$1700 floorstanders

Hello all. I am looking for some new speakers. I have upgraded everything else in the system first, following the "front-end" first school of thought. I feel like I have made some well thought-out decisions. Here is my story. 

I started out with a 5.1 home theater set up: JBL Northridge speakers, an Onkyo AVR, and a Sony blu-ray.  That was it for music too.  I wanted more out of my system for two-channel music, so I decided to upgrade the AVR to the Marantz SR7001 mainly for its pre-outs (I knew I needed the ability to have a separate power amp), but also for its improved DACs. Then I discovered that listening to music in the "pure direct" mode was extremely satisfying, and solved all of the problems I had had trying to integrate the subwoofer for music. 

Then I picked up the Sony sacd player, and this was another step in the right direction. Then came the Cambridge DacMagic, and finally, only a few days ago, a decent power amp: NAD C272. 

Which brings us to the speaker question. What music do I listen to? Mostly symphonic classical, as I am a professional orchestral musician. I listen at pretty loud volumes, but not as loud as some of my colleagues. Sometimes I listen to jazz or big band.  I want something full-range, floorstanding. Not interested in monitors. I am actually fairly pleased with how my JBL E80s have kept up with the electronics upgrades, but I still find them to be unrefined at the high end, and a little lacking (but not totally lacking) in the bottom end.

Budget is $1700 for speakers and interconnects and cables.  I am open to used, but am interested in new mainly because I would like to audition. I have heard some high-end setups already. Magnepan (20.1s maybe(?) powered appropriately with 500-watt mono blocks), Dynaudio C2s, Vandersteen models 2ce sig II and 3a sig. I have to say I enjoyed the Vandersteens 2ce sig II the most, which I heard at a dealer being driven by $5k of electronics. At my price level in stores I have heard PSB Image T6 and Paradigm Studio 60s.  I am excited about the PSBs on paper, but I heard them in a shop that ran them with crappy electronics (cheapo AVR). They sold washing machines too!

One question is how much of that $1700 should be reserved for cables. Right now I am using cheap Monoprice stuff. I would need three pairs of interconnects, two optical cables as I have an Airport Express too, and speaker cables.

I am interested in hearing Monitor Audio RX6 and RX8, Revel Concerta F12, PSB Image T6 (with good electronics), Paradigm Monitor 9 and 11. I would like to hear the new Mag 1.7, although that would stretch the budget and I would have nothing left for cables.  What else should be on my list? Maybe a used Mag 1.6? I know used Vandersteens fall into my price range. Should I get over my hesitation for used speakers?

By the way, I started this journey with a $3000 budget. I have gotten all of the above equipment for $1300, which is why there is $1700 left.    

Showing 3 responses by kbarkamian

ATCs are phenominal speakers when powered and set up right. They need a ton of power - far more than the Marantz you're using. I've heard Naim seperates struggle with them. Unless you're willing to buy at least 200 watt monoblocks from companies like Bryston or Pass, I wouldn't go near them. They sound way too dull and uninvolving.

The Paradigm Studio 60s should also be powered with a seperate amp, but they don't need what the ATCs need. I used to own PSB Image T55s. They were very good, but not as good as the Studio 60s IMO. They're a bit easier on an amp, so that may play a role. I powered them with an NAD 320BEE in a small room with no issues.

PMCs are pretty similar to ATCs. They're far easier to power, making the lower end of the range more appealing to me.

If you liked the Vandersteens as much as you say you do, I'd stick with those. They're excellent speakers. If buying second hand, pay close attention to how much they'll cost to ship. They get pretty heavy, and need multiple boxes - 2 speakers and 2 stands, all individually packed.

If you liked the Vandersteens as much as you say, why not go with those?
The Revel F12s are very good as well. I think they're on the same level as the Studio 60s, yet are easier to drive. They need a lot of space to breath, and they're very big physically. If you like bass, they're outstanding for the money.

I think the Vandys and ATCs are easily on another level though.
I've heard the ATC SCM11 powered by the 372. It can drive them. All of the ATC magic that jaxwired mentions wasn't there. It doesn't have the grip and control they demand IMO. It's like putting a VW GTI engine Ina a Ferrari. I'm not bashing NAD - I happily owned their gear for many years. It's probably the best gear for the money.

ATCs are genuinely a great speaker under the right conditions. They need a lot of clean and stable power. They also need a few more db's to really open up and shine. They're in no way a low volume speaker. Under the wrong conditions, they're a bit dull and uninvolving. They're just another speaker in an endless sea of speakers. With a monster amp behind them and a few extra db's, they're easily the best speakers I've heard in their price range.

ATCs are ruthlessly unforgiving. NAD isn't the cleanest, purest amp out there. Again, I happily owned NAD gear for more than a few years.

I honestly think a lot of the other speakers mentioned will sound better with the NAD than the ATCs. I'd look into Paradigm Studios, Revel F12s, Vandies, or Monitor Audios over the ATCs.

Just one guy's opinion. If you can, call a dealer and ask their opinions. There's a great dealer in Missouri that I stumbled into while I was away on business. Look them up and see what they have to say if you don't have a dealer nearby. I've also heard them a bunch of times at a local dealer who dropped the line.