Best stand mounted monitors

I need your help please as I'm replacing my floor standing KEF Ref. Series 104/2 speakers with stand mounted monitors and probably a subwoofer due to the wife-acceptance-factor. I'm looking for comments from people who have listened to and hopefully compared the following monitor speakers that I'm considering:
(1) REFERENCE 3A - MM Decapo i
(2) PROAC - Response One SC or Tablette Ref. 8 Signature
(4) REVEL - M20 or the new M22 due out Q1 '04
(5) ATC - SCM 10-2 or SCM 20-2 either active or passive.

Other things you need to consider before offering your advice:
--> I will be replacing a very old Sherwood receiver with a new tube preamp and either tube or SS amp. I'll get the speakers first and then match the amp to it.
--> my room is about 4,800 cubic ft (40*15*8) and is average "aliveness" so having a higher sensitive speaker (e.g. >89dB) is desirable as it'll will mean less power required. I listen mostly to jazz with some R&B and classical.
--> budget is around US$2K-$3K (new retail price)
--> Id like to buy a REL subwoofer to match (e.g. Stadium II or III)

Many thanks.
I recommend a pair of Totem Mani-2s. I drive them with a Pass Aleph 5 and use a REL Stadium III sub. Grat combination. The mani-2s have a full range response in the bass, but still the REL adds a good deal. Need 100 watts/channel for the mani-2s
I gotta recommend active speakers. For price to performance ratio, there's nothing that touches them. I haven't heard the ATC's, although I've heard wonderful things about them. If you can find a decent pair of Paradigm Active 20's or 40's, that would be my recommendation! I have the 40's and have never looked back. Plus, bass is great with the 40's so you can avoid the subwoofer.
I have only heard one speaker from your list. I own the reference 3A MM DeCapo (non-i). It could be a very good choice in your scenario as it has pretty high efficiency and is very easy to drive. I've driven mine with as little as 1.5 w/channel in my smallish room. Also, the DeCapos have very good bass response for a monitor. You might just buy them and find out you don't need a sub.

So, the DeCapo would allow you to choose from a wide variety of amplifiers, including relatively inexpensive small tube or SS amps.

I love mine!


At first, I was going to recommend the M20, since I've owned it twice. But, with tubed gear, unless you have tons of power, I don't think you'll be happy. The Decapos would probably be my choice of you list above. Have you had a chance to hear the B&W Signature 805?
I second the B&W N805 Signitures. A few months ago I was in the market to upgrade my "stock" n805's. Listened to about a dozen different manufaturers (made my wife drive me all over the NJ, NY, PA, DE area) and ended up with the N805 sigs. IMO best sound in the the $3k-$4k price range.
I am a monitorphile, even owned my own loudspeaker company 20+ years ago. Over the past 2 years I either listened to or owned most of the speakers you have on your list. I found what I wanted in Finland from PenAudio ( Their Charisma is by far the best monitor I have ever heard. Fast, articulate, accurate and musical with tons of room fill and imaging you cannot imagine. They are small, 5 1/2 x 10 x 11, and sound better than floor standers in the same price range. You can complement them with a REL or get their matching Chara woofer system. The company will celebrate its five year anniversary in 2004 and the founder, Sami Pentilla, has been designing speaker for other manufacturers for about 10 years. Joe Abrams at Portal Audio is their new US importer. They will be back at CES in January and several dealers are on-line. I strongly suggest you call Joe at 888-737-4434 and speak with him. If you want a a more detailed comparison with some of the speakers on your list, please send me an e-mail.
Another stand mounted speaker to check out,is the Wilson Benesch Arc.
ProAc Sc1 sounds fantastic with REL Stadium subs.
I own both ProAc Response 1SCs and Tablette 50 Signatures and use a powered sub.

Last year I took my ProAc Tab 50 Sigs over to Viggen's place to listen in his system. At the time he owned KEF 104/2s. The ProAcs have a warm musical nature but we found them to be much more revealing than the KEFs. We didn't run the Tab 50 Sigs with a sub, so that may be part of it, but we could definitely discern and upper midrange to treble emphasis ove the 104/2s.

If you go with ProAcs I would suggest tubes somewhere in your signal path.

Happy listening!
Take a look at the Shamrock Audio Eire. It's internet only so you have to deal with Mike, the designer and builder. If you do a search on shamrock audio at audioasylum you'll find alot of posts by and about him. Mike's a great guy and I've had no misgivings about dealing with him through the internet.

I'm auditioning the Eire now and running it on a Manley Stingray. I'm really impressed with the design of this speaker. It uses some pretty great scanspeak drivers and gets bass extension into the upper 30's. It's very balanced and wonderfully detailed without ever becoming analytical.

And you get a 30 day trial.
I'm going to throw one more in, not that you need it. The challenge may be in WAF, but here goes -- without knowing what your musical tastes are I would take the time to listen to Reynaud Trentes. They retail for $2495 but you can find them for less (much less) here on the 'goN. I've heard th ProAc's and the VonSchweikerts and to my tin ears they don't match as well -- particularly with tube gear (which is where I am and how I auditioned). Placement is not as critical with these as with some others and the soundstage is wonderful. There are a couple of "tricks" to optimize them that you need to know. They sound at their best with the JMR HP-216A wire. They work well on any good stand so you don't have to look for the now discontinued JMR Magic Stands that were made for these.

Regardless of what you get, just take the time to listen, ideally after you have identified the amp and match the auditions up. As I once read: What's the Best Speaker? Mine.

Anyway, I found the musicality of the JMR's to be wonderful. YMMV. As for the WAF issue -- there is the "eyeball" on top that has caused issue in the past with other spouses so -- a word of caution there.

Free your ears and your ass will follow.

If you have the opportunity to hear Silverline SR 17's do it. They offer the imaging that you buy monitors for and are satisfying at every volume level, something that not all monitors do well Mine are mated with a REL but except for orchestal music, I don't know that it is even necessary.

Best is an impossible quest, electronics matching, room matching, and personal tastes will make anything on the list somebody's best.
Don't forget to add EFE T-22's and Green Mountian Europa's to your list
The SCM-20 would work quite well and you won't need a sub ( unless you prefer huge amount of bass.) The Proac SC and Tablet will not do the job in your space. Even the SCM-10 is too small for the room. The B&W 805s is also too small for the space.
Everything you listed and suggested by folks here requires a sub to go along with it. I personally don't enjoy music with sub because it is very hard to get them in-sync. I'm very picky about. It will sound un-nautral and muddy on the low end. Without the sub, they'll sound too thin in your space.
However, there is a catch with ATC SCM-20. You need a good amp to go with it. I personally think the passive sounds better with tube amp when compared to solid state amp or the active version. A good matching amp under $1000 would be a Harmon Kardon Citaiton II or a Lafayette KT-550. For over $1000, you can get a pair of McIntosh MC60, Heathkit W-6M, or the McIntosh MC-275 $$$, Fisher SA-300... For Solid State, $$$$ ... anyway, just my 2 cents.
Speaker efficiency won't be too much a problem since you are getting speakers FIRST and a power amp afterwards to fit. In light of that, I highly recommend you try Dynaudio they make probably the best monitors around. If WAV is important, try out Special 25's (87dB) with gorgeous birsch finish, also you can consider 1.3SE (86dB) or the new 1.4S. If you don't care too much about looks, consider Dyn's pro version of the 1.3SE -- BM6 which can be got online brand new for $800 shipped!

Try audition Dynaudio at dealers if possible.
I second the green mountain europas. Worldclass transparency and superb soundstaging. Plays extremely well at low listening levels. In my opinion one of the greatest bargains in audio at only $900 pair. I have them complimented by a Rel sub but the bass is tight and accurate down to the upper 40's. Also easy to drive with most any amplifier. Roy the designer is a great guy to deal with and very helpful. I am in no way affiliated with Green Mountain Audio just an admirer of an excellent product.
If you have the oppurtunity, give the Usher X-series a listen. You may find these speakers offer everything you are looking for and well below your budget. Their largest stand mount is $1,000 and has been compared to speakers costing upwards of $3k-$4k. If you do an internet search for Usher speakers, you should be able to find out much more information if you cannot get to a local dealer.
Wow, lots of good feedback to my post - thanks all for your contributions! Some new names I'll check out including: Green Mountain Audio, JM Renaud, Usher, Shamrock, & Pen Audio.

General question to you all is did you buy the speakers & amp at the same time or did you buy one of them first and then later 'match' the other to it?

Thanks for your thoughts
I bought my speakers first because of its size (always the wife factor) I then got the amp to match the speakers. Sometimes it is easier to find an amp than a pair of speakers you like ( due to size, appearance, or type.)
Yes, be sure you at least check the Green Mountain Audio
Europas before spending bigger bucks. I absolutely love mine and will have to upgrade my rather modest source and amp soon to realize all they have to give.
buy speaker 1 get hooked on quality replace everything else.
buy amp 1 keep for 5 years
sell speaker 1
buy speaker 2 keep for 4 years
sell speaker 2
buy speaker 3 keep for year
buy speaker 4
buy speaker 5
buy speaker 6
sell speaker 3
sell speaker 5
buy amp 2
sell amp 1
buy speaker 7
sell speaker 4
sell speaker 6
buy speaker 8
sell speaker ? tbd. depends on job related move or not
Joseph Audio RM7 Signatures
Why has no one mentioned these babies?
Try them, I think you will find as I have,
they are to die for!


IMO you should check out the Gryphon Cantata. Not only are they stunningly beautiful they've also received outstanding reviews at 2003 C.E.S.
I couldn't find any speakers by Gryphon at the link you provided. I thought Gryphon only made electronics (i.e. preamps, amps, integrated, a CD player) and not speakers . . . Could you provide more info or a direct link to the speaker on their web site as I couldn't find it?

Kevinzoe, try this link to the Cantata:

Here are the design specs and other information.

- World's first loudspeaker operating in perfect relative phase at all frequencies
- Separate Linkwitz-Greiner Q Controller with preset and custom settings for ideal low frequency integration in any room
- Hand-adjusted crossover network individually optimized for each loudspeaker
- Acoustic second-order 12 dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley crossover network isolated in integral speaker stand for perfect relative phase at all frequencies
- Time-aligned front baffle for identical arrival time from all drivers at the listening position
- Symmetrical vertical driver array for ideal point source presentation
- Customized, extensively modified Danish drive units
Triple-magnet bass/midrange motor system for maximum force and precise focus
- Special cone surround termination to eliminate edge reflections
- 29 mm high frequency driver with ventilated pole piece and sealed rear chamber for low resonance frequency
- Specially developed sloped aluminum tweeter baffle with damping layer
- Sealed enclosure with extensive internal bracing
- Combination of pure wool and synthetic interior damping materials
- Real-wood finish options, including virtually unlimited custom finishes
- Designed and built in Denmark

Gryphon Audio Designs stands at the vanguard of home entertainment design and engineering. Founded in 1986, Gryphon achieved immediate global acclaim for the state of the art performance, intuitive ergonomics and stunning beauty of the cost-no-object Gryphon preamplifiers and power amplifiers.

Now, the Gryphon Cantata loudspeaker system reaps the benefits of the vast body of technical knowledge and experience accumulated by Gryphon at the cutting edge of audio engineering.

Designed and built by our dedicated, conscientious team of award-winning engineers, Gryphon Cantata sets a new highwater mark for sonic realism and emotional involvement with bold innovative design that will be a handsome addition to any contemporary interior.

The arrival of the Gryphon Cantata forces us to seek out entirely new descriptive paradigms in order to convey the full magnitude of its achievement.

A Monumental Achievement Without the Monument
We didn’t set out to build a compact floor-standing loudspeaker. We set out to build the best possible loudspeaker, one truly worthy of the Gryphon name. When we applied Gryphon’s assembled expertise in a unified effort to re-think the every aspect of the process of loudspeaker design and assembly, questioning what had been accepted wisdom for nearly a century, we soon discovered that there was simply no reason to make it bigger. And lots of sound reasons to keep it compact.

At Gryphon, decades of experience have taught us this crucial lesson: What is left out can make even more difference than what goes in. By attacking the familiar problems of loudspeaker design from this fresh perspective, Gryphon’s engineers acquired new knowledge and understanding that offered a unique opportunity to optimize every aspect of loudspeaker performance in a system of greater beauty and more modest dimensions than ever before seen at this exalted level of quality.

A Celebration of Beauty
Because the Gryphon Cantata so radically re-defines loudspeaker performance, we felt it appropriate that it should also re-define the loudspeaker’s role as a physical object in the domestic landscape, as a thing of beauty to be celebrated in its own right.

To set the Gryphon Cantata apart as a work of audio art, High-gloss black Methacrylate and black Nappa are standard finishes. Side panels are also available in High-gloss black, American Walnut Burl and Black Anodized aluminum. Optional finishes include Vavona Veneer, Ebony Veneer, Perforated Steel, black rubber and other distinctive finishes. For a truly customized finish, panels can be upholstered with textiles, carpeting, fur, leather or just about anything you can imagine. Your Gryphon dealer can assist you in creating a uniquely personalized Cantata System.

Gryphon Cantata finish options are limited only by your imagination.

Thinking Outside the Box
To fully understand the towering accomplishment that the Gryphon Cantata loudspeaker represents, consider the contradictory demands that a loudspeaker must live up to. It must be able to reproduce the highest audible frequencies by carefully controlling the microscopic motion of a nearly weightless diaphragm that vibrates up to 20,000 times per second, yet it must also displace massive amounts of air to reproduce the soul-shaking rumble of a church organ.

Elegance and Brute Force
To use a metaphor from the animal kingdom, a loudspeaker must offer the speed, elegance and accuracy of a lion (for mid and high frequencies) along with the brute strength of an elephant (for bass frequencies). But put a lion and an elephant together in the same cage and they will only hurt each other. This is exactly what happens in a conventional loudspeaker as it attempts to cope which the challenges of achieving undistorted, full-range frequency response.

The central problem here is the traditional brute force approach to bass that remains virtually unchanged after nearly a century: The largest possible driver with the largest possible motor system attempts to shift the largest possible air mass. This approach can produce impressive results if all you want to do is measure bass response in free air or under anechoic conditions. But under real-world conditions in real living spaces, all bets are off.

The simple fact is that no loudspeaker can be better than the room allows it to be, particularly at lower frequencies where the room’s unwanted contribution is greatest. To eliminate this major obstacle, Gryphon has executed a detailed analysis of the complex room-speaker interface and devised a reliable, scientifically sound solution, the Gryphon Cantata Q Controller.

Working with the Room
Built to the same exacting standards as the acclaimed Gryphon range of audio amplification components, the Gryphon Cantata Q Controller ensures outstanding room integration for extended, natural room-independent deep bass to match the stunning clarity and resolution of the mid and upper frequencies. Described briefly, the Q Controller exploits an acoustical phenomenon known as room gain, the fact that in any room, the enclosed space will reinforce frequencies below the room resonance frequency by 12 dB per octave. Since loudspeaker system( sealed ) response rolls off by 12 dB/octave below the loudspeaker's resonance frequency, it is possible to calculate complementary resonance and Q values for the loudspeaker and for the room in order to obtain resonance-free bass response extending down to DC (zero Hz).

Due to the room-specific nature of resonance and Q, the Gryphon Cantata Q Controller offers a range of adjustment options as well as a slot for installation of a custom value. Once system Q and room Q are defined for your particular room, bass frequencies are coupled ideally to the room and are reproduced in perfect phase with the upper frequency range.

Think of it as teaching a lion to do an elephant’s job, using intelligence, instead of brute force.

This unique approach to low frequency reproduction offers numerous audible benefits that have profound positive impact on other critical performance parameters.

Integrating Style and Sound
Because the Gryphon Cantata works with the room, not against it, compact bass drivers can be utilized with smaller, lighter cones that respond more rapidly and more accurately to the music signal. Since the Q-controlled Cantata system requires far less internal volume for full-bodied deep bass, the Cantata enclosure is substantially smaller than comparable high end loudspeakers without sacrificing performance. A smaller cabinet also provides enhanced structural integrity, reducing any risk of vibration or panel resonance.

A Solid Foundation
The compact drivers permit a narrower front baffle as an ideal, stable platform for the highly customized drive units. Gryphon’s specially developed 5” driver with coated fibre glass cone and a unique rubber suspension delivers new levels of openness and precision across the crucial midrange. The oil-cooled high-frequency driver with coated textile dome and specially designed stainless steel surround has been optimized for low distortion, high power handling and exceptional resolution of fine detail.

The bass drivers above and below the high-frequency driver in the symmetrical vertical array are equidistant from the listening position and are precisely angled, so that the three drivers form an ideal virtual point source. To eliminate edge reflections, the front baffle features smooth surfaces with no protruding edges. Strategically placed Nappa and Grand Piano felt aid in minimizing diffraction.

Patented Assembly Techniques
Gryphon Cantata employs patented manufacturing techniques, a unique combination of materials and bold contemporary design to create a sonically invisible enclosure for the drive units. Extensive internal bracing and bitumen damping ensure rigidity and high inner damping.

The integral Cantata stand is assembled using the same manufacturing techniques to form a non-resonant chassis for the crossover network. Based on carefully selected components in a layout calculated to eliminate electromagnetic interaction, each Cantata crossover is individually trimmed and fine-tuned by hand to ensure an exceptional level of consistent high performance.

The Cantata high-frequency driver is housed in an integrated baffle machined from a 3 kg block of solid aluminum. A removable steel bar protects the dome.

For additional information or for the opportunity to audition the Gryphon Cantata in person, please accept our cordial invitation to visit the showroom of your local authorized Gryphon dealer. A select number of audio salons whose staff share our commitment to excellence have been appointed to guide you on your way to the Gryphon experience.
For my ears the best "bang-for-the-buck" are the Totem Model 1 signatures. But be prepared to feed them with a strong amp.
I have compared the Mani with the Model 1 signatures while sitting right beside Vince himself. I commented to him I thought the Model 1's sounded cleaner. He admitted he compromised the midrange on the Model 1 to add base for the Mani.
Go with the Model 1, signature if you can > it's worth the extra$$.
If you like the kefs and want a pair of stand mounted monitors might I suggest the KEF KM1's. These are self powered (3000 total watts) studio monitor mains. You can contact me at for more information.
Why don't you try Dynaudio?
One of the best monitors: Contur 1.1, Contur 1.3 and variations.
Good Luck!
Artesuono monitor speakers from Italy. They sound great with the Rel Stadium sub. There's a pic of the Artesuono's on Audiogon. Just type in Artesuono in search.
I have a pair of Usher X807's ordered from Goldman audio, they should be here the end of next week. I have this gut feeling that they are going to ring my bell..
Well, the Usher x719 is the real deal. Slighty big for a monitor but beautiful. Sound is amazing for any price.

When you listen you do not think you paid 1000 for these speakers. You just hear music.....the bass response is deep and juicy even with a NAD integrated amp!

They are high resolution even compared to my ProAc's, jazz and classical sound amazing. I have never heard anything this good in my system. ProAc's have been my ref for they may take a back seat to these Ushers. I want to hear the Dancer series next.
Magico Mini
now they have become Magico Mini 2
Hi Kevin,

Any of the ones you've listed sound great - my favourite of your choices would be to go with the Ref 3As. That said, I could happily live with any of them. All have their strengths - in the end, it just depends on the sound your looking that's most appealing to you.

In addition to all the great suggestions, some others that come to mind that fall within you budget:

Focus Audio FS-688 or FS68E;
Mark and Daniel - any of the bookshelf series;
Aurum Cantus V2M or V3M (export series);
Zu Tone;
ACI Sapphires.

Good hunting,
Escalante Freemonts!!!!!
Spendor SP2/3s or 1/2s ... they are addictive.
Kevinzoe ;
It has been over 3 years now , have you made a decision ? How did it work out for you ?
Right in your price range. GMA builds amazing speakers and they do it at a price that won't break the bank. Time/phase aligned and the comment I hear most often is "They sound scary real" Do yourself a favor and check them out.
I would have to add Green Mountain Callistos.
Absolutely amazing!!
You might check out Merlin TSM's--I use a velodyne-fsr18 with mine--IMHO-they sound great.Good Luck.
Hi All,
Thanks for your recent additions to this old thread. In the meantime I bought the Model 1 from FAB Audio which is a floor standing speaker, built a dedicated 'soundproof' music room in a new home and did some other system changes (amp + CDP). Whole new system and mini-monitors may apply in the future for a living room system . . .

Thanks for all the great input.