Last weekend I had the opportunity to audition the Continuums at the home of Mike Patterson the vice president of SP Technology. Both Bob Smith the president, and Mike were present. Talk about pressure; imagine Bob standing behind me with his samurai sword and Mike beside me with a basket to catch my head in the event that I did not like the speakers. Actually Bob, Mike and their wives were very gracious hosts and I am sure that Bob has enough confidence in his products to be reasonable sure that I would like them.
About the Reviewer
Before I continue with the review let me tell you a little about myself, and what prompted my interest in SP Technology. I am an architect who has been interested in audio for over 30 years. When I was in college I designed and built a 3-way transmission line speaker system using an ElectoVoice horn tweeter and midrange and an ElectoVoice woofer. Each enclosure was five feet tall by 16 inches square and weighed over 200 pounds. I'm reasonably sure that my transmission line was not designed properly but I gave it my best shot at the time. At that point in my life I was probably not a very sophisticated listener, but I did like the way horns sounded, especially compared to some of the other affordable speakers available at the time. Shortly after completing those speakers I was exposed to and ultimately purchased speakers manufactured by Fulton Musical Industries. I was also made aware of the virtues of Dynaco and Audio Research tube equipment. Fulton speakers were designed by Robert Fulton, a recording engineer who has been credited as being one of the founders of the high end. Bob passed away years ago and with him Fulton Musical Industries. I still own FMI 100’s and an Audio Research D76a (tube amplifier). More recently I have added two Sunfire subwoofers, a Pioneer PD 65 transport, a Perceptual Technologies digital to analog converter and an Audio Alchemy DLC (digital line controller). You can see that I am not a member of the “system of the month club”.
For years I intentionally stayed away from audio stores and when I did venture in to some of the local establishments most of the equipment sounded poor compared to what I already owned. Years later, about 1992, I rediscovered high-end audio only to find that the price structure had gone completely insane, an opinion which I still hold. As a designer I feel little credit should be given to companies that produce products with extremely high, and unjustifiable budgets. The designers who deserve praise are those who can produce excellent sounding equipment that is affordable to the average person. In my opinion the SP technology speakers are not inexpensive but they do offer an innovative design that yields a lot of performance. Looking at the speakers in person and from the information on the company's web site it is obvious that the Timepiece and Continuum are not inexpensive to produce, especially given the fact that they are handmade and that each pair is tweaked to match as close as possible.
Since rediscovering audio my musical tastes have gravitated towards highly dynamic music. The praise given to the SP technology speakers regarding their dynamic abilities and my previous experience with horn type speakers are the primary reasons that I was anxious to audition the Continuum.
The listening room was a combined living room, dining room, and kitchen about 20 feet by 30 feet with a cathedral ceiling. A Crown Macro Reference amplifier (750 watts per channel into 8 ohms, 1500 into 4) fed directly by a Denon CD changer with an integral volume control drove the speakers. The music that was used to evaluate the speakers consisted of two CD-Rs supplied by me, which contained many cuts specifically chosen for their dynamics and deep bass. The sound level during the audition ranged from about 93 to 98 decibels in my estimation. I forgot to bring my sound level meter so I could be off, but I usually listen at an average of 90 decibels or less and the audition levels easily exceeded that.
As I have already stated the advertised feature that drew me to these speakers was their dynamic response, and let me say right now that they were everything I hoped for in that respect. The Continuums project an enormous soundstage and although there is a sweet spot it definitely was not the “head in a vice” type that some speakers display. The tonal character of the sound changes very little as you walk around the room. The Continuums alone, almost matched the bass response of my current speaker system augmented by two subwoofers. Without the subwoofers it was no contest, with the Continuums going much deeper than the 10” acoustic suspension woofers in the Fulton speakers. The Continuum is probably one of the few 2 way speakers systems that have enough bass extension and dynamics to not need a subwoofer. I still feel that almost all speakers, including the Continuum can benefit from the addition of a subwoofer or preferably 2, but at least with the Continuums it is not absolutely necessary. Toward the end of the listening session Bob played a track from Sheffield Lab collection CD that was all drums. This was absolutely awesome and sounded as close to real drums as I have ever heard. Many of the instrumental cuts exhibited the kind of transient response that can make you jumped out of your chair.
About a year and a half ago I ordered a set of speakers from a well-known Internet based audio company. These speakers had received numerous rave reviews from owners on the AVS audio forum. The speakers were absolutely beautiful but upon auditioning them my first reaction was to run for the bathroom and clean my ears. A small percentage of the people on the AVS forum had described these speakers as slightly laid-back. Since audiophiles frequently use the same term to mean slightly different things I was not too concerned about this. Some people claim that you get used to this kind of sound but I feel if it sounds wrong initially it probably is. Since we are exposed to numerous lives sounds every day we all should have a good idea of what sounds right and what doesn't. The reason I bring this up is because the Continuum's in my opinion are not a laid-back speaker, so if this is the type of sound that you prefer you should probably look elsewhere.
The vocal reproduction projected by the Continuums was as good as anything I've heard. I generally do not make a habit of auditioning speakers that our way out of my price range (over $6000) but on one occasion I did listen to the J. M. Lab's Grand Utopia (about $65,000) and I will say with no hesitation that I prefer the Continuum by a large factor.
On some cuts I did notice a bit of harshness. Bob seems certain that the inexpensive CD changer feeding the amp directly caused this. I am compelled to agree with Bob and I would not be surprised if in some cases the recordings also contributed to the harshness. This would not be surprising since the Continuums are designed to be studio monitors and therefore they should be capable of exposing any flaws in the recording chain.
One of my primary reasons for frequenting the various audio forums on the Internet is in a search for what will hopefully be the last speakers and amplifiers that I purchase. I had selected the Continuums along with three other speakers to be on my short list of speakers to audition prior to making that purchase. After auditioning the Continuums I think it is unlikely that any of the other contenders will match their dynamic and other abilities. Just to satisfy myself I will however listen to the remaining speakers before I make a decision. It is however my opinion that most music lovers would not regret the purchase of these speakers as long as they have adequate power and reasonably high quality associated equipment.