Best Speakers for small room under $3.5k

I have a small room (about 10 feet by 18feet), and want to optimize my listening environment. Speakers may be the next upgrade, but not sure what to get. My current system is Bel Canto Dac 1 & Arcam 7 as transport (also use DV525 as transport sometimes), Bryston 3b-st amp, Bryston BP20 Preamp, B&W Nautilus 805 speakers, PS300 powerplant. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on good speakers that will match my room - they could be monitors or floorstanders with a relatively small footprint. Thanks!
Why do you need to upgrade??? You have a great pair of speakers now! Yeah, you can get different sound, but better? Assuming the B & W's are fed enough current(which your Bryston 3b-st is DEFINITELY doing), they make wonderful music. Just like in your thread about your disappointment in the new DAC, I think you will feel a lot of regret in the end. That being said, speakers I like(in addition to B & W) are Coincident, PSB, Soliloquy, Triangle, and Vandersteen. But, I can't say any of them will make you happier(unless you are looking for a speaker with more bass).
Try a pair of Merlin TSM's Magical little speaker
Outliar. What is it about the sound that you would like to improve or change? I agree with Trelja, you have a very nice set of speakers. You may also want to be certain that you have exhausted your placement options before you switch to something else. Moving a speaker an inch or so can make a dramatic difference in the total sound. That's why I used the word "exhausted" - it is exhausting to fine tune a set of speakers. I recently auditined the Solioquy line and found them to be to my liking and hope to take a listen to the small Coincident Triumph Sig. Have you considered adding a powered sub or home auditioning another amp/preamp or integrated (like the plinius)? These options would be well within your budget and would deifinatly give you a different sound.
Before you upgrade components are you using interconnects and speaker cable that are up the the level of your existing components ??? If not, then upgrade your cables first, you will be surprised with the results. Also consider a good AC power conditioner if you do not already have one.
I agree. Keep the speakers, they are awesome. Add a REL subwoofer, get silver cables, get a better power cable on your front end, pre, and amp. It sounds like you've got the bug bad (me too) it took me a long time to "find" my N 805s. :) I would definately MAKE SURE that you dont want those speakers any more, as they truly seem to speak with one voice. Here's my real advice. Get a Conrad Johnson preamp. PV 11 is a great one, PV 10 is not as transparent, you'd love it initially, it has the most believable presence I've ever heard, it's just a shade colored when compared to more resolute CJ stuff (so you KNOW it's colored compared to SS.) I love my PV 11, and am anxious to hear the PV 14(descrete resistor, remote controlled, stereo volume control, based on a tiny 6c4 triode tube . IF you've got money to burn, and you'reb looking for something "different", give tubes a try (tubed preamp is the easiest way) you'll never go back. There's just something more real about the sound of GOOD tube equipment in an already great system.
The JM Reynaud Trente's are getting some excellent comments right now, especially in the gleaming Listener review. They describe these monitor's as highly seductive and magical, musical, smooth and highly involving.
I am also anxious to hear the Reynaud speakers. The best small speakers I have heard to date are the Spendor 1/2 and Proac 2s. An excellent small floor standing speaker I like is the Vienna Acoustics Mozart.
Hey Stop And Listen!!!! Sugarbrie and I will try to set you straight. Been In the Bizz. for 22 years. I am a master electrican to master tech. of system intergration of all theater and low voltage systems. I'm a full blown high end stereo freek. It all starts with the power in the house. Shit power, Shit sounding system. If you have a chance check out a Furman Reference power conditioner. It's a sweet, beautiful sounding componet. Best of all it has balance power,and if you no anything about power for audio. This is what you want first of all. Once you have this problem solved,it will blow your mind itself. Then proceed with equal wires to your system. Audioquest,XLO and Cardas all have great lines of wires with all having different sounds to them.To me finding what type of wire you love the sound of most is the hard thing to do. Like everybody else states, you do have nice gear and speakers. Once you find the power conditioner and cables of your sound preference,I would then proceed with a speaker upgrade if you think you need them still. Devoted Audiogon member, I hate to see bad buys happen to good people. It is a Tweekie Bizz. take your time. "It's a beautiful audio disease we have".
I agree with others that think the system you use is well balanced. Since I have a room of similar size I can say that Totem Mani-2's are very good and are full range, very revealing speakers.
Thanks everyone for great advice. I do like the 805s a lot, but as one of you said, I have 'the bug bad', so was willing to invest more for an improvement. I think I will keep the speakers and consider some less radical tweaking. On the power and cable front, just to answer some of your questions - I have Stealth PC Premier speaker cable, Sidewinder powersnake feeding the CD Player/Transport, Kimber balanced KCAG linking the preamp to poweramp, Kimber PJB linking the CD to Preamp and Harmonic Cyber Platinum for digital cable.
Perhaps the best thing you could do is identify what it is about your system that is making you unhappy. Then, I think we can offer more salient advice. You have really good gear, whether it works well for you or not can only be answered by you. Although this is a minimal tweak, you may want to switch the PBJ and KCAG. Won't make or break the sound, but it is one step. The only real areas of change I see for you is to augment the low frequencies(if that is where your unhappiness is springing from), switch to a tube preamp(if you are craving a warmer, more lush sound), or possibly tweak the room/setup(with speaker placement, and things to liven or deaden the sound). Other than that, I think you have an excellent system. We have all been in your shoes. Good Luck!
I agree with trelja. I don't know much about the Stealth cables, but, while the pbj is great for the price, is seems out of place. You might swap the PBJ for some more KGAG, and try some silver speaker cables to boot. I have Audioquest SA-40 (silver) and it is a HUGE step foreward, smooth and detailed at the same time. Borrow a tube pre, you'll dig it.
I agree about trying something better than the PBJ. I noticed a big difference between the PBJ and the Cardas Cross, and an even bigger difference with the Golden Cross (of course it depends on your preferences).
Outlier, in addition to cable changes, you need to consider room treatments. You haven't mentioned a thing about your room. In fact, I rarely see the room, as a component, mentioned. I do like Phild's recommendation on Cardas cables, esp. Golden Cross. Good look tweaking!
How about Wilson Watts {No Puppies} ??? Thats what I use because i have the same problem {small room} I Had to get rid of Arial 10Ts and i dont regret it at all
Outlier: Not to nag, but also you will want to make certain that your source is well isolated. I prefer the Vibrapods under an MDF base as apposed to cones in our current placement. But will soon have to move the components (that are blocking a heat vent) to another piece of furniture and location, so this may change. The difference this made was jaw dropping. I prefer the Homegrown Super Silver interconnects, my wife likes the Harmonic Tech. Truthlinks, this is just to say that cable is difficult to recommend. I just added $2 worth of felt material around the tweeters on our speakers (not an option and not necessary on your speakers) and what a difference in the HF. I can now listen to "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions" without gritting my teeth. Once I have achieved the maximum sound in our setup, I will probably move on to new speakers, but in the meantime the process of doing so has become a challenge that is kind of fun in a way. One more note - I find it necessary to hedge the speaker placement when I switch cables in order to re-balance the sound. I have a set of written speaker coordinates for each set of cables. My wife has gotten used to the pencil marks on the walls and my use of the T square and protracter. Though I am certain that she thinks that I am nuts.
Reference 3 A MM de Capos- see review on Soundstage. Also where you can purchase.
Thanks everyone for more great advice. Yes, I think I'll upgrade my interconnect cable for starters, and maybe get a couple of new powercords for the amps. I already have a PS Audio 300, so am hopeful that my power is pretty clean. I will think about upgrading the preamp soon - I'm definately lured by the thougth of trying some tubes - I'll keep my eyes open for something good on audiogon (perhaps a BAT or Conrad Johnson). However, the Bryston BP-20has served me very well - I upgraded from a preamp section of an Arcam 7 integrated amp and the difference was astounding (I was laughing out loud at the dramatic improvement). I guess that's what happens when one addresses the weak link in one's system. Cheers.
Outlier, I didn't mean buy some new interconnect. Just put the KCAG where the PBJ is now, and vice versa. It's a free switch. Just to see if it makes an improvement. If you find yourself craving some more warmth after that, then see if a dealer will lend you some copper interconnects. Maybe Tara Labs or Cardas. Perhaps you can get a fair distance without buying a new preamp. If not, look into a Conrad Johnson product if you feel like you want a lot of warmth. Try before you buy if possible, some people feel they have lost some detail, and end up unhappy. But for us tube lovers...
Outlier, try this, it will cost you nothing and is very revealing of what you really need. Don't listen to your system for 1 to 2 weeks. During this "no system" time try to listen to as much music as possbible (in the car, table radio, TV, etc.) Finally, on the day that you break down and can't go without the high-end audio fix any longer, spend an hour or so cleaning every audio connection, dress and isolate every power cord and interconnect, use a tape measure and perfectly align the speakers and then put your favorite piece of music on. Your system should sound "absolutely amazing". If not, then you need to make major changes -- a cable here and there won't cut it. You could easily spend two to three times what your present system is worth to truly improve the sound quality. If you're not prepared for such a wholesale change, then accept your fate, your system sounds really good and you are going to have to live with it. Life can be so cruel.
The best small speaker I've heard in this price range is Dynaudio Contour 1.3 SE. It sounded better than most $5000 floor standing speakers I've heard. If you decide to upgrade your speakers, you should listen to these before you purchase any others. You'll be amazed!!!
Trelja, thanks for the good advice on switching the KCAG interconnect to the DAC/Preamp link. The cable is actually a balanced (xls) one, so I can't do it. I'll have to get a new RCA. Cheers.
You might want to look at Von Schweikert's new VR-3.5, which a full range floor standing speaker. I have the larger VR-5 and am very happy. IF you are in the Los Angeles area email me and maybe we can set up a time for you to listen to my system. Jay
I hate to say this, but do any of you no what balance power is and what it has to offer??? With out it you might as well become a painter. Because you are not hearing the music in the first place as it should sound. No RFI,EMI and 60Hz. cycle of noize on your power to your gear. A big step above power cords. Check out the Furman IT Reference Conditioner at about $3,000.00 retail. I promise you it is the foundation of everything else.(BALANCE POWER) found in balance power
I have found that the PBJ can sound harsh and are not nearly as good as what STEREOPHILE had once suggested and still do. I agree that the cables are crucial in improving sound quality. I have a SFL-2 connected to a POWER 2 that I had made remote by adding a small remote sensor by CREEK, the interconnects I use are PBJ, bad mistake from my experience. You run a solid state preamp to a solid state amp, I have never heard the Brystons, but I am sure they would sound a little hard on your set up, because Sonic Frontiers also makes tube gear that is extremely neutral. Try cable upgrades, it is the cheapest and perhaps, what is really missing in your system, which sounds by the way, very interesting. PAUL