At the end of the 50s of the last century, a new audio format came into the world – stereo. Old studio monitors were not ready for new standards, both in quality and in size. This moment can be considered the beginning of the path that ultimately led to the creation of the legendary Air Force monitors. The BBC unit dealing with this topic was headed by Del Shorter and H.D. Harwood. Spencer Hughes was a key figure in the research and development laboratory and began working under them. Previously, he created high-end microphones, turntables and more for the BBC.


At that time, large speakers with paper cones were mainly used, and their manufacturing technology did not guarantee a stable result, especially in stereo. No commercial monitor met the BBC’s strict requirements; they needed perfect transparency and neutrality in sound. And this does not mean that the acoustics produced at that time were bad, it indicates how high their corporate standards were. In 1965, a revolutionary idea appeared: to make diffusers from plastic, since it has quite suitable mechanical properties. But it turned out that there was coloration in the sound of plastic diffusers, and in order to eliminate it, layers of rubber glue were applied to them on both sides. Finding the optimal solution required a non-standard approach and took a lot of time, because any idea had to go through an audition. Spencer Hughes was completely absorbed in the task and continued to design and work on constructing new acoustics even at home.

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Spencer Hughes 

The prototype of the first 8-inch speaker was created using primitive home appliances, and its cone was shaped using the backdraft of a vacuum cleaner. The first pair of BC1s used a Celestion HF1300 as the tweeter. In the original version, their cabinets were smaller, but after numerous listening sessions and tests, the acoustics acquired their final form. At this stage, everything was done purely for the sake of interest and pleasure. A few months later, BBC management became aware of Hughes’s work, and he was required to either resign from the corporation or cease this activity. In 1969, Spencer and his wife Dorothy founded Spendor Audio Systems Ltd (the name is made up of the first two syllables of the founders). This decision allowed Spencer to put all the ideas into practice himself and the result was the classic Spendor BC1, which critics called “the new standard by which all other loudspeakers will be judged.” The second pair of BC1s were made for a friend who took them to Merrow Sound of Guildford. The third pair were sold to Merrow Sound and Spendor began to carve out a niche in the audio world. In BC-1, a material called “bextrain” was used. These speakers were particularly good for voice and piano, and they turned out to be needed in large quantities for many other studios and the BBC itself. But not everything went smoothly. The BBC did not have the size of the monitors and, using Spencer’s work, creates the “official” version of the BC1, later designated LS3/6.

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Dorothy Hughes 

The LS3/6 was now offered to a number of commercial companies and was eventually taken over by Rogers, under the control of Jim Rogers himself. With approval and a little help from the BBC, Rogers added a Celestion HF2000 as a super tweeter. Since Spendor was now a commercial company, it was decided that the BBC should receive a royalty on every BC1 produced. This was a sign of recognition for the work Spencer Hughes had done on the loudspeaker while he was still working there. To confirm the level of development of these two systems, it should be noted that of the more than two thousand BC1s supplied to the professional market, there are more than six hundred still running, and, to my knowledge, very few, if any, LS3/6s (of Spencer’s letters, 1980). This was followed by the BCII and in 1973 the BCIII which Spendor advertising described as “An improvement and improvement on the BC I and BC II”. And Thomas Heinitz, the doyen of audio journalists in those days, couldn’t resist using the headline “Hey, Big Spendor!” These speakers are the beginning of the evolution of Spendor acoustic systems, which today ends with the Classic 100 model (BC3, S100, S100P, SP100, SP100R, SP100R²). The popularity of Spendor was gaining momentum and Asian dealers played a significant role in this, they were frequent guests at the factory and the company with had difficulty coping with the growing volume of orders. Although the BCI was Spendor’s flagship product at the time, the BCII slowly surpassed the BCI in Japan over the next 15 years.

Spendor BC1 

In 1975 Terry Miles joined Spendor as a trainee technician. Working directly with Spencer Hughes, Miles helped create some of the stunning Spendor Classic loudspeakers while gaining extensive experience in acoustic design and development. Today Terry Miles is Head of Engineering at Spendor. After Spencer’s departure in 1983, the company’s excellence was maintained by his son Derek, who spent about 9 years as Spendor’s chief engineer, having previously spent 7 years honing his skills and craftsmanship at the BBC. Derek’s expertise was instrumental in the development of the first Spendor amplifier. Its 40-watt-per-channel stereo design was based on the bulletproof Spendor studio monitor circuitry, and featured a built-in RIAA phono preamplifier and a high-quality step attenuator in the built-in preamp.   Dorothy Hughes took over the administrative affairs of the company. In 1993, the company had a staff of more than 16 people and turnover exceeded one and a half million pounds. But in September an event occurred that significantly influenced the further development of the company. The entire Halsham factory was completely destroyed by arson. And it was truly a tragic event both for the whole team and for this small town where everyone knows each other and most of the staff have worked at the factory for many years, treating Spendor as part of the family. Derek reacted philosophically to what had happened and within two months a new assembly line was launched in a neighboring building and LS3/5 began to arrive to customers.

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Spend or LS3/5 

In order to restore production as quickly as possible and gain access to new technologies and markets, the owners of the Soundtracs studio received control over sales. They had extensive international connections and Spendor began to be recognized all over the world. But the studio did not pay any attention to the domestic market and the home acoustics segment, which certainly upset the company’s English fans. In 2001, Spendor was acquired by Philip Swift, who, together with Derek Hughes, set out to revitalize Spendor sales to British consumers and create a new, more modern range of home speakers. Philip Swift is not a random person for the company. In the late 60’s he had the good fortune to meet and work with Spencer Hughes and was one of the first to hear and own the legendary Spendor BC1 and BC3. Swift and Hughes often met and discussed music and ideas for creating high-end speakers.

Philip Swift 

Philip has a deep understanding of the key concepts and technical ideas that form the basis of every Spendor loudspeaker to this day. He may well claim to know something about branding and customer loyalty. In the early 1980s, Philip was the founder of Audiolab, which eventually achieved the highest level of popularity throughout the world. Despite this, when he sold the business to the TAG group in 1998, the new owners dropped the Audiolab name. Five years later, TAG McLaren Audio closed and its assets were sold to IAG. It must have brought a quiet smile to Philip Swift’s face when the Hong Kong company quickly revived the Audiolab brand. One of Spendor’s first modern design loudspeakers was the ST series. With an impressive high-gloss finish and a front panel that could be ordered in any color or material, the new £5,000 ST loudspeaker marked a new look for the company. This is, however, no departure from the traditional values ​​that have made Spendor one of the most respected hi-fi brands. As Philip Swift explains: “They look and feel as good as they sound. There are absolutely no compromises in the design, and there will never be any in Spendor products.” Derek Hughes has not doubled down on his business and is today one of the most famous and respected audio system designers in Britain. He successfully cooperates both with Spendor and with many other companies such as Stirling Broadcast, Graham and others, which trace their origins to the legendary BBC monitors. One of his latest works was the creation of a powerful high-quality acoustic system for the Royal Opera House in London.