Any WARM, MUSICAL speakers out there?

I have been auditioning a number of speakers in the under $12k category, and I am frustrated at the almost total absence of any "warm", "musical" speakers out there. They are almost entirely the so-called "accurate" or "analytical" variety. Example, to my ears anyway: the Wilson Sophia. Very accurate, analytical, COLD and non-engaging, even through CJ tube gear. One would think that some of the CJ warmth and musicality would have come through, but the Sophia did not alow ANY of that!
I would like to find a musically engaging, warm speaker that does an excellent job with human voices and midrange detail, as the Cremonas do. I will be pairing the new speakers with Conrad Johnson tube electronics. (Yes, they are lush and warm, but that is what I like!)
The ONLY ones providing the warm musicality I seek that I have found are the Sonus Fabers, such as the Cremona. I found the midrange and uppers magical and musically involving.
However, they are not good at rock and roll. Electrostats such as Quads are even worse in that regard. As Sam Tellig pointed out, they (Quads) do NOT rock.

Note: There are no Legacy dealers (for the Focus 20/20) anywhere near me, and the Klipschorn so-called dealer near me only had two of the very smallest models available for audition.

My only two remaining ideas I have are Silverline (as in Sonatas or the new Bolero) and Vienna Acoustics, such as the Mahler or Strauss.However, the Vienna dealer only carries solid state electronics, and I want to hear them through tubes. Does anyone think that either of these might fit the bill?
In his review of the Sonus Faber Cremona in the Aug/Sept. 2003 issue of The Absolute Sound, Wayne Garcia writes,
"...It is one of the few full-range speakers from the non-analytical school (particularly those under ten grand) that I would even mention in the same breath as MartinLogan or Quad." (p.75 of TAS)
Does anyone know what the other "few" might be????!!!
Any ideas?

Perhaps a pair of Vandersteen Model 5's would suit your needs? Or how about the Von Schwiekert VR-4 Gen III se's?

I'm guessing about the speakers. But then I would also guess that if you were to focus first and foremost on the source, pre, amp, cabling, and line-conditioning there is problably a plethora of speakers that will more than satisfy your desires.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Hi. I was auditioning a digital component at a dealer recently, and he played it through Classe components and a pair of smallish Dali floorstanding speakers. The sound was extraordinarily warm and rich. You might see if anyone near you carries Dali. I have no idea what they would sound like through tube electronics.
I second to model 5 Vandy. They have powered subs so need no powerfull amplification and very musical however they're not goot at rock'n'roll either. They best in large orchestras perhaps the best in the range.
Another line I suggest trying used is JM Lab Utopia(whichever is affordable) but they will need much more power than Vandys. Less likely they will mate with tube electronics since their impedance dips down to 2.6 Ohms. Great with Pass X600, X250, Plinius SA250, McCormack DNA2.5.
Which SF models have you auditioned? The Extremas and Amatis should have better "punch" than the Cremonas.
Another model I would consider is Meadowlark's Blue Heron.
Needless to say, the rest of the system will also have a great influence => try to audition at home or at least with gear that you own.
Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.
I'm in complete agreement with your acessments on warm sound, but not too warm, although I haven't heard that yet!
Anyway, I think Stehno is SPOT ON with those two choices, another you would want to definately consider would be Alons, wide open, un-boxy sound,(they like tubes). Alons, Vandy 5's, and Von Schweikerts, and (Avalon Ascents) are my all time favorites, you can't go wrong here, I'd mention the Dahlquists I own, but they're no longer made and harder to find.
Speaker tone be it WARM, COLD, MUSICAL, DRY, SWEET, etc... I find has a lot more to do with the electronics driving the speaker than anything else. Especially the SOURCE. Sources have a HUGE impact on the tonal character of a system. Speakers ultimately are supposed to be accurate with a little distortion as possible. Tone is also effected by cable choices (AC cords, IC, and SC). Even room accoustics can seriously affect the tonal qualities of a speaker.

This being said, I have the Vienna Mahlers as a reference speakers. They are a great speaker IF you have the patience to use the right amp with them AND to set them up properly. The Mahlers are a speaker that have a very difficult bass to control. They also are a bitch to set up. When I got mine around 2 years ago, I damn near cried at how bad they initially sounded in my room. It was pretty depressing. However, with a lot of work and proper system matching, the Mahlers midrange are about as good as box speakers get. Their overall tonal balance is hard to beat. But I do warn you, if you buy the Mahlers, you are in for some serious work if you want to maximize their performance.

I second the JM advise and I give you mine.
Give a try to Burmester 995. They use the Dr.Heil magnetodinamic tweeter for absolute transparency and Audax Drivers. EXTREMELY SMOOTH and MUSICAL, as you asked for.
I third the Vandersteen Model 5. They are incredible and may be my next speaker purchase. I am in the same boat as you in finding many systems to be too cold. The Wilson Sophias were the worst I have heard so far in this regard (very clear sounding however). Anyway, as KF said, the electronics play a large role in the outcome too. Good Luck! Arthur
Spendors rule.....
The VR-4 HSE speakers and the Vandy 5's are VERY different speakers. VERY DIFFERENT. I would not even put them in the same sentence as they are that different. And they each mate very differently with amplifiers. You can drive the Vandersteen 5's with 20wpc or so tubes. You need a lot more power for the VR-4 speakers. The Vanderstein's require an amp that has a flat bass response (not necesarily STRONG and POWERFUL bass). The VR-4 amps require strong bass (amps with balls).

The difference in sound of these speakers is IMHO pretty substantial (I cannot drill this in enough). The VR-4 speakers really focus the presence of instruments well, but I think they loose a bit of speed in this process. These speakers also have SERIOUS bass. In the wrong room, the bass can be overpowering. Also, I do not think VR-4's image that well per se (they may be good imagers, but not GREAT imagers). They also have a pretty narrow sweet spot, and off axis I think they sound way too bass heavy. Their tweeter dispersion seems very precise and focused on the sweet spot. I have heard these speakers in a reference room with a reference system, and I decided to pass on buying them.

The Vandy 5's are a whole different animal. For one they cost about two times as much as the VR-4s (if you go with the 5A speakers). They have a very open soundstage. Their soundstage seems about as open as box speakers get. Off axis in general I think the 5's sound outstanding. They also image remarkably well. They can throw a soundstage as wide and deep as any box speaker I have heard under $20k or so. These speakers seem to be a lot faster than the VR-4's. Additionally the 5's bass is tuneable. The bass amps that drive the woofers have a 10 band graphic equilizer that can be adjusted to suit your particular room. This is a HUGE benefit. The Vandy 5 speakers are my favorite box speaker that I can remotely afford.

Be sure to demo each before you buy because they are very different speakers.

Hello again. Thus far the Cremona is the only Sanus Faber I have auditioned. My primary source will be my Musical Fidlity Nuvista 3D CD Player, although I intend to add a turntable system later. I have on order one of the two remaining Conrad Johnson Art2 (tube)) preamplifiers,and a CJ Premier 140 amp. ICs will probably be Synergistic Research X-series Sterling, and cables would be determined by the choice of speakers.
You're probably right about the source, Tok. The source I heard was Mark Levinson 360 cd player/processor- very analytical to my ears.
It would appear that some good suggestions were developed.

Timchen, it would seem (based on the "average retail price of your system" post-inquiry) that on Audiogon, it is SPENDERS that rule, not Spendors!
Dear Bigpowerballs, bigkidz here,

I have listened to over thirty speakers in the past three months. First of all nothing sounds like the Cremona mid range and I mean nothing. I fell in love with them after the first note, but I also listen rock so I would have to buy two speakers. The Vandy 5s are very nice but not the mids of the SFs. The VR-4s are spot on as Tok20000 says they are, they are not warm but have clarity and are not aggressive or forward so they kinda project a warmish or smooth sound but again not like the SF. The Audio Physics Virgos have a warm sound in between the SF and VR-4s but they don't rock either. Piegas have a smooth sound but not as lively sounding as I want. Avant-garde horn speakers are wonderful to my ears but the Duos are $15K.

Next up the JM Labs, I recently heard the 926s since the 936 & 946 were not available to audition at the time and the Altos. Warmish sounding maybe like the Virgos. I would not spend $15K on the Altos for myself and I thought that the lesser priced models had the same exact sound. Granted that I did not do an extensive side by side, same system comparison but the Altos did not give me the bass of say the Talon Ravens which by the way in my opinion are great speakers for all types of music, except they are not warm sounding. Alon Lotus are kinda a Vandy sound but again will not rock. Avalon Opus very fast and musical, open and airy sweet but not warm sounding but $14K for the top model.

So after all of this my advice is to buy the SF and then get another pair of speakers to blast music when the feeling arises.

Happy Listening.

Email me directly if you want to chat.
Tannoy TD12 $12000 new,won european awards in 2002.There are couple reviews here on audiogon.I own them and love them and there are very efficient.
Sean of ESP is nearly back in buisness and his Concert Grands mated with my Cary 211 monoblocks have an errrrrrie sense of depth and liquid warmth that you would have to hear to believe. He will be at the next CES . Its a midrange to die for . It might be worth it to wait and see what he is delivering.
Four months ago my wife & I spent a weekend visit reveling in music of all types through our friend's Jean Marie Reynaud Concorde speakers. My wife -of all people!- has actually been lobbying ever since for us to move up from our beloved JMR Evolution 3s to this model. In three decades of using & auditioning high end audio equipment we have heard nothing that serves the music that we love better than the Concordes.
Tok20000, I don't think anybody here claimed the Vandersteen 5's and VS VR-4 Gen III se's were identical speakers. Yet these are two very fine speakers in their own right. But it was kind of you to point out their differences.

BTW, I'm curious why you think the Vandy 5's would require an amp with flat bass response as you stated above. Particularly since the 5's come with their own bass amplifier built in (as you also stated above).

I haven't heard all the speakers mentioned here, but, I agree that the Vandersteen 5's certainly fit the bill. That they can be somewhat adjusted to various rooms is a big plus.
Stenho, I stated that these speaker were very different because they seemed to be lumped in the: warm musical category. Your suggestion of the speakers is like asking someone if they want eggs or pizza for breakfast. Not saying how different these speakers are [in a recommendation] inadvertantly may leave a person to believe that the two are similiar (i.e. both WARM and MUSICAL). I have heard both extensively, and their similiarity ends at about the level of: they both play music and have relatively deep bass.

A local audio friend of mine has had the Vandy 5's for several years. I know one or two things about them from hearing his system and listening to them (and discussing them with my friend). The Vandy 5's bass amps are run by the high level output coming from the system's amplifier. If your system's amp is rolled off in the bass, the bass amps of the Vandys will roll off the bass as well. The type of amp you use feeding the Vandersteens really DOES affect the bass. They need an amp that stays flat down to 20hz, but it does not have to have a lot of amperage/power behind that bass. This is where the Vandy amps take off. There is a difference between flat bass and powerful bass. The Tenor amps have a flat but not-so-powerful bass (thus they can drive sensative 6-8 ohm speakers rather well).

I agree with Brainwater...... ESP Concert Grand has been a very enjoyable speaker in my system.
I agree that you should first tweak your source and cables. IMO I find that the Musical Fidlity Nuvista 3D CD Player, while a great CD player in general, is not particularly warm - especially given the preferences you seem to apply elsewhere in your system. Just for fun, audition or try a used Audio Note DAC (the more recent ones are MUCH better than the older ones)... or AA...

With a warm setup, a lot of speakers are warm... That having been said, IMO kharma's are amazing with a great tube amp. If you had a pair of the 140s I would also suggest the avalon models - but only with appropriate source and cable or you will again be disappointed (both makers really show off the character of associated gear). Kharma is more forward and vibrant in view versus the Avalons which are a more distant hall perspective. I would recommend the Kharmas for your audition given your preferences, though.

Incidentally, I have heard the SF Amati Homage sound very analytical too with an all SS setup biased that way...

I would like to second the Vienna Acoustic Mahlers. I almost bought them for myself when I was looking 2 months ago. I heard them hooked up to plinus amp and Meridian transport/pre. Magical...I kept thinking ear candy...sweet warm could definitely live with this enchanting sound. In fact someone has a used pair for sale for 6K. Could get some additional gear for your budget.

BTW, I ultimately opted for the neutral sound of the Revel Ultima Studios but if I had the space for a second set of speakers, I would buy the Mahlers.
Tok2000, I'm not sure which Vandersteen Model 5's your friend has, but the Vandersteen Model 5's I've seen provide a line-level interface between the pre-amp and the amp that provide for RCA or XLR connections depending on preference.

This strategy saves the amplifier from being taxed by having to reproduce the lower bass regions (since the built-in amp handles this region) and thus allowing for greater flexibility in the amplifier the user opts for. Vandersteen touts this as a unique feature.

Perhaps you are confusing the Model 5 with the Vandersteen Model 2W Powered Subwoofer. The Vandersteen Model 2W Powered Subwoofer does allow for high-level feeds and Vandersteen touts this as a good feature, which you did mention above.

Perhaps you listened to your friend's subwoofer and not his Model 5's? Talk about pizza for breakfast.

I think you should try to hear some Martin Logan Prodigys, or Verity Audio Parsifals.
Don't know about current Vandy 5's, but from what i saw of them in 1999 and talked to Richard about, they are directly driven off of the amplifier inputs feeding the rest of the speaker system. I questioned Richard about this quite a bit as i saw major problems with doing something like this, but he insisted that it was both safe and a good way to do things. If they had line level inputs for the powered woofers back then, i was not made aware of that fact. Could be a newer feature though, i don't know. Sean
Ok here is how it works on the Vandy 5's Stenho,

You are right about the crossover box between the amp and preamp. HOWEVER, that box is merely a crossover that starts the roll off at 100hz. This rolled off signal is then sent to the amplifier which in turn amplifies it and sends it to the Vandersteen 5's.

The Vandersteen 5's reconstitute the bass signal from the high level signal sent by the amp. Basically, if your amp's bass is rolled off naturally the Vanderstein's 5 bass will also be rolled off.

The Vandersteen 5's are NOT directly connected via low level input to the preamp for the bass. Theoretically, if the Vandersteens WERE connected via low level input to your PREAMP, your amps bass would NOT affect the speaker's bass. This is NOT the case though. Vandersteen 5 bass is derived through the reconstitution of the rolled off high level signal which is sent to the speaker by the amp. Thus, if your amp's bass sucks for whatever reason, the reconstituted signal will reflect these problems in SPADES.

This is not a new feature. Vanderstein thinks this is the best way to do a crossover AND integrate bass.

My friend has the original Vandy 5's.
I have heard them and the 5A's.

I do think the Vandersteen 5 is an excellent recommendation. It is hard to falut this speaker in any parameter. I think it is competitive to speakers in the crazy money categories.

It's positives: A true full range speaker (and very reasonable sized); Best bass of any resonably sized speaker, period (goes to 15 Hz in my room, rattles your fillings out); Phase and Time coherent (something you can't live without if you begin to hear it); Natural laidback sound a tiny bit on the warm side; World-class midrange (maybe the Amati Homage are a bit better, or the JM Reynauds); Highs are natural and extended, aren't pushed out in front of the music, but live with the music; Easy to drive; Very attractive in exotic wood finish (mines Ebony); Very good soundstaging, mid-hall perspective.

It's only weaknesses in my experience are:

It lacks the last amount of air and shimmer that some ribbon/electrostatic/plasma tweeter speakers can have.

It can play very loud, but is not the be all and end all of kickass speakers. If you regularly play music with an average SPL of 100 db, the Vandees won't be for you (and neither would the Sonus Fabers).

Other more efficient speakers can play micro and macro dynamics better (like AvantGarde), but the Vandees are very respectable in that manner too.

OK, other speakers.

Sonus Fabers Amati Homage I have heard in depth about ten times in a great system. They are similar to the Cremoras in construction etc. Warm natural speaker, magical midrange. Can't play real loud, they fall apart. Natural bass, but only goes down to 40 Hz or so, and drops off steeply.

JM Reynaud (Offrandes, Twins, others): Wow, I love the sound of these speakers, naturally warm and beautiful sound. One day I will have to try these at home. Efficient. The Bob Neil reviews in Positive Feedback are spot on. The Offrandes for I think 5K are a steal and would keep you happy for a long time!

Peak Audio Consulting:
world-class midrange, warm, fairly full-range for a stand-mounted speaker. A joy to listen to.

Spendor: Warm, perhaps a bit too warm, engaging, euphonic. I haven't heard these in detail in at least ten years.

A comment (just my opinion): the big review magazines seem to like 'neutral' speakers. What they would call neutral, I most often would call cold. Yes, the Wilsons Watts, even in the 7 models are a bit cold sounding. That's the sound Stereophile likes basically, and a lot of audiophiles. Same for a lot of their recommended systems. Also consider that most of those reviewers then put in a lot of room treatments to counter the coolness. Put a Vandee or a JM Reynaud speaker in those rooms and they will sound dull. Put them in your average home, and they will come alive.
Warm and musical exactly describes the Soliloquy 6.5s. I'm going to disagree with most of you on the Vandy 5s. I've heard the Vandy 5s driven by ARC gear and they were cool sounding compared to my Soliloquy/Rowland combination. The Vandies threw a decent soundstage but sounded a little lean in the midrange. The Vandy 3,IMHO, is a warmer sounding speaker than the 5. They sound quite nice. The Vienna Mahler is also warm and musical, as Tok2000 said, if you can control the bass.
I bought the Sonus Faber Cremonas. Nothing else can compare with their gorgeous, sweet, warm, detailed, musical midrange. Everything else sounds deficient, once you've heard them....Truly magical!!
If you have the room, look for a used set of Klipschorns. You can find them on Ebay every so often. They are definitely warm and syrupy.
I own Vienna's and I have friend who has the Mahler's too. I agree that they should be given serious consideration for anyone in search of a musical speaker. I have hear them with a number of solid state amps and associated electronics and I would say that have be a very compelling seductive presntation similar to Sonus.I find it very interesting how Sumiko the importer for both VA and Sonus sells what I consider to be sonically from the same camp. The major difference is that the VA's have a more fleshed out lower midrange and powerful presentation in the bass regions with the Sonus Cremona's and Amati's having a somewhat leaner balance in these areas. This is just an observation and I am not suggesting that one is better than the other. I do know that all else being equal that Sumiko tends to favor the VA's for larger rooms.
Lots of good responses already, but to throw out another angle, I found that the slightly older Thiel designs were a tad warmer and more musical than their very latest designs (which seem to be more concise, yet somewhat thinner). The CS3.6, CS5 and CS7 seemed to me like they were on the warmer (yet still accurate) side of the Thiel line.

But then again, I have not heard the Vandersteen 5's...

Your search has ended: Green Mountain Europas...I was in the same boat as well...and found these to be very warm, involving, and NOT thin sounding ...I also liked the Sonus Faber line...and on first impression might not be the most "exciting" listen...but over an extended period of time...their non-fatiguing sound will win you over...
Coincidence speaker technologies Total Eclipse
These HAVE to be on your shortlist. EVER SO slightly to the warm of neutral. Their performance is faultless, and easy to drive. Dunlavy, Wilson, blah blah blah. The Total Eclipses I think rule at this price point. Full-range bliss!

Frequency Response: 24 hz - 25 khz +/- 2db
Sensitivity: 94 db - 1 watt @ 1 M
Impedance: 14 ohms
Power Requirements: 7 watts - 500 watts
Dimensions: 52" H x 9" W x 22" D
Weight:165 lbs ea.
Price: $7,999.00 /pair US

BTW, Your amp has more to do with musicality than you speakers.
Spendor 3 (not the new SE), Spendor 1P (+6dB sens, 6.5").
Have I got a speaker for you! And, you'll save some $$$$. I had the same budget. I ended up buying a pair of $13k speakers. I also, around the same time, had a wonderful deal presented to me on a pair of Sonus Faber Electa Amator IIs: I thought I'd keep 'em for bedroom/office speakers.
Well, after a month or so of head-to-head, the megabucks speakers went home. I just couldn't justify the extra 10K dollars!
Though they don't reach as far as the others did, I haven't yet (going on six months now) felt the need to add a sub. These speakers, btw, will fill a large room: mine is about 25'x16' (with cathedral ceiling), and opening out to a large kitchen and very large lanae.
I use a 220/w/side amp (Edge NL-10) and I'm very happy.
This SF is very happy, incidentally, playing rock at high volumes...