Best analytical loudspeakers for strings (midrange)?


Folks-

I am interested in comparing Wilson Yvettes (can obtain a discounted price, and which I have used in my house) versus Paradigm Persona 3F or 5F passive loudspeakers.

My system now combines McIntosh preamplifier, hybrid amplifier, PS Audio DirectStrem DAC, and transport, TIDAL server. My listening room is 300 square ft and has been optimized sound insulation (absorption and reflection tested using an audio engineer).

Although I love rock, electronica, jazz, and classical music, I want to be able to have high-resolution separation of different strings (violin, viola, cello, bass) in orchestral music, or even as solo instruments. I am a scientist, and I want to listen to high resolution ("clinical") sound.

Any advice? I have Wilson WattPuppy 7's and love the resolution, but I want to upgrade these speakers. I know that Vandersteen, Magico, etcetera are all great speakers as are many other brands, but I have limited my options at this point in time. 

Are the Paradigm Persona loudspeakers a better alternative to the Wilson Yvettes for string resolution?

Thanks in advance for any advice. - Gerry


gerryah930
Harbeth M30.1? See here: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/harbeth-monitor-301-loudspeaker/
Your room is not that large, but maybe the Harbeth SHL5+ is also feasible, for a bigger sound and more bass extension. Alternatively, you could combine the M30.1 with dual smallish subwoofers (plus Antimode 8033 room eq), or even the Audiokinesis Swarm system, again with the Antimode (but visually the Swarm might be too overwhelming): http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/audiokinesis-swarm-subwoofer-system/
How much power does the power amp provide (good speakers usually like a lot)?
willemj-

I was using a McIntosh 275 VI tube amplifier (I like the tube sound, but it did not provide enough current for the Wilson loudspeakers. I am now using PS Audio's BHK 300 monoblocks, which provide sufficient current to drive the speakers.

Thank-you for the recommendation - Gerry




+1 Harbeth. Also add ATC to your shortlist. ATC are used by Telarc. Also used by jazz artists like Diana Krall as well as film, television and broadcast. Countless Universities and conservatories like Peabody Conservatory use them.
Hi,
    I'm with shadorne, ATC's are sound microscopes. The motor assemblies of their in-house made drivers are massive and manufactured to an extremely high standard. Their Super Linear midrange driver has a magnet that weighs nearly twenty pounds, nearly half the weight of the stout ATC SCM 19 two way monitor. The SCM stands for Studio Control Monitor, by the way. 
~Oran.

I think you should be looking for a speaker that has pistonic behavior at least throughout the entire midrange. Vivid.  Vandersteen 5A & 7MKII.  


The Wilson Yvettes should do the job. The ATCs are also among the best especially in the midrange which is one of the best in the industry. The ATCs will not have the dynamics of the Wilsons however. Paradigms, not so much.
Any of the Quad ESL's! A midrange sound to die for!
Indeed. I have the 2805 (plus sub&Antimode 8033) and they are the most revealing, natural and disappearing (apart from their bulk...) speakers that I have ever heard (I have had Quad stats for more than 40 years). Their biggest limitations are low end extension (hence the sub) and loudness level (not an issue in a smaller room). If you have room for them, the bigger 2905 series addresses both extension and loudness to some extent, but they are even bulkier, and they need a bit more space behind them.
Electrostatics and ribbons. 
In their own league. JBL DD 6700. That’s midrange heaven. Dynamic subtle clear nuanced detailed and utterly free of compression or distortion. Enjoy
Agree with using electrostatics and or ribbon Magnepan speakers.
One other helpful idea is to use the best powerline conditioner you can afford. It will definitely clarify the sound.
PS McIntosh is not the most clear electronics around by a long shot.

If it were me I would buy a pair of Magnepan 20.7 Or a top of the line Martin Logan electrostatic speaker.
The conditioner Audio Quest Niagra 7000

The electronics??? plenty to choose from.

@gerry, I've had Magnepan and now JansZen hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers.  The JansZens are my retirement speaker.  Clarity and realism (via near zero distortion) are what ESL speakers bring to the table.  I have found Linear Tube Audio (David Berning designs) electronics to really allow the JansZens to soar with the realism we seek.  The combination of JansZen/LTA is very, very convincing.  JansZen speakers also come as powered models if you like convenience and possibly a stronger presentation. 

You didn't offer the size of your room or listening SPL preferences.  You may be looking at larger speakers that can play with more impact than the JansZens, but they won't sound more correct.  It kind of depends on your room size for a good match.  I've heard a number of ESL speakers and they all do the clarity and realism thing better than most IMO.  The bigger ones of course support bigger rooms.  I find horn based speakers kind of shouty.

Great cabling also matters greatly.  There are many good ones.  I am hooked on Cerious Technologies for cables. 

As so many are saying here, just about any planar loudspeaker; Electrostatic, Magnetic-Planar, or Ribbon. In the past, there have been only a few available at any given time; now there are many, at all kinds of price points. Truth-of-timbre is one of the planar's greatest strengths, whether of strings, vocals, piano, or drums. I heard my first (Magneplanar Tympani-I) in 1972, and was instantly converted.

Dynamic speaker designers work very hard to make their products do what planars do effortlessly. But no matter what they do, a point source loudspeaker will always sound like a point source---a miniaturized version of a Grand Piano, for instance. A crossover somewhere in a critical frequency band will always be necessary with dynamic drivers. Enclosures of some sort will always accompany those drivers (except in the case of Open Baffle speakers, which have their own problems and limitations). Bah!

I appreciate all of the comments very much. I have listened to electrostatics and a former BBC monitor brand (e.g, Harbeth) in my listening room.

I may not have clearly articulated my idiosyncrasies. I found all of these speaker types not to be analytical in terms of separating instrumental voices in orchestral music - it was difficult for me to resolve dissonant frequencies, textures and tone color.     

It may be that I am old-fashioned. I currently now have an Audio Research GS150 tube amplifier, a DCS Puccini SACD/CD player with a bridge to my Mac Retina, and Wilson WattPuppy 7 speakers. I also have audio ADHD upgrade fever!

Thank-you for all of your helpful comments. Kind regards - Gerry
PMC MB2;s will deliver what you seek and compete head to head with ATC in the mastering arena.
After reading Gerry's comments, I think that a good pair of earphones might be the ticket. They are way way more resolving than almost any speaker. (like I can hear any garbled lyric no matter how mumbled with earphones, but seldom as well from my Magenpans)

Also, the problem of resolving individual instruments in a complex passage is more mind concentration than the fault of the equipment.
IE: Can you do the task listening to a live performance?
I can remember as a teen listening to a symphony and starting to follow just one instrument through the whole thing. I would always be in some quasi trance state doing it! Like my mind was fascinated with that instrument at that moment. And I would snap out if it and wondered how I did that. (I no longer have that nice ability.. it seems I lost it in my 30's)

Back to a stereo that can do the job. As I wrote, a CONDITIONER can help a lot in upping the clarity quotient.


No offense but analytical is not an attribute I like in any component.   To me music sounds better when you don't have to analyze the components.... 

I've had speakers that were described "accurate " "precise"  and on and on but not very musically rewarding.   I'd much prefer a modest system where the sum of it's parts are engaging, musical , and make you NOT scrutinize any one component, especially the speakers.  
Different strokes for different folks .
+1 for elizabeth ,  good headphones are right for what OP wants .
-1 Elizabeth - you just haven’t heard really good speakers if you think headphones are better for hearing detail.
This is the OP, and I tend to swap out system components. Currently, I have Wilson WattPuppy 7 speakers (thinking of moving either to Harbeth 40.2 or Wilson Yvettes).

I now have an Audio Research GS150 tube amplifier, Audio Research LS preamplifier driven by a DCS SACD/CD player stack with a bridge for streaming.  

I have 6 pairs of headphones, and my favorite ones are not the most expensive ones I own by any means. My favorites are the Focal Elear (somewhat too "bright" for some people). I had to find a Grado 6" 1/4 inch to 3.5 mm adaptor for my Mac Retina notebook - I could not find any other adapters that were stable.

I agree with the last comment in this thread - great loudspeakers provide greater clarity and resolution than any headphones that I have ever used - live performance with the right seating and good hall acoustics are the best. 
Just heard the Persona 5Fs yesterday (powered by Meridian DAC/Pre/Amp with Transparent cable) and the sound was perhaps the most detailed I’ve ever heard, yet still "musical". I think this presentation may be the sort of sound you’re after (the original poster)... if you want to "see all of the musical information" I was constantly stunned by the additional layers of micro-detail in familiar recordings I never knew existed. And this was red-book 16 bit 44.1 kHz resoution audio... not LP or SACD. And yet it was like I was being immersed in high-resolution sound with infinite detail and decay... that sense that the music was fully visible with nothing hidden or veiled.

The mental image that kept coming to mind was as if I was seeing 3D 4K-IMAX versions of recordings that here-to-fore I had only seen on standard prints. The IMAX analogy was applicable in many ways... imaging was not just left-right, and not just front-back 3D, but also up *and* down. It was like sitting in a stadium chair floating in space with an unbounded sonic image in front of me that extended in all directions... up/down/left/right/front/back (recording dependent, of course). Uncanny. And one other interesting characteristic of the soundscape... as the music was turned louder, the soundstage images became larger... again like watching 3D IMAX. very interesting. The speakers were set very far apart so I suspect this may have played a part similarly to how paralax visual 3D images can affect how one perceives size. but in any case, regardless of volume, I was awash in micro-sonic-detail that seemed to have no limit. Very satisfying for the listener who loves to "stare" into their music soundscape and discover those hidden details like musical-treasure-hunting.

We also played many different types of music... from Joni Mitchel to Holy Cole to 80s pop to electronic synth recordings... and everything sounded seductive and sublime... but all very *different*. You could hear how each recording was mastered with pin-point vividness... what each audio engineer was doing differently with each recording. One recording would sound warm. Then the next cool with jet-black backgrounds and crystal-clear high. Every mastering/recording-chain difference track-to-track and album-to-album was perfectly plain. And yet with this ability to reveal recording differences with striking clarity, all recordings we played were listenable and enjoyable. Next time I go I plan to take my own gear, including my Aurender music server so I can hear what I know to be "bad recordings" I own to hear how they convey on the Personas.

I was often surprised by what I "discovered" with familiar recordings... Recordings I had always thought were "flat" suddenly had front/back soundstaging. Recordings I always felt were dry and edgy suddenly sounded sweet on the top end yet with more detail than I have heard previously. It was as if micro-detail that perhaps has obscured imaging on lesser-systems was now being rendered authentically which caused my brain to perceive the presentation very differently.  

At least audition these speakers if you can to see if that sonic character matches what you’re after (and works in your system with your gear).
@gerryah30

There is a simple reason speakers are always better - studios use them to mix and master. So the reverberant energy in your room is part of what you are intended to hear by those doing the production. 60% direct and 40% indirect sound is typical. Your hearing is sophisticated enough to use reflected energy to hear details in the timbre (decay). Concert halls are designed to be reverberant because of the way we hear.

If you can check out ATC speakers you will discover that a large portion of music has been mixed or mastered on them.

http://atcloudspeakers.co.uk/client-list/
Then you don't want to listen to music as it is .
 Close your eyes in any Classical hall and you do not hear this or that section or instrument , a symphony orchestra makes diffuse  music .