12' x 14' room; $10k budget for speakers; help

Associated equipment:
ARC amp & preamp; VPI table W/Soundsmith; Cary SACD; Magnum Dynalab tuner; Nordost cables; Silverline Sonatina II speakers

Performance preferences:
Non fatiguing; able to handle the dynamics of classical orchestra; articulate (it would be great to understand what Ricky Lee Jones is singing); bass to 40Hz

Listening preferences:
I grew up in New Orleans in the 50's; went to college in the 60's; worked for the opera in the 70's; & have worked in a modern jazz club since the 80's
I listen to old R&B; psychedelic rock; modern jazz; some classical & Broadway.

The system is setup in a smallish room (12w x 14l x 10h) dedicated to 2 channel stereo. The speaker need to be on the 12' wall.
There are only two local high end dealers so there are few speakers to audition. I travel some & am willing to audition away from home.

Your input is greatly appreciated.
Smaller rooms also usually means limited options for speaker placement. One of the most versatile speakers I have heard is the Gradient Revolution. This speaker sounds great in a small room and can be located close to the back wall or even corners. The primary downside for this speaker is that it is not the easiest thing to drive (on the other hand, how loud would one play a speaker in a small room).

The various Audionote (uk) speakers should also be in consideration. These have a warmer sound than the Gradients, and are easier to drive. They are supposed to be place near the room corners, but, I actually like them a little bit away from the corner to keep them from booming excessively.

If you are looking for a lively sounding speaker that works particularly well with tube gear, the tall, thin floorstanding speakers from Synthesis Audio (Italian) are quite nice. For my taste, these might be a bit too lean and bright for Audio Research electronics, but, they are still worth looking into.

I have heard the Sonus Faber Liuto speakers sounding very good in smaller rooms. I have heard these only with solid state gear, so I don't know about compatibility with tube gear.

I also like Proac speakers in setups using tube gear. Both the floorstanding and stand-mounted models sound quite good, particularly with respect to soundstaging.

Probably the hardest to find of speakers I have heard, and liked, in small rooms are the models from Trenner & Friedl (Austrian). These are quite lively sounding, while remaining reasonably rich.

Jean-Marie Reynard (France) makes speakers that are great for classical music (rich, beautifully saturated/dense harmonic structure). They are not the fastest/liveliest speakers, but, every choice involves tradeoffs. I don't know if these are being imported into the US.
You don't mention what amp so not sure of power, but from a sound standpoint some brands/models worth looking at:

Rockport Mira
Joseph Audio Perspectives (or maybe even Pulsars)
Sonus Faber
Vandersteen Quatro Wood

Given your room is on the smaller side maybe even consider good monitors (i.e. Pulsars) with a good sub or two to help manage bass a little easier.

Best of luck.
If I had your budget, I thik I would allot $8k for the speakers and $2k for room treatments. You will get MUCH better sound using that formula rather than throwing all $10k into the speaks...

The room treatment consists of floor to ceiling curtains across the front wall.
An 8' x 10' area rug over hardwood floor.
Side panel absorbers for first reflection.

The Silverline Sonata IIs are 3' from the front wall and 2' from the side walls.
I just deleted a very long post. Be thankful! :-)

FWIW Your goal was my goal, non-fatiguing but very articulate speakers. I found them about 5 years ago. Silverline Boleros. They sound NOTHING like the other full range Silverline speakers which IMHO were voiced for typical audiophiles, i.e. dynamic, articulate, and forward. Especially the Silverline Sonata III which I heard at Silverlines store in the Bay area when I auditioned the Boleros.

What drew me to the Boleros was the selection of the drivers (which other speakers I have used) including the Esotar tweeter. The impedence curve and sensitivity which made them an excellent potential for driving with tubes. Also the speakers drivers are spaced closely together which makes semi nearfield listening possible. I use them in a 13x19x9 room in a classical equallateral triangle and find them both easy to drive, easy to listen to, articulate as hell, and they fully explore the potential for three dimensional soundstage (as one could expect in a room that size). And they are really beautiful speakers. Women visitors love the appearance/size/finish. So do I.

I know the pirce is a bit more than your target, but personal contact with Alan and optimally a listening session might result in some serious price accomodation. BTW, there are several excellent on-line reviews if you are interested.
For a difficult, small room with limited passive treatments, you might want look at any (or all) of:

1) Tunable bass, either Vandersteen Quattro/5/7 style or via separate subwoofers.

2) Controlled dispersion (horns or similar)

3) Digital room correction (Audyssey type for full range or Meridien/ARC/Velodyne for bass only)

IME, all of the above will allow you to minimize the damage inflicted by a small, modestly treated room.

I think you should take a very close look at the Daedalus Athena. It meets all your performance parameters and can be placed fairly close to the rear wall due to an aperiodic venting system. These are hand made speakers built from solid hardwood--they look and sound amazing. I ran my DA-1.1's with ARC electronics and this was a good match. The Athena's are very efficient though so you could always go with some interesting low power tube options for that size room if you want to explore that direction. Best of luck!
I agree that Digital Room Correction would be good idea in such a small space. The DSPeaker Dual Core 2.0 I just installed did wonders to the bass in my 13x15 room.

As for speaker options, maybe check out the Von Schwekert VR-22, VR-33, or VR-35. The first 2 are manufacturer direct with a trial period. All three are designed to be placed near walls.
DeVore 0/96's.
Roscoe has it right about the Dspeaker Dual Core 2.0. I never thought my system could sound so good. Look into Shelby + Kroll Nano Monitors and A Woofer Monitor. The whole package, Dual Core and speakers, will run you about 4k including stands. You won't believe your ears! :-)

Good Luck

Having lived with the Silverline Ref17, serial Dynaudios, Green Mountain Europa Max, and others I've finally settled on the Marten Design Dukes (with a sub for full orchestra recordings). With ceramic drivers they are very responsive and can handle anything I throw at them. They'll run you about $8000 and I would spend the rest on Crimson Music Link speaker cables and interconnects.

Salk Sounds makes some fabulous speakers, tonally balanced, dynamic, exquisite detail,etc

The SS8 at $8k are probably the biggest sound for the dollar in audio.
Jim also does custom finishes, his woodwork finishes are impeccable
They also have smaller models as well


And their audiocircle discussion board

Do you still live in New Orleans?
I'd be more than happy to have you over to hear the Salk's bigger ss10 brother, same mid, tweeter drivers

Busted link


Salk audio circle

Soundscape 8, ht3 and ht2-tl all great speakers
The new PSB Imagine T speakers will suit your stated requirements and while able to reach down into the bass, will not overload your room. they are very quick, clean and articulate. The Synchrony One is also suitable, but maybe a little large for the room. Either is available for under 5k, so you would have plenty left over for other improvements.
Lipinski L707's
I love the sound of the classic kef 107 - on youtube, you can sort of get the idea of the sound. If I were buying new speakers today, I would hunt these babies out on ebay or here... They can be had for less than 1k too!
The new evolution audio mmmicro ones would work well for your room size. It will be well under your budget in price not sound.
I was about to suggest OP that he should audition the MMMicros or the Vapors that have been getting rave reviews. But noticed that he NEEDs to spend $8K to $10k.
I second Rlwainwright's advise.
I would second the mention of the Audio Note AN-E speakers. Place them in the corners as intended and there will sound great without further room treatments or modifications. There are several different models, from approx. $3K and up. I would look for a AN-E/SPe HE or SE pair on the used market.
have you ever listened to Merlin? I would also consider Dunlavy sc IV,V or VI's.
Heres another option to take a look at

ScanSpeak B741

And yes I do make them in case you don't want to take on the endeavor yourself :-)

Good Listening

My room is not in danger of the bass overloading. The room is the second room in a double parlor separated by 8'h x 10'w pass through.

I don't need to spend $10k; that would be my absolute limit. I would like to spend less.

My local guys handle Martin Logan, PSB, Harbeth, Magnepan.

I'm really sorry I missed the show in Denver. I'll be in the DC are in January & hope to hear the NOLA Contender & Joseph Audio Pulsars.

Thanks for all the recomendations.
I have a similar sized room and had the same dilema you are facing. I purchased the new $3,500 PSB T2's and have been thrilled with the results. I have owned several other speakers in the $4,000-$7,500 range and this is by far the best I have had in my system.
I'll set up a audition of the PSB T2s ASAP.
Thanks for the directive.
If you will be in the DC area try to visit Deja Vu Audio in McLean, VA. Vu has a nice selection of equipment and speakers including Audio Note. Great shop to hang out and listen.
I would take Clio09's suggestion, and listen the the AN's. I would also hit Command AV, which I believe is in the DC area. There, you can hear the DeVore 0/96's. I am a happy owner of the 0/96's, but I would listen to both. Art Dudley compares the two in the Dec. issue of Stereophile.
Hi. Noticed your post, as I have a similar sized room, open on one side - and potentially would consider speakers in your budget. I found a trip to a local AV show interesting - the hotel rooms were mostly of a similar scale, some a fraction larger.

For large speakers which were surprisingly forgiving of a modest sized environment:

The Von Schweikert VR35s were promising - unique design. Certainly a very large sound stage and a non-fatiguing tone. Reading up, seems their placement is finicky, and bass varies dramatically with the room. Still their policy of in-home trials is tempting. At the show the sound had width and height, but depth was a little lacking - nonetheless, better than many more expensive set-ups at the show. The room was odd...something like 10' across, 16' deep, with speakers on the long wall 9' apart.

Dynaudio Confidence series - Bryston electronics used C4 MkIIs to showcase their wares, in a room smaller than yours! Possibly the best sound at the show. Bass control was extraordinary. Very articulate, but sweet sound. Not sure how Brian Russell managed this trick, but it was very impressive. Second hand or superseded C2s or C4s, or new C1s would be in budget.

Left field option - Analysis Audio planar ribbons - around 10K - made in Greece! Meet all your criteria, and possibly the best "three-dimensionality" of the show.

Other speakers I've heard which I suppose are obvious contenders, with shorthand comments - latest B&W 803 Diamonds - Very smooth, but not overly dynamic - nice with orchestral, string quartets; Wilson - second hand Sophias - I don't like the tweeter in these, but maybe that's just me - I owned CUBs, & they work well placed to the corners of a room, but sound hard, more so than the Sophias; Sonus Faber Guarneris (Homages & Mementos) - in some ways similar to the B&Ws - not too much snap and drive, & benefit from a sub - very sweet with acoustic music, chamber especially - can handle an orchestras well, although sound stage not overly large (like your up the rear of the concert hall) - massed strings might sound distant, but never grating.

Finally a plug for my current speakers - Usher Be718s with the US spec crossover and the original beryllium tweeters, Usher stands, and a REL sub. I can't really justify changing these for another monitor - when buying also considered Guarneri Mementos and Wilson Duettes. As a professional review said, the Ushers sound remarkably like the Dynaudio C1s for a fraction of the cost...especially second hand in the USA. Just don't get the diamond tweeter - it's a step backwards. A sub is nice, and the stands are essential = the speakers bolt on.

Might also comment on some of the other suggestions - I think I'm overly sensitive to grain & congestion in the higher frequencies, but to my ears Martin Logans and Magnepans are fatiguing, surprisingly so, in the treble - also I can't imagine a small room would be optimal - again, poor results at the AV show for the Magnepans; the MLs I've heard in large rooms, but just did not convince. Audio Note's have their devoted following, but not for me - even with their own high end electronics I find the sound a bit thin and distant - I have heard them several times over the years, but the room at the AV show just confirmed my previous experiences.

Finally, another post mentioned room treatments - helped with our room, but require experimentation - absorber panels are cheap (when in their bare state). I relate to your gear, having had ARC amps and a CD1 player for a decade: having said that, for clarity the latest outboard DACs seem to be a great improvement - I put in a Wyred4Sound DAC2 and this is way better than the ARC inbuilt DAC - I imagine your Cary is better than the ARC, but still..."Come on Cecil, give me a dollar..."

All the best,
Lipinski L707's +1
Maxh, it sounds like you are quite familiar with live music, and there are two areas in particular where most speaker systems fall short. Neither is obvious from published specs.

Dynamic contrast is one area where most speaker systems fall well short of live music (well so do most recordings, but that's another topic for another forum). The culprit is thermal compression. As the voice coil heats up (which can happen very quickly - imagine touching it with a 100 watt soldering iron), its resistance rises, and less power is delivered. Most drivers have less than 1 dB of thermal compression at less than 10% of their rated power, rising to 3-4 dB at their rated power. Now many if not most manufacturers' power handling claims are based on "music program" power handling, which is typically twice the actual AES rated power handling (and if they're based on "peak power handling", they're even more optimistic). So if you want negligible thermal compression on peaks (to preserve dyanmic contrast), you probably want the speakers to reach adequate peaks at about 5% of their claimed power handling (and unfortunately different manufacturers measure efficiency with different yardsticks too). Of course it helps to have plenty of reserve amplifier power, but that's only indirectly a speaker-related issue.

Another area where most speakers fall short is in getting the reverberant field right. Live music in a good venue generates a reverberant field that is spectrally correct (similar to the first-arrival sound), powerful, diffuse, relatively late-arriving, and which decays evenly across the spectrum. In a 12 by 14 by 10 foot room obviously we can't replicate the soundfield of a good live venue, but we can at least get some things right. Fairly directional speakers can be aimed to maximize the time delay between the first arrival sound and the arrival of the first reflections, and fairly constant-directivity speakers ensure that the reverberant energy will have the correct spectral balance (assuming the room isn't overly absorptive at some frequencies, which unfortunately may be the case with the room treatments you describe).

Of course these aren't the only things that matter, but imo they shouldn't be overlooked if your goal is to get a reasonable approximation of the live music experience.

Don't forget about power conditioner. I have inexpensive oneac 6.25 A. model, and it makes a difference already!

You can pick one up on ebay for less than $100.

Also, dedicated power outlet also helps your amp, as you probably know.
For a small room, I would give the Thiel 3.7 a listen. Heard them once in a smallish room (at a dealer) and they blew me away.
Duke's post is well worth noting and his speakers are well worth considering.

BTW - I use his speakers and have used them in various sized rooms, one slightly bigger than yours.

I remember him coming by once and he was amazed at how I had his speakers set up. They were on the room diagonal (something you should consider for a small room) and my chair was positioned as such that I was no more than 4' from the speakers. From my listening position you had the sense that you could reach out and touch the speakers. You would think that this would be a recipe for sonic disaster but funny thing was after listening for some time neither of us found fault with the sound.
I second Duke and Clio09. I'm a very happy owner of Audiokinesis Prizmas. My room is 15' x 13' I sit 8' from the front plane of the speakers(on the long wall), the right angle toe-in built into the cabinets makes for very controlled dispersion and the adjustable bass porting makes for a very room friendly speaker that loves tubes. I live in south central Pa. if anyone wants to listen.
Since I am a fan of Merlin VSM's I will have to say give them a shot. These with a pair of subs will work nice in your room. I would also look at the Vapor Cirrus. Very good speaker.
I've owned Merlin TSM's, Mag's, Sonus Faber Guarnari's, Spendors (to name a few, which are all great speakers in there own right). Anyway, I turned the page in my life and got off the (expensive high end band wagon) and are now using and enjoying PSB Image B5's (which will eventually go to a family memeber). Anyway, I must say that I'm very, very impressed with PSB, so much so that I planning on getting their Imagine B's and an April Music, Arcam or Naim "all in unit" and call it a day and just enjoy with wonderful music.
Save a little cash -- a couple thousand. Zu Druid V meets all your requirements, including real, articulate bass down to 35Hz. Perfect for your size room and the relatively near field listening layout. I migrated to Zu from Silverline eight years ago. You'll have a smooth transition, at once in-the-realm and clearly an advancement over the conventional crossover-intensive speaker. Druid V is all you need and leaves some money for more music.

I pulled the trigger for Joseph Audio Pulsars. I'm anxiously awaiting delivery.
I'll post some comments after burn-in.
Pulsars is a good one, especially for your room size. Can't wait for your review. Happy listening.
I'd also be interested in your thoughts, especially since the Sonatinas are no slouch. Always thought ARC and JA would make a really nice pairing but never heard them together. Congrats. I'm jealous.
Save a little cash. Zu Druid V is perfect for your situation and meets all your stated requirements.