Audio Physic Spark Speaker Review
This is a review written by Terry Ellis March 2023.
For my video review please see my YouTube channel link here
Having experienced the Audio Physic Spark speakers for several weeks I can say unequivocally that I have really enjoyed them. I would also go as far as to say I regard them as a reference quality stand mount speaker, within the remit of their design.
The phrase within the remit of their design is a very important distinction to make as, to me, the Spark are very much a modern designed HiFi speaker, a slim speaker which almost disappears visually and audibly. In fact, they do the disappearing act so well they remind me of a “panel” (no cabinet) speaker, so if you have always wanted a panel type of speaker but don’t get on with them for whatever reason, maybe the Audio Physic Spark will be your next speakers.
Overview and Build Quality
Audio Physic are a long established German high-end speaker manufacturer and their speakers always stand out to me for their visual design. They are often very real-world modern speakers that can easily fit into your home without them dominating the room. This is very important in a lot of domestic environments.
I really like the Spark’s styling, they have an extremely high gloss cabinet and a glass baffle and this crated some challenges capturing them on camera for the companion video. Aside from that I really like them and cannot fault the looks in anyway. Understated elegance is the best description I can think of. The pair I reviewed had a brand-new finish for the Spark called high gloss black ebony. This is very similar to traditional ebony but with a bit more black and less brown wood depending on the lighting conditions. I think they look fantastic and the overall aesthetic when including the stands works brilliantly.
The fit and finish is immaculate, these are beautifully built and finished speakers which, whilst quite expensive, goes a long way to supporting their perceived value. The Spark speakers cost £5,800 and with the stands they cost £6,350, so £550 for the stands. Overall, this is an expensive pair of speakers, but they do feature a lot of Audio Physic’s latest speaker developments, which incorporate innovative ways to solve problems. The Spark feature what Audio Physic have called, and trade-marked, as PowerTrain Technology. This is trickled down from the much more expensive Cardeas speakers. This technology is important because the drivers have been developed to be spiderless. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, the spider is the often yellow, stiff fabric mesh that supports 99.9% of drivers and ensures they behave as a piston rather than wobbling around. By all accounts removing the spider helps to reduce distortion for a cleaner, purer, sound.
Interestingly Bowers & Wilkins recently made a similar development with the Continuum mid-range driver for the 800 D4 and then the new 700 series. The reason I have mentioned this is because it’s only used on the Bowers mid-range driver; Audio Physic have been able to make it work not only on their mid-range driver, but also their bass drivers as well. They may well be the first to do so. I don’t know of any other manufacturers who does this. It seems a very significant technology development to me and I’m impressed.
The Spark is part of Audio Physic’s Reference Line of speakers, they are a rear-ported three-way design with a 7 inch double surround bass driver. The mid-range is 5.9 inches and the tweeter is apparently 1.5 inches, which is quite large for a dome tweeter but it doesn’t look out of proportion. The speakers weigh 18kg (all glass finish, less without glass), which is fairly modest for a modern stand mount speaker. Audio Physic craft their speakers differently to other companies and don’t use lots of thick MDF for the cabinet and bracing. Audio Physic instead use innovative materials to achieve their goals and often their approach gives them more internal cabinet volume so their speakers can be smaller. Very clever indeed. The cabinet also uses the more expensive Cardeas approach of a high tech honey-comb construction which of course I cant help but like.
Before we talk sound quality, I want to quickly mention setup. When I first installed the Spark I placed them in the usual spot in my room, that the blue taped square indicates and I liked them but there was something missing. I went onto the Audio Physic website to download the Spark manual to see what they suggested for placement. What I found was two articles about speaker placement, one which suggested 1.3 metres from the front wall and 0.5 metres from the side wall. This worked very nicely in my room. I am mentioning this as there might be some useful tips for you in these articles and there is a link to them here.
You will want to know what the sonic strengths are which led me to calling the Sparks reference quality stand mount speakers. The first is soundstage. If you like a very open, clear, transparent sound, which has excellent precision to its placement of instruments, singers or maybe just music samples, delivered in a very three-dimensional fashion, that is what the Spark do exceptionally well. In a sonic sense they literally disappear. A lot of speakers sound transparent these days, even very affordable ones, but the Spark are a clear cut above the average, or even a cut above other very good speakers, they are truly exceptional in this regard.
The second big sonic strength for me is the tweeter. Audio Physic use what they call a Hyper Holographic Cone Technology which is now in its third generation. They say it “fights unwanted vibration at the very source of sound in a speaker, the driver”. What I like about the tweeter is how crisp, detailed, lively and present it sounds, but without any negative traits such as hardness or edginess. As ever, this only works so long as you don’t go crazy with the volume and your HiFi system is of good quality. You can hear where the tweeter is extending in frequency because there is a strong sense of ambience particularly evident in live albums or music that is recorded in churches or other reverberant spaces. This does matter, and it does make a difference to how spatial and immersive speakers can sound, how they create a sound stage. There is always a smoothness with the treble too. It is a fantastic tweeter for me, just about perfect. However, some listeners, if they are used to a more sharp or brilliant sounding treble delivery, I am thinking of some Focal or Bowers & Wilkins speakers as an example, these listeners may find the treble a little play it safe.
The next big strength for me is the overall sonic resolution across the frequency range. In addition to the treble clarity, this clarity is carried through to mid-range, vocals and bass. Vocals are very much carved out in space, and sound extremely tight and focused, something I really appreciated as I could easily track everything that was going on with the music from a soundstage point of view, without overthinking it. That means you don’t have to listen as critically or as attentively, which definitely helps for longer listening sessions with no fatigue.
The Spark’s bass is very fast, clean, clear and precise. It has a pleasingly rounded character at times too, a nice ‘boppy’ bouncy bass I always enjoy. It is also a very smoothly delivered bass that’s certainly more about quality than quantity. For me, that means if you have a small room, or if you are going to be placing the speakers near walls or corners, the Spark will work great for you.
This is where things do get very interesting because stand mount speakers have come a long way in terms of how much bass they can produce. A seven-inch bass driver is quite large in modern speakers. The Spark are a three-way speaker, and so you might expect a little more bass quantity from them, given what other stand mount speakers can deliver at less money. This was made very evident to me when I carried out a listening comparison with my reference speakers, the Mission 770. The Mission’s feature an eight-inch mid-bass driver in a large cabinet.
On paper, both claim bass extension to around 40Hz, which is very common for stand mount speakers. However, you can hear straight away that the Missions produce more bass overall, have more bass authority and deliver a perceived deeper bass output. The Sparks do have a very good attempt at producing deep bass. You can hear the notes just fine, but you can also hear their output pressure roll off very smoothly, whereas the Missions provide more bass output, feel and tactility.
The Mission are forward-firing speakers and that seems to work better in my listening room than rear firing speakers such as the Spark, so do take that into account for the comments.
The interesting Mission 770 and Spark comparison goes further still, because both show the strengths of the other. The Spark sound clearer, more open, precise and focussed, but the Mission deliver a vocal with a more pleasing character. They sound warmer, more full and solid in their vocal delivery. They have a vocal character that’s outright pleasing and very addictive. I would say the Mission go close to the Spark for treble quality, but I do prefer the more lively, precise, and energetic tweeter in the Spark.
Overall, the Mission 770s have a more obviously vintage type of sound, whereas the Spark have a modern high-end HiFi speaker sound. I don’t mean that in a bad way, modern high-end HiFi speaker sound done well is very impressive and can be just as enjoyable. I did prefer the warmer more solid sounding vocals of the Missions, even if there is less overall perceived space. This is where an amplifier like the McIntosh MA9500, which I reviewed with the Spark, was excellent. I was able to use its built in equaliser and push the bass region some, achieving a warmer sound from the Spark, more to my liking and without losing the Spark’s best attributes.
I like both speakers, but for different reasons. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Spark costs nearly twice as much as the Mission but, given the right conditions, I feel they would give you more overall. By right conditions for me that would mean the addition of a very good subwoofer or two to help fill out the bottom end and add the bass tactility and scale that always makes a big difference. I think with the addition of subwoofers this would make for an outstanding overall speaker system that is very much reference quality for smaller to medium sized rooms, that looks lovely, is very easy to live with and listen to, while also being very satisfying for important audiophile attributes like sound stage.
I want to briefly talk about the Sherpa M matching speaker stands. These look great and complement the Spark’s design. Included with them are some plastic bag inserts for the uprights so you can mass load the stands with whatever you want and it won’t affect the stands or cause them any damage. The downside, for me, is when speaker stands only have a single row of uprights, there is always a bit of movement, or wobble, which you don’t get from a four-upright speaker stand.
To sum things up there is a lot to like about the Audio Physic Spark; from the nice touches of quality such as the WBT binding posts, the beautiful finish, and the very clever use of technologies, especially the spider-less drivers, which is a very impressive technology development. To be honest, I don’t have anything bad to say about them. I have been really enjoying them. I don’t know what else to say, other than they are very much worth checking out.
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price
For the full specification of the Audio Physic Spark please see their website linked here