Bookshelf speaker with electrostatic sound


I'm looking for recommendations for an efficient bookshelf speaker for my second system in living/dining area. About 3,000 cu. ft. Vaulted ceiling goes to 14". They will sit on top of 12" deep bookshelves, about 6' high. They'll be used primarily as background music at low to moderate levels.

I've had various electrostatic/tube systems for 30 years. I like the open, quick boxless sound from electrostatics. So naturally that is my reference. I realize I can't replicate that sound in this application, but I thought it may help with recommendations.

Tonal accuracy and balance is important, especially at low to moderate levels. No rolled-off or excessively bright treble, or overemphasized bass or treble for affect. Rear porting or emphasis on porting for bass will probably not work. I'd like to avoid speakers that exhibit nasal qualities. Not interested in speakers that demand really good amplification. I deal with that in my other system.

Initially they'll be paired with Onkyo TX-8555 receiver, but I'll consider a small integrated down the road, tube or SS. Just want to keep it simple for casual listening. Source is radio and digital. Prioritized music tastes are classical, jazz, folk, blues, rock, alternative.

Budget: Less than $1,000.


I have owned electrostatic main speakers for so long, I can't remember when I didn't have a pair. Several months ago I put together a second little system with a pair of the new Andrew Jones' designed Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Loudspeakers. I couldn't be happier.

These things are incredible. Are there better speakers out there for your budget? Sure, but these are FUN! They sell for around only $150-$200 a pair. I sure like mine. They have gotten a lot of excellent reviews.

Highly recommended.

Thanks. They certainly were not on my radar. Just read a couple positive reviews. They seem to do many things right for the price. That rear port may be an issue. Probably worth a listen.
There are a few speakers that meet your criteria. Green Mountain Audio makes some nice sounding speakers. So does Von Schweikert and you may be able to find a pair of Revel M22s in your price range.
Thanks Rrog.
VMPS 626 JR?? You can find them used, typically under a thousand.
I 2nd the Green Mountain Audio speakers. (Especially since I'll be selling my Callistos in the next few weeks,,,LOL!)
You may run into trouble here. Even a great speaker can be somewhat compromised by mounting so close to the wall or ceiling. I see though that your ceiling is 14 feet, so this is a plus. I am using Triangle Cometes in exactly this same configuration except they are mere inches from the ceiling on top of a wall unit. The sound is delightful. Non audiophiles are even impressed. They work better for me this way than on stands. No way though would I call it an electrostatic sound. The bass compromised by wall/ceiling location is obviously apparent. Tone control could remedy this and I see you will be using the Onkyo, so, another plus.
Thanks Ivan,

The VMPS are interesting, but unfortunately too large for my application.

Thanks Hifiharv,
I think I should consider the Triangle Titus EXs based on previous forums and size. Unfortuantely with only two dealers in CA, I can't listen to them, so it would be a leap of faith.
Why not just real electrostatic bookshelf speakers? Have a look at the Radio Shack Electrostat 2 or Electrostat 2A. They are largish bookshelves with electrostatic midrange/tweeter elements and are fairly high sensitivity.
Titus could be a good choice. Maybe even preferable here because of it's lighter bass. If you can find them used you won't have gambled much $ on the plan and it actually will relieve you of all that stress of auditioning/deciding/buying, etc. The guy I bought the Comets from had moved up from the Titus, the Titus being too ruthlessly revealing and not as fleshed out. Perhaps they would be more electrostatic like?
You might be able to find a pair of Linn Majik 109's for under a grand. They are designed to work well on a bookshelf and have a very smooth and ope sound. Check the reviews.
Gallo reference Stada's. Out of your price range new and some people find them ugly and/or weird looking. However, in your price range in the used/demo/closeout because every body finds them ugly market. Another to consider is the Sunfire CRM-2, but they require a sub.
Having owned both, the Gallo's are better.

You're going to have a real hard time finding a box speaker that sound like electrostatics. Believe me, I have tried. I have Maggie 1.7's in my sitting room system and Martin Logan Summit X's in my main system. Your going to want to stick to a box speaker that uses a ribbon tweeter. Some say that the Hiquphon OW1 tweeter sounds like a ribbon. Sorry, no, been there, tried that. Don't get me wrong, the Hiquphon OW1 tweeter is good, but no ribbon. I've been through about 2 dozen speakers in my office system, including such names as B&W, Kef, Triangle, Von Schweikert, and the Gallo's are the best yet. The problem with the Gallo's is the incredibility low Wife Acceptance Factor.

BTW - I drive the Gallo Reference Strada's with a Wadia 151PowerDAC Mini which is only rated at 25w/ch. Source is a Bolder modified Squeezebox touch. I also have a tiny Pinnacle Subcompact6 subwoofer to fill in the last bit at the bottom end. The entire system is incredible compact and musical.
If you didn't mind going vintage, Allison Four or Six speakers would work in this application too and can be had for pretty cheap. You'd likely need the woofers refoamed, but they're designed to go against the wall and have an open sound with very wide dispersion. Not terribly efficient, though.
Another thought, if you are really lucky, you might find a pair of Soundsmith Dragonfly monitors with the optional ribbon tweeter upgrade. I've never heard them, but the reviews are exceptional. There was a pair on A'gon last week for $775 without the ribbon tweeter.
This may be too late for the OP, and I'm baffled why I didn't come up with it sooner, given I reviewed the larger sibling for

The Eminent Technology LFT-16A is a hybrid dynamic/magnetic planar. It would be worlds closer in terms of the overt aspects of panel sound similar to ESL than any dynamic trying to "fake it."

The only other option would be a line source, which would be prohibitive likely in a smallish package. It would be possible, perhaps, but might be pretty scary sounding, along the lines of something from the Sharper Image. :(
I'm not particularly familiar with the electrostatic sound, but my understanding is that it is a very 'fast,' detailed, and clean sound. With that said, the ATC SCM7s can be found used for under a grand (I got mine on the Gon for considerably less), and I would be absolutely amazed if you can get more detail, clarity, and excellence of tone for the same money as the 7s.

On the downside, they aren't particularly efficient, but they aren't the watt-hogging power suckers they're sometimes made out to be. I'm currently running mine in my second system with an entry level Denon receiver, and it sounds much better than it has any right to.

Hope this helps! Let us know what you decide, or what you get a chance to audition!!
Thanks all. Definitely good options. I hope to listen to a few of them in the next couple weeks. I may also give the Clue a listen to since they're made here in my back yard. Unfortunately more than my budget new.
Are the speaker in bookshelves up six feet high?
If so, there is no way I would spend a grand for background music.
Usher makes a fantastic speaker the 520 that is front ported and will be all the speaker you will ever need. Or Triangle Titus around the same price point. I would look for a front ported speaker . You can't expect great sound stuffing speakers in a bookshelf , not to mention having them at 6 feet in the air. Usually stand mounts are at 24 inches and require a foot of room to the front wall. You might even be able to send less than $250 , with a speaker like the Audio Engine series.
Your proposition all around sounds like a loser. There are a few mini-monitors that are fast enough and devoid enough of box resonances to approach the speed and transparency of electrostatics, but not sitting on a bookshelf 6' off the floor and a few inches from the back wall.

Second, if you want these for "background music," why the push for the in-your-face transparency of electrostatics?

Third, if you want them for background music, you need something with strong bass response at low signal levels, or they will just sound scratchy and annoying. If you go the mini-monitor route, you should also get a compact subwoofer or two to add bass balance to the underpowered speakers.

Although they're not transparent like electrostatics, the best thing I can think of for your situation is a pair of Bose 901's. Theyare very compact, sound just fine 6' off the floor and are meant to interact with the wall about 1' behind them. They have three other advantages:

1. The direct/reflected approach energizes the entire room, perfect for background and casual listening no matter where you are in the room, standing or sitting.
2. The full-range driver concept removes any crossover interference from the listening spectrum. The midrange will be clean and uncluttered.
3. The active equalizer module makes sure the bass response is part of the tonal balance even at low volume.

I say get a pair of 901s from a vendor that allows a trial period, hook them up and let them break in, and see if they give you just what you're looking for. I recommend you set the speakers on a set of Vibrapods or other shock absorbers if you place them directly on bookshelves.
If you can find a pair used, these will come in north of $1k, but south of $2K. If that's close enough, I think they'd be hard to beat (probably because they're electrostats - of a sort):

Good Luck