Best speakers for about $3500

Hi All,

I would appreciate some input on my next speaker purchase. I want to spend no more than $3500. I have a Krell 400xi amp. I listen mostly to rock/jazz on vinyl. I have an Innersound phono pre, VPI Scout, and a ZYX cartridge. My dedicated listening room is on the second floor and is about 12 x 14. I prefer full range speakers but don't need to fill an auditorium.

In the past, I have owned B&W Matrix 802s and loved them. In my opinnion, the nicest speakers I have ever heard were B&W Nautilus 802s. Alas, I can't afford them. Notably, I owned a pair of DM 604s for about a week. They were the most disappointing speaker purchase I have ever made.

So I am considering Nautilus 803s though I would be really dissappointed if they were closer to the 604s than the 802s. But I also have access to a very good deal on Gallo Acoustics ref 3.5s. I have heard the Gallos and, while they sound nice, did not compete with the N802s. However, it is not fair to compare the Gallos to the much more expensive 802s. How would they match up to the 803s? Moreover, it seems that I might not be considering all of the great speakers in my price range. For example, I stumbled across a pair of Talon Khorus speakers for $3200. Based on their $15k retail price, I bet they don't suck. Or how about a pair of Wilson Cubs.

Thanks for the feedback, Jim
Joseph Audio Rm25si
Magnepan 3.6r, with you Pass amplification, it should sound stellar right out of the box.
Thanks for the suggestions. I am concerned that the Krell 400xi does not have the juice to drive electrostats. It was fine with my relatively inefficient M802s but from what I understand the electrostats require huge reserves of voltage. The 400xi seems a bit light in the power supply department.

The Joseph's look nice and I like the driver configuration. But would they out perform the Wilson Cubs with a similar driver configuration?
If you are willing to go with a less known speaker, look into speakers from Nate's Audio, by Nathan Field. He had two sets of speakers at AKFest this year and both were phenomenal. His model F26TL lists for $2500 and were fabulous.
I think if you liked the N802's the N803's would be the best choice in that price range. I'd have to think they're going to be closer in sound to the N802's than the DM604's you did not like. I've owned N805's and thought they were a great speaker for the money. I drove mine with a Levinson No. 331 and McIntosh MC7200 and both sounded great.
Used Sonus Faber.
I have a B&W dealer very near me and have listened to all their best speakers and the Magnepans several times. Nice speakers but I don't think either of those companies' products have the clarity and dynamics of VMPS speakers. In a small room, either the RM 30's or the 626R's would be outstanding. If you got the 626's, you could also get a sub at that price. Must get the upgraded capacitors, megawoofers and fst tweeters. The VMPS speakers are very adaptable to rooms to get great sound. You could get a brand new pair in your price range. I have the 626R's with the upgrades plus sound deadening package with a VSS sub and it's like there is no sub--just dynamic, live sounding music with clarity without etch at every frequency. Bob
LOL, no really Dorkwad, did you really just say that your VMPS speakers have more clarity than 3.6r Magnepans???

Wow,that's bold, I mean I've heard of talking your book, and I wouldn't argue with that statement regarding the B&W's, another box-y speaker, but a large planar like a Maggie 3.6r?? No way. No unless you were way under driving the speaker with less required power.

That's just not reality. I mean I know all of this hobby is subjective, but I have to call "Foul" on that statement.
I've heard them all and in my opinion, with the upgraded VMPS speakers, the 3.6 sounds as though there is a thin pillow covering them compared to the clarity and dynamics of the VMPS. For me, if the price were the same, I'd pick the VMPS everytime. You can think differently and that's OK. I can't vouch for any VMPS speaker that doesn't have my 4 upgrades. I've never heard them. Brian Cheney says that all the VMPS speakers sound very similar but the bigger ones have a bigger sound and can play a bit louder, and will go deeper in bass. Bob
LOL, that's classic. That's the best talking your book post I have ever seen on Audiogon. Next one will be someone talking how their Bose Lifestyle system blows away the Wilson Sashas he just heard.

Thanks for the laugh.
I will agree with the VMPS statement so dont be so sure of your laughing at others............the joke may be on you.
After having Magnepan 1.6 and Innersound Eros MKII speakers I went to VMPS and couldnt be happier. The have much more dynamics in the bass with hybrid help, have IMO more clarity in the midrange and less distortion in treble.
Its also an easier speaker to get right in the room.
I have FF3 SRE speakers from VMPS with latest midrange drivers aswell as dual upgraded outboard (1 active 1 passive) croaaovers from VMPS.
So insult away Tex but I am not sure your in a position of experience to make such claims, if you had the expeience you may not agree 100% but you wouldnt be so insulting and dismissive.....unless you were either blindly biased or of intellectual weakness not worthy of taking serious.
I really dont think you know enough about VMPS,
Dorkwad, I tip my hat to you on remaining civil when you so easily could have chosen not to.


Second that, Duke.

I third that, Duke.
Fourthing Duke!! :) J
I still love a good joke.
IMO ,If your thinking monitors skip the Wilson cub IIs and buy the Dynaudio C1s..3500 should buy a pair or close to it
You know I CES have heard the VMPS at CES several times. That's one of the few places to hear them since they are not a popular brand. They are a nice box, with a ribbon tweeter (or array) that sound nice, have excellent bass extension, and are fairly coherent. Not as much so as the Harbeth's or Wilson's, and my point is that there is NO WAY they have more clarity than Magnepan's. I didn't say they were a bad speaker, they are like a lot of other good boxes they sound nice and play loudly, if you like them, that's fine, knock yourself out.

But, there is no way you can say definitively, or even subjectively that they have better clarity than the 3.6R Maggies. No way. They may play louder, and you may find them more dynamic, there is no way they have better clarity, that's my point. Your just loving your gear at that point, which is fine, just admit it.

I don't compare the bass extension in my speakers to Wilson's, or big B&W's, or even Soundlabs, because that would be ridiculous. They are not in the same league. That is my point on this post, the claim of better clarity from the VMPS is not realistic.
I listen to a lot of rock and Jazz on vinyl as well. My speakers are the Audiokinesis Jazz Module. They are over your budget, but these are under and might be worth looking into:

Rhythm Prism
"But, there is no way you can say definitively, or even subjectively that they have better clarity than the 3.6R Maggies."

Ah, I think one's opinion is the very essence of subjectivity. Dorkwad was giving his opinion, and you seem to be saying he is not entitled to it. That seems to be a pretty heavy-handed attitude.

"They may play louder, and you may find them more dynamic, there is no way they have better clarity, that's my point."

It seems to me (subjectively : ) that your point is actually to tell Dorkwad he's wrong and should admit it. Maybe that's not your point, but that's what I'm getting from your posts. I imagine most of us also get that your experience is different (although there is no way I can know that). In any case, I too don't understand a statement like "there is no way you can say...subjectively that they have better clarity...".

How can you say a speaker that is dipole in the critical midrange (just like a Magnepan) uses a planar midrange (just like a Magnepan) can in no way have the seem to have a hard time admitting that not only is it possible in some instances and to some experienced ears it is reality.
Think what you want but your only giving opinion just as I and others have, you dont own opinion and you cant think for a second your is the only valid one, well you could but you would be wrong.
I owned Magnepan and compared to VMPS they were boring and less involving. That doesnt mean Magnepan is not as good, just means its more relaxed and veiled so it seems you like that sound. I can see how many love their sound as its pleasing and non offensive but some like to hear more sparkle and detail so the VMPS simply betters the Magnepan in that arena............well in bass aswell.
There is another forum here on Agon about this same guy who apparently visited a Hi Fi store. The forum is titled "what kind of an audiophile????"

Here is a quote of what the OP remarked about him-

" he wasn't interested in any opinion but his own and industry professionals or experienced audiophiles that had other ideas was all morons. Needless to say he had no interest in the shops speakers. It seemed as if he'd come in as an attempt to vainly elevate himself. His gear seemed to define him in the way people often define themselves by cars and other property. I told him his ideas were interesting and suggested he post them on a few audio forums for feedback, but he didn’t like that idea.

Another hi fi shop chimed in and said this same guy visited him as well and described him as " medium height, brown hair and a huge head"

Interesting reading.
Merlin VSM-MM's are the ones I have and recommend,good luck,Bob
Thanks for the suggestions. Based on all of the comments, I think that I can't buy anything without giving it an audition. I will seek out a few opportunities to audition because I can't afford to get this choice wrong and clearly a lot of this stuff boils down to personal preference. I appreciate the input.
Legacy Focus 20/20's

you can thank me later :)
Legacy 20/20 are not the answer (my father owned them 5 years and were EASILY bested by Vandesteen Quatro in every regard).
Bass was so much better in Vandersteen it was laughable, image, warmth, depth all in Vandersteens favor.
This forum can be very helpful as it can open your mind to different possibilities or in this case, speakers. I'll still stand behind VMPS speakers with auricaps, fst tweeters, megawoofers, and sound deadening as having stunning clarity, dynamics and basically excellent at all the little audiophile goodies and if you get VMPS subs with the 626R's or RM-30's, you'll experience a royal eargasm with any type of music you like. The only possible drawbacks of VMPS speakers is you have (get) to adjust the sound for your room and it takes some time to get it right--you definitely can do it, and secondly, they're not free. Hey, Brian's got to eat too. By the way, MacDad, I like the 3.6R's and if I had never heard the 626R's that I was lucky enough to buy from a former A'gon owner, I'd been tempted to buy a pair. Just one dork's opinion. I could use a hug, man. These little forum ditties are loads of fun--like farting in 5 colors. Later, Bob
Joseph Audio rm25 or rm22
If you have ever seen Brian C at VMPS you wil know he HAS to eat and eat alot lol
803 nautilus are much closer to 802's than they are to the 604s. When I first got into this hobby I bought a pair of 602.5s. I quickly upgraded to 805n which were tons better. I loved the 803n but could not afford them at the time.

With the size of your room I would think the 803n would work better than the 802n anyway.

You should go listen to as many speakers in your area as you can to determine what sounds best to you. No one can tell you what you will prefer.
I agree with at least checking out the Merlins.
I would definitely listen to the Focus. Everyone has different oppinions, and rightly so. To comment on a above users response, I found the Quatro's to be way over priced, and didnt really enjoy them much at all. The Focus had better bass in every way to my ears, and Id gladly take the more relaxed, warm sound anyday. In fact, Id buy the Focus 20/20's again over any speaker out there above or near its price. Thats just how much I loved them. I only sold my 2 pairs for financial reasons, and someday plan on getting a pair back. For me, the Focus 20/20's put things in perspective of the importantance of speakers over components and sources.

Ive owned so many speakers out there, many of the top reviewed from Magnepan, Martin Logan, Paradigm, Gallo, Legacy, B&W, etc...and I just love the music the Focus 20/20's produce. Ive used the Focus in large rooms, and small rooms, and they always sounded top knotch. My opinion, a good speaker, is a good speaker-PERIOD.
Yes but a great speaker is just that much better..........I happen to think the Quatro is worlds above the 20/20 but we all hear differently.
I have MIrage OMD 28 that are available new for less than 3K and I consider them the best deal in my current set up. I think they are terrific.
Base on the size of your room, the N803S will be a good choice than N802.
Duke at Audiokinesis, Has very well though out design for under $3500. As a designer I have much respect for Duke would be hard to go wrong purchasing from Audiokinesis. I wouldn't say this about just any designer since Duke is a wee bit of competition ;)
One final thought on VMPS speakers--although there are several upgrades you can get, if you order or buy used and get the big 4 upgrades--auricaps, fst tweeters (now included with many models), soundproofing, and megawoofers (bigger magnets on current models), you don't hear about the upgrade bug from many VMPS users, at least as far as speakers are concerned. The similar sound with each speaker starts with the least espensive and continues throughout the line--they all sound great. The size of some of the larger models is a WAF problem at times, though. I'm upgraded a bunch of stuff in the past 2 years because I'm now seriously stricken with the disease, but the speakers (626R's) are awesome in every way and small enough I can take outside on good days where they are even better. I'm done now. And so is my buying as system matching is big and I've hit my home run with analog and digital. I feel the same about Modwright stuff, too.
Find a pr of Revel F52 used and you will be set. I have them and in my home with a PASS X250 amp and they beat:

B&W 801 Matrix III
Audio Physics Virgo III
Spendor SP1/2e
Magnepan MG3.6 with mye stands
Usher 6381
Eminent Tech LFT8a (Loved these)
Vandersteen 2Ce

I'm sure their are others I'm forgetting, The revels are well ballanced, have real bass and image very well. I lsisten to 80% clasic rock, 10 blues, 10 jazz.

I wanted to sell them and upgraded but cant, because they just do everything I want from a speaker
The Merlin monitors are really great!!
I second the Merlin's and you might want to check out the Dunlavy's for sale on audiogon as well.
I own Nate's original prototype transmission line speakers, and I think they are terrific. My Quad 63s have been idle since Nate's speakers showed up, if that provides insight. And, oh yeah, his little monitors are no slouches either.
I'm gonna second @Branislav on the Mirage OMD-28s. I have them, and they are truly amazing speakers. They won't give you the laser focus of some speakers, but they absolutely disappear, and just let the music flow. If you have the room to have them a few feet off the should seriously look at them. $8k retail...$2.5k currently.