B&W, Dynaudio, Dali or what else?

I currently own a pair of Dali Helicon 800's but want to upgrade to the next level. In other words I am looking at Dali MS 5's, Dynaudio C2/C4 or B&W 802D's. Any opinion on either speaker would be welcome as well as recommendations for other well designed speakers. Amplification is ARC LS25/or SF Line2 SE and VT100MkII. Please no one liners with statements such as, buy the XY model from company ABC they are just the best. I'd like a little bit more detail for the money I am about to spend.


There's a new kid on the block, he's a little scrawny looking (small) but he's packing a serious punch and knocking out every other speaker that tries to give him a run with the flattest frequency response I've ever seen anywhere.
It's BRSE, www.BlueRidgeSoundEng.com I accidentally ran into their website and was impressed by the site and the amount of information available. These guys really seemed to know their stuff, and had graphs up to prove their performance. Long story short, I took the plunge and I am now spoiled forever! They are the first speakers I have ever heard that can't be said to have a "sonic character". You know, with most speakers you might say something like: "smooth midrange but weak bass and slightly elevated highs", or the similar. Not so with these! They just reproduce whatever they are fed, without adding, or taking away anything. The imaging is incredible and the speakers allow more of the ambience of the recording venue to come through, thus providing a better sense of "you are there" than any other speaker I've ever heard. Plus, they're very dynamic and have great bass, which I didn't expect from such a small speaker.
That almost sounds like a sales pitch! It is in a way, I want all of you out there to stop spending $10,000+ on speakers that stink, and join me in enjoying what is the best sound I've ever heard anywhere for just $2G's! Now I know alot of you would stare down at your nose at a speaker that cost only $2,000 (I almost did too, my last pair of speakers before these cost me $28,000) but believe me, you'd be making a huge mistake! These are the real deal!
Spending this kind of money I would suggest you listen first to each to form your own impression.

I prefer the Dali's over the B&W 802D only because I dislike the 802 so much. But, I would easily rank the Dynaudio's over both. I am somewhat biased as I am a Dyn dealer here in Oklahoma, though. The Confidence series is one of my all time favorites.

The B&W 802 is one of those speakers you either like or dislike. Those who don't like them REALLY dislike them. I am one those who really dislikes them. However, I really like the other two models above the 802. The 800 is also one of my all time favorites.
I can't offer up comparisons, but I can report being a very satisfied Dynaudio C2 owner. My room is 14x19x8 and I like listening to rock, jazz and blues predominantly, with all genres except country in the mix. If large speakers were easier to move around and ship, I'd love to try the C4's to see if they're an improvement or overwhelm a room my size, but that's probably just the nervosa coming through. The C2's driven by SimAudio W-10's are just plain fun.
Sonicmaster aka Ken:
You're a brand new member of Audiogon, welcome. Do you have any relationship to BRSE, other than perhaps being an owner?
It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

I have the Dali MS 4 with a really terrific subwoofer and the speakers are amazing setup that way!

The B&W are bland and don't soundstage as well.

The Dynaudio's are very good but the Dali ribbon tweeter is amazing!

The other speakers out there that are the next level are the Usher BE 20 which is in reality a $40k speaker for less than $20k and the Escalante Freemont.

The Usher uses a pure Beryillium midrange and tweeter and offers amazing resolution and speed, the bass is provided by dual 10 inch Eton woofers the same that Kharma uses!

The Escalante Freemont is a radical new design from the brilliant Thiery Budge. Thiery was the head engineer for both Wilson and Talon. The Freemont's are explosivly dynamic and offer terrific bass. The soundstage is very wide as well. This is a fascinating design.

I am a dealer for all three depending on where you live you may want to pop in for a session.
HJow about used Vantedgardes Duo's or Unos?Or maybe the $20ZK Joseph and Thiel.Verity but you have to pay to play.Great but beter values for money are ou there.Revel???Maybe the speakers that have best bang for buck are the Ushers and the Dancers series may be your ticket.They are so close in diver tech that companies like Scan speak have sued them.But other see hungry company with a certied Henrey Kloss,Nelson Pass,Bopb Carver level "Audiogod" in Dan D'Appelitto (sic) doing their cabinets and a best for the money neginering staff not to wrroied about p[atenmt infringement making the drivers and crossovers.My freidn who went top large west cost show said they ha ,given price points and even idependent of them, one of the best rooms.

I Just mentioned Avantegarde fist becauise it is diferent tech but in large room with an ARC VT100 could be heaven.Sojust thought I'd go beyond.I used top sell B&W and thought the 803 nautiolus was best value in line.Now with new tweter and as much depth as non "D" 802's worht the hump but you can't find them used yet and for new price their are many products.This you have to think at this level of synergy and your have new and used two levesl with great choices.haven't heard them but new $10K Zu Cables have 70-80% of folks jut plottzing over them saying there new SOTA at thier price point but also have heartd just as much passion from those who are there detractors saying "couldn't get them (or lower $2,800 model-they only make 3 models) couldn't lift your system to new hights even with a Crane."Justa few itesm thrown out.And last since the jaw drop phenomena was universal the DEQX processor technology at $3,600 new ($2500 give or take used) sine they made what was obvious limited and omodest NHT Xd satellites and sub made evrybody cratch thier head when introduced two years agho at CES I mention them in combination with speakers.We have heard it so many time bfore but if you read reviews of DEQX pre/proce and NHT Xd system you know this could damn well be the future.
Hoep this wasn't to scatershot (as my posts ofeten are)
I've owned several models of the B&W and they are fine speakers. I now have Merlin VSM MM and they are entirely different league IMHO. If you are going to spend this kind of money I would at least try to get a demo. They are the most revealing speakers I've heard. Give bobby a call at Merlin for more info.
Thanks a lot guys. This is a lot of info that I have to chew on for a while. I kind of stumbled into a small Audio Show last year in Norway and had chance to listen to the B&W 802D, plus some of the larger Usher speakers. I wasn't to impressed with either of them but part of me thought that it had something to do with the environment and the music they were demoed with and that is why I in the end included the 802's in my short list. I've owned several smaller Dyn's and always liked them especially their imaging, until I went to several live(unamplified) music events only to realize that the imaging was a bit over the top. I was certainly thinking about auditioning the speakers before buying but that is the very problem. I live in norhtern VT and the next dealer is about 3-4 hours away. This is there very reason to involve the help from you fellow Audiogoners. I don't want to drive for hours just to listen to something that is not up my alley. Thanks for all the help so far.
Hello Jimcrane, and thank you for the welcome to audiogon. I've been reading posts and perusing auctions and classifieds for years, but never really felt I had anything of value to say until I picked up these BRSE speakers and just had to tell you guys how great they are. I'm so pleased that I don't have to keep looking for the right speaker, and keep spending tens of thousands of $$ to get there. I've got it!
Nope, don't have any relationship with the guys at BRSE other than being a happy owner.
It's rare to find something so totally superior that costs next to nothing, just wanted to let you guys in on what's got to be the best deal going anywhere!
See Ya,
Yes Avoid B&W's. But also not sure if you should stay with the ARC stuff. From my experience its beena grainy, smokey sound. Heard 2 different ARC systems.
I like your Dalis a lot, and easily preferred them over the 802Ds... That said, I also preferred them over the more expensive MS5s you are looking at too... So my tastes may be different than yours.

In the MS5s price range, I would take a look at the VonSchweikert DB99s (tremendous top to bottom sound, combined with high efficiency), the Tyler Acoustics Woodmeres (big sound, and big bang for the buck), the already mentioned Merlins are an excellent choice (not as much low-end extension as the other choices or the 800s, but super-high resolution 2-ways), and possibly the Legacy Audio Whispers might make a good change (they sound very different from the others on the list though). If you want detailed information as to my impressions about any of the above please feel free to email me.

Good luck,

I've heard the same thing(Helicon sound better than MS) from a few people in the past. Could you elaborate on why you liked them more a bit. I have only heard the MS4 briefly before.
I will get some info on the Merlin speakers since two or three of you have mentioned them now. What about Peak Consult. I did listen to their 2 way monitor last year, driven by Wavac gear. Sounded pretty sweet in my opinion. Obviousely not a bass champ either but a good Sub might help that.
No that you've bad mouthed the ARC amps. What would you replace them with?
It was a year and a half ago, so I don't know how well my memory can be trusted with the details (as I was on vacation in AZ when I heard both and did not take notes)...

But with that said... I remember listening first to a pair of McIntosh XT-28s that I just was truly impressed by. Then right afterwards in the same room, the dealer setup the MS5s and played the same tracks from "Allison Krauss Live" and I remember commenting that the MS5s sounded flat compared to the McIntoshes by a long stretch. Pretty much I felt the female vocals did not sound right to my ears on the MS5s... I also was not particularly impressed with the bass extension (although it could have been the music played on them).

Next up was the Helicon 800s, and a saxiphone track played that was absolutely phenominal... I thought the Helicons were the next step up in the Dali line until the dealer informed me of the various price tags of the speakers I had heard so far. When I heard the price of the 800s, I thought that they were a great value for the money, whereas the MS5s just had me shaking my head. I finally rounded out the session hearing the Megalines that were superb, but way out of my price range. Still it was worth a listen, as they were remarkable speakers, IMO. All electronics were solid state top-of-the-line McIntosh solid state, BTW.

Bottom line is the Helicon 800s drew me into the music, and really had me tapping my feet, enjoying what I was hearing... the MS5s left me cold, just not interesting me. *Maybe* they were more accurate... If so, I'll take "less accurate" in this instance any day, as it sounded more like I would expect at a live performance. Oh, and they also did the Allison Krauss album better too...


I would welcome you to my showroom in Jersey City, yes it will be a nice trip but in terms of the highest performing loudspeakers in the world I have alot of them.

I currently have the Dali MS 4 which are marevlous
I also have the Helicon 400 which are great but the MS 4 sound much better.
I have the Usher line.
I have the Von Schweikerts.
I have Escalante.
I have Acoustic Zen.

If it is out there and it sounds great and is reasonably priced it is likly I will have it.

I am open by appointment and I can accomodate any time that works for you including Sat or Sunday. So come on down I know we will be able to assist you in finding some really terrific speakers.

Thanks, Audiodoctor.com
Thanks for the detailed description. One thing I want to add is that my 800's sounded kind of edgy and analytical for the first 100-200 hours of playing. Maybe the MS 5's you've listened to were brand new out of the box (my guess). This is sometimes the issue with demoes. The speakers have not been broken in (sometimes on purpose)and that gives listeners the totally wrong impression of how they really sound.
I would recommend that you find a Verity Audio dealer near you and schedule a demo. I auditioned them and Dali side by side last month and it was no contest. The Dali's reminded me of B&W, very forward and edgy on the high frequencies. The Verity's were more neutral, larger soundstage..basically to my ears more musical. The dealer assured me that they were broken in too.

Verity has some of the best speakers I've heard at their respective price points. Other speakers to consider would be Cabasse, Avantgard & McIntosh (the XRT-18 or above). All of those companies have speakers that have impressed me the first time I heard them.
to Matt Zak, I am a Dali dealer as well as many othe fine lines and I also used to sel the Verity Audio speakers.

There is no hardness of forwardness in the Dali's however, you can make them or anyother speaker sound shrill if you mismatch it. The setup you heard may have favored the Verity but I can tell you without reservation after having done this for 20 years professionaly that Dali builds some of the world's greatest speakers bar none! My friend Clement Perry of Sterotimes has the Dali Megalines which are unbelievable, but he has them meticulously well set up and he uses a sub.

I have the MS 4 with a subwoofer and they sound absolutly ammazing. The combination is around $16k but I would compare my setup with $25,000 speakers anyday of the week.

It all comes down to setup. I am using superb equipment, I have vibration control, I have room tuning gear, I have power cables and conditioners etc. High end is an art and you can not just switch speakers and claim one blows the other away without anylizing if your combination favored one or the other speakes intrinsic qualities.

I would invite you to hear my MS 4 and see for your self how good the speakers really are!
>>One thing I want to add is that my 800's sounded kind of edgy and analytical for the first 100-200 hours of playing. Maybe the MS 5's you've listened to were brand new out of the box (my guess). This is sometimes the issue with demoes. The speakers have not been broken in (sometimes on purpose)and that gives listeners the totally wrong impression of how they really sound.>>

I can't say for certain that this was not the case, as I forgot to mention that the dealer had just received a pair of high-end ML speakers that were unboxed right in front of me, and setup for break-in as I listened (and those definitely sounded edgy and analytical), but I just wrote off my impressions to them being brand new without break-in.

I can't say for sure whether the dealer had unboxed the MS5s earlier that day or around that time and did not tell me... But what I *can* say is that this was a private show room (all custom built and insulated to maximize the sound of the speakers in each room), and the dealer (owner/installer really) was super-knowledgeable and it would go against the grain to think he would make a critical error as to demo a pair of speakers that was not in its best light. Quite frankly, it was the best experience I have had at a "dealer." Still, can't be 100% sure, I guess...

Guys, thanks again for all your postings. I hope that everyone of that is willing to spend $10000.00 and up is aware of the fact that break in and system synergy is crucial when judging a speaker. I've tweaked what I currently use and listen to substantially since I first got the Dali's because even though they sounded great when I auditioned them, things changed a bit when I first listened to them at home. My listening room is 19x36ft with and opening into the kitchen at the far end. It has hard wood floors and partial wood paneling on the wall. Perhaps all that made the speakers sound initially a bit brighter. This issue has been fixed and know everything sounds the way I like it. That is why my first thought was to upgrade to the MS 4 or 5's. I thought the 5's would be a better fit for my large room though. I appreciate everybodies input so far and will start auditioning some of the recommended speakers.
Good thread!!

You really owe it to yourself to hear a good pair of line sources and line arrays. I would strongly recommend you check out Selah Audio, or wait on the new line speakers that Danny Richie (GR-Research) is designing for AV123, that should be available before too long.. Info about them over at audiocircle.com. Or if I had the money, I may pick up the diamond black WP7s here on Agon for 12,500.

Agree with the guys above - matching and set up are critical, but all those speakers mentioned (except the B&W (flat sounding to me) and the Merlin VSM (nice but overpriced for what they are) imo are good choices)

Good luck!