional singers rightly ranked it as Best Jazz Vocal Recording since 1965. Yes, the vocal equivalent of Miles’s “Kind of Blue”. Just buy it then write and tell us how right we were…
I could not leave without me some Vienna Teng and she did not disappoint. On some systems she can come across as wee bit stringent, but on the SP-1's she was smooth as a baby's behind. Good job, Talk! If Vienna sounds stringent on your system guys, your system has a problem… Thanks for turning me on to her years ago, Marvin! ~publisher
I lied - couldn't leave without at least hearing Tin Pan Alley by Stevie Ray Vaughan. These little dudes just compel me to listen more. Stevie's playing was haunting, the recording had great depth of sound stage, with a good sense of pace and everything just had a snap to the sound. These Edwards Audio SP-1 speakers are great fun to which to listen.
I listened to the SP-1's with my Unison Research Nuovo integrated and Silk Audio MC-100B tube integrated, both of which I’ve reviewed here on Stereomojo. I preferred the sound of the Silk MC- 100B (tubes) with the SP-1's.
Some throw around the term “Giant Killer”. Giant killers these are probably not, just good honest sounding speakers. If you are wanting deep bass then look for bigger speakers or get a sub, but in the right situation such as small room, bedroom, office, kitchen or as a computer set, you get a good sense of what the high-end all about.
The SP-1's commit misbehaviors of omission rather than committing any gross errors in any performance areas. With no apologies to Meghan Trainor who had the silly hit “It’s All About That Bass”, in this case it’s All About That Midrange, baby! You could do a lot worse for $1000.
In the right situation mentioned above, I could easily live with these. And that’s saying a lot!
93 - 6th Avenue North
Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada
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