£15k $22k to spend on speakers...but which?

Over the years I've built up a system I like but I've saved the speakers till last because I want to spend enough to get them right. It now saved up and am about to embark on this purchase.

My system is Audio Research Ref 3 & 110, Transparent Super speaker cable and a Melco N1/Chord Hugo (which sounds really good) and Rega RP8 turntable.

I've (initially) narrowed down my speaker selection to:
Wilson Sabrina
B&W 800 D3
Focal Sopra 2
Sonus Faber Olympica 2

I listen to everything from choral and piano through pop to Frank Zappa, jazz, progressive rock and orchestral. I like accurate reflection of the human voice, clarity and good deep dry bass.

Should I look at used Sophia 3? Anything else I should add to my list.

I'd be really pleased to hear people's views as, of course, it is almost impossible in the UK to hear comparative listening tests between these different brands.



I would consider a used or demo pair of the Sonus Faber Elipsa SE Red. They are a very special speaker and much better than the Olympica. Tone did a nice review of them.


I have a similar system to yours. I am using a Ref 110 to drive a pair. This is a magical combination. It has that "in the room" sound. The soundstage is three dimensional. The bass is tight and well defined.
A rich man has about the same chance of entering audio nirvana as a camel has of passing through the eye of a needle. Sorry, couldn't resist. ;-)
Maybe he is not such a rich man, just a very good saver. But if he is - you are right, not a chance.
I would say that OP's approach is wrong at the root. First you choose the speakers and the source, then fill in the rest. So, my suggestion would be to sell everything, Rega table too, and start with new speakers. Why Rega too? Because it will not be up to the task.
The OP wants to get it right, that's good.
I would go with Joseph Audio Perspectives and two REL S3 subs. Unmatched dimensionality, see through mids, sweet top end.
For your situation, I would read reviews of speakers in your price range, and pick the ones they say are best.
Matthew, could you tell us the size/shape of your room...and whether you plan on using room acoustic treatments. The room size/shape is very important in deciding on a particular speaker.
There is a pair of Rockport Aviors for sale here in your price range that are worth a look, as well as a pair of Vandersteen Carbon 5As. I'm not sure if your amp will drive either of them optimally, but if it can either of these would be fantastic I'd think. My personal choice in that price range used would be Joseph Audio Pearls, but they're never available used. Wish I were in your shoes, and best of luck.
Oh, and just saw a pair of Magico S5s for sale in Europe that might also be worth a good look.
If you are looking for a speaker you will love for a long time, there is no other way than to audition it in your system and in your room. You can never know what speaker acoustically clicks with your room and taste without trying it. A friend heard my speakers in my system and immediately went out and bought a pair. As much as he loved them in my system, he told me they sounded thin and bad in his room. I know it's hard to audition sometimes, but just know it's a total crapshoot. On the positive side, you may just luck out and purchase something blind that works perfectly for you. I happen to be a fan of the Sophias - in fact, they're the only Wilsons I like. If you like vocals, maybe a pair of Harbeth Monitor 40s could work for you. They are wonderful in the right room and, IMO, Harbeth does voices better than anything I've heard. Good luck, really.
I am somewhat surprised the TF Pharaohs could sound thin and bad under any scenario. Makes me wonder if this was an incompatible ampler or odd listening room acoustics. You just don't know until you actually hear something yourself.
Used Magico S3 or S5.
"A rich man has about the same chance of entering audio nirvana as a camel has of passing through the eye of a needle. ..."

Great stuff,....very funny!!!

On the speaker choice,...from what I've heard on that list, you may wish to re-target your list and look for a speaker with very fast, hyper-accurate and deep bass (no Sub required if the speaker is good enough....) that will deliver on rock, prog-rock, pop, techno, etc...the speakers on the list excel at many things but for hard rock, rock, prog-reck, I think you could do better....you may wish to look at Legacy AERIS and Focus SE. They definitely "rock" down to 16Hz and can cover the range of other music you listen to. There are other choices as well, some mentioned above plus others like PBNs, etc.....
ATC SCM 50, Aries Cerat Gladius, Eclipse TD712mk2+Sub
Charles, the speaker/room interface is so critical and when you have limited placement options, you never know. As much as I love Harbeth, I could not for the life of me make the Monitor 30s work in my room. They just hit the wrong nodes (I guess) and they sounded like the bass was absent below 100 hz. I probably could have made them work with a pair of Mapleshade Bedrocks, but I didn't feel like going that route. Good bass, but reduced image height, as I recall. My friend who bought the Pharoahs has very good ears and I believe him when he said they didn't work for him. That's why I insisted on a home audition before plunking down 12.5K.
I have a nice pair of Verity Sarastro MkII for 16k they would sound great for all your tastes in music.
I would likely move up to the Olympica 3 from Sonus so as they are not as bass deficient as the other speakers listed. That being said, the Sonus Faber's have a distinctly different sound signature in comparison to other speakers you listed. All the other speakers mentioned present a more forward sound that gives great immediacy and very present sound. The Sonus are more a bit further back but still provide an excellent level of performance that draws the listener in.

I would suggest to listen the SF's first only to determine if that is the sound your looking for. If you find it too non involving, then its clear the other three speakers would likely suit you better. I might add in the Kef Reference 5 or Blade 2 in your listening sessions as they are a bit even handed on the treble as compared to the Focal, but without any loss in resolution or soundstaging. But listen to the SF's first just to get a feel for their style of sound.
With that front end I'd suggest used Rockport Altria/Avior, Magico S3 or 5 (but Q3 should one appear at the right price easily bests them), or Focal Utopia Scala.
Can't really go wrong with any unless you've a tiny room?
All are a significant step up from Olympica/Sopra level. For what it's worth adding subs is a whole level of complexity and room thing compared to simply getting your speakers right and with any of the above quite unnecessary.
In januari the new Monitor Audio Platinum series will come
out. The Pl-500 is one I would put on my list if I were

The price in Europe will be 20.000 euro. I think it will
be between 20.000 en 22000 dollar in the U.S.

It is a 1.8m tall speaker what has 3 separate parts. It
will not be a wide and deep speaker. It weighs 120 kilo.
It is a 3-way D'apolito system with 4x 20cm low freq, 2
midd drivers and the new 100khz ribbon tweeter. This one
is wider and bigger than the one who is used at this
moment. It will create an even wider and deeper stage.

I am sure it will be the marktleader in a 3 dimensional
holographic stage. They use a new way of connecting the
low freq. drivers more from the middle. This creates a
superior timing. The ceramic with aluminum drivers will be
the benchmark in response and timing as well.

The front side is with new high quality leather. It is a
lot more smooth compared to the Platinum at this moment.

Internal wiring will be 100% silver and they use the best
and most expensive WBT speaker terminals.
I have a client who owns the Wilson Audio Sasha and he uses the AR 100SE for power. This is not able to create a 3 dimensional stage with the Wilson. Beside this the controle and dynamics are very limited. We will sell his speakers and also his power amp.
Like choosing between 4 types of cheese whiz, consider finding some Vitavox horns.
Acoustic Zen Creschendos are a relatively easy load and may also be worth considering given your criteria.
As a Magico owner, I would say that S3 S5 and Q3 are not well suited to your amp because in my experience Magicos sound their best with high current solid state amps. As an all round speaker the Wilson Sophia 3 would be high on my list. I have heard Sabrina with tube power at an audio show and my reaction was it sounded very complete. I also like Audio Physic Aventera with a tube amp.
Hi Matthew, you've gotten lots of great advice already, I'll just chime in that I recently got to hear the new 802D3 and the Olymica III - not the exact speakers you're considering but close enough that it's relevant. They're just too different for you to pick without hearing together.

The Olympica had a luscious midrange, so smooth and sweet and pretty. But there was very little low-end. If you said you were a classical/acoustic/jazz listener, I'd tell you to run to your nearest dealer and buy the SF. But if you love to crank The Clash or Zeppelin 2 quite often, I don't think the SF is the speaker I'd pick. The Wilson Sabrina may be even better than the B&W and SF, I've just not heard them yet but hope to soon. Point being, to my ears, two of the four speakers on your list are not at all interchangeable - they're very different. Like tiramisu vs. trifle!
Some good ideas here. I am seeing more references to Aries Cerat speakers. I had never heard of them till recently, they do look interesting. Reading reviews, they suggest a recent Aries speaker at half the price, sounds better, I think it is $11000.

Looking at the amps, I have to say Wilson's love ARC amps. I heard a set up recently with ARC LS17, REF 75 and Sabrina's and it sounded wonderful. You can get Sophia 3's for a good bit less than new Sabrina's and that may be a good choice.

As a personal suggestion as I use Daedalus Speakers, the Ulysses speakers look fantastic in a variety of solid wood cabinets, sound better and may be just what you are after. That is what I would go for, if I had the money. They are direct sale only, but a large number of US users are happy to demo theirs, just ask Lou at Daedalus, for your nearest demo possibility.