B & W speaker upgrade suggestions

I am currently using B&W CM4 speakers for my front speakers, and a B&W CMC center speaker. I use them bi-wired with a Rotel 1055 receiver, Rotel RMB 1075 power amp, a Rotel 1072 CD-player and my beloved Teres 160 turntable. My rear speakers are Infinity Alpha 20s. My sub-woofer is an Onix Rocket. My system, due to space constraints is used for pseudo home theatre (I don't have a dedicated room) and music, with the emphasis on musicality.

My musical preferences are somewhat varied, but tend to be mostly in the jazz, classical, classic rock, world music, and blues genres.

At some point in the future (probably far future!) I would like to upgrade my main speakers. My fantasy budget is $5000. I know this amount is somewhat limiting, but I doubt that I will be able to afford more. Besides which, my sources (other than the Teres turntable, IMO) are no doubt considered mid-fi here on Audiogon, so stellar speakers would just point out their short comings. I also have a preference for maple/birds-eye maple finishes, just because I like the look of the wood, but finish is secondary to sound.

Anyway, any suggestions as to what speakers I should consider?

If by main, you mean your front left and right speakers, try out the B&W 703s.

If you mean all of them you could always go for B&W 7 series setup w/out a sub and save up for a new sub later.

2 * 703 = 3000 (fronts)
2 * 705 = 1500 (backs)
1 * HTM7 = 750 (center)

Which would be $5250, and if you know how to deal with a dealer you could get a 12% discount and get it down to $4620, which would leave you 380 to save up towards a ASW 650 ($700), or ASW 600 ($500), or better yet an ASW 700 or 750 ($1300 or $1600). (prices as per MSRP on B&W website)

I have the setup above with a ASW 750 and I absolutely love it... I plan on upgrading my front left and rights to 803d speakers and the center to an 8 series in two years or so and will move my 703s to surround channels and 705s to rear surround for a 7.1 setup.
I had CM4 and went to VERITY SARASTRO something like 12x the price. Was it worth it?...no!!. The CM4 mid and highs are pretty good needs more bass! Try used Verity Parsifal Encores.
Look at the Linbrooks from TylerAcooustics. And you can have any finish you want including every type of burl nature offers. I just ordered a pair of his Super Towers for a little less than 5K with shipping.
if you like b&w just move up the line
Yes, by mains I did mean my front speakers - guess I should have been more specific. Once I have upgraded my front speakers, I would probably use my CM4s for the rear speakers until I could get something else. I just can't afford to buy new fronts, rears and center, so thought I would optimize my two channel system first because music is really more important to me than home theatre.

I am actually pleased with my current sub and am not considering replacing it at this time - the Onix Rocket is quite musical and works well for me in my somewhat awkward, small room. I should note that my room is not ideal - it is basically what is called a "great room" these days (though small,) as it is an open room comprising both kitchen/eating area/living room with cathedral ceilings and lots of windows.

I am surprised to see folks recommending B&W speakers; for some reason I didn't think they were well respected here! So the B&W 703s have more bass? That would be nice!

Jjwa - I can't imagine finding a pair of used Verity Parsifals in my price range - aren't they something like 14-17K new? I don't imagine used ones would drop to 5K! They definitely look nice, though.

I have read good things about the Tyler speakers, so will definitely put these on my list.

Any comments on the Usher CP-6381 speakers? They have received some rave reviews....

Thank you for your suggestions; hope to hear more!

If you can spend the extra money I would get a pair of 803Ds (or at least audition the 803S, which I never did, but is in your range if you get 12% discount). As far as bass on the 703s, the bass extension seems great to me when playing in stereo (two channel bypass through a Bryston SP1.7 into a Bryston 9B SST Amp using a Meridian G08 CDP). I've read reviews that mention it as surprisingly deeper than expected.

3-way vented-box system, 2 x 6.5" paper/Kevlar cone bass drivers, 6" woven Kevlar cone FST midrange driver, 1" alloy dome tweeter, 38Hz-25kHz ±3dB, 8 Ohm impedance, 90dB sensitivity, 120lb/pair.

I liked the 703's better than the 804S when I auditioned both. Definitely worth audtioning both IMO, or any choices you are considering for that matter. I auditioned the 803D and 802D and wept inside... If I had known how much I would love that 802D, I would have bought those and filled out a 5.1 system later. Anyways, I didn't, so now I will add those later and move the rest of my equipment to other positions when I can.

I don't see why people wouldn't like B&W speakers here, their speaker models seem to be excellent values at their price, and they are well received across the board in every publication I have read.
Look for speakers that don't require gobs of power and also sound like music. Not something arid, cold, and lacking dynamics. In other words, stay away from B&W and look at Proac, Verity, Silverline, Tyler, JM Lab, Kharma, Von Schweikert, Vandersteen, etc. Tons of better choices at every price point.
I don't dislike B&W speakers, but they were my first foray into "better" equipment, and I would just like to try something different. Despite the fact that the majority of my audio equipment is solid state, I really long for the sound of tubes! (All I have right now in terms of tube equipment is a couple of headphone amps and I love them.) But, since I can't afford to buy tube amplifiers for my main system, I am looking for speakers with lusher, warmer sound. And yet I still want detail. Sigh....

Any opinions on the Onix Reference 3 speakers? http://www.av123.com/products_product.php?section=speakers&product=38.1AV123 is a local company and I like my Rocket UFW-10 sub quite a bit, but have never tried out their other speakers.


Ignore what judy426 has to say. I have listened to the jmlabs utopia and consider it to be comparable with with the B&W Nautilus series. That said there is nothing wrong with staying with B&W. I recomend going up the B&W line but I am a devout B&W fan. The N803 can be had used for around $3600.00 here on audiogon.

Look for speakers that don't require gobs of power and also sound like music. Not something arid, cold, and lacking dynamics.

I think any poster that sums up an entire speaker company's speaker lines in such generalized (obviously negatively prejudiced) terms, is likely not worth listening to. You don't see anyone else in here knocking anyone else's speaker choices... I don't see any of the professional reviewers out there saying anything of the sort about B&W speakers, and I wager they have much more experience than Judy. I think Judy may be trash talking to sell what he/she stocks.

I love my 7 series speakers and I listened to different stuff in the same range at a few different stores (Boston Acoustics, Sonus Fabers, etc). If I could go back, I would probably go with the 8 series now though, so the 803Ds or 802Ds would fit in a little better with the rest of my setup when I buy a pair. It was more a price consideration at the time. I doubt it will make a huge difference since I choose to play things in stereo even when playing High Def formats. I doubt I will notice incongruity when playing movies... though I may have to upgrade the center channel to an 8 series. From what I have heard, it is best to stick with the same company than to mix and match companies with speaker sets, even if you do go one line up or down in quality.
Aren't the Rocket speakers reviewed as a litle "rolled off the top"? I would be careful with mail order direct speakers. I don't trust items I can't go to a store and hear next to other well-received speakers. I suppose you could ask your local dealer if it would be ok to bring them in and compare them to another speaker. They give you 30 days or something to try them I think. I personally don't trust that kind of thing, especially since a bunch of people were running around other fora awhile ago acting like hooligans trying to coerce people into buying those speakers, and bashing anyone who said anything negative about those speakers.

IMO nothing can replace a local dealer whom you can drop your speaker (or other component) off with if something goes wrong, and who will give you a replacement to use while it is being fixed.
Also, Rotel is now owned by B&W, so they are supposed to be well mated. Not sure if this is true, but it would seem to hold to some degree that the company would want to insure that their products would mate well. I almost bought those same Rotels, but ended up going with the Bryston SP1.7 and Bryston 9B SST. The 20 year warranty and send-in hardware upgrading was too much of a good deal to pass up. Upgradeability is also the same reason I decided to go with a Wadia 302 over a Meridian G08. Still playing around with the G08 while I wait for my 302.
I had some 804Ns, light cherry, and loved them ... simply magnificent build and able to produce an ever-larger soundscape without breaking apart. I drove them with a class A Musical Fidelity A2 integrated ... 20 watts. I got rid of them only because volume would let the speakers show what they could do very well, but low-volume listening was very disappointing ... to me. Never tried the S or D series. That was a lifetime ago, maybe in '99 or '00. I've been through several other speakers since then, though fairly certain I'll be keeping my Cains for many years.
AV123, the Onix/Rocket manufacturer, is about 10 minutes away from where I live, so getting repair/replacement speakers would not be a problem. Also, I am interested in their Onix Reference line, not their Rocket line.
I personally don't trust that kind of thing, especially since a bunch of people were running around other fora awhile ago acting like hooligans trying to coerce people into buying those speakers, and bashing anyone who said anything negative about those speakers.
That rather dismays me, Jkalman. I will need to do a search here to see if I can find some of these posts.

I actually belong to the AV123 forum; I joined when I was considering buying the Rocket UFW-10 subwoofer. Though there is great enthusiasm for the AV123 products, I haven't read any posts there that disparage or bash non-AV123 products. I hope the people here that were doing so weren't "real" Onix/Rocket owners. Just because I own a certain piece of equipment, I would never consider telling others that it is the best in the land and whatever else they were considering is crap! Like most people, I very much dislike that sort of arogance and ignorance.

I hope to be able to audition some Reference 3 speakers as there are some local owners. There is only one place in Colorado that sells B&W speakers. Their web site doesn't list the higher end series but I'm hoping they have them anyway so that I can audition them.

It will be a while before I can buy new speakers, anyway, so I'm hoping that I can hear some other good speakers, too. There is actually a place here in Colorado not too far from me that sells the Cain & Cain speakers. They look wonderful, Arkprof, and their lower end offerings are in my price range so I will definetly take a trip there to audtion them.

The posts were on AVS Forum and Audioholic forum. Not sure if there are others, but when I researched the company those were the sites I found them on.
BTW, I thought they were manufactured overseas in China?
Hi Jkalman - I shouldn't have called AV123 the manufacturer - sorry, that was a bit misleading! They are indeed actually made in China, but Mark Schifter, the owner of AV123, is deeply involved in the design and marketing of the products - here is a quote from 6moons ( http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/onix/onix.html)that explains his part in the Onix products:
Enter Mark Schifter. Like Phil Jones of AAD and now Phil Jones Bass, he decided a long time ago that to do things properly equated to living on-site. With a house in China and another in Khabarovsk/Russia, Schifter has made the necessary sacrifices, learned the language and created the ideal infrastructure. He's not Sting's Englishman in New York but rather, Onix' American in China. He oversees procedures, installs safe guards and training and assures that Western-style quality control is successfully implemented. He partakes in the various design process stages from the very beginning and stays on the lookout for discoveries and opportunities. He also OEMs for other manufacturers and leverages his own brand against his growing scale of operations. The outcome of all of these actions are regular container loads of Onix/Rocket goods entering the US only to be unloaded consumer-direct via Mark's on-line store. Solid customer support and active user forums combine to make this approach friendly and non-threatening. More importantly, it becomes a grass-roots ground swell to draw music lovers into the folds who couldn't -- or wouldn't -- justify the usual HighEnd prices. As our own Jeff Day would put it, it's audio for audio everymen and women everywhere.

I haven't heard anything bad about them except what I said above: "Rolled off top-end", in reviews, and strange online marketing tactics. It is hard to tell because of the latter whether the enthusiasm seen in the past in fora like AVS is due to hidden salesmanship or happy customers, but when those people start harassing others, it becomes transparent. I did see a good review here and there online, but none in the well-known magazines (which I trust a little more). Then again, it is hard to look through back issues of magazines, while you can browse through previous months/years of online reviews.

I would compare them to other speakers in person by bringing them to a Cain & Cain and/or B&W dealer (or insert other choices here). I don't like my music rolled off at the top end personally, but some people think it is warmer that way.

Ultimately, speaker choice is about personal, subjective preference, which is why there is no substitute for direct listening comparisons through the same equipment. Since AV123 is so close to you, you shouldn't have a problem doing this before making a purchase. I think AV123 was sued by B&W awhile back for one of their designs which placed the tweeter outside the cabinet like one of the B&W lines? I thought I read something about their Swan line on Audioholics in one of those crazy threads with all the fighting.

I didn't bother auditioning any Direct Seller speakers because I would have had to order them then send them back if I didn't like them (I had looked at AV123, Axiom, Aperion). I also wanted to buy something that would have resale value for when I upgrade. Also, it didn't make much sense to me to buy $20k worth of HT components then buy speakers over the Internet that would not give me comparable pride of ownership. I admit, I am a peculiar, if not egotistical, fellow... As I'm sure my wife will admit.
Fair enough, Jkalman! I will be going to listen to some Cain & Cain speakers today. If I decide to try out the Onix Reference 3 speakers, they have a 30 day trial period. I can set them up in my house and hear how they sound with my equipment in my room, etc.. If I don't like them, I can take them back for a full refund.

I still intend to listen to some B&Ws at a local dealer, too. My mind is by no means made up - besides, I have plenty of time to continue researching and auditioning since it will take a while to save up the $$!

I went to Golden today to hear the Cain & Cain speakers. I was absolutely stunned by the sound and appearance of the Abby's, though I originally went there to audition the IM Ben model. I loved the transparency and accuracy of the Abby speakers; voices and instruments sounded absolutely natural. I have made a commitment to buy these speakers and can't wait to have them in my home!

Thanks to you all for your advice and opinions.

Cool looking speakers (just looked at their site). My wife might actually go for those in an area of the house that I don't control, like the bedroom. She just agreed, by not saying "no", that I could put some floorstanders in the bedroom in a year or two with an amplifier and my Wadia 302 as a preamp (when I upgrade from my Wadia 302 to something else - like a high-end separate transport and DAC). We need good stereo music in there... and Niles Gloria system in-ceiling/in-wall speakers just don't cut it for anything but busy party music listening.
The Cain & Cain Abbys look splendid in person! I am getting the natural finish ones. These speakers are made out of real wood, not veneer and plywood. They sound incredible, IMHO, and at an amazingly low price.

I was planning to spend $5000 on my speaker upgrade, I am now going to spend less than $2000 on the main fronts. (This includes some new speaker cables - the ones I have now are bi-wires with banana connectors; the Abbys, have only one driver, so only have two binding posts and you need bare wire or spades....) Thus I will have plenty left over for a new center, if I decide to go that route. Or maybe for some new vinyl, or.... :-D

During this time I was trying to decide between upgrading my fronts to B&W 802Ds or 803Ds. I finally decided to go all out for my room size and save up for the 802Ds with a Bryston 14B SST for the extra 2 channel amp to bring my system up to full 7.1 surround. It'll take 6-8 months to save up for it. :(
I bet it will be worth the wait, Jkalman! At least you have decided on what to save up for. Now that I have decided which main speakers I want, I have to figure out what speakers, if any, will match the Abbys for my center and rears. I really think Abbys, and the other Cain & Cain speakers, are made for 2-channel systems, so it maight be a bit awkward to blend in other speakers.

It's a good thing we all like a challenge, isn't it? :-)

If I were you, and since you do have a lot of money left over now, I would just use the same speaker for everything, except the sub. Lay one on its side for a center (or don't depending on your TV setup) and get two for the rears. I've heard it is a terrible idea to mix brands or sometimes even series within one brand. My biggest worry is that the 801D won't match well with the rest of my speakers which are 7 series.

Oh, BTW I may be getting the 801Ds instead now, I found a demo pair for half the price of retail! I can't pass that up if he gives me that price. This also means I could own them in two or three months now (and I'll save up for the 2 channel amp later).
A lucky find for you, Jkalman! A great price for what is said to be a very good speaker.

I, too, have read that it is best to get the same speakers/series all away around for the best HT sound. Though having the Abbys as rear speakers is certainly a possibility, have you seen a picture of the Abbys? I don't think laying one on its side would work. http://www.cain-cain.com/abby/index.html

I emailed Terry Cain yesterday. He responded and said that he was planning to make a center speaker soon; I am going to wait for that. I'll try to figure out something for the rear speakers - another $1500 for a pair of Abbys is doable I suppose, though I really wanted something smaller. I'm not sure that my room can handle two pairs of these largish speakers. :~

My search is over, though my wait is not!

Terry will also be making a mini-Abby speaker (29" tall) "in the near future" so I will be buying these and his new center as soon as they are in production - and as soon as I have the $$ togehter, of course. I expect sonic bliss with finally having 5 matched speakers for my HT setup and 2 wonderful speakers for my 2-channel set up.

I am very excited about this and can't wait to see the mini-Abbys and what Terry comes up with for his new center design.

Hey Oakiris, my dealer hooked me up and let me trade back in all my B&W 7 series gear at the cost I payed to put towards a pair of 802Ds. I'll have my 802Ds delivered this coming Tuesday. Guess I'll have to start saving up again to make my hi-fi back into a home theatre and surround system. Unfortunately, the 801 demos that were for sale were not the diamond series so I passed on them.