XTZ Spirit Series 5.1 Speaker Package Review
Is it time to add a shot of Spirits to your multi-channel system?
What is the XTZ Spirit Series?The Spirit Series is the latest range of competitively priced speakers from XTZ. They sit just below the Cinema Series and include the floorstanding Spirit 11 that we reviewed last year. The range also includes the Spirit 8 centre speaker but for this review we've combined four Spirit 2 wall mounting speakers with a Spirit 6 centre speaker and a Spirit Sub 12 subwoofer. As at the time of writing (March 2018), the Spirit 2 costs £360 a pair, the Spirit 6 costs £260 and the Spirit Sub 12 will set you back £470, which means the entire 5.1 package is a very reasonable £1,450. Whilst no one is denying the value of the Spirit Series and XTZ's experience when it comes to multi-channel packages, this is a busy segment of the speaker market. So the question is do these smaller speakers offer the same level of performance as the larger Spirit 11 and can they hold their own against the competition. Let's get wiring and find out.
Design and SpecificationsAs mentioned in the introduction, the Spirit Series is based around the floorstanding Spirit 11 and the bookshelf Spirit 2, along with two different centre speakers – the Spirit 6 and the Spirit 8. The larger Spirit 8 is designed to be used in a LCR setup with the Spirit 11, whilst the smaller Spirit 6 is ideal for use with the bookshelf Spirit 2. For the purposes of this review we ran a five-speaker setup with Spirit 2 as the front left, front right, rear left and rear right speakers, along with the Spirit 6 as the centre speaker. Whilst purists might prefer to use identical speakers for all five channels, that isn't always possible and in any case the Spirit 2 is only available as a pair. Although you could use a Spirit 2 as the centre channel and then use the spare one as a back surround channel. However the Spirit 6 is voiced to match the Spirit 2 as closely as possible, allowing for good tonal balance in a multi-channel system. In addition we used the Spirit Sub 12 as the subwoofer for a full 5.1-channel system.
The Spirit 2 is a smaller speaker that is actually designed as a wall-mounted speaker, so it has keyhole mounting slots at the rear for that purpose and includes rubber spacers for a snug fit against the wall to eliminate vibrations. It comes in a choice of a matte black or matte white finish and uses gold-plated connections, whilst each speaker measures 200 x 350 x 120mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 5.3kg. The Spirit 2 is a sealed unit and its cabinet is well made using a solid MDF construction that is 25mm thick at the front and 18mm thick at the sides and rear. There is a removable front cloth grille with an XTZ logo that attaches to the grille magnetically, allowing you to change its orientation if necessary.
The Spirit 2 is a two-way speaker which means it has 1-inch (25mm) silk dome tweeter at the top and a 5.25-inch (150mm) cone driver at the bottom. The tweeter is placed in a fairly large waveguide to improve the dispersion characteristics and they work as a single component. The single 5.25-inch driver uses a combination of cellulose (a long fibre pulp mixture) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Aside from being almost unpronounceable the ABS is intended to ensure the driver is both stiff and light, ensuring that the combination of the two materials enhances their attributes and avoids any negative aspects. The voicecoil wire is made of a high temperature alloy of aluminium and copper to ensure effective heat dissipation and there's a specially customised butyl rubber surround to avoid edge resonances.
The Spirit 6 is a dedicated two-way centre speaker that is also intended for wall mounting. The speaker has been designed to tonally match the Spirit 2 by using the same tweeter and drivers. Yes they don't exactly match each other because one is vertical and the other horizontal but you could install the Spirit 6 horizontally as well, although that might not suit certain setups. Alternatively you could buy five Spirit 6 speakers and thus ensure you have identical speakers for all five channels.
However the Spirit 2 and 6 are voiced very closely and, like the former, the latter uses a 1-inch (25mm) silk dome tweeter with a waveguide. The Spirit 6 also uses the same 5.25-inch (150mm) cone driver but has two, either side of the tweeter in a D'Appolito array – that's a midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer arrangement to the rest of us. The Spirit 6 also has a detachable cloth grille with magnetic logos, comes in a choice of matte black or matte white and uses gold-plated connections. It measures 480 x 200 x 180mm (WxHxD) and weighs 7.5kg. The cabinet of the Spirit 6 is also well made, with the same solid MDF construction but it also has two bass ports at the rear, which can be closed using provided foam plugs if you feel you need to alter the bass characteristics of the speaker based on its placement
The specifications and attention to detail are very impressive for a range at this price point
The Spirit Sub 12 subwoofer is designed to be used in conjunction with the speakers in the Spirit Series and for adding low frequency energy to a multi-channel system. As with other speakers in the Spirit Series, the Sub 12 comes in a choice of matte black or matte white and uses a solid MDF construction which is 25mm thick at the front and 18mm thick at the sides and rear. The feet are composed of rubber 'spikes' that use an M6 thread and the connections and controls are located on a rear panel. It measures 365 x 490 x 400mm (WxHxD) and weighs a substantial 24kg. The subwoofer uses a 12-inch (300mm) long-stroke driver made of polymer reinforced cotton combined with 400W of Class-D amplification.
The Sub 12 is a ported design with two ports at the front that can be closed using included foam plugs should you need to adjust the bass characteristics of the subwoofer. At the bottom left, as you face the rear of the sub, you'll find a two-pin kettle style connector for the power cable and an on/off switch. At the top there's a power LED indicator and high level inputs using left and right binding posts, along with left and right line inputs and an LFE input. There is a volume control, a crossover control and a phase control, along with an equaliser that can be set to Ref, EQ1 or EQ2. Finally there is a switch to set the power mode to either auto on, which means the sub will spring into life when it receives a signal, or always on.All of the speakers in the Spirit Series, except the subwoofer of course, include a feature that, whilst not unique to XTZ, is rather unusual. If you look at the rear of the speakers you'll see the usual binding posts – there's no option for bi-wiring but that really is irrelevant for multi-channel audio – and above them a jumper. If the jumper is plugged in then the neutral performance of the tweeter remains untouched but if you remove the jumper there is a 3dB reduction that dampens the higher frequencies and boost the treble output. This feature can prove very useful if you're installing the Spirit Series speakers in a room full of reflective surfaces.
Despite the relatively inexpensive nature of the Spirit Series, they remain extremely well made with an impressive fit and finish. As you remove them from their boxes you get the feeling that these are a nicely engineered and carefully thought out product. The fact that have a shallow form factor and are designed to be wall mounted also means they can be unobtrusive. This is ideal for a multi-channel system where you don't necessarily want the speakers drawing attention to themselves. We reviewed the matte black versions and they simply disappeared in to the dark in our blacked-out home cinema. Conversely if you want something that is a bit more lifestyle friendly then you have the option of the matte white. The latter style does look rather good with the grille's removed because the black tweeters and drivers provide a nice two-tone effect. However with the grilles off you can see the holes where they were attached, which slightly ruins the clean lines at the front.
The design of the speakers makes them unobtrusive, which is ideal for multi-channel
How was the Spirit Series tested?We set up the XTZ Spirit Series 5.1-channel system in a dedicated home cinema that has been acoustically treated, so there are no nasty surprises. The result is a suitably neutral environment in which to test these speakers. Actually hanging the speakers from the walls wasn't an option, so we placed the Spirit 2 and Spirit 6 speakers on speaker stands with the backs of the speakers against the wall to mimic them actually being wall mounted. We had them in a fairly standard configuration with two Spirit 2 speakers as the front left and right channels and the Spirit 6 as the centre channel. We then positioned the other two Spirit 2 speakers to the side rear, just behind the listening position. The Spirit Sub 12 was positioned at the front of the room between the centre and front right speaker, in a place we know is effective for smooth bass response. In our room we had no need to remove the jumpers, nor did we need to put in the foam bungs.The Spirit Series speakers we were testing appeared to have been used already but we gave them a period of run-in anyway before we set about doing any critical listening. For the purposes of the review we used a mixture of material ranging from Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray, CD, DVD-Audio, SACD and music streaming services like Spotify and Tidal. Our sources were primarily the Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player and the Apple TV 4K. For amplification we used the XTZ system with our own Denon AVR-X7200WA AV receiver and the superb Denon AVC-X8500H AV amplifier that we were reviewing at the same time, both of which were setup in a 5.1 configuration.
There are nice tuning touches that make these speakers very flexible in terms of setup
Sound QualityWe actually did the majority of our testing with the Spirit Series connected to the Denon X8500, after all if you've got such an impressive amplifier available why not make the most of it. The first thing that we noticed was how well the Spirit Sub 12 integrated with the other Spirit speakers in the setup, effectively underpinning the entire system. This is important because a 5.1 setup really stands or falls on how well the bass is integrated across the whole system. We bypassed the crossover of the sub and set the crossover in the Denon to 100Hz, which resulted in a very cohesive performance with the bass being smoothly reproduced around the room. The robot on monster mayhem of Pacific Rim was beautifully realised with the amplifier, speakers and subwoofer all combining to deliver a forceful performance, where every monumental punch and city-destroying explosion felt suitably visceral. The Spirit Sub 12 is a great subwoofer that delivers precise and powerful bass but does so in a way that compliments rather than overpowers the rest of the system. It's a dynamic performer but nimble with it and, if you're simply looking for a new subwoofer, the Spirit Sub 12 is certainly worth considering.
The rest of the Spirit Series speakers in the system proved equally as impressive, with the Spirit 2 speakers providing an excellent sound field that surrounded and immersed the listener. They sounded much bigger than their appearance would suggest and their ability to physically blend into the background meant that sounds would emanate from their relevant location within the mix, rather than from a specific speaker. This is perfect for films, where you want the equipment to disappear and the acoustic environment to simply reflect what is happening on screen. The tonal balance was also excellent, so effects were steered around the room with precision and there was no sudden change in the quality of the sounds as they moved from one speaker to another. There is also a clarity and precision to the Spirit 2, which is ideal for replicating the sound designer's intention without the speaker introducing any colouration of its own. If you like a warm sounding speaker then these aren't for you but they're neutral quality is ideal for movie soundtracks.
The same attributes we heard with the Spirit 2 also apply to the Spirit 6, which retains an identically precise and neutral sound. There was a lovely clarity to vocals that ensured dialogue was always clear and focused. The Spirit 6 also did an excellent job of blending tonally with the four Spirit 2 speakers in the system, so that pans across the front soundstage were almost seamless. There was the tiniest difference between the centre and front left and right speakers but as we mentioned earlier, the only way to avoid that would be to use three identical speakers at the front. However as a dedicated centre speaker the Spirit 6 works in harmony with the rest of the system, resulting in an overall soundstage that is precise, accurate and dynamic. As a result it was also hugely entertaining and, combined with the X8500, the results were genuinely impressive.
Although at its best with movie soundtracks, we were pleased to discover that the Spirit Series system was able to handle the less demanding audio on TV shows with ease. Dialogue or narration was always clear, whilst the music was delivered with a pleasing precision. When it came to dramas with more immersive soundtracks the Spirits speakers effortlessly moved up a gear, ensuring the sound quality remained excellent. We pulled out a couple of classic test discs including Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong, where the ice skating sequence provides plenty of opportunity for a system to prove itself. The Spirit Series did an excellent job of reproducing the subtle environmental cues during this quiet scene, as Anne Darrow and Kong play on the frozen lake in Central Park. The centre speaker delivered Kong's breath with precision and combined perfectly with the subwoofer to add that sense of scale and depth. When an explosion suddenly destroys their peaceful idyl, the Spirit Series in conjunction with the X8500 showed considerable dynamic range as well; not to mention plenty of thump thanks to the Sub 12.
Another regularly used scene is the opening hunt in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is a masterclass in audio design that slowly builds from the simple sound of Caesar's breathing, adding in the rain and a subtle choral arrangement before suddenly bursting into life as the apes hunt down a herd of deer. The Spirit 6 delivered Caesar's breaths with wonderful subtlety and precision, whilst the four other channels slowly built up the sound of falling rain as it surrounds you and the choral music gradually increases in volume. There are some very precise sound effects as the apes move almost but not quite silently through the trees and, as with the King Kong sequence there is a sudden shift in dynamic range that the Spirit Series once again handled with precision and power.
Whilst the Spirit Series is clearly at its best with movie soundtracks, you might also want to use your system for listening to music – whether that's two-channel or multi-channel. If so then the Spirit Series will continue to impress, although how much will depend on whether you like a subwoofer delivering the lower frequencies with music. The system as a whole remains controlled and balanced with the same sense of clarity and neutral delivery. Once again, if you prefer a warmer speaker then the Spirit Series might not be for you but if you like the idea of a speaker that feels more like a studio monitor then you'll be delighted. They certainly combined with the equally neutral Denon X8500 to deliver a solid front soundstage with two-channel music, although the relatively focused nature of the Spirit design means that the stereo separation might seem slightly narrow. However that focused delivery is ideal for multi-channel audio, whether it's music or movies, as the Spirit System proved when reproducing the 5.1 mixes of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon.
The cohesive and tonally balanced soundstage was delivered with precision and excitement
- Detailed and accurate soundstage
- Great tonal balance
- Nicely integrated subwoofer
- Flexible setup
- Excellent build quality
- Fantastic price
- A touch clinical for some
- A bit too focused for wide stereo
XTZ Spirit Series 5.1 Speaker Package Review
Should I buy them?It shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that XTZ have delivered yet another superb sounding multi-channel system with their Spirit Series. The 5.1-channel setup that we tested was composed of the Spirit 2, Spirit 6 and Spirit Sub 12 and they all combined flawlessly to create a controlled and precise soundstage that delivered a dynamic and hugely entertaining performance. The speakers themselves are carefully designed, nicely engineered and very well made, while their shallow form factor allows them to blend into the surroundings. They are also very flexible in terms of setup and allow for plenty of tuning opportunities, depending on your room. The Spirit 2 is a fairly compact speaker but don't be fooled by its size, it can still deliver a big sound and is ably supported by the Spirit Sub 12, which is an excellent subwoofer in its own right. In an effort to find any faults at this price point, the neutral sound might be a little clinical for some and the focused delivery does slightly narrow the stereo soundstage; whilst those who prefer to remove the grilles might like the holes that are used to attach them. However that really is nitpicking and given the price the Spirit Series speakers are stellar performers that thoroughly deserve a Best Buy badge.
What are my alternatives?If you're looking for alternatives to the XTZ Spirit Series then the Monitor Audio Bronze Series should definitely be on your short list. This combination of front bookshelf speakers, a dedicated centre speaker, dipole/bipole surround speakers and a subwoofer with a 10-inch driver actually costs slightly less than the XTZ Series but delivered an equally impressive performance on its way to a Best Buy badge. If you like the idea of the smaller size of the Spirit Series, you might want to consider the SVS Prime 5.1 speaker system. This impressive sub/sat system can be picked up for less than £1,000 and delivers an excellent performance that won it a Highly Recommended badge.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,450.00
Value For Money10
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