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Spatial Audio M3: rebirthing cool at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015

  • the_show_newport_logo_2015“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”  – that’s The Social Network’s most famous line, seen only in the trailer and not the movie itself. In hi-fi land cool tends to move in the other direction: a US$90K pair of speakers might be impressive but they certainly aren’t cool. You know what’s cool? A US$1500 pair of speakers that dare to think different; KEF LS50 over Harbeth P3ESR, Zu Omen over PSB Imagine T6. Why? From where I sit, the KEF and the Zu each visually point to a future generation of audiophiles in much the same way that the AudioQuest Dragonfly or Schiit Vali headphone amplifier do. And they do so with sane price tagging.

    For your average thirtysomething, cool is a piece of gear that a) strikes a contemporary pose and b) is affordable.

    Striking the bulls eye of cool at T.H.E Show Newport in 2015 was Clayton Shaw of Spatial Audio. Shaw helmed Emerald Physics before selling up and moving to Spatial’s first project: loudspeaker and room correction software. That was 2011.

    In the intervening years, Shaw has gradually returned to designing more affordable open-baffle loudspeakers with the Hologram M1 ($4000+/pr) and Hologram M2 ($2500+/pr), only this time out they’re completely passive. Impressive? Yes. Cool? The M1/M2’s higher pricing means I have my doubts.

    Clayton Shaw of Spatial Audio strikes a pose with his Hologram M3.

    In the Spatial and Red Dragon room at the Hotel Irvine the promotional poster read “New for 2105”. By the power of typo, Spatial Audio comes to us from the future! Being introduced are the Hologram M3 loudspeakers. Bigger than the M1 and M2 and yet cheaper (US$1495+/pr). Clean lines, BIG sound and affordability – now that’s cool!

    Diverging from his M1/M2 sales model, Shaw won’t be pushing the M3 through the usual dealer network. They’ll be sold factory direct and into the US only. Sorry RoW.

    Made in Park City, UT, Shaw calls the M3 “an authentic American product”. These open-baffles stand 42” tall and load in a pair of 15” Eminence drivers, the uppermost of which is augmented by a coaxially-aligned tweeter from Italy’s B&C. A second order crossover works with the tweeter’s natural 800Hz roll-off.

    Shaw reckons the key for him getting things sounding right was to work closely on driver co-development with the manufacturer. 95db efficiency here means pretty much any amplifier you like. “5 watts and up should get anyone going,” reckons our host.


    For T.H.E. Show Newport, Shaw once again partnered with Utah neighbourino Ryan Tew who was showing his Red Dragon S500 stereo amplifier (US$1999), itself fed by a Resolution Audio Cantata digital pre-amplifier. The small form factor of the S500 points to Red Dragon’s Pascal Class D tech. 500wpc fire into the M3’s nominal 4 Ohm load. Half that goes into 8 Ohms.

    The base level Hologram M3 in black finish will sell for US$1495. A ‘Turbo’ version adds premium crossover components and German WBT binding posts for an additional US$400. Want the white finish (as seen here)? That’ll be an extra US$150.

    Both Red Dragon amplifiers and Spatial loudspeakers come with a 45-day home trial period that ensures risk-free purchase.

    It’s clear Clayton Shaw is pulling out all the stops here to do bigger sales numbers by cutting out the dealer and his margin and if all goes to plan, the forthcoming Hologram M4 – a three-quarter size M3 with 12” drivers – might eventually enjoy shipping beyond US borders.

    For a Hologram M3 review from yours truly, Shaw plans to piggy back a pair of onto the next Australia-bound shipment. For that he’ll (ironically) require dealer co-operation. Lucky for both of us that Australian representative Bill McLean, who also handles Line Magnetic, DeVore Fidelity and Magnepan, is an accommodating fellow.

    Once the M3 are in place Chez Darko, Tew will dispatch Red Dragon amplification to complete the Newport show’s system replication down under. For those spying my Sydney HQ and making the (erroneous) intuitive leap that DAR is somehow Australian is reminded that the majority of this website’s readers reside Stateside.

    This kind of chance encounter is precisely why show coverage will remain firmly part of DAR’s scope.

    Further information: Spatial Audio | Red Dragon Audio








    T.H.E. Show Newport 2015 coverage sponsored by LH Labs:


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Most. Gorgeous. Speakers. Ever.
      I LOVE them but I thought drivers had to have a box to resonate in…

    2. Having only seen a listeners view in a couple of hifi show reviews in various on line and more traditional publications a glimpse at the rear end gave me a WTF moment. Controlling these must be akin to a stealth fighter, no way of controlling it conventionaly its digital processing or fall out of the sky! Looking forward to a review on this one!

    3. No digital processing is required for the Spatial Hologram series of Open Baffle speakers. The drivers are designed for open baffle use and the passive crossover compensates for any remaining iregularities. These speakers are completely plug and play. In fact, in many ways they are better than box speakers because they are direct radiating and dipole which means side reflections are virtually cancelled out. Therefore room placement is cake. The fact that Clayton consistently has a great sounding room in every hotel he plays at probably proves this fact. P.S. I have not affiliation with Spatial Audio, but I am a longtime customer of Clayton.

      • Thanks for the feedback. Rather surprised that no additional control is required, my surprise is driven from seeing years of drivers enclosed in a box to keep the signal clean and direct to the listener however as always a listening session is the best test. Look forward to reading the reviews and hopefully listen myself at some point.

    4. Bet it is a killer system. One of the benefits of open baffle is that you can get a very cost effective system because the speakers can sound good without the cabinets costing thousands.

      But don’t you need a fairly good sized room for open baffle speakers? Need to be far from walls?

      • I heard the room doesn’t matter much because you don’t have the bass loading issues like a box speaker. Also with dipole and the compression driver, minimize room reflections.

    5. Much to look forward to with a review and all, but what did the system sound like at the show?

      • Sounded fine to me. But hey, an unfamiliar room with unfamiliar music is why I didn’t comment. I heard enough of the good stuff to know that I wanna review ’em.

    6. As in comments above, I am very interested in your test and review of these speakers.

      And, if I may suggest, please, try them with some kind of cloth (a towel?) thrown at the back top part, since I can’t imagine using them for a prolonged time “in the raw”, without the box enclosure – for the reason of difficulty in keeping the drivers free of dust. 🙂

    7. i heard these speakers and was beyond impressed. Full sound and a price that was affordable, the immediacy in the room was palpable. I will consider this speaker next time I’m in the running for new speakers. Imaging and soundstage was on par with anything else I heard at the The Show and for a fraction of the costs. These were the real deal. The room in total was under $10k I think the speaker cables used were the same price as the speakers. I only wish there was a floor at the show which was under $5k for a complete system, I would be sure these speakers would have been best in show.

      • A salient point about ‘affordable’ systems at shows, about which I have a post coming in a day or two.

      • I am Paul Speltz, President of AntiCables. We teamed up with Clayton Shaw and Ryan Tew at T.H.E. Show, both in room 404 and at a booth on the lower level. I am glad you were impressed with the sound we were getting.

        When guys came down to the booth and mentioned how good the M3 speaker sounded, I reminded them they were hearing the music through an AntiCable USB cord, a 25 foot pair of our interconnects, and 10 more feet of AntiCables speaker wires. I usually got a smile of acknowledgement with that statement. The system also sported three AntiCables Power Cords which helped support the good sound, and were part of the total noted cost for cabling.

        For clarification, the speaker wires do not cost as much as the M3 speakers. The room was running AntiCables Level 3 Reference Series Speaker Wires which only cost a $20 base price plus $12 per foot per speaker. Which we think makes them just as “cool” as the M3 speakers… well that, and their red color.




    8. If Clones 25i and Golden Ear Aon3 = Winner! What does Spatial M3 and Clones 55pm monos = ?

      • Not sure but could be interesting if someone with that combo would report on it.

    9. I am a dealer for both Spatial and Clones in Asia and I can attest to it that the M1 or M2 with the Clones 25pm/AP2 is really good.
      I have many customers with that combination.
      Don’t take my word for it, go and listen.

    10. I am currently looking for new speakers in the $1,500-2,000 price range. My current research has led me to narrow it down between the Hologram M3 and the Magnepan .7. Both also come with add-on features that can improve overall performance. The problem is that I have only heard the Magnepan speakers. Although I liked them, I am not likely to have the chance to A/B both speakers in the same room with the same electronics – my preferred method of speaker evaluation. Any thoughts on the characteristics of both speakers from you would be helpful.

      • Tough to comment when I’ve not heard the .7. And I’ve only heard the M3 briefly and such insufficient exposure means I just can’t comment with any proper authority. That’s what the review process is for!

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