XTZ Spirit 11 Floorstanding Speaker Review
Big sound small price? That’s the Spirit.
What is the Spirit 11?The XTZ Spirit 11 is the largest member of the Spirit family of speakers. This range sits below the Cinema Series that Phil looked at in 2015 and is outwardly at least, more conventional. There’s also a strong value proposition based on the specifications the Spirit offers. Due to the strength of their multichannel packages, XTZ is often seen as a multichannel brand over and above a stereo one but previous experiences with the original 99 Series have suggested that this is a mistake.
As such, what you see here is a two channel review of the Spirit 11 to see if this extremely competitively priced speaker can deliver a little slice of HiFi. At £750, it offers a lot of speaker and some interesting technology and design decisions at a just about terrestrial price. It isn’t like there isn’t plenty of competition though and similar money buys a pair of the exceptional KEF LS50 and lurking in the same basic price category is the Q Acoustics Concept 40, a speaker that was designed to better anything and everything that is priced remotely near it.
As such, the Spirit 11 has its work cut out for it but the pedigree is there. Can this elegant floorstander impress in stereo in the way its big brothers did in multichannel? There’s only one way to find out.
SpecificationsThe Spirit range is arranged in a manner quite similar to other XTZ ones. There are stereo options in the form of the standmount Spirit 2 and the Spirit 11 but additionally LCR type speakers in order to assemble a multichannel system that has the benefit of speakers that have an identical driver complement in each position. The Spirit 11 is comfortably the largest member of the family and stands exactly a meter tall.
The Spirit 11 shares drivers with the rest of the range and this is where XTZ seems to have devoted a great deal of their attention. A pair of 6.5 inch mid bass drivers are employed and these are made from a concoction I don’t believe I have encountered before. This is a combination of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (more commonly referred to as ABS) used in partnership with a long fiber wood/paper pulp. The idea of combining the two materials is solid enough. They have different break up characteristics and other attendant positives and this means that in combination, you can hopefully have a driver that is stiff and light and largely devoid of the negative effects of both materials.
The tweeter is, in its own way, no less distinctive. The choice of a 25mm silk dome is hardly going to shake the industry to its foundations but like a few speakers that have been launched recently, XTZ has placed it in a waveguide to improve the dispersion characteristics. As a design practise, waveguides tend to come and go – there are arguments for and against their use – but implemented well, they offer the potential for a better soundstage than would be the case using some other options. The tweeter and waveguide are a single component and the guide itself is shallow but relatively large.
The drivers are arranged in a 2.5 way design (XTZ lists the Spirit 11 as a two way but on the assumption that one of the drivers isn’t decorative, 2.5 seems more appropriate) meaning that both 6.5 inch drivers receive exactly the same signal. Like a number of speakers at this price point, the XTZ supports single wiring only – whatever the arguments around biwiring and biamping, the public appears to be making these decisions for themselves. The crossover does have a surprise in store however. Above the terminals, you will find a jumper that when removed will boost the treble output. This is not the first time we’ve seen this – XTZ themselves have been doing it for some time – but it still isn’t very common. In stereo in particular this is a shame because on a great many stereo amps, there is no means of altering the tonal balance at all. This fitment does at least give the Spirit 11 the chance of being tweaked slightly to better work in a room full of reflective surfaces for example.
The ability to tweak the performance doesn’t end there. A more commonly encountered but still entirely welcome feature is the fitment of a bass port with removable foam bung to allow for the flow to be controlled pending the placement of the speaker relative to a wall. The combination of these two features gives the Spirit 11 a much better chance of being ‘dialled in’ to a given space than a speaker that does without such features.
The cabinet that these drivers are placed in is relatively conventional. It is made from sections of MDF – thicker at the front for the purpose of mounting the drivers. The cabinet is parallel sided and compared to some of the fairly radical forms beginning to turn up under £1,000 it looks pretty normal. XTZ says that resonance and standing waves are avoided by means of internal bracing and damping. While it might not look terribly spectacular, it feels solid and given that each speaker weighs a considerable 21kg each, it suggests they are pretty robust.
DesignAs noted at a couple of points already, the Spirit 11 is relatively conventional in terms of its basic design. Sometimes this is not a bad thing. The Aston Martin DB11 hasn’t done anything terribly radical in terms of the design basics but that doesn’t prevent it from looking great. While I’m not going to suggest that the XTZ has the aesthetics of a supercar, there is an indisputable elegance to the way it looks.
Much of this is to do with the proportions and finish. I’ve gone on record many times as saying I don’t really like white speakers and still think it is a finish that won’t wear brilliantly in a house with kids or pets but… I’m happy to admit that the Spirit 11 looks really good in the white and I suspect this is the finish to have over the black. The drivers and other details help break up the whiteness of it and leave you with a well-proportioned and handsome speaker.
The build and overall attention to detail is also extremely good for the asking price. The decision to use a sheen rather than high gloss finish for the white is a good one and everything feels solid and built to last. It isn’t perfect however. With many rivals at this – and lower price points – switching to magnetic tabs, the holes for the grill look a little unsightly and I also don’t really like the white grilles because for the same reason that the black drivers help give the Spirit 11 form, the white grills remove this and experience suggests it is hard to keep them white long term. I can’t fault the overall build quality though and the Spirit 11 feels solid and well assembled for the asking price.
The build quality and overall attention to detail is extremely good for the asking price
How was the Spirit 11 tested?The XTZs were delivered having only had a short running in period so initially they were given some time to run in. The equipment used in testing has been a Cambridge Audio 851A integrated amp as well as a Convert Technologies Plato Class A, all-in-one system. Additional source equipment has included the Arcam rPlay, Yamaha WXAD10 and a Gold Note Valore 425 Plus turntable running via Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage. Material used has included lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF as well as Tidal, Spotify and vinyl.
Sound QualityOn little more than a whim, I elected to keep the blanking plugs in the crossover for all my initial listening to the XTZ. My room is not huge and with laminate flooring and reasonably bare walls, I felt that the plugged setting was likely to be the preferable one. Early listening certainly supported this thinking. The Spirit 11 is similar in many ways to the Q Acoustics Concept 40 and that is no bad thing. The performance feels controlled – almost at first listen slightly dispassionate. Listen a bit longer and things start to make a little more sense.
The Spirit 11 is extremely even in terms of the perceived performance and the integration between the tweeter and midbass drivers is extremely well handled. These two characteristics combine to give you a speaker with a slight essence of studio monitor to it. If the material you give them has been produced to sound even, nothing will be artificially emphasised by the XTZ. If something has been given a boost – such as Mark Langan’s gravelly vocals in his latest album Gargoyle – the XTZ will add the emphasis but without further embellishment.
This means that provided that you put it with equipment able to mirror these abilities, the Spirit 11 will approach any genre without fear or favour. With the bleak but brilliant Mark Lanegan, it thunders along, providing enough headroom and impact to do the album justice. Change tack and select the minimalist shoe gazing electronica of New Jackson’s The Night Mail and the Spirit becomes a discrete but effortlessly agile and compelling partner for that. In a similar vein to the Concept 40, this isn’t a ‘rock speaker’ or a ‘jazz speaker’, it’s a ‘music speaker.’ This means if you listen to a single genre of music and know it like it like you might find a speaker better suited to that genre but as an all-rounder, the XTZ is mightily impressive.
What stands out above everything is the bass response. Like everything else, it is well integrated with the rest of the frequency response but it is genuinely excellent. There are a few sub £1,000 speakers that will go as deep as the Spirit 11 but few of them can match the control and definition it offers in this region. Bass is something that can be felt but the critical details aren’t lost in this potency. In my specific case, I found the best results were with the bungs in place but I can see a free space position with the bungs out yielding great results too.
So what happens if you remove the plugs? In truth, with the equipment I was using in my room, not as much as I thought might happen. The top end receives a lift, giving upper frequencies a little more energy and punch to them but it isn’t especially dramatic. With digital I think that the result of doing so is more superficially impressive but might not be as satisfying to listen to long term. With vinyl, the fractionally curtailed top end that the Gold Note turntable I was using during this period benefitted from this boost. Provided you can easily reach the back of the speakers, changing between them is not terribly difficult so you could realistically make use of both modes.
Trying to find negatives with the XTZ’s relative to their asking price is difficult. About the most serious issue I can level at them is that their performance is relatively focussed and beams a little. The soundstage that results is one that tends to be a little left/right rather than a big cohesive arc. It isn’t so pronounced as to leave a gap in the middle but speakers like the KEF LS50 can sound more expansive than the XTZ does. A little toe-in and some thought on the distance between them will largely negate this though. This is also not a speaker that will cosset you with a warm and cossetting performance unless the amp you happen to partner it with is very warm indeed. In fairness, I don’t believe XTZ designed it with this in mind though.
Provided you put it with equipment able to mirror its abilities, the Spirit 11 will approach any genre without fear or favour
- Superbly balanced and accurate sound
- Usefully configurable
- Excellent build and finish
- Fractionally narrow soundstage
- Not terribly sensitive
- White grilles are unattractive
XTZ Spirit 11 Floorstanding Speaker ReviewSome products instil a positive feeling pretty much the moment you unbox them. They don’t have to be enormously expensive to do so. They simply have to exude the feeling that they have been carefully and thoughtfully designed to achieve the absolute maximum their constituent components are capable of. On paper no particular aspect of the XTZ Spirit 11 stands out as being space age or even especially cutting edge but the care that has been taken in their design shines through when you listen to them. This is a speaker that gets on with the task in hand without any fuss or histrionics and just when you think you might want a bit more this or that, you realise you’ve been listening to them for several hours without a single jarring or discordant moment. Speakers are subjective items – two examples of ‘correct’ design practise can sound rather different in practise – but the Spirit 11 is likely to please a great many people. Based on this impressive roster of abilities, it has to be considered a Best Buy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £750.00
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