Best new/demo/used value for $7.5K range

Hello all!

I will be buying new speakers at the end of September.

My budget is roughly $7.5K (can flex some if a steal is found).

I am currently looking at:
-B&W 802N (5000K used and 7K demo)
-JM lab Mezzo Utopia (7k used)
-Revel Studio (7.5K used)
-Dynaudio Confidence 5 (5k used)
-Wilson Sophia Used (8.5K? used)
-Wilson Watt/Puppy6 (8.5K? used)

I like all of these speakers for different reasons. I would be happy with any of them, but wish I could afford the wilsons - my favorite.

Any thoughts? At this price I want to know I considered everything.

My gear: EAD 8000pro preamp, Levinson No.27, Classe CAV150, SACD XA-777es, Pioneer Elite DV-47 DVDm, Transparent Audio and Audioquest interconnects...

1. B&W Nautilus 802's. I may get flamed here, but I have never cared for the B&W sound. Tweeter sounds a little too metallic sounding for my tastes. May not match up too well with Levinson amp either.

2.JM Labs Mezzo Utopia. I love Focal drivers, but have always felt that tubes were the way to go with focal drivers. Others have used SS equipment and have gotten
great results.

3. Revel Studio's Cant comment on them. I have never heard them. I was blown away by the Ultima Salon.

4. Dynaudio Confidence 5. Great speaker and hard to beat at the price point. Matches well with SS gear but may sound a bit too analytical with Levinson???

5. Wilson Sophia. Great speakers that should work well with your setup. A bit expensive for what you get though.

6. Wilson WATT/Puppy 6 Same as above.

Wildcards. I would listen to Thiel CS 7.2's, CS 6 or the new 2.4. I would also listen to the Von Sweikert line as well.

Hope this helps. Remember your taste is the only thing that matters!!!
I purchased a demo pair of mezzo`s about 4 months ago from a jm lab dealer for $6500. w/ full warrenty.Im using a Mcintosh mc-352 with I would say great results. Ive been seeing used mezzo`s for 6500./5700. It does confuse me with the warrenty you will hear some say warrenty is trasnferable but the dealer said it is not. The US dealer is Audioplus out of NY and their site says it is not transferable. The B&W will suck the life out of your amp. Chuck did mention Dynaudio confidence 5 amd I agree for around 5 K its very hard to beat. David
Used Avalon speakers. There are few available right now on Audiogon.

For this price range, I would recommand to have a local purchase if possible. All of the speakers you mentioned will be a large purchase in term of size, weight and money. Demo them locally and pick them instead of shipping would be most important.

Don't forget to budget for well matched speaker cables as well. Some of the speakers might require bi-wire or tri-wire.

I have demoed Dynaudio Confidence 5 speakers extensively. They are great speakers but somewhat lacking in bass extension. Maybe 35Hz in a small room. Might want to check out the new Dynaudio Contour speakers as well.

There are also a few Sonus Faber speaker in your price range that will match great with Levinson 27.

What is your tastes? What kind of music do you listen to mostly? Do you listen loud? Are you going to sit in the nearfield or farfield? How big is the room? Each of those speakers were designed to work in a specific way. For instance the two Wilson speakers you mentioned are redically different designs of Dave Wilson's. The B&W and Revel speakers are wide dispersion designs that will sound just okay if placed close to side walls. If you're room is normal I can't see you going wrong with any, but your speacial circumstances would dictated the decision. Me personally, I'd go with either the B&W's, or the Revels as they both have very good power responce's. However, if you listen at lower volumes the Revel's will sound fuller.
Have Fun,
May I suggest Dunlavy V's.
I'd also suggest checking out Reimer speakers.
I like the used Sophia in your price range, although would swap amps to a BAT 75SE.

I also would listen to the Dynaudio C2, several of which have been on a'gon at this price. However, again would switch the Levinson to Krell or Plinius.

Levinson and Revel is a typcial combo, but i have never been impressed with the sonics.
As mentioned above, depends on your musical taste, room, listening volume, etc. A couple more to consider in your price range are: Vienna Acoustics Mahler, Talon Khorus X Mk II (love them or hate them!)

Good luck!
My vote goes to GR-Research Alphas (think of a speaker similar to Pipedreams). I know of no other speaker that will come close to doing what the Alphas will do in terms of freedom from congestion, soundstage height, scale of dynamics and output or integration between drivers (anywhere near your $7k price point new or used). This design has many of the same attributes that the Pipedream's design has due to the multiple high performance drivers not being pushed anywhere near their limits and it being a simple two way design (which is MUCH easier to perfect than a three or four way design).

IMHO GR's speaker designer (Danny Richie) is a VERY seasoned, has a great ear and only uses the "best of the best" crossover parts in his Alpha design. I've looked at the inside guts of many of the well known big buck speakers only to be completely disgusted at the parts used in their crossovers! In fact, a couple of the speaker suggestions by other posters here can be improved with just a $100 of upgraded parts in their crossovers too! (i.e. those speakers were not designed with a "use the best crossover components" mentality- argh!). IMHO GR Research's Alphas are more refined than a pair of the big $75k+ Pipedreams!!
I'll add my two cents. VERITY PARSIFAL ENCORES
Ok, I am the person you want to hear from if you're seriously thinking of the Revel Studio!

I upgraded to the Studios earlier this year and have been very happy with them. (I paid $8,000, but they were brand new, still in the box). I also used a Levinson No. 27 with them, but only briefly. The No. 27 worked fine, but the sound was just not as dynamic as I wanted. I then upgraded to an used Levinson No. 23 ($2,000 - very similar sound, but with double the power (200W/ch instead of 100).
(If you have the money, and like the Levinson sound, go up to the 23.5, which is about $2,500 used.)
I really like the sound now. In fact, I consider it a real step up from my previous speaker (Martin Logan Sequel II).
The soundstaging is great and the dynamics are incredible. Bass is very tight, and plentiful, but it does not go as deep as the Salon. (But my room would not handle that much bass in any case, and the Salon really needs 300-400 W/ch btw.)
The HF is incredible, but I can see where someone might think it is too much. (Good thing the front and rear tweeters have volume controls! Although, I don't turn the HF down, as I am using a Koetsu cartridge that rolls the HF down a bit, and the plentiful HF from the Studio makes it a perfect match!)
You should audition them if you can find a local dealer who has them. (I found that to be a problem, as most dealers had the Salons, but not the Studio. I had to drive about 75 miles to listen to them.)

For your infomation, my system includes: an ARC LS-2 preamp, Arc PH-3 phono preamp, Sony 9000ES SACD/CD player, Basis 1400 TT, RB300 arm. I use MIT 770 CVT biwired speaker cable and a mixture of I.C.'s (MIT 330, Kimber Hero, Straightwire Rhapsody II XLR, etc..)

Regarding other speakers, I endorse the Sonus Fabers as well. The Avalons are good, especially the Eidolons, but not the Opus, and they seem to like lots and lots of power, more than your No. 27 has. The Wilson Sophias are also nice. I am not a big B&W 802 fan either.

Good Luck in your search.
I have owned some of the speakers you listed above in one incarnation or another (802N, Watt/Puppy 5.1), I have also listened to Revel and JM Labs in length many times. My vote goes to Dynaudio Confidence 5 which I have owned more than one pair in the past. This is one speaker that doesn't get too much attention in the press, but endorsed by audiophile around the world. C5 has that special "rightness" not found on many full range speaker, but it does take some power to open up and can't play as loud as competitors. Dynaudio will never make another speaker like the C5, so you should buy your C5 (or even better, Consequence) now they are in collectors' hands.
Thanks for the feedback so far. The more to consider the merrier!

I went and listened to a pair of 802Ns (demo) for 5K today and was a little under impressed. They were hooked up to Bryston gear- I am not sure that is a good combo. The t's and S's on some vocal sources I brought in sounded a bit harsh. What was funny was that the rest of the vocal range in a Fairfield Four piece was recessed sounding - not as coherent as with the Sophias. BTW, I am not stating this as fact, just my own very humble observation.

Someone here recommended the Mahler's. I had almost forgot about those speakers. I found a deal on some demo Mahler's for $7k that I really liked. I like these speakers for the same reason I like the sophias. They are musical and involving without being clinical. My NHT 2.9s have worn me out in this regard. Is 7K$ a good price for demo's with warranty???

A few people asked about my room and musical taste. I am actually in the process of buying a new home, but most of the homes I am looking at have high ceilings with living rooms of about 20*25 (some are even a bit larger). I have some vinyl, but 99.9% of my music tends to be redbook cd (3000 cds) with a handful of SACD's (30). The most imporant thing to me is the vocal range - I used to perform as a singer so can hear when something is off. I do listen to everything from acapella stuff, large symphonic pieces, intimate blues recordings, bluegrass, rock and etc... Truth be told, I just love music in general (more so than the gear).

Thanks for any feedback you have to offer. I appreciate all of it.
With the room size at 20x25 and high ceiling, Dynaudio Confidence 5 will need a much larger amp than Levinson 27. Something like Levinson 333 or 336 would be closer. Maybe two monoblocks would be even better.

The problem is that even with the monster amp, bass extension is still around 30-40Hz.
VMPS RM/x or fully Loaded RM40
In this price range the Talon Ravens or a used pair of
Khorus should also be on your list.

I also like the Wilsons. Great build quality and resale value. You can alway start with the Sophias and trade up
when your budget permits.
All I can say is Vandersteen 3A Sig with two 2WQ subs for around $6,000 is a honest bargain. I recently listened to $22,000 Watt Puppy's, and there wasn't enough difference in my mind, to waste $16,000. I also listened to the new Vandersteen 5A's and again at more than twice the price for less than 10% improved sound. Sorry, no deal, of coarse the associated equipment must make it all work together. ARC LS25MII pre, Classe CA300 amp work for me!
Good luck and happy listening.
I think you'd like the Soliloquy 6.5s. Similar in tonal character to the Mahlers but not as boomy. Incredible vocals. Very musical and non-fatiguing. Takes forever to break in, so make sure you listen to an older pair. New, $6.4K. Used, around $3K.
OK, all you B&W, Wilson,etc lovers get out the flame throwers, but I can easily recommend a brand new pair of Von Schweikert VR4 HSE MKIII. They really do, IMHO outperform all the above in sheer musicality, spatiality (transparency), tonality, dynamics, and, they have bass extension down to 16hz (-3db), and are flat to 20hz in a room which can support that kind of bass. It seems odd to say this, but I too, have been on the quest for that perfect speaker for 25 years, and actually worked for a mighty good speaker manufacturer. I also, previously owned my own High End Audio store for 11 years. The question here is, are you buying the name or the best "sounding" speaker? I realize that this is completely subjective, but for me, nothing I have found, sincerely, is quite this much fun, or musical. Electrostatic clarity, horn dynamics, and better than most subwoofer, bass.
They list for $5995. new! One issue, they don't have a fancy wooden cabinet, they are cloth covered, but, depending on your taste, the black cloth with the Hazlewood (kinda looks like rosewood) top plates, and accents are attractive, in a speakery kind of way. It is a must, must hear for you, especially in your price range. You can save money and get a speaker which, again,in my humble opinion, is very, very close to, and in imaging specificity exceed the Nearfield Acoustics Pipedreams, touted as the, "Best speaker in the world", at least, according to the Absolute Sound's Johnathan Valin. BTW, did I mention that the Nearfields also list for @$30K? The Vons Schweikerts are, for the price, a remarkable find. On the other hand,finding a dealer may be harder to do than finding a Wilson, or the B&W's, or the others: plus they do very little advertising. It is definitely worth your time and effort though.
Good luck in your search,
I found your comments about the GR Research to be interesting. I sold quite a few pairs of Nearfields during 2001 @ $250K worth, so I am very familar with them. I really like the idea of line source speakers, and redundancy of drivers, limiting excursion, therefore distortion. But the inherent problems of lobing are at odds with their fulfilling promise usually. The Nearfields use a series/parallel, (patented, or patent pending) wiring scheme which ameliorates this issue. Do you know what they do with the GR's? I looked at their website, and I don't think they talk about that.
Also, did you hear the four sub, 21's, the largest Pipes, or the smaller? Not that it matters, they really sound, as you might expect very similar, just more dynamic, and more detailed also. Any input is really appreciated.
Thanks for sharing. I had not heard of these before, and they look like a good value, especially in kit form. Hell, they look like a good value regardless!
Out of the Revel, B&W, and Wilson, I would go with the Sophia's. I have not heard the others but I have owned the N802's, listened extensively to the Revel's and Sophia's, and now own W/P 7's.


The Pipedreams I am familiar with are the big ones as I have a friend who owns them. These speakers are far from perfect though. He is having to re-engineer everything from the crossovers to the electronics in the subs! I think many audiophiles who gush over the Pipedreams are only hearing their positives. There are many little things amiss with these speakers that need to be addressed before I could declare them a complete and successful design.

Regarding GR Research's crossover design and their inherent dispersion characteristics; I suggest that you contact Danny Richie himself. He is NOT secretive about his design decisions or how he arrived at his topology choices. As far as I'm concerned Danny waaaaay above most other high end speaker designers.
Disclaimer: I am a Talon dealer.

Jtee...The Talon Raven-C is going to be VERY difficult to beat in the $5-$10k price range, IMHO. You can purchase them NEW with your given price range. A used pair will of course be even less. Obviously take my opinion with a "grain of salt", but I highly recommend the Raven-C. If you can find a pair of TRUE Khorus X MK2 (there are a lot of pseudo-MK2 versions floating around) for $7-8k, then that is a STEAL and you should jump all over it (around $12K for a used pair of true Khorus X MK2 is much more realistic and still a steal, IMHO).

Of the speakers others have mentioned, I like the Sophia (never been a Wilson fan, but I do like the Sophia) and the Verity Parsifal. You might also want to look into the Dali and Meadowlark lines. The only speaker in your list that I would avoid would be the B&W N802 (or any B&W speaker for that matter). Others will obviously disagree, but you can do MUCH better than B&W for usually much less money.

Best of luck in your search and don't hesitate to let me know if you have specific questions.

Best Regards...Mike - Father & Son Audio
Wow, you hit the B&W's pretty hard MIKE, wouldn't you say?? I have a friend who has a pair of B&W's and I think they sound pretty good. I have another friend who has the Talon Khorus X and I myself really don't care for them. It is ALL just a matter of opinion of course unless you are selling them right??
Easy there Btstrg...I clearly stated I was a Talon dealer and OBVIOUSLY it is my OPINION that I don't care for B&W. If you like them, great. A LOT of folks like B&W, I don't. No reason to get so defensive. If you own B&W, and enjoy them, it shouldn't matter to you what others think. If you don't like Talon, no problem, I respect your opinion. One thing that makes this hobby so fun is all of the different products that are available. Can you imagine if there was only one brand of speaker, one brand of amp, etc.? Yuck!

In case you didn't notice, I also recommended some brands that I don't sell. There are quite a few speakers that my dad and I like besides just the ones we carry, but we can't sell every speaker brand.

The speakers my dad and I carry are those that WE feel offer the most performance for the money. We hope others agree with us, but if they don't, no problem. I made a recommendation based on what I like, and yes, I just happen to sell them. This is why I always try and state upfront that I am a dealer for a particular brand I am commenting on. To do otherwise is dishonest and unethical. Ok, I will get off of my soapbox now ;-)

It may sound corny, but I tell my customers this all of the time: The BEST product for YOU is the product YOU like the BEST, NOT what someone else tells you is the best.

Best Regards...Mike - Father & Son Audio
Could your friend tell us what changes in the crossover your friend is making? Is that the external electronic crossover? Also, how about the sub electronics, what is your friend doing to the sub 'electronics'?
Also, I would be interested as to what electronics are in those particular subs?
Do you know which generation of pipes these are?
I would personally be unhappy buying an $80K pair of speakers and feel it necessary to do ANY work on them; especially since this design is proprietary, and what may simply LOOK like one thing, might be something else altogether. Also, if he is that gifted that he can improve on this rather expensive design, why not build his own pair to start with,rather than spend so much, only to have to rebuild them? Did he not take time investigating, before making such a large purchase? This sounds daunting to me.
I love ACI speakers. So, in your price range, the first thing I'd look at would be the Jaguar/LFM combo. I would think it would be ideal for a room of your size. I have not personally heard them, but every other ACI model I've heard has been great. In fact, though I've heard many fine systems with B&Ws, Wilsons, Thiels, etc., one of the finest systems I've ever heard was a pair of ACI Talismans. It was just so real. The Talismans are what I plan to buy when I have the room and the money.
Andra eggleston,my friends and I we audition them side by side
with Wilson watt puppy,B&W N02,Verity Fidelio,No
one of these speakers came close.IMHO, you can find
them sometimes used for your price range.Thats why
they are speaker of the year.Read the review of Wes
Philip on the original Andra.I have them, they are not
for sale.
Wondering if you got my questions?
My vote goes to Green Mountain Audio C3, which is the company's flagship model. You can get it for $6700 in the standard black finish but the price goes up slightly if you want a wood veneer. For $7.5K you can get a very nice looking GMA C3, brand new!

I offer this recommendation from personal experience of GMA speakers as I own the smaller C1.5i. There are a number of people here who own the new C3 & I think you can find references to them if the archives are searched on A'gon.

For some more info, you can visit the GMA website:
Roy Johnson is really a nice fellow to deal with & will answer practically all your questions (save trade secrets obviously!). IMHO.
There are some good choices there. My favorite of the bunch would either be the Revel Studio's or the JM Lab's a close 2nd. But both have different sound characteristics in my view.

I personally wouldnt put either of the Wilson products(especially the Sophia)in that list from a SQ perspective though. If they are your favorite sounding speaker truely, the Revel's will be right up your ally as they give alot more with the same presentation. If you can do a direct sound comparison between em Im sure you will be quite impressed, just make sure the rest of the system is up to snuff.

I also like'd the other suggestion of Vandy 3a Sig's with a pair of Vandy subs, that IS a great setup too.
There are some good choices there. My favorite of the bunch would either be the Revel Studio's or the JM Lab's a close 2nd. But both have different sound characteristics in my view.

I personally wouldnt put either of the Wilson products(especially the Sophia)in that list from a SQ perspective though. If they are your favorite sounding speaker truely, the Revel's will be right up your ally as they give alot more with the same presentation. If you can do a direct sound comparison between em Im sure you will be quite impressed, just make sure the rest of the system is up to snuff.

I also like'd the other suggestion of Vandy 3a Sig's with a pair of Vandy subs, that IS a great setup too.
Hope you're nearby. Again, I would like to know what your friend who bought the Nearfield Pipedreams is doing to, as you stated, "He is having to re-engineer everything from the crossovers to the electronics in the subs!"
Again, what electronics are in the subs that he is reingineering? Also, what is he doing in the crossovers. They are sealed, and virtually impossible,(ok really hard) to access. I always wonder why someone would buy an $80K product then find the need to "reengineer it". Why not design his own, if his capabilities exceed the designers, why mess with such a flawed design. Moreover why spend the money, if they're so flawed?
Please let me know. The reason I ask is that the only electronics that are in the subs, are the electromagnetic fields created by the magnet behind the subs, and of course the wiring that leads to the magnet. Unless he bought a model that is new to me and everyone else.
Humbly and sincerely waiting to hear about his expertise.
I disagree with Ritteri and find the Sophias much more musical than the Revels (maybe just a 1st order vs 4th order thing). They also don't require a mega amp making cost savings a big issue. Give them a 50 watt tube amp and be prepared for great sound.

I know Ritteri has issues with Wilson construction--read the latest TAS/Soundstage and make your own decision. Many people have issue with Revel as in to the overall speaker design if you search as well.

Of course, I have never heard Revels in any setup that sound great to me. Personal preference is key here, so I strongly urge auditioning everything before buying. I will admit my strong preference to not buying equipment that is inefficent or has strong dips. Just not friendly for amplifier selection.

The mezzos are a great speaker, and are at ridiculous prices today used (ie. superb value). I am curious to hear the new Alto soon. JM Labs also don't require tons of current which is nice.


How about Kharma?
Coincidence speaker technologies Total Eclipse

Joseph Audio RM33si Reference Standard

These are full-range mindblowing values. Bye, Bye Dunlavy, Wilson etc. At this price point they have very few peers. IMHO
Sonus Faber Cremonas, right at $7.5k new. Magical, musical midrange--nothing else can compare!
If the speakers dont sound musical, look to your source,amps and other equipment. A truely transparant speaker will bring out the flaws in the rest of the equipment chain. As for Revel's needing big power amplifiers, completely untrue. I have heard Salons and Studio's with tube amps in the 50-75wpc range that sounded great at rather high volumes too.

KeithR: Sorry Ive never been into TAS or Stereophile all that much or their take on build quality. I take breaking down one physically in person over any magazine article any day. WIlson uses alot of fancy words and marketing for something unremarkeable at best. Other than the structural cabinet(its decking material folks!)they are pretty basic speakers at best. Gotta love that "high grade" velcro they use for the grilles.........