+1 on yogiboy’s suggestion. I previously owned a pair of Spendor S3/5’s. I also do a lot of my listening at low volumes. Usually under 70db as measured with an iPhone app. They are awesome little speakers. Phenomenal midrange,and they image with the best of them. If you see a pair of Harbeth p3esr’s for $1000,grab them ASAP! If you don’t, I will!! I think they usually fall in a few hundred above your budget. ($1300-1800) from what I’ve seen. Enjoy the hunt!
There was a pair of music culture rl-21s for sale on usaudio mart. Those are some of the best bookshelves I’ve ever heard. Very rare. Made in Germany by mbl designer Wolfgang meletsky. They do like power. Don’t know if your mono price is up to task. I heard them with a 100 wow pure class A krell and was floored.
I have always found tube amps to sound better than S.S. at lower volumes given speakers which are tube friendly. By tube friendly I mean a a speaker with a higher impedance. I dont think that buying a more powerful amp is the answer, I think that getting new speakers would be a better solution but your budget is very low.
Something I struggled with for years!!! And I went through every speaker from 15” Tannoys & Harbeths from their biggest 40.1 to the little P3ESR (as suggested above) in search of the answer.
The problem isn’t your speakers. Have a read on Fletcher Munson Curve.
Some people will tell you “I’ve got XYZ speaker & it sounds great at low volumes”. I’ve sat in rooms with guys who clearly can’t hear or feel bass or dynamics. Music with no bass or life for me isn’t worth listening to.
I would suggest you look into an integrated with a Boost button. That’s what they’re for, low level listening. Or some other form of EQ. Or get a good quality sealed Sub (which I have) that you can tweak to suit your level.
My expertise in audio ? 45 years . Have had a lot of systems , tubes and solid states so I know a little on the subject . First , changing the amp won't help much . That being said , take heed , be sure it is a high current design . That helps and makes a difference . But more importantly the speaker . I'm sure there surely are many options . One of them I can easily recommend which always impressed me by how clearly and dynamic they sounded at low volumens are the LSA 1 reference . They are discontinued now but pop up every so often on Ebay , Usaudio and audiogon .
Not only do they sound good at low volumens but great at any loudness . I bought mine at Ebay for 300.00 . They were 1,300.00 new . Highly recommended .
For what you desire a BBE 282 IR Sonic Maximizer would be perfect.
If you have no tape/processor loop you gotta get creative. Just like you would with a Loki. I have both and the BBE works better for "loudness."
There is also a dynamic range issue at suboptimal volume. A compander would help with that.
I just bought a pair of the newly released Elac Unifi 2.0 - $600. Using as TV speakers with a vintage 35w NAD receiver and music with CD player. In a similar sized room as yours. They’re 6 ohm @ 85dB sensitivity, but they play plenty loud enough. I wanted a 3-way speaker thinking we'd hear dialogue more clearly. These replace Dynaudio Emit 20 (4 ohm @ 85dB) 2-way and are a noticeable improvement in the midrange.
Out of the box they sounded flat and thin, but with about 60 hours on them now, they sound balanced and dynamic. Very strong bass output and midrange is excellent. High end is clear, not too bright. I almost can’t believe the bass output with bass-heavy music in that smallish room. They sound good at low volume although I do add a smidge of bass when played very softly. I sit about 7 ft away and sometimes read in there with music playing.
I even tried them with my 8w tube amp (no tone control) and found them to sound good with only a slight drop in bass response and dynamics. I’m very happy with them. Haven’t tried them yet in my bigger room, where I use either a Prima luna @40w or a Musical Fidelity @85w.
If you look for speakers which sound good at low volume, probably you like vocal or violin recordings and not those with lot of bass. I have owned a number of small speakers before like proac, dynaudio, rogers ls3/5a, celeston S600 etc. They all sound good but what surprised me most is the resale value of ls3/5a. All others would depreciate with time and only ls3/5a would not. I bought mine, a pre-owned pair, with $500 about 10 years ago and sold it for $1500 last year. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get a cheap pair now.
I agree with the comments about a loudness control on your amp and/or use of the Schiit loki to make adjustments yourself. This option would give you better flexibility. I have also experienced that high sensitivity speakers tend to do better at low volumes but can't really say why. At that budget maybe look at the Klipsch RP600's (https://www.stereophile.com/content/klipsch-reference-premiere-rp-600m-loudspeaker)
Exactly what I was struggling with: enjoying music at low volume. Decided on Schiit Valhalla 2 as pre, icepower 125asx2 class D amp, Audio Nirvana 8" alnico full range drivers and a Martin Logan Abyss for sealed sub. Source is AmazonHD via Audioengine B1. Donald Fagen, Nils Lofgren, Miles Davis, and a hundred others never sounded so good. Doesn't work for everyone, works great for me.
In approx. 14’ x14’ room in apt: multi use area - dining/kitchen/tv-gaming…Speakers sound great at medium+ volume - they really sing - but are really muddy and not detailed at low volume.
I also agree with what others have said about the Fletcher Munson curve and possibly adding an equal-loudness contour EQ. However, in a general-purpose room like what you describe with no room treatments, loudspeakers with controlled directivity and more focused dispersion would be helpful for delivering clarity at lower levels.
I know you were looking for bookshelf speakers, but the JBL Studio 570s are a steal at $560/pair right now. Even the massive 590s just fit under your $1k budget if you can take advantage of the current sale.
The hugely popular Klipsch RP-600M would also do a great job of delivering lively dynamics and detail to your listening position at lower levels.
Before spending money on anything more have you tried a different setup...more nearfeild...just tightening my speaker stands and grounding them to carpeted floor saved my speakers from chopping block...can listen alot lower volume and sound stage centered in,could’nt believe simple tweek would do that...more powerfull/cleaner amp maybe?
Here is a classic, and little sonic nugget. The first two models, that were made. Infinity, Infinitesimals. Alu/Mag, cast cabinet with true ribbons and pretty good bass response, from the DVC 4.5, Watsons.. 93-5% they can pump it out, and LOOK, Very retro.... They normally come with a mounting kit.
Originally started forum with 2nd system in mind - sure that comments also pertain to my main system:
I am now playing the KEF Q1s with a Parasound HCA-750A direct, using the gain pots on the rear of the unit... Speaker cable homemade twisted 14g SOLID COPPER CORE; interconnect older Harmonic Technologies Pro Silway Mark lll; power cord PS Audio SC Statement
Luv my Q1s - do you have any suggestions regarding an integrated or power amp to achieve your suggestion of a more powerful/cleaner amp (new or vintage/used) - in the $500-1000 range
Normally I suggest high sensitivity speakers with big paper cone woofers for these situations, but in your case the problem could very well be the Monoprice amp. 35 watts/ch would normally be enough power for JBLs in a room that size, but that’s if the power is RMS, full bandwidth. I wouldn’t be surprised if the integrated’s RMS power is closer to 10 watts/ch in reality.
A low-efficiency bookshelf speaker like the KEF LS50 is likely to leave you worse off.
I’d probably put that $1K toward a better amp like a pre-owned Rega Elex-R or the Yamaha A-S801. The latter has a variable loudness control that will improve your low-volume listening regardless of partnering speaker, and you’ll have a great amp for when you do finally upgrade the JBLs.
Others have been saying it, and its truth. Low level listening needs a bass boost. And depending upon the speakers, some high end boost might be needed also. I have a very high end desk top system ..., but do not believe one needs to spend a lot for everything for it to sound very good.
The solution I found is here...
Amazon carries it here:https://www.amazon.com/BBE-282iR-Maximizer-Unbalanced-Connections/dp/B00FRLB87Q
For balanced connections there is this model.
I own both versions and both make the system sound surprisingly good! The bass boost is a high quality linear boost. Not boom, but bass.