Spendor Classic 3/1 Vs Graham/Chartwell LS6: A British Battle Royale

Spendor Classic 3/1 Vs Graham/Chartwell LS6: A British Battle Royale

Football Face Off
Big Battle of the Brit Two-Ways: Spendor Audio Classic 3/1 Vs Graham Audio/Chartwell LS6
Spendor Audio Classic 3/1: MSRP $5600 (Canadian). This speaker’s devoted stand (not reviewed) retails for $1625 Canadian per pair
Graham Audio/Chartwell LS6: MSRP $5600 (approximate) Canadian, Factory Stands: $1500 (USD), Artesania Decoupling Footers: $750 (USD)



There is a candy spot in two-way stand mounts, my favorite speaker design. That candy spot embraces neither too giant an enclosure nor too small. This assessment provides a comparability between two acknowledged leaders within the by no means ending battle for our hearts as the present favorite two-way stand mount. 

The Spendor Classic 3/1 with the proper amplifier (learn on) provides an unbelievably clean and velvety midrange, which is one thing of a Spendor fetish. In distinction, the Graham Audio LS6 with the proper amplifier has a midrange impression that may solely be characterised as providing uncanny immediacy, on a stage rivaling electrostatic and planar audio system.   

I discovered that the Chartwell LS6 loaded my room in a pleasant manner, however the decrease register on the Spendor was extra prolonged and detailed. Soundstaging for each have been wonderful. The highs for each designs are just about equal, however the transient immediacy of the LS6 offers it a slight listener’s edge that’s laborious to dispute. 

It has been famous by others that the Spendor 3/1 and the Graham LS6 are each touched by the design genius of the Hughes household. The father, Spencer, was liable for the unique Spendor traditional designs such because the (3-way) BC1, whereas his son, Derek, is liable for the Spendor SP1 in addition to all the brand new Graham Audio designs. In this sense these two speaker designs (and designers) are nearly e book matched. 

There should be a winner in any such battle, however the variations right here will actually come all the way down to consumer preferences. If you’re weary of the fatigue induced by ‘audiophile designs’ the place the emphasis is on excessive decision, then the Spendor when matched with the proper amplifier can be the primary selection for a extra relaxed listening expertise. On the opposite hand, if you’re on the lookout for extra immediacy and interior element within the midrange – with a bit much less bass extension – then the LS6 can be most well-liked. 

Overall we declare the winner, by a small margin, to be the Graham Audio LS6. But realistically these are merely the most effective two-way dynamic driver standmount audio system that I’ve ever auditioned, and both ought to delight any proprietor.



The British appear to personal the two-way standmount design territory. It has been this fashion for many years. I believe it has one thing to do with the dimensions of the everyday UK parlour discovered within the house, which is way smaller than the everyday North American model. 

Much of the R&D work may also be traced again to the unique BBC Radio tasks, the place nice emphasis was positioned on ‘pure voicing’ in order that announcers would sound as actual as life when reproduced.  By embracing specified requirements, e.g. the LS3/5 licensed design, a number of of Britain’s speaker firms have run with this ball for many years, competing face to face for client and business approval.

Thus, the perfecting of traditional two-way standmount speaker designs has turn out to be an object of status amongst dozens of UK producers – Harbeth, ATC, KEF,  Proac, Wharfedale, Celestion, and Bowers & Wilkins to call only a few. While every design might have distinctive goals, in my humble view the dimensions of the cupboard is the important thing to a profitable two-way standmount design. 

The at the moment fashionable retro motion in audio, corresponding to is discovered within the latest Mission 770, yields a cupboard that may be a bit too giant for my visible tastes. In distinction the assorted iterations of the LS3/5a and their clones are a bit too small. The trick in a standmount two-way is to search out the proper stability in a not too giant enclosure (about one cubic foot), which often leads to a reflex design with a big port.  

Besides the above listed producers there are merchandise that match this template from among the extra boutique UK firms, corresponding to Spendor and Graham Audio. So we’re pitting two excellent contenders that match this template right into a pitched battle for our ears; the Spendor Classic 3/1 and the newer Graham Audio LS6. Let’s get to it. 


Spendor Classic 3/1

I received fired up throughout the Toronto Audio Fest in October 2023 and ordered a pair of Spendor Classic 3/1 audio system from Brooklyn Audio In Nova Scotia. According to some UK press commentary these occupy a particular area of interest within the Spendor Classic vary. 

It has been a really lengthy whereas since a brand new Spendor speaker graced my listening room (the final pair have been S3/5 R2s) and I used to be curious to see how their Classic vary was holding up. The most suitable choice, I believed, was to purchase a pair and see. 

The Classic 3/1  is a ‘plain jane’ design with a 180 mm proprietary bass/mid driver and a Spendor-designed and constructed 22 mm delicate dome tweeter that can be utilized in different Spendor fashions. As it is a BBC-derived lossy cupboard design, the crossover frequency is pretty excessive at 3700 Hz. 

The cupboard is a bit bigger (16 X 9 X 11″) than the LS6, and is fantastically veneered (in my case in cherry). While the cupboards seem plain, additionally they look ‘retro’ or classic, which is becoming as they’re within the Classic vary. A flared tuning port sports activities the rear panel and top quality binding posts are additionally discovered with bi-wire capabilities. For assessment functions I didn’t bi-wire and I used the manufacturing unit jumpers provided. 

The audio system have magnetic grills, and these are meant for use when listening as really useful. The grill match is sort of tight and the cupboards have a recessed entrance edge that the grills nest into. 

The sensitivity of the Classic 3/1 audio system is 88 db, and the nominal impedance is 8 ohms. The frequency vary is acknowledged as 40 – 25000 Hz, and the really useful amplifier energy is 25 – 150 watts. 


The Graham Audio – Chartwell LS6

Matt Thomas at Hearken Audio in Kitchener/Waterloo is a Graham Audio seller and he generously supplied me the usage of a pair of the Chartwell LS6 audio system for this assessment, in addition to their factory-fitted stands (footnote 1) . The package deal got here with {custom} decoupling footers by Artesania, which Matt recommends and I adopted his recommendation. 

The LS6 can be not a sophisticated design, however like all of the Graham Audio audio system it depends on a BBC based mostly lossy cupboard development that’s now seen by many speaker designers as old school.  Other than that it’s a typical two-way passive speaker with a 165 mm (6 inch) coated-polypropylene-diaphragm bass/mid driver, and a 19 mm soft-dome tweeter. 

The tweeter is definitely the identical unit because the one employed within the Graham/Chartwell LS3/5, and each drivers are custom-designed models from Norwegian specialist firm SEAS. A passive crossover integrates the drivers at 4kHz and consists of some parts devoted to ‘voicing’ this monitor although passive equalization (see under).

The LS6 has a smaller cupboard than the Spendor 3/1 and is 36cm excessive, 24cm large and 26cm deep (14.2 x 9.5 x 10.2″). The cupboard is completed in a tastefully restrained wooden veneer and incorporates a big, generously flared reflex port straight behind the tweeter on its rear panel. Lower on the rear panel are a pair of lovely (single-wire) binding-post terminals and an informational badge label. 

Around on the entrance panel, alongside the tweeter, is a change which supplies an non-obligatory +1dB or +2dB tweeter stage adjustment. Magnetically secured cloth grilles are provided, and the consumer handbook recommends that they be fitted for listening, so I saved them on throughout the assessment.

Indications are that the design temporary for the LS6 was to render the human voice as precisely as potential, however with extra bass extension and better dynamics than the LS3/5a. I believe that’s a reasonably good description of the LS6’s character (Footnote 2). The LS6’s have a bigger cupboard, a bigger mid-bass driver and are far more environment friendly than the LS3/5a, and the legal guidelines of physics apply right here. Other specs are listed under. 

Amps & Synergies 

Initially once I acquired the Spendors by transport, I set them up utilizing a Unison ‘Simply Italy’ amplifier, a small 13 watt single-ended EL34 tube design that I a lot love. This was a mistake, and first impressions really matter. Some would say that the Unison is just too weak to drive these audio system however I usually hear at average ranges, with about 75dB as a ceiling. 

The results of the Spendor/Unison pairing was that originally I discovered the Spendors to be considerably delicate and underwhelming and it took a couple of hundred hours of use to essentially break them in. 

When the Grahams arrived they have been already damaged in and I additionally set them up initially with the Unison amplfier. They responded significantly better to the Unison than the Spendors did, and a stage of interior element was instantly obvious that had escaped discover with the Spendors. 

After a couple of week of LS6 use, I switched amplifiers and connected a Naim Nait XS to the Spendors. Boy oh boy, the distinction was not refined. The Naim grabbed the Spendors by the throat and actually ‘woke them up’. I used to be a bit shocked on the extent of the transformation, but in addition happy. The midrange immediacy which was previously missing within the Spendors was out of the blue obvious, the bass definition was startling and the soundstage gained width and depth. As if by magic, the Spendors have been again within the critical comparability sport. 

This is all not too stunning because the pairing of Spendor audio system and Naim amplification has an extended historical past of being a very profitable marriage. But I used to be caught a bit off-guard and this demonstrates as soon as once more how very important speaker and amplifier matching is to getting splendid audiophile outcomes. 

I then thought (in anticipation) that once I would couple the Naim with the Graham Audio LS6s, I might be in heaven. But it was to not be. As it turned out, the Naim/Graham combo was a troublesome hear. The very alive sound that the Spendors have been issuing was changed by a way of midrange peakiness that utterly flabbergasted me. The Naim was ‘an excessive amount of’ for the Grahams and to optimize the sound issuing from the Grahams I needed to shortly return to driving them with the Unison tube amp. 

Now this little life lesson is a reminder to me that we’re at all times listening to a speaker plus an related amplifier mixture. Thus it isn’t truthful to essentially say that I’m doing a comparability of a Spendor speaker and a Graham Audio speaker, however relatively that I’m evaluating a Spendor/Naim combo with a Graham/Unison combo. Only on this manner can I be mentioned to be reviewing the most effective techniques on supply. 

This could appear apparent to many however is central to the audiophile expertise. There are these, together with Alan Shaw of Harbeth fame, who contend that every one amplifiers (responsibly designed) sound the identical, however the synergies between audio system and completely different amplifiers are fairly variable. When you place a voltage load on a speaker and when a complicated crossover comes into play in addition to the voicing of the speaker, some stunning issues can occur. 

As far as the opposite ancillary gear is worried, I listened primarily to CDs by way of a Cambridge Audio 640c participant, and to vinyl on a Gold Note Valore Special version turntable, with a HANA EL cartridge fed by way of a Parasound phono pre-amplifier. Speaker cables have been Audio Sensibility Impact cables made with OCC copper. 


Listening Comparisons 

A big provide of fabric was performed in over two weeks of cautious listening and this part of the assessment will solely cowl a faction of what was auditioned. Within motive, I attempted to make sure that most alternatives have been performed on each audio system below assessment, however this was not at all times achieved. 

The mixtures of the Spendor/Naim and Graham/Unison have been really fairly shut in character to one another. While there have been nonetheless some variations between the combos, they have been extra restrained and required very shut listening. 

First up is Cassandra Wilson’s audiophile-caliber CD ‘Blue Light Till Dawn’. I exploit this mixture of alternatives to check a speaker’s various responses because the tracks comprise layers of bizarre devices and distinctive sounds all wrapped in a jazz-inflected format. Right out of the gate the Spendor/Naim combo confirmed an uncommon aptitude to render life-like the utterances and tonal shadings of the assorted instrumental sounds emanating from the tracks.  

Not far behind, the Graham/Unison combo appeared to ‘get the vocals proper’ and though the bass extension was not as fast or deep because the Spendor/Naim combo, the fetching mid-bass decision of the Graham/Unison combo left little to be desired. 

I auditioned Van Morrison’s longest recorded monitor, ‘In The Summertime in England’, discovered on the CD ‘Common One’. I really like this monitor because it epitomizes Van’s mid-period voice and jazzy vocal shadings. The Spendor/Naim pairing introduced an power and soundstage width to the monitor that shocked me, and the decrease registers have been rendered wealthy and have been filled with element and bass precision. 

Through the Graham/Unison combo, the mids have been delicate but in addition have been formed with a number of pure verve. The power of the Grahams is of their immediacy, which jogged my memory of electrostatic designs. Soundstaging with the Graham/Unison combo was equal to the Spendors, and the bass traces, whereas a bit lighter, have been eminently tuneful and enhanced by some strengthened mid-bass harmonics. On stability I most well-liked the Graham/Unison rendition of this monitor, though the competitors was very shut. 

Turning to a vinyl copy of Andreas Wollenwieder’s album ‘White Winds’, I used to be struck by the delicacy of the harp and bell notes on the Graham/Unison combo.  Again, this album incorporates many uncommon devices enjoying within the background, and the Grahams did a fantastic job of resolving these uncommon voices in addition to the feminine choral teams that embellish some tracks. 

The considerably deeper bass response of the Spendor/Naim combo did improve the soundstage and gave a better sense of depth to the harp performances. I felt the Spendor/Naim combo additionally did spotlight the choral teams and supplied extra physique to their performances, nevertheless this was a considerably minor however illuminating impact. 

Having seen the results that the higher bass of the Spendor/Naim combo had on my reactions, I then checked out Curtis Mayfield’s movie masterpiece ‘Superfly’, and specifically the monitor ‘Pusher Man’. This is a polyrhythmic monitor of huge complexity the place conga drums compete for the eye of the listener, and so they completely demand the proper snap to their whack. The decision of mid-bass is actually stretched to the bounds with this monitor.  

I discovered the Spendor/Naim combo did a greater job of voicing the smashing congas – however the Graham/Unison combo gave a superior efficiency to the vocal monitor. Other orchestral devices have been additionally rendered with better delicacy by the Graham/Unison combo, so general I might fee this specific take a look at as a useless warmth. 

The closing CD I’ll touch upon is Alison Brown’s tour de power ‘Stolen Moments’. Brown is a banjo virtuoso who can play bluegrass at blinding pace, and has gathered a gaggle of like-minded performers bashing away on devices corresponding to mandolin and piano. The tracks are filled with verve and elan, and plenty of are performed at breathtakingly speedy tempo. The potential of any speaker to comply with the musical traces of every instrument are examined within the excessive by the contents of this  CD. 

The immediacy of the Graham/Unison pairing was startlingly evident in these tracks, and the vocal decision was exemplary. The Spendor/Naim combo was a bit slower sounding, however had better attain within the bass area, and this added a notable increase to the rhythmic content material. Once once more, the outcomes have been actually a tie and the desire for one over the opposite combo would very a lot depend upon the listener’s biases. I tended to favour general the Graham/Unison soundscape on this take a look at. 

Unfortunately the size of this assessment prevents me from making intensive comparisons to different speaker samples I’ve heard. I do need to say although {that a} pair of J. M. Reynaud Bliss Jubilees that I owned/reviewed a couple of years in the past have been extra succesful at transmitting the ’emotional content material’ of music than both of those two British designs. However, each the Spendor/Naim combo and the Graham/Unison combo are all in regards to the midrange and at that job these two BBC derived lossy cupboards are merely excellent. Which they’d higher be, at at this time’s costs! I really discover these audio system to be pushing the upward boundary of worth acceptability. In specific the manufacturing unit stands strike me as being very costly for what’s concerned. It is true that they’re an ideal match, however cash doesn’t develop on bushes and ‘audio inflation’ is actual and galloping alongside as if there have been no tomorrow. So there, I’ve had my rant.





If you’re out there for a standmounted two-way loudspeaker with an unimpeachable BBC pedigree, and with a selected aptitude for conveying the midrange glory of the human voice and different devices, please do try each the Spendor Classic 3/1 and the Graham Audio/Chartwell LS6.  Both these audio system are a transparent victory for the BBC faculty of thin-walled cupboard speaker design. 

These are reference stage audio system so please be aware how vital matching with an acceptable amplifier will probably be, as famous in my experiences above. Suggestions out of your retailer would seemingly be useful right here. 

There should be a winner in any battle and we declare now that winner to be, by a really slight margin, the Graham Audio LS6 (Footnote 3).  The LS6 when paired with the proper amplifier provides a slight edge, however each audio system are seemingly the most effective two-way dynamic driver standmount audio system that I’ve ever auditioned. (Footnote 4)


Footnote 1. The Chartwell title is used as it’s a division of Graham Audio and refers back to the legendary firm from the Seventies that licensed BBC speaker designs. 

Footnote 2. In the Seventies Rogers made an LS6 mannequin which was a two-way, however was bigger than the auditioned Chartwell. 

Footnote 3. Another caveat is that the Graham was auditioned with its native stands, in addition to the aftermarket decoupling ft.

Footnote 4. By the way in which, the Chartwell LS6 additionally is available in a floorstanding model, with somewhat extra bass extension and impression. Inquire with the seller, if !


Thanks to Jody at Brooklyn Audio for sending me the Spendor 3/1s, and to Matt Thomas of Hearken Audio for lending us the Graham Audio LS6s.  


Spendor Classic 3/1 Specifications

Type: 2-way bass reflex standmount

Drive Units: LF 7.08” (180mm), HF 0.87” (22mm)

Response: 40Hz – 25kHz

Impedance: 8 Ohms

Amplifier: 25 – 150watts

Sensitivity: 88dB

Crossover: 3.7kHz

Dimensions: 16” x 9” x 11” (395 x 220 x 285mm)

Weight: 22lbs (10kg)


Graham Audio – Chartwell LS6 Specifications

System:  2-Way, reflex loading

Enclosure:  Thin wall damped development

Finish:  Real wooden veneer

Dimensions (w/h/d):  24cm by 37cm by 26cm

Weight:  9.5kg

Frequency response:  45Hz to 20kHz, ±2dB

Nominal impedance: 

Sensitivity:  87dB SPL (2.83V, 1m)

Maximum output:  Over 100dB for a pair at 2m

Bass/midrange:  165mm polypropylene

Tweeter:  19mm dome tweeter

Recommended energy: 50 – 150 watts unclipped programme

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by way of Wall of Sound | Audio and Music Reviews https://wallofsound.ca

January 25, 2024 at 01:20AM

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