Back to it - Practical speaker upgrade

I am looking to upgrade my family room system. I have a mid-fi setup that includes a Rega Mira amp and decent digital sources, cables, etc.. that I use for both TV and 2 channel audio. This is in the family room and the amp must do double duty and be reliable. I have older Infinity Beta 40 speakers (which surprisingly sound ok) but I have been looking to upgrade (and not getting around to it). I demoed Rega RS5 recently, and while it was nice, it didn’t strike me as a significant enough upgrade. I listen to jazz, acoustic music, some rock, some classical. I value timbre and timing, and I don’t need a ton of bass. I don’t like analytical sound or fake hi-fi “detail”.

My room is an open concept 14’ x 25’, with 8.5’ ceilings and approximately 10’ listening distance. There is a half wall that opens up to a 20’ x 14’ kitchen area.

I also have a 14.5’ x 18.5’ living room/library where I could potentially add a second system.

Here are the options I am considering:

1. Upgrade my speakers in the family room and spend $3-5k. I’m open to upgrading the Rega as well but would need something with enough inputs to accommodate other sources (TV, DVD, etc…)

2. Take the same money and set up a second system in the 14.5’ x 18.5’ living room/library with another amp and speakers — For example, a tube or hybrid integrated and nice bookshelf speakers, for example.

Any thoughts on which direction you would go? And, any tower speaker recommendations for 5k and under with good WAF that would work well with the Rega? The new Focal Aria line looks nice but I haven’t heard them.


Kind of all over the map here.

You've left out a key component (the source other than TV) to determine some key factors.  If the source is mediocre well then it is no wonder the Rega speakers did not impress.

This is like baking a cake, you cannot leave out an ingredient or use expired and expect it to be edible.  Source and cables, give them up if you want help.

The Mira is decent but not up to driving a 5k pair if speakers.  We need some balance here.

Thanks, celtic66 -- My question is directed more to approach than individual components. Presently sources include a Cambridge 640c CD player, and a Squeezebox through a Musical Fidelity DAC. I have AZ and Audioquest ICs and upgraded AC stuff.

I didn't think the RS-5 speakers sounded bad, but they didn't blow me away either. Your point about the Mira being decent but maybe not up to the task is true, hence my question about going the second system route altogether, as there is less compromise in that approach.

If you decide to go with a unified system, consider the following approach.

  • Riga Mira amp
  • Cambridge 640C CD player
  • whatever DVD/Blu-ray player you have
  • Musical Fidelity DAC
  • Infinity Beta 40 speakers
  • Squeezebox
  • TV
  • Oppo BDP-105D ($1300)
  • A pair of active speakers (the majority of your budget)
The Oppo serves as a CD player, a blu-ray player, a DAC, and a preamp (sources: HDMI, digital, disc). As long as you have no more than one HDMI source (e.g., cable box), you are set.

I've owned many passive speakers, and I would not go back to them. With your budget, you can get a killer system.
If you can find a used pair of VMPS 626R speakers ($1200 or less depending on the upgrades), you'd be impressed.  The guy I sold a pair to about 4 years ago loves them.  He had to buy them after hearing them at my house--just made me an offer on the spot.  They have excellent clarity without etching, are dynamic, have good defined bass down to 37 hz in room.   The guy and his professional bass playing son sat there listening for 5 hours straight prior to the offer.  He uses them with a typical home theater receiver and says they sound fantastic.  I sold them because I had a chance to buy a pair of VMPS RM40 speakers used.  I used to have Von Schweikert VR-4 speakers and the jump in performance to the VMPS 626R's was way more than I expected.
For timing and timbre a couple of my faves are Linn and ATC.  If you can find a pair the Linn 5140 are beautiful looking floorstanders.  In either case you'd likely need to upgrade your amp unless you buy active version of the speakers, which might be a great idea.  Best of luck. 

braudio7, you have some great equipment in your family room. Speakers I would suggest for either situation would be the Monitor Audio Silver 8 and the Bowers and Wilkms 683 S2.

if you go the route of setting up another system I
 can highly recommend the Arcam FMJ A19. Good luck with your decision.


I think you should make a point of listening to Magnepan speakers before you make your decision. Planar speakers like Magnepans and electrostatics sound different. Some people can't stand them - but I won't live without them.

If it weren’t for the WAF, I would suggest you will find it impossible to obtain better sound than you can obtain with the Linkwitz Audio LX521 Open Baffle Speakers - very few speakers, if any, sound better. There was a pair with the crossover and amp available last month on Audiogon - may still be available. You can also get the kit on Madisound. I have the Linkwitz Orions, which sound about the same, but are more expensive.

Another great choice, which sounds just as good, are any of the Pure Audio Project open baffle speakers.

And... if WAF must be a factor... the Spatial Audio open baffle speakers, followed by the Magnepans.

These open baffle, dipole speakers will have sound that you can not match for less than $20,000+, if that. And will not be matched by any box speaker, without "semi-open" baffles.

This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of many who have tried both, and many very expensive alternatives.

The advantage of the Pure Audio Project, Spatial Audio, and Magnepans is that they do not require bi/tri-amping and external crossovers - they’re much less complicated to drive than the Linkwitz speakers. And the Maggies require quite a bit of high-end power. That’s not true of the others mentioned, which are more efficient and easier to drive, and they have a bit better dynamics and bass than the Maggies.

For the money, nothing can really rival these.

Based on the number of responses, I think I wasn't clear on the question. I thought there would be more interest in this. This isn't a gear question so much as an approach question. I'll restate it a different way:

The options I am looking at are:

1. Invest my budget into a nice speakers for the family room and leverage my existing setup.

2. Invest in a second system for another room where I have more flexibility with amp, placement, etc...

Option 1 leverages existing gear, but introduces constraints; for example, I need to have a reliable amp that will do double duty for multiple sources, including TV.

Option 2 offers increased flexibility -- I can get another amp and speakers -- but a second system means splitting the same money over two systems.

My question then is really which tradeoffs make the most sense? Obviously I know this is something I have to answer, but curious as to see if others have made these choices, and what their outcomes were.
What you are asking is actually a very personal question that only you can answer. If it were me, I would go for the second room. There is someone selling a pair of Magnepan tympany 1 speakers for $1200 on Audiogon right now. I'd buy them myself if I had any use for them. Its been a long time now, but one of the best systems I have ever heard was Tympany 1's powered by Mark Levinson electronics (ML-2s) I don't remember the turntable (this was pre-cd). I still remember it to this day. They do look like room divider screens.

There has been no real advancement in speaker design for 50 years. Don't think newer is better, but don't take that to mean all speaker designs are good. (I gave the Avantgarde horn speakers a tryout at a distributer demo--and hated them.) I use Sound Lab A-2s, purchased used in 1985. Still haven't found anything I like more. My second system (same room, I turn my chair around) uses the Altec 755a, made in 1957, and a 2 watt homebuilt single ended triode amp. Except for orchestral music and rock, I prefer the second system.

braudio7 - Let me get this straight. Either improve your existing system or add a second system? If so that's a question only you can answer but I at one time thought I would go with a small second system. The more I thought about it I decided to go for just one great system. The reason is, would I be disappointed with the second system compared to the first. Probably so I decided on one system.

That said, I'm in the speaker first camp when building a system. Because all speakers will have a 'house' sound. Find the one house sound you like the best. From there I think you'll find several amps that mate well with them. I started with a Denon integrated ($400) and mission/cyrus speakers ($800). Sounded great but when I got the itch to upgrade I got the Bryston B100sst ($5k). I was having some minor issues with the Denon. Well to my surprise I had to 'squint' to hear the improvements. But since the speakers were 20 yrs old a couple of years later I decided to start looking at new speakers mainly for more bass and clarity. After listening to quite a few I thought it would be best to bring my speakers with to demo against the ones I thought I liked. To my amazement I liked the mids of my original speakers more than most others. It wasn't until I heard the Sonus Faber Creamora auditors I said WOW. They did everything better and since they were outside my budget at the time I kept looking. Then I heard the Dynaudio C1's. Same price as the SF's and similar sound but the Dyn's were even better from top to bottom. So I bought them. Later I thought of trying tubes. So my local dealer brought over an Octave V70se for me to demo. In less than 5 min I was so impressed with the 'control' of the music I pulled the trigger. Also I didn't realize how dry sounding the Bryston was and thinking that if I were to want to change up the sound I could start swapping tubes. Never thought I would get rid of the Dyn's because they had the sound I really loved. Then one day I heard Raidho Diamond series. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It took me many months to try and get that sound out of my head. My system sounded just wrong after that. Yes I did get the Raidho's and replaced the Octave because it really fell apart at the highest listening levels.
Good luck whichever you decide
I believe the option you choose would depend on wether owning a single ‘do all’ system avails you the opportunity to do what you want, when you want. If so then I would upgrade the speakers and amp in that system.  

Thanks for sharing, xti16. mesch, I'd say you summed it up here, and why I am leaning towards the second system. Being in the family room and having other A/V responsibilities, my primary system has too many constraints. With the breadth of affordable gear available right now I'm thinking I'm better off finding an amp/speakers with nice synergy -- and that's all I have to think about. I'm thinking small integrated with bookshelf possibly, and that is not a choice I would make in the primary system.
Make sure you listen to a lot of different combo's before purchasing anything. Take note how the speakers are positioned and see if that will work in your room. Example: Dynaudio needs little to no toe in and can be placed pretty close where Raidho and Scansonic really only sound great if farther apart and toed in pointing to your shoulders. Take all recommendations you get on the net with a grain of salt. After all it is YOUR ears and tastes and budget. 
Again best of luck
I have my main system in a dedicated room where is use for audio only. I have a secondary system located in our living room used for background music and to augment movie soundtracks.  There are many great monitor/integrated combinations that would serve your 15’ x 17’ room.  Good choice on option 2.  And enjoy the journey.