best bookshelf speakers for

I have Studio-20 V5s on stands right now for my living room 2.0 music system and, while I like the sound, I need more bass extension.
I don't want to add a sub due to room clutter concerns.   So, I am looking fro an upgrade from my Studio20s.
I have been looking into towers but now am thinking, why not stay with sand-mounted speaker since I have the stands already.   This is for 2ch music only.  My amp is Emotiva UPA-2 SS amp.

Would I do better to go towers or go higher-end bookshelf speakers?

The towers I've been looking at have been 
Salk SongBirds/Towers
Ascend Sierra Tower
Silverline Prelude Plus

I know exactly what you mean. I'm using the small Dynaudio DM2/6 in a 2 ch. system in a large living room. Doesn't have the deep bass, but the mids/high's are glorious. They image beautifully. I have no idea how the DM 2/6 compares w/the DM2/7. If you're considering a stand mounted spk., the DM2/7 w/the 6 1/2" woofer might be the ticket. They're presently under $700 for a pr. I'm sorry I'm not familiar w/the towers you have listed. 
How big is your living room? If it is quite large,and you crave more bass,towers may be your only option if you're not willing to go with a sub.
Right now the room is 14' x 30'but, we plan to sell and downsize this year so room will be smaller
What does have deep bass is Dynaudio c1s and totem mani-2s.  Really impressive for monitors. I am sure there are others. Both require lots of power
For a smaller room,I can recommend Nola Boxer 2's. I feel they have more than enough bass. I love everything about these speakers. They don't require a lot of power, and perform beautifully! (but that's just my opinion) If you can audition a pair,they should be on your list.
the larger Paradigms won't take up much more floor space than the 20's and stands...beyond that there are many great small to medium floor standers and larger/better monitors...
also not sure how far that amp will take you....
I had the studio 10 V5s.  To bright and no bass extension. I ended up with the Ascend Sierra 1s. Terrific detailed highs with no fatiguing like the studios 10s. The bass extends low and is clean and deep. NO SUB NEEDED AT ALL.  The looks and build quality on these IMO are superior to the paradigms in every way.  Im using vintage mcintosh  ss gear.I also prefer the older paradigms v3 and earlier.
You mentioned the Ascend Sierra Towers, so I'd recommend you take a look at the Sierra 2 stand mounts.  I have them in a room larger than yours and the bass is quite good.  The RAAL tweeter is excellent.

Good feedback, thx.
anyone listen to the Philharmonitor?
It looks interesting
I just worked with a couple of guys who had the same question and a similar budget.  You really should add the Vandersteen 2's or even the 1's to your list. I personally went to towers years ago as the physical limitation of any stand mount speaker is not going to give you true bass. It can be tuneful and make you feel like you are getting some bass, but once you hear a near full range speaker you realize you want that extra octave that you can afford. The footprint is the same as most stand mounted speakers and the old line of a stand mount gives you better imaging, sound staging etc... is just plain wrong now days.  Obviously listening is your best bet, but there is a reason the Vandersteen line is one of the most popular of all time in your range.  The new upgrades to the 1,2 and 3's make them one of the most listenable speakers on the market at their price range.  The just don't smear the sound and with the new drivers they make, they are as fast as nearly anything on the market.  If you like that ribbon tweeter, then go listen for an extended period with the type of music you listen to.  Many of us don't like the less expensive ribbons as they can often be tipped up a db or two at the top end and it's not a cohesive sound.  Often the cost of a driver at that price range just can't match the speed of the tweeter and over time you may not like it. Many in this thread will swear by the sound and that's cool as we all listen differently.  

The thing I like a about the Vandersteen and a few others is that they sound better and better with better source and amplification. Not all speakers will sound that much different with better quality upstream.  Again, like anyone else it's just my opinion, but again, I can't be alone as they sell like hotcakes compared to most speakers in their ranges.  Good luck.
I would second rocray's recommendation of the Nola Boxer. They have great bass extension for a stand mount speaker, better than most of the towers I've owned. More importantly, they're so musical with every sort of the wide range of music I listen to. One of the best purchases in the almost 50 years of gear swapping I've done.
If the thread starter wants a better bookshelf speaker with more bass, look no further than the Sierra-1.  The cabinet is on par with the Signature series from Paradigm, it's that good.  It's not curvy as the Sigs are, but for pure performance, it's crazy good. 

The Sierra-1 also has more bass than the Sierra-2, and therefore would be the better speaker if one wants the extra bass.  

Gee, I take it back. It seems that the OP has started two threads, one in which he says he’s looking for bookshelf speakers, and the other in which he says he’s looking for floorstanders.

He also says in this thread post one, that he definitely doesn’t want to get a sub, and in the other thread he says maybe he should get a sub. I say come back when you know what you want. But the first thing you should do is get a serious amp and try it out on your Paradigms, that Emotiva thing won't make them sing, or any serious floorstander either. 
I tend to agree with 213.  That's one of the things I was trying to say in my posts.  Folks forget about the amps way too often.  You can get a basic NAD BEE integrated and make great speakers sing. Rotel also makes some great integrated amps.  A used Ayre AX7e is another choice.  
I've decided to focus on upgrading my amp for now.  
We plan to sell the house and move this year so the living room size/situation will change quite a bit. I'll wait for that to settle out before upgrading my speakers.

a better amp can definitely help the bass.  don't let the fact that you own stands play a part in your decision.
I have had a pair of Totem Fire monitors for a while now, and every time I venture out to listen to other monitors, the result is the same (the other speakers sound "different", but not "better").  These babies have pretty good bass (for monitors), but I've used a sub woofer with them.  They have excellent detail and imaging, and don't seem to be "picky" about room acoustics and placement.
Why even bother to change anything if you are moving?  The amp you get may sound fine now, but it may not be the best one moving forward. That's the part of audio I never understood.  Folks should look at their systems as a whole.  We all recommend speakers we have or want to buy. That's human nature and it's what the threads are for.  That doesn't mean that the speakers we may love will sound as good with an inferior amp or one that just doesn't mate well to it.  Just my two cents.

hi! i have XPA1L emotiva ,and i got the Usher Mini X sound beautiful  and  alot better .sound than my B&W 805D should try the Usher MiniX  the bass is very good i don't need the sub 
JBL 4312 E speakers
I agree with the idea of waiting until you move prior to purchasing speakers. Might even wait on the amp purchase as the amp/speaker interaction is important. The room/speaker interaction is acoustic. The amp/speaker one is electrical and acoustic. 
+1 ctsooner. Didn’t see your post until after making mine.
Mesch, that was funny as I was reading it.  I totally agree with you, lol.  Think about it, how many seasoned guys would say the same thing?  Most?  I think over 90%..Doesn't make it correct, but it makes sense.

Yea, the room is so much a component of a system. The room can dictate speakers which in turn dictate an amp. Not to forget ones personal tastes in the synergys.  

The room is the final frontier
That's a huge reason I like near field listening.  I also love what Richard Vandersteen does with the Quatro's on up.  Tunable bass is a HUGE component in helping so many of the bass issues that rooms have. Especially that darn 60hz buzz most rooms seem to have.  I hear that most of the time in demo rooms at stores.  I don't 'know why rooms that are built for sound have that problem, but most seem to.  
I'll add to the confusion.

I own Sierra-1s and love them.  They're now in the bedroom system.  Long ago a bass-playing friend listened to them, and preferred them without my subwoofer.

I owned Vandersteen 2cs, and should have never let them get away.  I loved them.

I now own Spatial M2 Turbos.  They're the last speakers I'll ever buy.
  I replaced my amp with a Nuprime IDA8 integrated amp.  It sounds great and I love the internal DAC.  Much more compact system now.
They only go to 100W/8ohms.  I am now looking towards efficient speakers to replace my Studio-20s.

Funny story on Sierra's.  I knew someone at a local shop.  I had sent a lot of buyers their way and I dealt with the owner since I was a kid.  We were talking about me getting a cheap pair of bookshelf speakers for my bedroom system that would be using a cheap Marantz AVR in direct mode two channel.  I decided to just get a pair of their Paradigm Atoms and they sold me a 10" cube sub for cost as they wanted to get rid of it. I didn't love the speakers, but it was a bedroom system that wasn't going to be set up properly anyways.  The sales guy I knew kept telling me to get the Sierra bookshelf speakers as they were much much better.  It's what he personally owned.  I laughed and said that we all tell people to buy what we own. Heck, I do all the time.  Take it with a grain of salt and go listen.  Nothing more nothing less.  I checked out their site and eventually I did hear them.  For the price I felt they were solid.  Very nice sounding speakers overall.  It's a difficult price range to make a speaker in.  I put them up against other speakers in their range and felt they more than held their own. Like any speaker, they wouldn't be for everyone, but they would be killer for many.  All speakers have come a long way over the last many years since I heard them so I don't know how they stack up against Vandersteen or some of the other speakers in that range (used or new).  I know that right now Vandersteen 1's and 2's are my favorite in that competitive range.  I personally am not a fan of some of the big name speakers in this price range.  I know many do a great marketing job and get great reviews, but I don't get them.  I won't get into the brands, but I wonder how many of these small speaker companies that are border line hobby businesses can and will be able to do top R&D on such limited budgets. I've seen so many companies make great products for the cost and never be able to get better other than using better capacitors to filter or a bit better driver here and there when they come out.  Meadowlark is one of those that come to mind.  So many others.  I do wish them all well as it pushed the boundaries for companies like Vandersteen and others.  
Its tough.   There are so many speaker companies out there that it makes me dizzy.  I bout my Studio20s after listening them at a shop.  It was the first hogh quality store I had visited and they sounded the best in my budget.  
So really, I dont know if I am missing something compared to other speakers.  
I have a pair of Paradigms down in the basement.  They can be decent with some NAD gear, but to me the Vandersteens up and down the line are special.  It's the first order crossover and they are phase correct (the 1's are a bit different, but still awesome).  I hope you have a chance to get to hear them set up properly.  Again, there are others too obviously.  Get out and listen and don't just buy right away.  Where do you live?

Well I think I will stick with bookshelf speakers. I will likely end up in a smaller room and think I can get te more articulate, intimate sound from bookshelves. 
My budget is $2000  my short list includes: 
Nola Boxer 2
Vapor Breeze
Salk 1801

Any other good suggestions?
lots of great monitors at that price; Merlin, ATC, PMC, Aerial, PBN, PSB, Dali...too many to list
Honestly, you should put the Proac's in there.  Their new stuff is very nice.  
For a FLY-UNDER-USUAL LIST sleeper/wild card standmount candidate that is a "contender" and no "pretender" in your price range (+/-)for "new" speakers:     JMR (Jean-Marie Reynaud) “Bliss” Loudspeaker

check out the stellar reviews : very efficient   and easy to drive.


I've had a pair of Revel M106 for a little over two years and they have great bass response for a small speaker....I use a sub but run them full range.   At night I turn the sub off and the bass is still very satisfying.  They sound like a much bigger speaker without ever sounding boomy or bloated.  With a good sub they make for a great 2.1 system but I could easily live with just the two speakers.   I should note that I'm driving them with a 40 watt tube amp and they kick ass in my 17 x 15 room.  I have owned many high performance bookshelf speakers over there years and these are one of my favorites.  
I have Speaker Art Super Clef's in a 12x12 room. They never sound bloated or boomy no matter where the listener position is. I would venture to say that they produce as much if not more bass than many of the usual suspect bookshelf speakers mentioned on the forums. Bob Gross although not widely known is probably one of the best desiners of all time. Have to purchase new because you will never find a pair on the used market.
I have the roth audio OLi RA1 bookshelf speakers and they are brilliant. It does need an amplifier or reciever connected to it for it to work, but you can pick a cheap one up for around £20 like the lepai 2020a+ which is good for the money. 
I'm sure I'll get roasted, but nearly any top designer will tell you the same.  It's impossible to properly mate satellite speaker with a sub if they don't overlap by at least one full octave.  That's one reason I won't have non full range speakers.  You just can't have coherency adding subs to small speakers.  I just had this conversation to one of the most well known designers of speakers this past weekend.  There are so many small footprint floor standers to chose from at all price ranges that I'm sure you can find one that will make you very happy.  JMHO
Monitor Audio Silvers. :) 
With bookshelves you only got 2 choices. 8 inch woofer (eg: LSR308) or add a sub.

Even the $100 Pioneer FS52 floorstanders will be more enjoyable for music than most "high end" small bookshelves due to the superb execution top to bottom frequencies. Definitely try out the FS52 if you get a chance, it will turn your world upside down.

My new default recommendations for bookshelves are the LSR305 + sub, or the ELAC F5 + amps.
As I posted earlier, the problems with subs is that they can never properly mate with a speaker regardless of size if they can't have a full octave overlap.  Many speaker designers, who truly understand how physics work have told me that. I'm NOT a tech guy and NO I personally don't understand it all, but I've recently heard TWO very well known designers or engineers for manufacturer's discuss this and both said the same thing.  Personally, I've never ever heard a sat/sub set up that was coherent.  There is always something missing and it really throws off my ability to enjoy the music. For TV it's fine, but for listening to music it throws the brain off if there isn't coherency.  The type of sub you use is irrelevant if there isn't a full octave overlap.  The brain picks up on what's missing and can't fill it in.  

This is one reason why Vandersteen will never offer a bookshelf speaker. They have theater speakers but not a smaller one.  Their 1B has the same footprint of a bookshelf and very few who are serious about listening will put a bookshelf speaker on a bookshelf.  I realize that I'm in the minority, but if you get designers to tell the truth, they will say the same thing.  Now if you don't care about music below 50hz then some of the smaller speakers will be fine and some will be great for you.  You just need to learn to live without the foundation of most music.  Many do and are very happy that way and it will save you a ton since bass in all components is the most expensive part of the build and very few will disagree with that statement I think.  This is interesting thread.  thanks and I hope I don't offend anyone as that's not my intent.  Just enjoy the back and forth.
the only sat-sub systems I've liked involved very expensive crossovers...
you can do home theater bass on the cheap but not music bass...
Actually the JBL LSR310S subwoofer works very well with music. The biggest problem with subs is room integration, but it can work.
You need three things to completely integrate a subwoofer into your room and your speakers. Bass traps. Digital EQ. Room measurement software (with microphone).

Lack any of them and you are better off with limited bass 2 way speakers.

In fact, before you get new speakers, I’d get the bass traps, they often help extend the bass response of 2 way speakers. No one ever believes me though. They get bigger speakers, and crap bass instead.  I did a demo with members of the SF Audiophile Society though and they were convinced. :) 

Having said that, if you are willing to go with custom speaker makers, any 2 or 2.5 way custom speaker from Taylor or Selah with a 6.5" scanspeak woofer will have great amounts of bass.  


Eric, have you heard the bass tunable Vandersteen subs?  There are also others out there that have Bass EQ built in.  Even with the crossover you can't properly integrate the subs unless you have a full octave overlap. I''ve spoken over the years with many speaker designers who offer sat/subs and they privately agreed that it's not a proper way, but they do it because it's close and it's what so many seem to want.  I get that.  We all know that HT is a different breed so they get away with it and folks just assume that it works for real music, but it can't.  Not every room needs bass traps. I've had them in my room and I didn't like them.  Erik, I get that you believe in bass traps and digital eq because it works for you.  Why do you lump larger speakers with crap bass?  My Treo's have wonderful bass as it's tight and highly musical.  I just want more.  Bass traps didn't give me more, nor can it.  Physically you are limited by your speakers.  If a speaker only goes down into the 30's then another device can't make it go lower.  That's just physics. If I'm off base, please share the scientific proof.  I am going to move up to Quatro's because I want MORE bass and dynamics.  There are various ways physically to do this.  Adding a subwoofer within the speaker is one that I personally like, because it's built for THAT speaker and the amp is designed for that speaker. It's room tunable, but not in the digital domain.  When set up properly it sound like a point source (what many call it, including many reviewers as well as manufacturer's of other equipment who own them or the 5CT').  

Just so I know where you are coming from, what do you consider great amounts of bass?  Amounts of bass and quality of bass are two totally separate things?  I've personally never heard smaller case speaker be able to produce true low bass.  Physically it can't happen as there are still limits to how low they can go and then you have excursion problems in how distorted they will be by trying to produce larger quantities of bass.  Maybe you are talking about mid bass? If so, I get it.  Every speaker designer has to do trade offs. It's part of what there design and marketing process is.  Bass done properly is very expensive and the better quality AND quantity will be paid for. There is just no way around this.  I've never hear anyone in the industry say different since 1969 when I started out.  Any designer of any component I've met always talks about physical limitations due to technology at hand.  The laws of physics can't be broken.  

I do appreciate the fact that you love bass traps and digital eq, taylor and Seleh speakers.  It's awesome that you do.  Passion is important in being an audiophile, but I went to the Selah website and saw their 2 way speakers go down to the 50hz range at best before trailing off. Even their largest 3 way only goes down to 35hz and that's already -3db. At 30hz it's -10db and that's for the floor standing speakers not bookshelves that we are talking about in this thread.  Just curious as we all have a different meaning of quality, low bass I think.  Thanks.
Wow, so much animosity.

So, as for physics. The -3dB measurements of a speaker are only part of the physics needed to understand the perceived bass extension. Of course, anechoically, a larger diameter driver and greater linear excursion contribute to lower and deeper bass. Each time you go down an octave your excursion requirements for the same driver go up by a factor of 10. This is basic theory, and there’s nothing incorrect about it. However, in a room, room modes matter a great deal. Having done a lot of measurements, +- 25 dB room modes is not uncommon below 40 Hz, so it may be quite impossible to get deep bass. Michael Fremer regularly complains about this, which is sad because it’s perfectly treatable. It may also be possible that the bass level is set by the peaks, not the average. As has been written by better acousticians than me, these room modes are completely untreatable by conventional (even digital) equalizers. There are some cool things being done with time-domain EQ’s though, I have not experienced them. 

So, when I say that bass traps can extend the bass, I mean they can remove nulls, and flatten peaks. In addition, they can make speaker and listening locations more flexible. Lastly, they are the enabling technology for equalization (again, no matter if digital or analog). My concern, which you seem to have taken askew, is that most music lovers try to get bigger speakers, or more expensive speakers or subs without considering the room and room acoustics first. They spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on new speakers which may not end up being satisfactory. I prefer to suggest they consider bass traps and room equalization first. Of course, buy what you want. I’m just trying to suggest the most effective order of purchases.

Now, as for Vandersteen subs with built in parametrics. It’s much better than no EQ at all, that’s for sure. My preference for digital EQ’s such as Dirac Live or miniDSP comes from the flexibility and power of the measurements. Even with bass traps, some modes will exist. I can measure at six different locations, get an average, and then compute the exactly correct filter sets, upload them and bam. Done. In addition, being able to set delays to the main speakers (which are usually out in front), crossover slopes, and EQ of the entire combination are all features available via digital EQ’s or crossovers. Putting one before your DAC allows it to happen completely transparently.

My comment about "crap bass" is related to the end result I often hear. As you go down in frequency you are more likely to run into room modes. A smaller speaker, with a higher rated -3 dB cut off may in fact sound better. Focal famously added a subsonic filter to some of their subs for just such a reason. Of course, every room is different, and I’m not getting paid to do an in depth analysis of your room, so you should take this advice in context.

So, if you ask me what the recipe is for reliably getting the deepest, cleanest, and most musical and movie friendly bass, my suggestions are still measurement tools, bass traps, digital EQ and then a subwoofer, in that order.

By the way, you keep talking about having an octave overlap between the sub and the satellites. As a speaker designer myself, this sounds rather vague. I’m not sure how it’s possible with most speakers not to have this, so I’m clearly not understanding the specifics.

As for me liking Scanspeak and kits, yes I do. My point to all of that is, many good 2-way speakers can have much better and deeper sounding bass than most people realize. I use 6.5" ported versions in my mains, and for most music at volumes my neighbors will let me play is really great. I’m sure other brands can do the same in the right setting as well. I’m trying to encourage listeners to go for quality, not quantity.  In addition, the phenomenon of room-gain can extend the -3dB point pretty meaningfully down in frequency, so a 2-way speaker that is rated to 40 Hz or so may play much better than you would think. Again, the lower you go, the more you can run into trouble.  For more details on room-gain, look up Troels Gravesen's kits, where he compares the anechoic and in-room responses. 

As I’ve written, I’d much rather have a $1,000 Hsu (very nice subs!) with bass traps and a miniDSP than practically any other sub without them. The quality of the room and integration between the sub and the room matters a lot more than the quality of the sub, and even more than the integration with the speakers. About 2/3rds of the time that listeners say they have speaker integration problems they don’t. They have room integration problems. This is why my generic advice is shaped the way it is. Does that apply every time? No, but for most it should be helpful.


No animosity what so ever.  That's why it's hard to have a discussion in writing as you don't hear voice inflection or see verbals.

I agree with half of what you say,  but the advanced part of this hobby still is not satisfied with digital anything.  That  includes class D amplifiers. DSP is not transparent enough for me to want my signal always going through it. We have been told for years that once the signal is digital anything can be manipulated at will without degradation so all the digital engineers can quit looking for better sounding DACs. Not true as  all one has to do is compare the sound of hi-rez digital to a record of the same master tape to know. One wants to remember that for most people it is easily good enough (Bose sells more speakers than anyone else). That is fine, but it is not what Hi-End audio is supposed to be. Anyone saying that a 6.5 inch woofer can fill a room with realistic bass without room gain has never heard a drum set in a room (yes I was a drummer in my earlier years, lol). Recordings are almost always made in a room and music is almost always listened to live in a room, which includes room gain on top of the energy produced by the drum set.  I've found it hard to discuss with kit makers as they of course believe strongly in what they do.  Proof is in the market place though as kit speaker are very easy to build by anyone for less money and they still are a small fraction of the market. JMHO