Bookshelf Bake Off

Fellow Audiogoners,

Lend me your ears.  I live on a farm in South Georgia and have a 3+ hour drive in any direction to audition anything.  The price I pay for land, peace and horses I suppose.  I am putting together a secondary system and can't audition everything I have interest in, so I am hoping you can help me shorten the short list to a manageable set of maybe three (two would be even better) auditions for bookshelf speakers. They will be driven by 2 x PS Audio M700 Monoblocks, Schiit Freya+ tube preamp and a Mytek Brooklyn DAC+.  The space is fairly small at approx. 10'x20'.  For a number of reasons, floorstanders are not a possibility, hence the call for bookshelf speakers.  I would like to keep the budget in the $2K range, +/- a reasonable %.  I am not someone that feels the need to max the budget, i.e. linear correlation of price and quality, so feel free to suggest high value brands/models less than the max budget.  I have a pair of Focal Aria 906 in another system and very much like their sound, but want something a bit warmer with similar (or better) resolution.  Deeper low frequency extension would be a plus.  The brands I have narrowed the field to are:

Monitor Audio
Sonus Fabre

This list is not written in stone, just my initial list after research.  Feel free to suggest anything I have omitted that warrants consideration.  Thanks in advance for your ears.


117178ea 9eb7 4e27 b9c0 8d48bf57d2b7markcdaniel

Check out Fritz speakers. You’ll be glad you did. Search commentary on them on this site.

You could also look at Silverline, another fine brand.

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Bookshelf Bake Off, ya say?
Well then Dynaudio, of course!
ProAc Book shelf speakers are warm and musical. 
I should have also included my listening tastes.  Here is an approximate distribution of listening time by genre.

Heavy Rock (Korn, Tool, etc) - 40%
Vocal Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall, etc) - 40%
Hip-Hop - 10%
Folk / Country / Blues - 10%

@twoleftears I have never heard of Fritz or Silverline, I'll look into them, thanks.

@yogiboy The reviewer pretty clearly states that the Harbeth are not for my musical tastes, would you agree?

@kren0006 I was actually going to put Dynaudio on the list, I just don't know much about them.  Would you recommend them over everything else on the list?

@glennewdick Ironic, I had actually just opened an article on ProAc when your message came through.  I don't know much about them, but reading up now. 

Thanks guys for your input. 

Anyone else have an opinion in Audiogon land?
I don’t listen to Heavy Rock or Hip-Hop so I can’t give you my opinion on that. All the other type of the music you listen to is what I like and the Harbeths are outstanding! I doubt that any small bookshelf speaker will satisfy you if you like Heavy Rock!
Have alook at the ELAC AS-61 Adante. The Kef LS50W are also a very popular choice.
In that price range, of the ones you laid out I would look a the Monior Audio Golds as they will deliver a warm sound.  The others will be neutral to a little forward.  A couple years ago I auditioned every product in this price range that you have above and 6 or 8 others.  I opted for the Revel Performa3 M105s which are awesome speakers but are definitely a touch forward.  That being said, I prefer a slightly forward sound.  

The MA Golds are a hair warm and I think would be a really good match with your system to land just to the warm side of neutral.  There are certainly other products, but those would be an A+ Choice for what you describe.  

The ones I haven't heard and you might want to check out are the Monitor Audio Studio's. Reviews have been strong and they have the potential to be outstanding.     
Worth looking into for a surprising sound from a monitor sized speaker that digs deeper than I ever expected from something it's size.  Owned a few pair of Ushers along the way and always thought fondly of them.  I would not be hesitant to buy these again given their used price now.
Get a slightly bigger, high quality British monitor speakers and pair it with a nice high current amp and you are set. Some recommendations:

1. Tannoy Sterling (not a bookshelf but behaves likes bookshelf), great speaker
2. Proac Response D2 or D15, D18
3. Neat Momentum

1. Naim Nait 5si
2. Naim supernait 2
3. Plinius 8200 Mk2, 9200

I'm going to second pani's post:
I have a bookshelf speaker "problem", and similar musical taste.   I have owned a few brands (B&W, Dynaudio, Totem, Proac).   

I use Proac Response D2 in my "main" system and D1 in my office system, and I couldn't be happier.    They are simply more fun to listen.  

If you want a really small system, the Proac Response 1sc are a special speaker, and can be found used for a very reasonable price.
So, you said "bookshelf"-are these going in a bookshelf?  If yes, you can't have anything rear ported.  Anything with decent bass extension may sound drastically different in a bookshelf.  
You might find things to be more flexible if you consider a subwoofer.  This will help bass issues.
Has anyone listened to ascend acoustics Sierra 2 or Sierra 2 ex? Do they live up to the hype? 
@coffee-jerkgow would you describe the Proac sound? How would you say the overall sound compares with Dynaudio?
I was actually trying to make a joke. 

Bakeoff -> Dine-Audio. 😂 

But seriously, Spendor is my favorite speaker brand and Dynaudio second. 
I've always been impressed with the Aerial 5B's, the 5T's are even better.
I own Dynaudio Special 40 and love them. Have seen several pair pop up used at around $2K. You have plenty of power for them. Before I bought them, these were on my short list and in your price range:

Buchardt Audio S400

Salk/Philharmonic BMR

Legacy Audio Studio HD

Tekton Design Impact Monitors

Just saw a pair of Philharmonic BMR sell on another site for $1,200. Well within your budget. All of these are at or under $2K except a new pair of the Salk version of the Philharmonic BMR.

I have a pair of Sierra 2s and I'm very happy with them.  I hadn't heard of the EX until you mentioned it; I looked at their site, and I have complete confidence in their proclamations.  I might just order a pair of the update kits myself.
Revel Performa3 m106. Outstanding, for 2K.
Let me first say that I admittedly only have experience with B&W and KEF among all of the brands listed by folks above. While I really enjoy both flavors of British sound, I'll throw another suggestion into the mix: RBH Sound SVR Series (61 or, if you have the space, 661.) Check out RBH's website for more info, but I can tell you from personal experience that they sound great with any genre of music, and you'll be hard-pressed to find clarity along with bass SQ and output than what RBH has at their price points. Plus you get personalized and prompt support direct from the leaders of the company if you ever have questions or concerns. And if you end up not liking what you hear, return the speakers within 30 days and you're only out shipping costs. Happy hunting!
Dynaudio. They make the best bookshelf speakers in that price range in my opinion, they image like no other given good amplification.

I have Klipsh Herresy.  Great, but too big for this category IMO.
2nd Watkins Gen 4
Along with your gear, room size and taste, I think an ATC SCM11/19 could do the job well.
Have a listen to Mark Audio Sota Cesti B.  Great sound, under budget and they have a 30 day trial period.  And the red is very cool looking!
If you like the Aria, perhaps consider the Electra. I picked up a nice used pair of Electra 1008 BE and they sound great. I haven't heard the Aria so can't compare, but everything I've read indicates the Electra is a step up. I'd also give strong consideration to Harbeth P3ESR. I have the SHL 5 Plus and they sound warmer than the Focals, but in fact are very neutral and detailed. I've heard the P3ESR, similar magic in a smaller and more affordable package. 
So I don't have a ton of experience with monitors but in reading that you are located in Georgia it reminded me of one of my favorite speakers from this years Chicago Axpona show - the LSA-10 Statement.  These are made on the east coast (hence the Georgia reference jarring my memory!) in North Carolina I believe.  Anyway, maybe give them a look.  I liked them better than their floorstanders.  Great imaging/soundstage and very surprising low end.  They had a show special then for under $2k (I was tempted), not sure what they are now.  
These I have heard and would definitely recommend... 

-Focal Electra1008 BE.  Worldwide stereo has a pair for $2k right now.  Killer speaker, killer deal.

-Dynaudio Special 40 (Probably one of if not “the” safest bet!)

-Monitor Audio Gold 100


These I haven’t heard but would take a look at (i.e. read reviews on-line, research research research)

-Buchardt S400
-Revel Performa3 106
-Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2
-Pro Ac

@b_limo That is actually a good idea, I have Focal 1028Be in my primary listening system and the 1008Be would put me one speaker away (cc1008Be) from being able to integrate the listening and HT systems and retire the DefTech BP9040's currently running there.  I was wanting to try a different sound, warmer, but this makes a lot of sense. I was leaning toward the Monitor Gold 100's before this very obvious answer was presented.  There are some very good deals on the 100's also, so maybe I'll pick up a pair just for giggles anyway.    I am going to sleep on it.
The pair of Ebony GX100’s with matching stands here on Audiogon for $1099 is a killer deal.  There’s also a pair of GX100’s in piano black here for $895.

There’s a pair of Paradigm S2 V.3 (Not V.2!) speakers here on Audiogon as well for $1450.

I’ve had a pair of GX50’s and a pair of Paradigm S2 V.3 and loved them both.  The Paradigms don’t come up for sale often and they’ve been going for more like $2k used, I believe.

Anyhow, between the GX100’s, S2 V.3 (beryllium tweeters) and the BE 1008 (world wide stereo, $2k new) you have 3 very nice choices, all at killer deals!
Ref 3A de Capo i's.  used so you can get the pretty ones in wood
I've been living with a pair of Harbeth p3esr 40th anniversary model for about six months now and I luv them! I use them in conjunction with a 35 plus year old a/d/s pb1500 sub that has two 10 inch woofers each with there own 100 watt amp which is currently in the shop. I'm amazed how much bass these  little speakers produce on their own, I sometimes forget the sub is not working. I didn't care much for Norah Jones until I played her on these speakers and then I got it. There is plenty to read and watch on you tube about the p3s and there history might be worth your time.
I would strongly suggest you give up a bit of efficiency and go with a sealed box design. Ported small box designs, especially, IMO should be avoided. You could check out ATC to see what they offer.

Let me know when you are in Atlanta and I will introduce you to a couple of folks that will change your listening experience immensely.  
@pgaulke60 As luck would have it, I will be in Atlanta tomorrow.
If you haven't already you should try your Aria's in the room. What you like in one room isn't necessarily what you'll like in another.
You might want to give Buchardt audio a try with their S400 model. You can try in your home for 30 days and if you don't like it they will pay the shipping back. Anyway, you can look at their website:  for more details. 
I’m with glennewdick, ProAc D2 are a great reference.

Although grinnell is bang on the numbers too, Reference 3A de Capo i’s are easy to drive and have a superb frequency response. I put them 2nd only because they vent out the rear which makes them a little less versatile.

jsautter is also correct bringing up ATC, a very reputable speaker, especially their active speakers. Fellow audio buffs have criticize their passive speakers as really hard to match appropriate upstream components to.

One speaker that’s getting ink in these parts, and they’re only $1500 bucks, is the Vincent LS208’s. The German’s tend to know what they’re doing, personally I can’t vouch for them, but like I said, they’re getting ink.

There are enough suggestions that you will be checking them out for the next 10 years. 
There are many good suggestions above. Some absorbing panels may help your chances for great sound. 
Best of luck!!
@gadios How right you are! My shortening of the short list has become an epic fail, but I do appreciate everyone putting their 2 cents into the pot. Although my original objective is in ruins, the outcome of this thread is better than I expected. Thanks everyone for taking the time. I’ll let everyone know what I end up doing. 
If anyone has other thoughts/suggestions, feel free to pile on. The thread is not dead and I will keep checking as I figure out what to do next. 

The Osborn Eos Reference is great bookshelf speaker and fantastic value.Maybe not as good as a Dynaudio Confidence C1 Platinum [which I think is the best you can buy] but close and about a third the price.The tweeters in both are absolutely top shelf .
I currently drive a pair of PSB bookshelf speakers with PS Audio Stellar Monoblock 700 amps. I find them to have excellent clarity, crisp highs, very good midrange and very good bass down to about 45hz. I supplement the bass with an old Orb Audio 8” sub and it gets down to around 28hz, remaining very clean. These speakers will go louder than I can stand with no distortion. It took me quite a bit of up and down, shifting them around, and fixing the toe in before I got them to disappear, but that isn’t unusual, depending on the room. PSB wasn’t on my list, but a local dealer had some and I was impressed enough to try them. I don’t regret it. The clarity and low noise factor is outstanding. 
Fritz Carreras..
He will send them
to you...
you listen...
you don’t like , send ‘em back...
don’t be afraid to plug the ports if they are close to the wall.
if you want to stay closer to budget, I think the Fritz Carbon 7's may be the ones to try.

Your question can not be answered, because only you can discover the answer by trying speakers for yourself. One speaker great in one system may not work in yours. Find an online retailer that has a thirty day return policy.

Too many variables.

The irony also is,,, You may try a pair of speakers that would be perfect for your room.  But because they were not set up correctly you'll never know.  Too many variables...

From north Georgia,  Gene