Advice on choosing speakers

Hi all, first some background... I am a music lover first and foremost. I have resisted the urge to upgrade my system for many years now (1973 MA6100 integrated, 1975 4-way XR7's, and a KCD-20 CD player that were all bought used) - but I am getting ready to take the plunge. I plan to buy all new components end-to-end. I believe that the first step is to choose appropriate speakers, and then select source and amplification to match. I listen to a variey of music, and understand that finding speakers that will do all styles well will be a compromise. I listen probably about 40% to acoustic instruments and vocal (bluegrass, folk, country and jazz) and 60% to rock music in a large room. I do not have a specific budget, but let's say less than 10K used. My four criteria so far are:

1. Speakers that are sufficiently detailed and nuanced to reproduce the intricacies of acoustic sound; true audiophile quality sound.
2. Able to handle the attack and low end of rock music at high levels of volume.
3. Have aesthetic appeal - this is entirely personal taste.
4. Made by a company known with a L/T reputation for standing by their product from a parts/service/dealer perspective.

So far, I have listened to very few speakers. I liked the look, clarity and detail of the Nautilus 802's for example, but found then lacking in low end and perceived ease at higher volume levels with rock music. I will next audition the N801's. Am I barking up the wrong tree here?; can you recommend your favourite speakers that will give me that detail and trasnaparency while being able to produce a "wall of sound" at higher volumes?

Thanks in advance for your help!
You must remember that if your going to plunge into an expensive loudspeaker you must be able to feed it quality amplification. Most highly reguarded loudspeakers will tell you right away whats downstream,so keep that in my when you set a financial goal in buying a system. Once you've plunged $5-10k on speakers they won't be happy with a $500 amp. Try not to buy too much at one time, but have a long term plan and stick to it.It may take you a bit longer but in the end you'll be thankfull you did.Hope that makes sense...Be patient and good luck!
Take a look at Tyler Acoustics, Reimer Acoustics, Aerial Acoustics and the new VMPS RM30. All speakers are made in America (Aerial's cabinets made outside USA) and all four companies are run by people that stand by their product. What I also like about these companies is they avoid the MK I, MKII, MKIII fiasco - which (to me) means they don't change the design of their speakers directly after they release a product.
Hi Matt:

I can propose two speakers at different price points, both of which I own (I know them well):

(1) Vienna Acoustics Mahlers ($4-$5k used; $9,800 new):

The Mahlers have a lot of finesse for the price. They are very transparent and image extremely well. They can handle a lot of power and go extremely loud cleanly, with the most powerful midbass I have heard short of big Wilsons. They are voiced to be a bit warm sounding, which bothers purists, but in my system, it really works. While they are efficient at 90 db./watt, each speaker has two 7' mid/woofers and two 10" woofers per speaker and they produce a lot of mid-bass energy, thus requiring high-quality, powerful amplification and a judicious choice of speaker cables to control the woofers. The woodworking on Vienna Acoustics speakers is about as good as it gets in hi-fi and they tend to get high marks for aesthetics.

Here is the webpage for the speaker and webpage to three reviews (I find the Audio Magazine and Stereophile reviews to be accurate and informative):

(2) Revel Salons ($9k-$11k used; $19k new):

The Salons use 4th order crossovers and go even louder than the Mahlers (that means incredibly loud). They convey a lot of detail and are very accurate, having little coloration -- they sound like what they are fed. Their bass performance is accurate and not exaggerated. At +/- 86 db/watt efficiency and dropping to 3 ohms in the bass, they require powerful amplification that is stable into low impedences. More so than the Mahlers, they really need power to open up. They are otherwise very transparent and open sounding, but having 4th order crossovers, do not image as well as the Mahlers. The styling is somewhat unconventional, but is very much liked by many. Here is the webpage and the two best known reviews:

Both of these speakers do rock incredibly well and have finesse. Both are also lovely with simpler music, as they are very transparent and natural sounding. I would say that both are all-around performers. While the Revel has more potential and is the better product, I actually prefer the Mahlers in my systems for rock. All of those drivers move a ton of air and create a slightly fat midbass -- incredibly fun for rock. Speakers like Kharmas, Avalons and Veritys are more coherent and more transparent, but they offer no speaker anywhere near these price points that can really do rock.

Assuming that they are set up right, fully broken in, and used with the right ancillary equipment, either of these speakers would be extremely competitive with the B&W's you are considering and any other speaker at their respective price points, especially when it comes to rock. They are both also still in production and have respectable resale value. As for the quality of the companies behind these speakers, Revels are made in Orange County and are part of Harmon International, a publically listed company that also owns JBL, Infinity and Mark Levinson, and is known to stand behind its products. Vienna is an Austrian company that seems to be quite successful and well run, and its U.S. distributor, Sumiko, is one of the strongest hi-fi distributors in the U.S.

Good luck.
If you get turned on by craftsmenship. Be sure to look at the Italian Sonus Fabers. I own their Concertinos, which is at the bottom of their line. But, the build is beautiful and solid. And I'm very pleased with the sound. But if I was your shoes I'd consider some of their floor models.
One brand you might go for is Genesis. They offer biamped models (you buy the spkrs with a subwoof amp included) and offer reasonable detail and low end attack. As some of their models retail for ~12-15k, they shoudl be well within your budget used.
My two cents is that you should investigate time and phase aligned speakers if you really want to hear the music as the artist intended. A few great brands who have been around for a long time and have quality reputations are vandersteen, theil, and green mountain audio. Have fun!
Go for some Merlin VSM-MM's,maybe 5K used,I've used an Ayre V5x,Berning ZH270,Counterpoint and a 40watt Rega integrated.They sounded really good with all those amps.Some speakers will drive you amp-crazy and are very dependant for current/voltage etc.Plus they have un-paralled service and advice[Thanks Bobby],good luck,Bob
What am I missing? Raquel recommends used speakers in the $10K range to listen to rock. Isn't rock music aimed at kids with boom boxes, where a high degree of distortion is part of the sound?

I personaly listen to a wide array of music and have found that price/performance that magnepan and carver are a good bet
both brands are very clear and have their strengths and weaknesses you will need plenty of power. I picked up my maggies for $900 for a pair of MGIIIA's and a pair of MGI-improved's my carver ALIII's were $400 as you can see there are good deals out there you just have to find them
Rachel said: "Speakers like Kharmas, Avalons and Veritys are more coherent and more transparent, but they offer no speaker anywhere near these price points that can really do rock."

He is right about many of his comments. I had a pair of Kharma's and I think they are very worthy of consideration. The Ceramique 1.0 can be had in the $6,000 range and are worth the money.

The Revels with the right componants can be amazing. I heard them with Mark Levinson gear, and they had the most liquid midrange I have ever heard.

The B&W speakers are not favorites of mine. I have heard many different models, but not one I would buy.

Donbellphd is unwise in making a comment such as he did. Regardless of the style/styles of music a person prefers they want it reproduced in the best possible manner.

If it were me, I would buy a pair of ATC scm50 asl. I have had a fondness for active speakers for a while now. FWIW
Donbellphd: what are you missing?

Well, first, the budget proposed by the author of the thread ("I do not have a specific budget, but let's say less than 10K used"). I proposed a $5k and a $10k alternative.

Second, rock music is quite hard to reproduce convincingly because it is supposed to be played back at high volume -- most speakers compress when asked to reproduce big orchestral crescendos or rock and roll at live levels. There are very few speakers at any price that can get you near the decibel levels encountered with a live rock performance in a club or other public venue. It so happens that the Mahlers and Salons are such speakers (and they have finesse, which the author of the thread also wrote was important to him, and which he won't get in a speaker that also has great dynamics without spending some money).

Finally, you are confusing distortion in the performance and distortion produced by speakers that lack dynamic headroom and are pushed too hard. The former is part of a rock performance and is captured on the recording, generally resulting from the use of tube guitar amps (and in the early days of rock, primitive recording equipment that compressed when faced with the sound pressure levels of rock -- this is audible on, for example, a lot of blues recordings (Elmore James) and some of the early Stones albums), and requires a top-quality speaker to reproduce accurately. As for the latter, it is just a speaker lacking dynamic headroom or lacking proper amplification that is being overdriven, which screws up any kind of music, including rock.

In short, it is difficult (I would even say extremely difficult) to find a speaker in his price range that can really do rock and that has finesse (and that are aesthetically pleasing and built by companies that back their products, which were the other features he seeks).

Have you considered Klipsch at all? The horn-loaded designs of Klipsch produce an effortless, open and spacious "wall of sound" with very little power (tubes treat these speakers very well). I own five different varieties of Klipsch HERITAGE (meaning, no longer in production) speakers, and am extremely pleased with their detail, response, openness, and ability to produce huge volumes of sound, as well as excellent bass reponse. Do some research on the Klipschorn, LaScala, Cornwall, and Forte lines.

Good luck in your quest!!

For Rock and acoustics in your used price range I recommend auditioning the McIntosh XRT-28s... They go for 18K+ new, but can be had around 9K used.

I listened to these guys at great length while on vacation late last year, and they impressed me to no end... They are the first speaker at their price point that I can honestly say was worth every penny (even new).

Midrange on the XRT-28s was first-rate, with vocals coming through crystal clear... Bass was tight and punchy (having the capability to go down to a real 18 hz when called for (which is *extremely* rare)), and highs were non-fatiguing... The soundstage on these guys was absolutely huge, and so was the sweet spot. My only minor gripe was the wood veneer trim was kind of cheap looking (especially for an 18K pair of speakers), but with the sound I heard, I couldn't care...

Electronics used were all solid state McIntosh (and the XRT-28s demand plenty of high quality watts to sound their best).

the review pairs. They have all the prerequisites you're asking for and more. I've heard B&W speakers. It's no contest between those and the VMPS per dollar. The ribbon panels are lightning quick and smooth. They simply make most other speaker sound like speakers. There are others like the Von Schweikerts that may work for you too.
responding to speakers and choices for starters, time aligned loudspeakers if done properly make a noticable difference .Such as GreenMOuntain audio. I have had several big name brands 1st order and other designs .
JUst recently Green mountain put it all together with the allready brilliant cabinet work.Look at 6mmons online . the contunuum-3 ,and now the new callisto.4 patents pending.
They lack nothing in their frequency range .
A good 1st order design will without question image better than any other order designed .a higher order design will appear to soundstage bigger,at the expense of it's wholeness and detail being again out of phase.
also being phase perfect the drivers are moving in unison,
less distortion , more efficient and therefore more musical. other speakers cannot say that.
even 4th order a big soundstage ,technically even if phase coherent,that would be only at the crossover frequency .
after that music is 180 out of phase ,not phase coherent.
dynamic range no longer a problem ,for any sane person.
and the sweetspot is a big sound stage ,non time coherent
there is not a sweetspot compared. Check them out on their
new line , then discuss anything else.
Matt_lane - Since you mention your concerns about the B&W Nautilis 802 and you seem to place emphasis on high spls and bass output. The only dynamic speaker I would recommend
would be wilson audio watt/puppy. Otherwise you should look at some transmission lines like PMC or maybe some active speakers. And if none of these do it for you check out some of the many horn speakers. I think Duke Lejeune said Classic Audio Reproductions makes some horn designs which come very close to being able to reproduce a full drum kit.

Someone on this thread mentioned some first-order crossover designs. IMO, they will sound the best for various reasons and I have 2 sets of Thiels. But because of the extended output range required of drivers in these designs and the spl levels I think you are after I strongly urge you not to consider them. Firstorder crossover designs cannot handle continuously high spls.
Look at the Legacy speakers, my father has a pair of focus 20/20 in a large room and the sound amazing!...great bass and sweet treble from ribbon tweeters....these would be great speakers for vocals and accoustic, and really supply that punch for rock n' roll