I don't mean to throw cold water on your idea of buying a good 3-way speaker that sells new for $1k or less, but there isn't much to pick from. Most of the under $1k speaker systems are two-way floorstanders, or monitors.
However, if you are willing to spend up to $1k for a used speaker system, you have some real choices. Two of the models that you should think about are the Vandersteen 2Ce or 2Ce Signature, and the Magnepan 1.6R. These are very different speakers, with a substantially different sonic signature, but both work well with tubes. The deciding factor of which to buy might well hinge on your room -- the Maggies need to be placed well away from the rear wall.
Keep your eyes peeled for a used pair of Hales Revolution-3s. I found a used pair for $1000.00 in mint condition and have been very pleased. I have been driving them with a Sonic Frontiers Power-2 with excellent results. They are an all-around great performer. Do some research on the web and be sure to check reviews on other audio sites.
I have heard quite a bit of good things about he new Energy C-series (C-5, 7 & 9). These are under 1K and suppose to be very good. Auditioning is on my inteniary.
Buy a pair of Lowther DX3 for $795, build a simple cabinet, and you will never think about 3-ways again. You will have a brand new set of speakers that work wonderfully with tubes, costs well under $1000, and has sound that makes ANY $1000 3-way seem like a poor choice. Concerned about the highs and lows with a single driver? How does 36Hz-20kHz sound to you? How about 98db efficiency with 1 watt input? And detail that sound like you took the blanket off. Think about it.
At your price point and with tube equipment you're really limiting yourself in terms of options by looking for a 3-way speaker. I find speakers to be the most personal of all audio equipment choices, so I'd say focus on finding the right speaker for your system and tastes in your price range and forget about how many drivers and/or crossovers the things have. This will open up a world of possibilities, and I'd be surprised if several 2-way speakers didn't surpass what the 3-ways can do at this price point in terms of overall sound quality, and many will put out enough bass to keep even a head-banger fairly happy. I guess what I'm saying is quality over quantity when it comes to speakers.
That said, I'd echo the Vandersteen 2ce recommendation above although they can be a little on the polite side for some so obviously try before you buy. The Triangle Antals will also work very well with tubes and will certainly satisfy your need for more drivers. If you want to buy new, Axiom and Energy offer towers that are high on the drivers per dollar scale and have gotten some nice reviews, but I'm not sure how they'll work with tubes or, more specifically, your tube equipment. Best of luck.
Thanks for the advice, I have heard good things about the 2ce's but their so dang big. I have thought about the 1c's ( even though their 2-way ) anyone ever listened to these? Nut much into building my own cabinets, but if I was I'm sure I could imporve my sound quite well for few $$$.
Haven't heard about Triangle, Axiom, or Energy, but I will check them out.
Mind if I ask what it is about a 3-way that especially attracts you? Perhaps if we focus on the particular set of attributes you desire, we can better help you.
That being said, I often prefer a 3-way as well, but perhaps not for the same reason.
Just to put my 20 cents in Paradigm makes some tube friendly speakers in your price range used.
I want 3-way speakers becuase I want to biwire using 2 sets of cables. Possibly even using 2 differnt types of cables.
You can bi-wire or shotgun bi-wire with 2-way speakers as well, as long as they offer two sets of binding posts, which many manufacturers do. If you want to tri-wire, that's a different story--then you'll obviously need a 3-way speaker. I'd still say go with the speaker that sounds best to you within your budget regardless of how many drivers there are. Buying a speaker just to be able to bi-wire is like buying a car just to get a certain set of tires--better to go by the performance of the whole package. Best of luck.
The problem with biwiring a 2-way is that the midrange comes out of the woofer. On a 3-way the midrange and tweeter are on one set of post, while the woofer is on the other set.
Tube777, in my experience, you're better off upgrading to a single run of higher quality cable than going with two or three runs of a lesser cable. It's more cost-effective to get one run of really good stuff than multiple runs/ lesser stuff. I'm not saying my experience is all-encompassing, but that's the conclusion I arrived at from my own experiments.
I would second Soix's suggestion that you find the speakers that make the magic happen for you first and foremost.
Best of luck to you!
www.gr-research.com or maybe VMPS.
Audiokinesis, What I'm trying to say is that I will be running 2 different amplifiers to my biwire speakers. I most likely will run a ss amp to the woofers, and tube to the top. I have also been told that even using the same amp I can run 2 seperate kinds of cables, and I'm quite curious about this.
I think what people are trying to say is, that bi-wiring is not going to make up for the deficiencies of the speaker. It is a tall order to make a good 3-way speaker for $1K for the pair. If you take the simple method of looking at the dollars, a typical 40% dealer profit puts cost at $600. The manufacurer probably also makes about 1/2 that, or $300. That leaves about $150 for assembly labor like building the cabinets, and maybe $150 to buy 6 drivers, 2 3-way crossovers, connectors, MDF and veneer, wire, grilles, and shipping boxes. If you're lucky, you may get a $20 woofer, a $15 midrange, and a $10 tweeter. Is this what you want to bi-wire to your nice amps? Since I am aware of this, I bought $900 fullrange drivers(Lowther) and made my own cabinets, of a proven design, for a couple hundred. Guess which one will sound better? My point, just like the other posters above have tried to make, is that less can be more, particularly in the lower price ranges. With a 2-way system at the same price point, more of the money can be spent on better drivers, and can get you better sound for your buck. But you must audition, because sometimes you get poor quality drivers in 2-way also. This is the reality of retail audio, and it applies to amps, and everything else, as well as speakers. Now you know why people are spending mega-bucks on their systems.
I hear what your saying, but unfortunately I just don't have the equipmwnt to make my own cabinets. But if it is true that most of the money is going to manufactures and dealers. Then why can't I go buy a cheap pair of speakers and then upgrade the drivers myself?
Tube 777, You are certainly entitled to go your own route. I can' help but think that you may be putting the horse before the buggy. Used speakers will offer much greater value, especially at your price point. Three way speakers are by there very nature going to have some size to them (I think the Vandersteens size is typical). Personally I'm more concerned with foot print than actual size. While bi/tri amping/wiring can have advanteges, at your price point I would want to keep things simple. Better speakers are made with a combination of considerations with compensations made with cabinet,crossovers,etc. Just willy nilly replacing drivers could possibly (probably?) make things worse, even if said drivers are better. This not to say that mods can't improve your system, but only to say that it takes expertise (including appropriate testing equipment) and money and still comes with risk. I would be much more concerned with speaker to room interaction and how it effected my musical enjoyment than in playing with wire and/or amp combinations. Another area that on the surface may seem like a good idea but in practice take a great deal of expertise to make work. Again this type of fine tuning can provide signifiicant improvement, but your budget seems to be out of range for these priorities. IMHO it would be like contemplating racing slicks on a Yugo. I don't mean to rain on your parade and I wish you the best, but my advise would be to keep it simple.
777, it seems to me that you pretty much have decided where you want to go, and are looking for others to help justify your decision. All I can say is , that I gave you my best opinion on the matter, and some figures to back it up.
I agree with Unsound, that if you can't build cabinets, then good condition used speakers like Vandersteens could get you good sound for your price.
Adding different drivers to a box without knowing what you are doing is a recipe for disaster. I've been building and designing speaker systems for going on 30 years now. Take my word for it.
I have heeded your advice and have put Vandersteen on my short list. I just wish they wern't so dogon big :)
One of the things I have found on this forum, is that the Vandersteen speakers are widely recommended from all kinds of different audiophiles with different viewpoints. Any speaker that gets that kind of consensus on these pages must have something going for it. I think you will find it good sound for the money.