Two that I have experience with are Tonian Labs TL-D1s and JBL 4319 monitors. Both really come alive at higher volumes (all speakers do) but they play very well at low volumes.
All the best,
A library is 44db. For a room that large, you might want to consider near-field listening with the speakers a few feet out from a corner. Also, the cleaner the power, the clearer the music at low level. Get the noise floor to disappear.
Once I visited a set-up where the audiophile had his Martin Logan electrostatics about 4 feet apart - facing each other - with his head in the middle. They were like giant headphones. The soundscape was phenomenal. The bass was minimal - but everything else sounded great. It was very impressive. From 10 ft away, you didn’t even know the stereo was playing.
Any good speakers should sound good at low volume , excellent at modest volume and at least very good at higher volume. But you lose bass at low volume, not all of it but enough, perhaps it's not a concern. Also, I would suggest speakers with woofers located away from the floor, at the top half of the speakers. I prefer this design, anyway.
I would recommend looking at Harberh and Tannoy speakers.
On the recommendation for high efficiency speakers, in my experience with Tekton and some expensive horn models, they did not sound good at low volumes - it became all tinny treble. I understand in theory they should work better but that hasn’t been my experience.
In a 20'x20' room, assuming a normal (7'-10' triangle) seating/speaker arrangement, you won't hear much music at 45-50dB, just like elevator background music. I may be the first person to say this, but I wouldn't waste time//money on quality speakers and get some good headphones instead. If you insist on speakers, I'd suggest stand mounts with a pair of subwoofers.
I use a pair of Wharfedale 80th Anniversary Dentons for low level classical listening in my bedroom at night and these sound as if there is full bandwidth at sub 50 dB SPLs. Save yourself some bux and try a pair. They are a great value for low level listening. I power them with an NAD 326BEE integrated and it is just right.
Whatever speakers you might purchase, keep this in mind, regarding how things sound at low volume levels(vs high): https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/fletcher-munson-curve/ AND: https://www.teachmeaudio.com/recording/sound-reproduction/fletcher-munson-curves/
I would consider adding something like a Schiit Loki, so I can adjust the amount of bass/treble.
Listening a very low levels will impact the lower frequencies most as the woofers aren't being pushed to the same degree as when listening at normal levels.
Of course, you could always add subwoofers and add bass to taste.
As some have already suggested mains & sub 2.1 setups are great for low level listening. Nice thing is, you get to choose your response. A lot of listeners have and are moving to 2.1 speaker setups.
Tannoy, Tannoy and Tannoy - not only they sound incredible but they keep their value as well.
If you buy anything else you will loose money in the long term - like most the audiophiles on this forum. There is a good reason why Vintage Tannoy speakers keep increasing in value, although there are plenty of those speakers made ( more than studio JBL, Altec Jensen.....). So, you can't loose if you buy vintage Tannoy speakers - if you don’t like them you can always resell them on the open market and even make an extra cash for yourself. However, keep in mind that most the audiophiles who had sold their Tannoy speakers, have eventually regretted it later. Good luck.
omega speakers sound wonderful at lower levels, I recommend the High Out Put versions though for more complex music though and the regular ones for jazz and the like. wonderful speakers for the money, huge sound scape (I use sound scape as they image better then any speaker I've heard your in the performance).
Generally speaking I think higher efficiency speakers play better at low volumes vs inneficient speakers. Though I wouldn't underestimate the influence of a power amplifier. For example, I was very impressed by the Modwright KWA-150SE which has excellent inner detail, resolution and control at low volumes. Plus that amp sounds tube-like and musical, and is very well built. Just the addition of an amp like the Modwright might very well give you the sound you're looking for.
At the higher end of your budget would be DNA2's by DecWare, they run $3800 and would be competitive with speakers in the $8-10,000 range. I own a set and at both lower and higher listening levels they are outstanding, very efficient I'm thinking around 96-96db, also check out their guarantee and trial, Good luck in your search.
Quad, Tannoy and Ref 3a Decapo, all have great low level resolution. I’m sure there are others examples outside my experience but something to keep in mind in considering your options, the fewer obstructions in the signal path the more articulate and clear the presentation particularly at lower levels.
I want to thank all who replied, I will search the threads and see what makes sense to me.
Initial thoughts - No headphones, yes to high sensitivity, maybe a sub?
I have been a stereo listener and enthusiast for many, many years and feel that there are a great many audiophiles out there who do listen al lower volumes. (I no longer wish to hear "Stairway to Heaven" at 100 db.) I hope that speaker companies might start to look at designing speakers for low volume listening.
It is 9:30 pm and I currently an listening to the European Jazz Trio (Sonata) at 52db - wonderful.
Diapason Micra and Ateris are beautiful sounding but also very revealing speakers for low volume. Totem Sky is another. I use them regularly driven by a Paradigm PW AMP and sometimes added with small sub. You may also like the active pro-speaker Neumann KH80 (a bargain). Just a thought - are you really sure about your listening level - 45-50 db is very low.
Your mostly right. However from my experience an Amp with a volume knob that has many steps will allow a high efficency speaker to work at low levels. The Lyngdorf 2170 is a great choice for instance where as the Primaluna Premium Dialogue was terrible at low volumes, mostly because of the high gain and lack of volume knob steps.
2tuby. My guess have looked at a few but not statistically valid sample of cell and ipad spl apps using the built in mic is that they tend to be about 10 dB low
fwiw, my guess you are listening in the low 60’s
i think the Lyngdorf might be an exception, will have to study how the volume control is implemented- many attenuate at low levels buy reducing bit depth and therefore resolution, exactly what we want to avoid here.
... but “ mostly right “ is a new level of achievement for me, I plan to quote you in my annual letter to Santa, I always CC my spouse....
2tuby next time you are up late nite listening, measure background ambient, your s to n very important also, then let’s start identifying things to reduce/attenuate, eliminate. My problem w Condo system is crashing surf - 45 dB ish... good for Beach Boys, Beethoven not so much...
also, Fletcher Munson might have ya back the 2 closer to wall to get more coupling, Room reinforcement... this will be a pragmatic physical experiment, can also argue why this is not a good idea...try it
best to you
A speaker with elevated highs and bass wouldn't sound so great at normal levels...no free lunch! The "Fletcher-Munson" issue is unavoidable as it’s a reality of human hearing. I have Klipsch Heresy IIIs that work better than some at low levels, but still...the Schiit Loki is an easy and low impact solution...I use one from time to time, but if I’m seriously listening to something I want every detail getting to my earballs so I generally, even late at night, get to a level that’s not particularly loud but I can hear everything without the Loki in the loop.