Well, there are quite a few excellent choices these days. Your three listed choices are vastly different in their approach to high(ish) efficiency, so it is hard to offer suggestions. The Conicidents are 97dB 3-way, the Royals are small 92dB 2-way monitors with minimal crossover, and the Cabasse line runs the gamut of everyhting.
I have 97dB Cain & Cain I-Bens that I think are fantstic, but it really depends on what you are looking for - fullrange single driver, compression horns, multi-way dynamic driver. So here's are wide range of options:
Audio Note's own speakersCain & Cain
- Single or I-BensEdgarhorns Silverline Von Schweikert Zu Speakers Dali Speakers Beuhorn
If none of those look interesting, let us know.
Personally, I prefer the Coincident to the 3A. I don't know if you are buying new or used but Coincident has a newer version of the Victory available. It is supposed to be better in the lower frequencies than the original.
I had the original Victories and thought they were unbeatable in a smaller room, especally with SET.
Thanks Nutella/Dark for your suggestions.
I like full bodied, flesh-out kind of presentation, wuth a little higher than normal volume.
I have read good things on the Cains and Edgarhorns, but my space is quite limited, that is why the Reference or the Cabasse could be an option.
Fernando, if you are limited in space, the Cain Abbys do have a fairly small footprint and can be placed failry close to walls. The size of the speaker is not necessarily correlated with the space they will need to sound good. From recollection of the 3A De Capo, I do think the Royal Master might need a lot more room to breath.
Also, another option not mentinoned so far are traditional horn speakers like Klipsch, Altec, etc. They usually do require large space though.
All these speakers have a very different design and as result very different sound with different tradeoff. Listening to a couple should help making up your mind.
My short list would include:
- Fab Audio Model 1 or Stonehenge. I have the Model 1 and think they are extremely hard to beat.
- 3A De Capo i. In the smallish room of a friend they are total magic with a KR18 SET integrated.
- Coincident Victory. I had the Total Victory but they were too much for a low-powered SET to drive to my satisfaction. The new Victory should be much better.
- Audio Note speakers go without saying. I've never heard them, but I've never read a bad word about them, and who should know SET-friendly speakers better than AN?
Other speakers I'd be very interested in hearing would be the Zu Definitions and the Von Schweikert db99.
Speakers that would NOT make my short list include:
- the Coincident Total Victory - maybe the new Mark II model is better, but the original didn't do it for me. Likewise the whole Eclipse series.
- the C&C Abby - IMO these are toy speakers with a number of flaws that make them unsuitable for serious use (flame away). The bigger Ben series may be better, but I've never heard a pair.
- the Lamhorn 1.8 - a bad experience trying to drive a pair of these with my PX25 amp (and my ownership of the Abbys) has left me very skeptical about single driver backhorns in general.
You bring up and interesting observation that I noticed but never really gave much thought. I loaned my PX-25 amp and I-Bens to Paul Lim of Imagine HiFi for the VTV Show in LA 4 months ago or so.
I was surprised when he told that preferred the Abbys w/ the Almarro A205A instead of the AA PX-25. Actually, my pride was a little dented considering the cost difference between that $850 and $7k PX-25.
But, he was right, the Almarro is a fantstic match with the A205A. There was something not right when driven by the PX-25. Just a bad combo.
I do feel that both the Abby's and Ben's really need subwoofers to sound fully fleshed out.
Gliderguider, now that you opened pandora's box...What amp did you use
with the Abbys?
In general, high efficiency speakers seem notoriously difficult to match with
the amps. The Abbys sounded downwright awful with a Jolida 302b amp. A
Bottlehead SEX worked well, but was misisng bottom end. Both the First Watt
F1 and the Fi Super X sound incredibly good for the money. Also, I had similar
experience with the Zu Druids listening at dealers. As you state, the Abbys do
have their limitations but then you would expect that compared to your $10k
FAB speakers ;). With the right amp they shine.
Getting back to topic though that is trying to answer Fernando's question:
Given that you started with the amp, you will have to carefully search for the
right speaker that a) you really are comforatbly with and like and b) matches
your amp. Given that speaker tastes differ substantially (as you see from this
discussion), I would prefer to go with the right speaker and then find the
Of course, as the obvious choice for your Audio Note amp, my guess would
be to go with Audio Note speakers. Any of the mentioned speakers might
work or not, but only your ears and amp can decide that.
I am on a similar search and have considered many of the choices above. A major consideration is output, a 20watt SET gives you more choices than a 5. If size is an issue, some of the above suggestions may be impractical, Horns even smallish ones like Cain and Cain Bens, may be out. The Coincident line sound great, but they are deep and need free positioning, so they are no use for me.
I would add a few thoughts, Silverline Sonata, Reimer, Daedalus and the Tyler new Pro dynamic range are all possibles.
May I suggest you check out these sites:
Both I found very helpful, good luck in your search.
I had great success using the Merlin VSM with the Cary 300B monos. The numbers don't indicate just how good this combo sounds, provided you don't listen to organ music (as per your post) and don't need huge volume levels. The deCapo also works well, but it's not in the same league as the VSM and the above caveats are even more applicable. Finally, the Zingali horns work well, very dynamic, reasonably full range, greater volume capability, though a bit less neutral than either of the above.
I've tried the Abby with my Audion PX-25, a pair of Wavelength Triton 300Bs, and a Nelson Pass Aleph J. The Achilles heel of the speaker is driver and cabinet resonances, and they come through with all the amps. The peakiness of the driver makes female vocals sound rough and the resonance of the cabinet walls makes male voices sound chesty. I will admit that they have a sense of presence that is beguiling, but once I'd become accustomed to really good high-efficiency speakers it was hard to ignore their limitations. The subs help a lot in providing a fleshed-out sound, but those two resonance problems remain. I currently have them in my living room system driven by the Aleph J, and for that purpose they are more than adequate, not to mention the design gets admiring looks from everyone who visits.
By the way, I mentioned the Lamhorns above. After trying really hard to like them with my PX-25 we put on the designer's Tenor hybrid, and they just sang. It was amazing, but I didn't see the point of buying an efficient single-driver speaker with frequency range limitations, and then having to drive it with a 150 wpc hybrid amp...
I use Zu Druids with an Onix SP-3 tube integrated. Plays loud, very musical, fast, transparent and nothing I have ever heard energizes a room in quite the same way. Bass to 35Hz with character and weight you could never imagine by looking at them. The Onix is listed at 38 watts per channel and is built like something 10 times the price. If you visit www.6moons.com you will see that both products were chosen for their Blue Moon Awards. If you want more info just ask. The price of this stuff will leave you with some extra cash.
Thanks for the extra info Gliderguider,
I've only listened to the Abbeys once for ~4 hours at a dealer's home, so being unfamiliar with his system and room only allowed me to get a general gist of the Abbeys potential. But, I didn't readily hear what you describe.
Of course, I was totally unfamiliar territory, so small details would have been to completely lost to me.
I think $1,500 is a pretty tough price point to get everything right for efficient speakers (including cabinetry). It will invariably involve one tradeoff or another.
Your Lamhorn experience is surprising, but the same thing happened with the Abbeys and PX-25. You just never know with this high-eff sngle-driver thing.
BTW, your system is straigh-up amazing, Congrats. I'm dying to hear the new Tom Evans stuff, supposed to be out of this world.
Guys - an update:
I decided to sell the AN and stick to my current system. Space conditions and other short term expenses forced me to change route.
Just for fun - I connected the P4s to my main rig, .. there were some material that was reproduced in a magical way - but many other (the one I listen the most like Jazz, Pop and folk ensambles) lacked of life and impact.
This was previsible since the Avalons are very hard to drive, but it was an interesting experiment for me and my audio-friends.
Thanks for your suggestions - it enlightened me on the understanding of the SET route.