Looking forward to some rare Spica SC-50 speakers

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ghostworld, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
    I am a long time fan of John Bau’s Spica speakers. I had a pair of his famous TC-50 speakers which I loved. Incredible detail and sound staging from a small speaker. I think some of my best listening ever was done with my TC 50s. I recently was reading about his first speakers that he sold which he designed as portable monitors. John Bau was a musician and he wanted portable speaker he could carry that he could depend on as mini monitors. So using a few measuring tools and largely his EARS he created the SC-50. They’re neat because there is cylindrical speaker kind of like Jim Rogers JR 149 speaker which the SC 50 is supposed to be reminiscent of sound wise. Anyway, I just scored pair off of eBay and I can’t wait for them to show up they look extremely clean, I’ve never seen a cleaner pair. All for the princely sum of $99. When I get them I will right a full report. I’ve been missing my TC 50s which I sold because I started moving into bigger speakers. Now I want to set up a little Desktop recording studio and I think I’m going to give the SC 50s a whirl.


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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
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  2. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
  3. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Syracuse NY
    Wow. I remember the TC 50 and hearing them paired with Rotel integrateds back in the late 80s. Nice sounding speakers. Never heard the SC 50s. Look forward to reading about your experience with them when they arrive.
     
  4. Hendertuckie

    Hendertuckie Active Member

    Location:
    Henderson, Nevada
    As I type this I'm listening Spica TC-50's. They are regulated to my bedroom system but they bring out the best in my little Pioneer VSX-522 AV Receiver. Also I still have the Kinergentics SW-200 subwoofer system, It's in the garage collecting dusk.
     
  5. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Location:
    Deep Maryland
    Were the TC-50's the odd-shaped, triangular speakers? I remember them being all the rage when I first started reading audiophile mags, sorta like the KEF LS-50's are now.
     
  6. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Member

    Location:
    Cleveland
    I owned tc-50 speakers off and on for over 20 years. It never mattered HOW MUCH I spent on other speakers (Maggie’s, Naim, Rega, Linn, Alon, Dalquist, Proac, Proac, Proac) I always came back to the TC-50’s. As someone said above, I did my “best listening” with TC-50’s (funny enough, just like someone else wrote above, I had Rotel when I first got them).

    They did SOMETHING that no other speaker could quite do in terms of midrange and transparency and imaging that I never seemed to care they had very little bass not a great deal of upper end extension. I suspect it had a lot to do with the time alignment of the drivers. Though, the TC-60 was NOT as good. That speaker never retailed for now than $550 dollars, and I had them on the end of $20,000 worth of electronics and source, where they showed speakers up to $5000 the door in the critical areas they did best.

    I sold my pair about 3 years ago when I went into a much bigger room. But I am waiting for a perfect pair of the latest generation ones to appear (TC-50i) and I will snatch them up. I still have perfect Atlantis stands for them, though would counsider shelling out big $$$ for a pair of Sound Anchors.

    I am always sorely tempted to pick up a pair of the Angeles, that always seem to be available for $1400 a pair (which is slightly more than they ever retailed for), but I worry they won’t have the magic the TC-50’s did.

    Has anybody ever heard the sc-30’s? Conventional box, with foam surrounded paper woofer and paper coned tweater (I **** you not). That was my first introduction to the brand. It sounded AMAZING on the end of some low and Naim gear. The dealer said, “well, if you like these, you should hear the TC-50’s. And that was that. . .

    Judd
     
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  7. Carraway

    Carraway Well-Known Member

    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Wow. Please give an update when you've listened to them a bit. I first heard Spicas at a hifi shop when I was a struggling student/musician. I thought that someday I'd be able to afford a nice system, and this is what I would get. When that day came, however, neither Spica nor the shop existed. Still, though, I'll occasionally search for Spicas in used listings and wonder if they're as good as I remember.
     
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  8. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US

    Judd, as one Spica lover to another. let me give you a bit of advice. I've done a lot of research into Spica over the years and the TC-50s you want are the earlier models. As you know, Stereophile loved the TC-50 but at one point, I think it was Atkinson, revisited the speakers a few years later and noticed a certain peak the upper mids he hadn't noticed before. I think the reason is that Jon Bau tells the story of running out of the special Audax woofer at around the 3.000 serial number (it may be 6,000, I'll have to look it up) and so he had to rejigger somethings as he substituted another model woofer. For example, you notice on the later models how the tweeter has a very large rectangular shape cut out in the felt around it. That is one way to tell they are the later model. The original only has a small square cutout in the felt around tweeter. So the holy grail is to get a Spica TC-50 with a serial number less than 3,000 and in good shape! I know they're out there! I think a guy on this forum has several pairs! Ha.
     
  9. bhazen

    bhazen Re: Member

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    I'm always tempted to buy a pair of TC-50s when they show up for sale. A true classic, and a famous 'entry level' device into financially crippling audiophilia. :D

    Wow -- looked these up on the Stereophile site; the TC-50s have more column inches devoted to them than any other speaker there! Cordesman, Holt, Colloms, Atkinson, phew!
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  10. plimpington2

    plimpington2 Member

    Location:
    Cleveland
    I think you have this partially backwards - the later models have the square cutout and the early models have the rectangular one. The later models (sometimes called the TC-50i) also have an internal cross-brace to stiffen up the cabinet. I am unsure about the woofer.

    I have owned both models (and for years at the same time), I like the newer version better - but in my opinion there isn’t very much that differentiates them.

    Judd
     
  11. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
    Hmmm. Let me check this.
     
  12. Manimal

    Manimal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Southern US
    Looking foreward to your impressions, this is the kind of stuff that gets people in the know a leg up putting together a nice system for not a lot of money.
    I remember these ( it’s been a while) in a friends system and they had really nice midrange. Addictive sound as I remember. Cool
     
  13. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
    Well, I've been listening to these for about a week now and I think I'm ready to write about them.

    Let's begin with the GREAT SHOCK OF SPEAKER CHANGE: This occurs after listening to a beautifully warm large AR2a and then abruptly ripping them out, replacing them with mini-monitors. A certain cultural shock occurs, to say the least. Suddenly your vision narrows and the sound goes tinny, but hang in there intrepid auditioner, change will arrive.

    So when I first wired these in (let me digress here and say that that is no need for any other kind of wire connection of a speaker than a nice big widely spaced set of screw-down jack. Just so easy unless you're using electrical mains cable) I heard nothing but "small." The, reduction in cabinet volume is never pretty but within a few hours I was wondering if there was too much bass, so you adjust.

    That aside, I quickly realized that these are not speakers for MP3 listening. John Bau designed them for recording and he goes for that wide open mid band purity that can flirt with sterility. This is something else I've had to adjust to in the past. It's the same impression I get from listening to a horn speaker or a "West Coast sound" speaker -- a bright mid-band being amplified. I actually prefer the warmer presentation of British speakers, but I've heard some amazing things from horns and super clean monitors chief among them John Bau's later creation the Spica TC-50.

    As someone who ran TC-50s for years, I recognized the same neutral sound but the SC-50 were sounding a little hard. I couldn't really shake that for a day or two and I finally gave in to twiddling and giving treble knob a 45° twist. If I think something is just too harsh, I'm not against using my equipment. Maybe feel a little guilty. But happily, as the photos show above, the foam had disintegrated on my SC-50s and I bought them sans foam. When I replaced the foam with made for the job Ftrost King refrigerator filters ($2 at Lowes) the foam rolled the treble back to where zeroing out the treble knob again made everything perfect! Even smoother! So I was really happy to discover these were carefully engineered enough that the sonic impact of 1/4" piece of open cell foam was carefully figured into the equation!

    Another thing I noticed was the SC-50s lineage as a recording monitor, while good within 8 feet, it's treble's is spectacular within 6 feet. All of a sudden the top end becomes more apparent with a nice delicate dance. Unfortunately my couch said forgettaboutit, so the beauty of that sparkle was lost for most of my listening.

    I found placement a chore without consulting a guide. I became a whiz at setting up the TC-50s and could do it in a two minutes once I figured out the tricks. So I thought I'd try to backpedal those techniques onto the SC-50. Interestingly, toeing them in didn't result in much change, but I found applying a bit of the classic Spica tilt was a very nice improvement about a foot and a half off the floor. I liked this better than having them ear height. I retained about 15

    I never manage to achieve the same size of image as with the TC-50s. The TC-50s have this weird ability to throw a soundstage SKYWARD, which is always how I knew when they were dialled in properly and a vocal extended from floor to ceiling. I never managed this with the SC-50s, maybe I needed to get closer, as I said. But the soundstage that is there is centralized in height and very good.

    The design of the speaker is simple and I am honestly a little bothered by the thought of my speakers' cabinets being made of cardboard! It's some material called Sonotube which is used in casting concrete pillars. Well, you don't see it under the foam and I did manage to make it give with a little push BUT it does a really nice job of providing isolation. The sound is VERY clean and precise. So these weird cabs do their work, I don't know if it's the cylindrical design (haven't looked up the physics behind it) or the Sonotube, but it's effective if a little disconcerting to take off your foam and find a giant toilet paper roll. Nice fat hunks on oak on top and bottom, though. And love those simple cable lugs!

    SOUND? Well, lousy sources and questionable bit rates need not apply. These a pretty revealing speakers. You hear it all. Which is a good thing. But sometimes in doses. I think sometimes these really neutral speakers can get fatiguing. But some don't. I always go back to the Grado VS. Sennheiser sound. Both wonderful sound. Two different approaches to "sound." They both manage to be detailed and rich, but some prefer Grado's even more neutral sound. Some don't. So there are "approaches" to sound in my opinion, in the same way electrostatics take yet another approach to sound. So these are of the clean, revealing variety but these Spica SC-50 pull off the TOUGHEST TRICK OF ALL.

    I put on my torture track of Patricia Barber's "What a Shame" from Cafe Blue. Now this is gloriously recorded album, but on a harsh system can kill you. There's sibilance and Barber's little chirps really can kill you with a bright component and happily "What a Shame" sounded silky all the way through, never a touch of sibilance despite being so clean! and I swear Patricia never sound better on a small speaker. Just a very nice vocal and the weight of the piano is very good, only best by some old KEFs I had. For those reading, to verify the quality of female I once again braved Rebeca Pidgeon's "Spanish Harlem." I can't debate it's a great recording despite being a bit of ?audiophile recording" cliche but for the first time Rebecca sounded full, perfectly sized and better than ever. Oh, you don't have to worry about bass with these. Again, I don't know if its the Sonotube or the cylinder but the SC-50 has plenty of bass, extremely impressive from a 6 1/2 woofer. I only heard one resonant fart on some recording, otherwise it punchy and tuneful enough. All the key jazz instruments sound great, naturally with the clean midband Chet Baker's trumpet was smooth and creamy.

    Shortcomings? Hmm, despite making John Williams sound fab, the SC-50 felt like it was doing some heavy lifting in more complex passages. I don't think these things like compression at all, so pick your rock carefully.

    Like Kevin Costner in "JFK" now I can hear you shouting "Ask the question! Ask the question!" And the question would naturally be: "As they as good as TC-50s?" Well, they sound like the TC-50s quite a bit, but there's that extra 30% of spacial magic that the TC-50 has that I haven't tuned in yet after a week. But that 30% aside, I think you can tell they're siblings, alright, in presentation and methodology.

    Let see, in my all-time list of some 20 or 30 speakers, I would give these for all-around performance and solid 8.5 maybe tailored a half point off for my slight prejudice against reveal-titled gear. But a really nice little speaker that is all about seeing right into a recording and best suited near-field and intimate listening although they seem to have little trouble partying, either. But WHY!? :) If you like a nice clean sound I think you should nab if a set comes in under $200, for sure.

    If I think of more I missed, I'll add it later, but I think that' s it.
     
  14. Spica

    Spica New Member

    Location:
    Cyprus
    Great write up and very enjoyable, so thanks for lett g us share your experience. I'm a long-time TC 50 user and former Angelus owner, so any Spica related threads are wonderful to me.
     
  15. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Legendary and truly great speakers. Enjoy them.

    The same Audax tweeter was used my Theil, Vandersteen and many other high-end speaker manufacturers at that time. Be careful not to over-power them though, the tweeters burn-out easily, and are VERY difficult to find now.
     
  16. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US

    I missed a phrase in here about the extra 30%, what I meant to say was the SC-50 miss may 30% of that big, famous wall of sound holographic image, not a 30% loss of over-all quality.
     
  17. ti-triodes

    ti-triodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC

    I also have a pair of TC-50's that unfortunately are sitting unused right now. I can't even think of selling them. They have that magic.

    How does the Angelus compare? I thought they were looking for a TC-50 sound with a deeper bass but was wondering how well they succeeded.
     
  18. Spica

    Spica New Member

    Location:
    Cyprus
    I was really struck by the sonic qualities of the Angelus. They image as well as the TC50 and they do go deeper. Clarity is perhaps even higher than the TC50 too. I do wish I'd kept them but if you put a gun to my head and told me to choose between them and the TC50, I'd choose the latter. They just have that extra degree of heart that the Angelus didn't quite capture but both are truly wonderful speakers.
     
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  19. misteranderson

    misteranderson Well-Known Member

    Location:
    englewood, nj
    Thanks for your review of the Sc-50s. I had TC's for years -- actually still do, but don't know where they are -- and didn't know the SC's existed.

    My TC's are from 1983 and they were pretty special. Later I wanted to run them with a sub but never really found the time to do the research. As for the Angelus, I never saw them, and couldn't have afforded them at the time.

    The TC's really could do that "3D" thing if they were placed right, and the music was the kind of stuff that lent itself to that sort of presentation. Maybe I should dig mine up again....
     
  20. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
    I finally got around to placing these correctly. They are sitting exactly ear height (about 2" off the ground) in an isosceles triangle arrangement, with the listening spot being about 7' away and these are really a class speaker. Center on, they disappear. Those cylindrical cabs? I just listened to the original Broadway cast recording of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and the recording astounded me. Properly set up as monitors.... stunningly good for a young speaker designer. Listening to "Sarabande - Duel" from the Kubrick soundtrack and harpsichord weight is excellent. Lovely violin tone on "Cavatinea from "I'll Barbiere Di Siviglia." Lower strings handled nicely on the "Candide" Overture - Candide Pit Orchestra. I am moved by classical on these. Strings lovely again. Great depth with jazz.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
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  21. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    US
    A rap song "Regulate ft. Nate Dogg" shows the little bass driver's ability to deliver a nice warm punch. I'm pretty sure I hear lower rez mp3 descend into brittle chatter, so beware those with ancient files. David Bowie's "Pallas Athena" from Blak Tie White Noise is perfect. Wow. What depth on that recording. Hans Zimmer's Blade Runner 2049 sounds huge and airy! Man. These are a keeper. I can see building a little recording studio around these. I's just a superbly responsive speaker that impeccably teeters on the brink of being neutral -- but survives. I felt the same way about the Spica TC-50. Which somewhere on this board I incorrectly identified felt being cut in large and small squares. Another thread, I guess. :wiggle:
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  22. Carraway

    Carraway Well-Known Member

    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Thanks for the update, and they sound very impressive. I don't need nor really have the space for more speakers, but I'm tempted to find a bargain pair.

    By the way, your probable typo in, "They are sitting exactly ear height (about 2" off the ground)..." has me picturing someone who listens to music while doing a headstand. Or possibly a person who was in an unfortunate shrink ray accident.
     

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