If there's a "strong" return policy, I would try one these spks. out first and see if they work for you. I would make sure they are effecient spks. (say 91db 1w. and an easy load for your amp., 6-8 ohm also.) Every 3db is like having an amp twice the wattage. Good Luck!
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Why are "Klipsch, Bose, Polk" out of the question? Cost? Bose is not even close, so forget those, you get nothing for your money, however klipsch and Polk both have some real killer speakers for the prices, and used you can do some damage, maybe not towers, but they do make some good bookshelves that might meet your needs.. And yes Saturday audio in chicago normally gets many used klipsch and polk, along with some others... PSB might be pretty nice too, but depends if they are in budget.
Thank you for all of your suggestions.
Really, Swampwalker, I've heard the Linns are extremely musical. I really liked the British sound of the MA S2s which I owned for a while as I ran it through its paces.
Matrix, I guess I shouldn't discount Polk or Klipsch, but with my own system it's always pleasing, but the imaging and soundstage aren't exactly what I need for this use. That 120 WPC system can go far beyond listening levels that I'd ever need without a hint of distortion. I've heard great things about the LSI series.
Jaybo and Grinnell, Triangle Stella; Comete or Advents I haven't really heard of, but I'll look into them for sure.
The Sound I need:
For this project, I need to show off my favorite band Radiohead, and that requires separation between instruments on the soundstage.
Melodic electric guitar and tantilizing combinations of instruments must be pulled out into the room, such as on the track "Weird Fishes" from Radiohead's In Rainbows. If you're familiar with Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack for There Will Be Blood, that'll do as well. Ambient music (like strings) must pop out at me more, just like the S2. It'd be nice if it could manage the multiple instruments in Sufjian Stevens' song Chicago without getting jumbled.
How do I get those immediate guitars that reach out and grab you? Think of the Beatles Revolution, that electric guitar which is peppered throughout is what needs to jump out. I know it's possible because the Monitor Audio S2 did it very well. Would you describe that as forward, I don't know, simply realistic I'd say.
Should I just stick with the S2? Trouble is I can't find it for what I consider a good price.
So many people keep suggesting PSB, and I guess I need to demo those. The Paradigms are more of an all-around decent speaker, but I need an excellent music-focused speaker for two channel listening.
I've heard people suggest Totems, and with an unlimited budget I would at least want to try those as well as the Linn Katan and Epos M12.2.
Size is a concern as I did buy a half-rack amp, lol. I will keep everyone updated.
Man, your description really points to Triangle speakers. Grinnell is right on the money IMO. The Titus and Stella are in your price range, new with warranty, and your 30W amp will love them. The Cometes have a lot more bass but are also around $500 and are much larger.
I have had Monitor Audios, Energies, Paradigms, Epos, Elacs, and Triangles and in general the Triangles are the best of them all IMO. They have a very vibrant character and have image separation and definition like no other in this price range, and yet they are very coherent and melodic. Awesome speakers that will really make Radiohead sing (except for track 2 on Hail to the Thief for which you need a speaker with exceptional bass capability).
Totem Rainmakers are enjoyable but don't have enough treble accuracy for the level of imaging the Triangles are capable of. The only other speakers I have heard that come close are the ERA D4 speakers from Signal Path, which you should also consider but they are not nearly as efficient as the Triangles and I don't think they look nearly as cool either.
I'd like to third the Triangles, with Aball's recommendation of the Titus ES (if I have that right) at the head of the line for budget and size reasons. Comète has more bass but is bigger and will cost you more. If you could get them on sturdy supports, though, the Titus' bass would surprise you, and their detail and imaging too.
For glorious mids, you might want to aim for a tube integrated eventually. If you do, a pair of Triangles will accompany you all the way.
There's also a recommendation for PSB up there. We have both PSBs and Paradigms (Alpha Mini and Titan) in the kids' systems and their "house" sound is quite different. The Paradigms seem to boost upper-mid bass and treble, but dip in the mids so they sound relatively laid back. The PSB sound is more about the mids. They sound more forward and personally I prefer that. However the Triangles are a big step up (in refinement) from either of these, IMHO.
A last thought: if you really have to put the speakers on a bookshelf, real close to the wall, look for a pair made specifically for that placement. Against the wall plays hob with bass response and imaging. It's possible the Linns you mention are designed for it. Alternatively in your price range, North Creek Music makes the remarkable Echo micro-monitor, mostly as a kit but I am sure George Short could help you find an assembled pair.
I find energy speakers muddy with little bass punch. I don't care for them at all. Just my opinion of corse...
I find Polks to lack dynamics and but are ok for consumer products. Klipsch on the other hand has some good stuff. I would look into a used pair of RB-81 (retial 800- used 400) that would be very good and great for the money. You could also run them off very little power because they are 97dB @ 2.83V / 1m.
I should note, I also find Paradigms (S8 newest version) too laid back and unvolving.
As for B&W... I own a pair of 703s in my secondary system and really like them. They were my college speakers (I ate a lot of romin and peanut butter to by them). I had them in a room with a pair of Klipsch RF7s for a demo. I find the B&Ws better in all aspects (wider sound stage with more natural tone, etc). But and this is a big BUT B&Ws lower price speakers are weak for what you pay. I would not recommend any of there speakers below the 703s. As for "cheep" speakers I vote Klipsch reference line.
PS. have you thought about headphones? A pair of Sennheiser 650s run about $300 and give a lot of 10,000+ speakers a run for their money. They have good sound stage but are a little on the darker side. Grados would be more forward (on the bright side) and also very good but have a smaller sound stage. I would start with the Music Series Two from "Alessandro High-End Products".
www.head-fi.org is a good place (and last place for that matter) to look for headphones info.
The Triangles look very intriguing, and I'd never heard much about them, so I appreciate everyone's advice, this is so valuable! I don't think the Linn is exactly what I wanted, but I'm still considering it mildly. I'm surprised to hear that about the Linn Tukan, because literally all of the reviews called them fun to listen to and one even shouty, which is somewhat what I want on outlandish recordings.
I noticed there's a Comete for sale on Audiogon, but I just realized it's sold! I can afford it, it's just I didn't want to outlay quite so much when I do have a decent speaker in these Atoms. I'm not particularly happy with them, but most people would have no idea. They're just not exactly what I'm looking for. Perhaps I'd sell the Triangles in the spring if I ever get some, when it would be nice to have that extra liquid capital.
James, I enjoy headphones and I have some Sennheisers, but I'm much more into loudspeakers where I can share the music with others. I know head-fi.org and I find the forums helpful.
James63, your comments on Energy are heard. I heard Energy is owned by Klipsch though? The only big advantage to the Energy is that they're the only one which is probably available locally, with a return policy and a low sales tax, so I may have to demo them at the very least. If I was in Chicago (my home town) I would probably go to a Triangle dealers and walk out with a pair, haha. My polks do lack some dynamics indeed, though they were a solid deal. I guess I've learned something about Klipsch, thanks. I could fit If I ever get headphones, I wouldn't mind checking out those AKG K701s.
A lot of good suggestions have been posted, and I don't have much more to recommend. I too find the Tukans very engaging and a fun speaker. My point for posting...
Are your speakers properly set up/placed? Imaging has a lot to do with room acoustics and placement.
Here's an article if you're interested -
Are your stands mass loadable? If they're loaded, have you tried them empty? If empty, partially filled or full?
Have you tried reversing the polarity on your speakers? Do this by switching the positive and negative on the speakers. Leave the receiver side alone (or just switch the receiver side and leave the speaker side alone, whichever is easier). Make sure you switch both channels so they aren't out of phase. It won't damage anything. A dealer showed me this trick when auditioning a pair of speakers that were too laid back. It brought the soundstage a lot closer. YMMV.
If you don't have a lot of cash, you should try out the free stuff first. It may be what you're looking for or be acceptable enough to buy you some time to save up more money. It may not work out at all. But at the end of the day, you tried.
Thanks for the updates on the Tukans. If I had a better amp and stands, you can bet I would try the Tukans with a sub in an instant. More suggestions are always welcome.
Very informative on the speaker placements; I know the basics in that article, but for group listening, etc, it's helpful advise. Unfortunately, there is no way I'll be purchasing stands at this point in time. I would possibly consider it if I knew that there were no better speakers than these, but because of my experience with MA S2s, I know that to be false. The speakers are currently on an MDF desk which I'm positive is not the best place for them to be. They're actually not sitting directly on it and are vaulted on makeshift, but equal stands, which definitely sounds better. The room is about 13X11 ft. with what are 10-11 ft. ceilings. There is sitting room where I'll be listening with friends.
I'll be back at the very least in a few weeks and you'll hear what I've decided. I really don't want to keep these speakers but with football games, the Cubs in the playoffs, and my last year in school there's a small chance I will. The speaker grills aren't even removable, which I should have known! The Paradigms are good speakers which I'd rate 3.75/5 in performance, but but I know I can get something that sings better. The cable I'm using 14 guage I believe could be better I'm sure, but again, with the MAs that was used, the speaker definitely makes the biggest difference for what I want in this application.
If your speaker placement requires your speakers to be placed extremely close to the wall you might want to keep leaning to buying some "Brit gear". Most european style speakers are designed to be close to the wall. For example Linn recommends that my full size floor speakers be placed 8-12 inches from the wall. If you are willing to do some looking around and can wait for a good deal you can often find Linn bookshelf speakers in a reasonable price range $150-450 One thing about Linns' is if you listened to a properly set up pair and liked them you should just buy them because trust me you will end up with them eventually!