Best used speakers under $3,500?

I'm starting from scratch in a room that is 21 x 13 x 8, looking to create a system for both music and home theatre, with the music foused on jazz, classical and classic rock.

It's likely I'll spend under $3,500 for the front speakers, and to maximize value, I may buy used speakers from one of the many reputable sellers who list here. (after I chose speakers I'll buy electronics that match well with them)

I'm creating a list of speakers to audition. Already on the list is Von Schweikert VR-4 JR, which can be bought, used, within my likely budget.

What other speakers would you sugget I audition and what are your experiences with those choices?

Anyone with a suggestion? Either positive or negative? Any speakers over-rated in thes price range? Any bargains?
There is a pair of Silverline Sonata III's on A'gon for $3700. Your journey ends there.
Vandersteen 3A Signatures - you could even buy them new at a little less than your budget + your really getting $7000 speakers for $3500:> so its = to getting used $7000 speakers.

I’m not sure there’s a best speaker that would please everyone. I’ve auditioned many speakers prior to purchasing Von Schweikert VR-4jr, LCR-15, TS-150 speakers and a Velodyne DD-12 Subwoofer. I chose VR-4jr’s for the following reasons:

1. They sound extremely musical, engaging with excellent dynamics.
2. They’re well integrated/balanced from top to bottom… Lows, mid or highs don’t stick out like sore thumb.
3. I enjoy my 2-channel music without a sub.
4. Sonically matches my LCR-15 center and TS-150 surrounds.

Best regards,
There are lots of "great" speakers under $3500, but they all sound different - and all have their strengths and weaknesses. And more importantly, everyone's ears and tastes are different. Lots of people will tell you that what THEY like is the best is THE best, lots of people are swayed by marketing hype here and in the audio media, many "professional" reviewers have no idea what they're actually hearing but are experts at convincing the public they could hear a dog bark 300 miles away, and lots of older (hence cheaper) speakers are every bit as good as the latest, unbelievable-super-breakthrough "they're as good as others at 3 times-the-price" speakers. (Have you noticed that almost ALL new speakers are now touted as being as good as others at 2 to 3 times the price?) How does that work?

So, what I'm saying is - the only way to judge is to listen for yourself (preferably in your own room) and while doing so:

Completely ignore what anyone on Audiogon hypes.
Completely ignore the orignal list price AND the current used value!
Completely ignore any "technological" issues.

Just listen to them and decided what really pleases your ear the most.

I'm fairly well off, with reasonably expensive front end components, but I have $500, 15 year old, main speakers (used Dahlquist DQ20i's) - because:
1. I like them better than anything I have heard up to $5,000 (used)
2. Their strengths/weaknesses mate well with my room properties and constraints.
3. I don't care about impressing audio-snobs.
4. My wife like the way they look and sound, too!

Most importantly - enjoy The Hunt!
I'd add Merlin VSM-Ms to that list. You should be able to get a pair for under $3500.
From Jonsher (I'm posting from another computer and having trouble logging on)

Boa2, Dseid, Nickatkins -- Thanks for the recommendations. I'll try to audition your suggestions, Any comments on how your favourite compares to others in the price range?

Alxg - The VR4jr are on my short list, as I noted. Do you have any thoughts about room size and accoustics and the interplay with the speakers. I posted the dimensions of my room, which currently has too many reflective surfaces. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Opalchip - I agree with much of what you wrote. What amuses me are the many audio reviewers who only compare their test product to those that are several times more expensive, writing, for example, that the soundstage is the equal of units twice as expensive and nearly as good a their 8-zillion dollar reference speakers. Comparisons between models at the same price point are rare. The only caveat I have is this: There are hundreds of speakers, perhaps thousands, I could buy, and since I don't have the time to listen to more than a dozen or so, it makes some sense to try to winnow down a list. Do you have any thoughts about what I should consider given my room dimensions, the accoustic quality of the room (a lot of reflective surfaces, most of which I can dampen or disperse, but not all)?
Hi - I didn't mean to be too hard on private Audiogoner recommendations, because in general, they'll point in the VARIOUS right directions. To me, the trade-offs inherent in the recent "crop" of speakers in the under $5000 range are (in order of importance):

Resolution vs. Brightness - The cheaper (under $3000) new designs seem to err on the side of brightness, probably because it Sells in the showroom. Good example of this (IMHO) are the Gallo Ref III's. I suspect there'll be quite a few of these showing up here used shortly. Some people love 'em - their ears may be less sensitive to HF than mine? So they're worth a try, esp. very fun for Rock and most jazz. Personally, I thought they were horrendous for classical.

"Openness" vs. Imaging - There was a long thread recently w/ some very good info and discussion about omni-directional speakers such as Shahinian Obelisks (which would fall in your price range). It would probably be good to read that - but again, it's your tastes that matter. I prefer a sealed box, minimal baffle design that has pinpoint imaging - at the expense (according to some) of that live "presence".

Slam vs. Finesse - The VR4jr's are a ported Transmission Line design which give a lot of slam for the size (and buck). Possibly a good all-around choice for the combo of HT and 2 channel, Rock vs. Classical. But something about them, I dunno... a little too gimicky for me, with the rear firing tweeter, the need for lead shot filling, etc. Judging by the steady flow on Audiogon already, there seems to be a number people who change their mind on them after a few months. But a lot of people love them, too.

The Silverline Sonata III's and Vandersteen 3A Signatures recommended above are definitely both worth considering for 2 channel. I personally find the 3A's a bit "boring" - very smooth and coherent, but somehow not that engaging and probably not a great HT choice.

I'm not into HT at all, but I'll tell you if I was going to set up a contemporary combo HT/2-channel system on a $3500 budget, what I would probably start with at the top of my list:

Joseph Audio RM25 MK2 speakers and a REL Strata or Storm III sub. Crank the sub up for movies, drop it back down or just turn it off for real music - or splurge for RM33's and forget the sub!

Of course, you should ignore my opinions just as much as everyone else's....

My speakers are placed on the short wall, 42” from the front wall and 16” from the sidewalls. I ended-up spreading VR-4jr about 9 feet apart in order to get decent center image.

My room is 11’ 8” wide and 29’ long, where the kitchen counter top and hanging cabinet divide the length of this room and create the family room length of 18’8” from the front wall to these cabinets.

I sit approximately 13’ away from the front wall. My left wall has a 120” window and the right wall has French doors leading into to huge living room. As you can tell from my room dimensions, I’ve audio unfriendly room.

It took me about 2 months to break-in my speakers and about a month to correctly position them. 50 pounds of lead shot, speaker spikes and bi-wiring is a mandatory requirement. Beware, it’s an expensive hobby, once I was able to position them correctly I knew right there and then that I had to upgrade the rest of my electronics just to keep-up with VR-4jr’s performance.

Best regards,
The Tyler Linbrook Signature System speakers can be had for about $3,500/pr. I have found them to be particularly good on Classical, Jazz, acoustic guitar and female vocals... They have plenty of low bass, getting down to 25hz with ease, and feature all top-notch Seas Excel drivers.

Great looking and sounding speakers... Mine aren't going anywhere.

Spendor SP1/2, Merlin VSM-MX, ProAc Response 2.5, Harbeth 5 - all of which can be had for far less than $3,500.00 and all of which are musical reproducers as opposed to accurate sound transducers. I'll go for music over transduction any day.
At $3,500 used, you might be able to get the Vandersteen 3A Signatures with two pairs of their 2wq subwoofers. The addition of the subwoofers would extend the frequency range a bit,improve the midrange clarity and dynamics of the main speaker, and allow your amp to better control the main speakers (the 2Wqs have built-in 300 Watt Amps to produce those power hungry low notes). Note, they are not artificially boosted in the midrange to create false presense. If you are used to hearing speakers that have boosted mid-hi's you may mistake this for a soft, "boring" sound - they are actually accurate.
I've been on a similar search. There are many great jazz speakers out there. The tough part of the equation, for me, is classic rock. Too many speakers are overly harsh for those classic recordings. Some sound a bit slow, lacking pace. Some have no real bass. Some have deep bass but no "kick" when the drummer kicks the bass drum. Some have pin-point imaging but lose that when you move a couple of feet from the "sweet spot".

I did audition the VR4 jr's but the audition didn't go well. I was not impressed at all with the imaging. After 20 minutes of the dealer telling me how awesome the speakers were, I noticed that the wires were disconneted from one of the lower units. Well, that certainly improved the imaging but still the bass wasn't right for rock. The bass drum was almost non-existent. I moved directly in front of one speaker and suddenly I could feel the kick of the drum. The dealer reluctantly agreed and blamed the room. Other than that, I liked the speakers a lot. What do audiogoners think? Is there enough bass punch for rock with these speakers?

The speakers I like the most, so far, are the Totem Winds. Too expensive but beautiful sound and plenty of bass punch.

I'm almost at the point of upgrading my small floorstanders and also upgrading my sub, but that's another discussion.

BTW, Opalchip is right on. All of these speakers sound different. The trick is finding a sound that works for you and also works in your room and with your components. Of course, you can also change your components but that's another discussion also.

I so pleased with VR-4JR’s bass response that I actually turn-off my Velodyne DD-12 in the 2-channel music mode. The bass was amazing when I auditioned VR-4JR’s with Rogue M150 mono blocks… Even my Oulaw 1050 receiver the VR-4JR’s are not bass shy.

Best regards,
Alxg - thanks for your detailed secription of your room. I too have a room I suspect will be a challenge to treat, with a 10-foot fire place and two windows along one of the long walls and a lot of reflective surfaces that need to be tamed.
Opalchip - I enjoyed your analysis of the trade-offs. I can't say I know enough about engineering or accoustics to either accept or reject your points but it certainly is a plausible argument and one that was well-presented. I'm also intrigued by the Joseph Audio speakers and hope to listen to them when I'm in NY or Toronto (not sure if they sell in Canada)
Dave - A lot of folks have praised the Tyler's. You know anyone who has them in the metro NY area that I might be able to listent to? I know they offer home audition but that may not work for me - I'm in Canada with property in NY that I will visit but not for any great lengths of time
PMI guy - The perils of having wide-ranging musical tastes are apparent when choosing speakers. Since I'm buying components afterwards, I'm more concerned about the accoustics of my room.

Tomryan and pubul57 - thanks for the suggestions, several of which I've already hear good things about. I hope to get to listen to them soon.
Tomryan- I love my Merlin VSM-MMs, but if you can find me a pair of MXs for well under $3.5K, I will eat my shorts. That's well over 50% discount for the latest, top of the line version of a very highly regarded speaker. In fact, if you could get the MMs for that price, it would be a steal.
BTW, my last speaker before the VSMs was a pair of Vandy 3Asigs with the 2Ws. They ARE a very good speaker; maybe a BIT laid back, but not boring, IMO. At under $2500 for the mains, a real bargain. Work well with most any good electronics. YMMV.
I have enjoyed reading this thrread. First off, I do not think that combining HT and 2 channel listening can give the best of both worlds. Whatever. I listened to many of these speakers at CES 2005 last month.

1. The advice about you going and listening is the best. Of course, its hard in one city to hear all of this stuff; hence this forum.

2. In general, I would emphasize two channel; I am one of those folks who thinks that if you get great 2 channel speakers then HT makes it along for the ride, while good HT doesnt always translate into great two channel listening. That is a bias.

3. Given that, there are two clear two channel winners listed above; The Silverline Sonata 3s, and the Gallo Reference 3s; Dollar per value; these two speakers represented the better of the bunch mentioned that have heard. The Gallo reference threes might present a more difficult placement task( great but finicky) and may in fact do better with more expensive hardware behind them. This is only an opinion.

4. Vandersteen would NOT be my choice for HT. In DVD playback, they have an unusually recessed sound in direct comparison to the other choices mentioned. Also the soundstage changes as you move in a room in a way that other choices do not. "Sweet spot" is truely that for these speakers.

5. For HT, I actually really like that whole Totem rainmaker series. Quite good. Its actually better for HT than music; opposite of the model performance listed above.

6. Joseph Audio is a no go for me. I have never heard the merlins mentioned above and cannot comment on them.

7. One speaker brand not mentioned would be the Green Mountain Callistos ( used they should get into the budget scene for you). They would work well for HT as well as 2 channel music listening.

Good luck- a great bunch of choices mentioned here.
Hi Jonsher,
Yep, there is a person who has the exact same speakers (Tyler Linbrook System) and is in NYC... His name is Mark, and you can find his email on the Tyler Acoustics web page ( If you go to the upper left hand corner of the home page screen, there is a link called "Home Demo Program."

This is a new program (that I just joined myself) that allows prospective buyers to go to a volunteer Tyler speaker owner's home and hear their speakers for a home demo in a "real world" setting. The list of names, locations and email addresses are on the page the link points to. Just look for Mark's name on the list (or New York City).

All you have to do is email Mark, and you can work out all of the details as to when you would like to listen.

Good luck, and please let me know what your impressions were after the demo (both the good and the bad...). :-)

My thoughts are that the best value in used speakers under $3,500 are Thiel CS3.6's. Of course, you should be able to get them for a good bit under that. I have them in my 2-channel/HT system, and I use a Thiel SCS3 for center channel. Currently, my surrounds are an old pair of AR TSW-110's, but I am thinking of either two more SCS3's or PowerPoints. In my opinion, Thiel speakers do well on either 2-channel or HT.

Totem and ProAc would probably make my short list, too.
"Vandersteen would NOT be my choice for HT. In DVD playback, they have an unusually recessed sound in direct comparison to the other choices mentioned. Also the soundstage changes as you move in a room in a way that other choices do not. "Sweet spot" is truely that for these speakers".

I do not experience this at all. Would not the "recessed" sound you refer to occur during stereo/music playback as well? I experience no "soundstage" changes either. Why would you "move" in the room while your watching a DVD/movie anyway?
Sorry. Didnt mean to offend at all. It isnt that one person would be moving; its that many people would be sitting in different places. The audio experience is quite different with the Vandys depending on where you sit. Soundstage tends to be much more consistent with alternative speaker choices.

Some poster above described these as "boring". I do not agree with this adjective but on direct comparisons; live concert DVDs dont sound live, and action movies and their requisite explosions and cross speaker motor chases just arent as enthralling or involving. Vandersteen is designed for music lovers; HT just isnt the strong suit, including the center channel. Doesnt mean they arent a great choice for music.
Rysa4 - Sorry too if I came off as offended. I'm just one of those Vandersteen owners who, in my HT, do not hear these deficiencies/nor feel "uninvolved". I've owned my 3A Sigs since November 17th, 2004 - and have NEVER been more involved in my listening - the five pounds I've gained sitting on my a$$ will attest to that!

When it comes to HT, I'm probably not as critical as some, and am way happy with the 3A's output. Were my Paradigms better at HT, dont't know as I never compared.

Interesting as well is the several "pros" out there who love the Vandersteens in their HT setup. We all hear different things, why its great there are sooooooooooo many choices.

Regards, David
Swampwalker - I was speaking of the Merlin TSM-MXs which should be available for far less than $3,500.00 and would make pretty good HT speakers what with their high level of resolution and clarity.
Great thread. I wish I had something to contribute, but I'm on the same quest right now.

I notice no one has mentioned Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors, which are on my short list. Are they simply bettered by these other speakers in all respects?
I think Vandersteen does have a soundstage and sweet spot issue based on vertical alignment. Being time & phase coherent, this aspect of their performance does necessitate the proper height with a reasonable window (one foot)and distance to get the best performance. On the horizontal plane this factor should be less important, but could become a bit of an issue if people are really spread wide where the distance of each listener to the speakers is really significant - the distance to the speakers does impact on the required tilt for proper t&p aligment - so it could be an issue in some setting, but not most.
no mention of Aerial 10T?