What is the Spirit 11?
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.
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 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.
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.
How was the Spirit 11 tested?
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.
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.
- 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 Review
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