- Small footprint, either standmount or small floorstander (<40”) - For listening at normal distances (not nearfield, or not only nearfield) - Comes alive at low volume (let's say that at least it doesn’t need to be cranked to come alive) - Musically versatile - State of the art tonality, truth of timber - Superb treble - Gobs of refinement (think 1080p or 4K vs. 420, or very high thread count egyptian cotton vs. Ramada Inn) - Not important: large soundstage, disappearing act, bottom octave, fill the room - I actually prefer a small soundstage -- a small but open widow to the performance
Drubin, Yes! A practically countless number of speakers fit your criteria, optimum set-up and placement is essential so the loudspeakers interact (mate and play) with your room. Please purchase Jim Smith "Get Better Sound" I recommend the Book and DVD, a wealth of knowledge for cheap. Even a $30K pair of speakers can sound "not correct" and even "bad" if not set-up for optimum room placement (almost sold mine), a well designed inexpensive pair can sound magical, musical, correct and Great! leaving you not wanting for more (I have done this with a $500.00 pair). Please do yourself a favor: get the book and DVD. Jim C. PS: Before you spend a lot of $$$.
Dan, Yes, it exists in your dreams. Tired of the Dunlavys? I'm thinking about getting back into Dunlavy SCIV, but my back hurts everytime I think about it. I have always wondered how the SCIII compares.
I'm with Vapor Audio, and I believe we have exactly what you're looking for.
There is no finer transducer for treble than the RAAL tweeter. We feature the RAAL in most of our speakers. Nothing offers a more transparent window into the music than the RAAL ribbons. Their moving mass is actually less than the mass of the air they engage to create the sound.
If you're looking for a small footprint, have a look at our Breeze, Stiff Breeze, or Sundog models.
For a review of the Stiff Breeze, please have a look at HomeTheaterReview.com and Terry London's impressions. You'll get the state of the art tonality, transparency, and versatility. We'll throw in the disappearing act and sound stage, no extra charge. ;)
For Rrog above, I had the SCIII many years ago at home, and used to sell Dunlavy back in the day - the 'III is missing the bass foundation that the 'IV has in spades...actually, except for being too tall, the 'III meets the OP's criteria right down the line.
But I doubt you'd find them satisfying, having grown accustomed to the more full-range sound of the 'IV.
I know in the past you have not been too impressed by the Daedalus offerings but Lou's now moved his designs to the next level with a "Version 2" designation. I haven't heard any models yet but hope to at CAF at the end of the month. His Athena would meet your size requirements and, to my ear, all your other checklist requirements. Whether the Version 2 moves you in a way his earlier designs did not is obviously an open question. What are you using these days?
Tonian Labs TL-D1s. They come on strong at low volumes. If your upstream equipment is resolving enough it will unravel the music beautifully. Tone, timbre and highs are there in spades: Make sure to properly seat them onto something good as there is a big difference in their presentation depending on what you sit them on. I recently found that out.
Yes Drubin, you are correct. Why is it then that many keep looking for something better or is it just different? We truly live in the "golden age" of music reproduction with all the great choices available.
Funny thing is that I too am looking for much of what you are except that I want great soundstaging and imaging characteristics. I used to think that these are artifacts of the recording and weren't so important. Maybe so, but I've also come to realize that speakers that excel in these areas, along with the other attributes that you mentioned, make the music sound more real to me. So intimate should be on the recording and not a characteristic of the loudspeaker. I have been listening to the same pair of speakers for the past 13 years seriously considered upgrading them recently and then decided that I need to spend time looking at alternate options and am in the search too yet in the end may just update the speakers. So goes the search for the ideal which is ultimately unique to each of us. I know this doesn't help YOU much but it is in line with your observation of the varying speaker options given. Good luck in your search!
Tubegroover -- I'm beginning to re-think my comments about imaging and soundstaging. I've had a pair of the little KEF LS50 for a few weeks now and these things image like all get-out and I find it mighty appealing.
Here's my to-do list as of today: Harbeth Monitor 30.1, KEF R-series (probably the 500 or 900), Revel new Performa series, Vivid 1.5. I'd like to hear some of the Vapor models, too. There will be others, I am sure.
Drubin - I'm the owner of Vapor Audio. We have a tour going where we send a pair of Breeze from one person to the next, giving a lot of people a chance to hear them. Where are you located? They might be making a pass close to you.
Rbrowne, On another post I mentioned that I had forgotten about the stone tiles I had the Tonians on. The size was perfect (12" X 18") so the looks were unassuming. I sometimes had a tizzy high end or a touch too much sibilance.
I tried some bamboo cutting boards and the mids took on a wonderful ability to play out with greater detail than I've had. The only setback was a loss of some air and the leading edge of notes in the high end of the equation. This was with using the supplied spikes. Inserting some metal discs to hold the spikes (that came with the spikes) solved the problem. The mids still have that see-through quality and the air and leading edge came back, but not as far as with the stone tile set up to be bothersome any more.
This has got me to wondering whether or not to try some maple cutting boards (John Boos) since maple seems to be the go-to wood for bases. It's not as heavy as bamboo but denser, which may allow me to use just the spikes. It's an ongoing experiment but one I'm keen to try some time in the near future.
These Tonians seem to behave differently from the more solid types of speakers since they're designed to dissipate the sound quickly, like an instrument, making footings a more critical choice. They can sound very different with just some minor fiddling.
Again, I was never aware of just how big a change in sound can be had with some minor changes so all I can say is to be patient if they don't sound right at first with your new place and experiment until you get the sound you like.
Come to think of it, it may not be than big a change as the spikes should have penetrated the carpets to the floor below and if the wood was the same or similar, they just may sound pretty close to your old setup.
- Small footprint, either standmount or small floorstander (<40”) - For listening at normal distances (not nearfield, or not only nearfield) - Comes alive at low volume (let's say that at least it doesn’t need to be cranked to come alive) - Musically versatile - State of the art tonality, truth of timber - Superb treble - Gobs of refinement (think 1080p or 4K vs. 420, or very high thread count egyptian cotton vs. Ramada Inn) - Not important: large soundstage, disappearing act, bottom octave, fill the room - I actually prefer a small soundstage -- a small but open widow to the performance Drubin
I think such speakers do exist but there are just very, very few of them in the marketplace. Most speaker manuf are clueless when it comes to designing speakers - they hide their short-coming behind marketing hype such as computer-aided designed speakers, CNC machines, wildly rigid enclosure, diamond drivers, piano gloss finish, etc, etc. I might be wrong but I've read it all to often & seen it at a show & at people's places where I have listened to their resp. systems.
I'm looking at your requirement list & figuring out what that translates to in terms of physical speaker hardware: * listening at normal distances - don't know what "normal distances" means to you? I'll interpret it to mean between 9' & 12'. This means that the speaker design has to be such that the drivers integrate in this region. Most speaker drivers are supposed to integrate in this distance region but very, very few actually do. The ones that don't, don't because they use x-overs that destroy the phase of the music & x-over causes peaks/valleys at the x-over frequencies. * come alive at low volume - this means that the drivers have to be very sensitive such that they get into pistonic motion at very low amplitude voltage signal from the power amp. This also means that the x-over ckt that comes before the drivers has to be more or less transparent such that it allows such a low amplitude signal to pass thru. It also means that the drivers have to sensitive to low amplitude signals. Simply using a diamond or accuton or Berrylium driver does not guarantee that the driver has low amplitude sensitivity. In fact, most of the highly hyped drivers don't! * music versatility - this means that the speaker must have very little phase shift over the entire audio band or atleast over a significant frequency range. Phase shift (created by the x-over ckt + the drivers themselves) destroys the soul of the music. There are very, very few low phase shift speaker in the market. Speakers that are low in phase shift excel in all genres of music + they are mostly electronics-agnostic. I.E. they sound good with most electronics & of course, sound better with better electronics. * SOTA tonality, truth in timber - these are once again related closely to the lack of phase shift produced in the speaker. * gobs of refinement - what does this mean? Have you ever listened to a live orchestra, live jazz band, live rock band? There is very little refinement in the actual sounds. If you are sitting mid-hall or up in the mezzanine you get truth in timber, truth in tonality, truth in spatial separation (this appears to be hall dependent - the last concert I attend to listen to Joshua Bell, the orchestra sounded very muddled. I couldn't figure out why. Was it the conductor? was it the music chosen? was it the hall?). I feel that when a speaker is giving you more refinement that it actually heard in a live event, you are actually listening to distortion & reveling in it thinking that it's refinement. And, the audio industry is elated to have you thinking like this as it serves their purpose (of pushing mediocre products to consumers). The speakers that I found that satisfy your requirements have, in my experience, been planar speakers (physics is on their side when it comes to weight of the transducer. Leight-weight, rigid transducers react much faster to transients in music & provide a pulse to the music that most cone drivers do not) & Green Mountain Audio speakers. I do admit that I favour Green Mtn Audio speakers - I was a previous owner so I have experience with them & I do NOT have any financial stake in that company, just to be clear - but my favouring them is not whimsical. The designer does fully understand what it takes to makes a speaker that satisfies your above stated requirements. The Green Mtn Audio speakers are designed using info in AES papers & using physics. Planars from Apogee, Magneplanar, Soundlab, Innersound/Sanders Lab are simply superb in the qualities that you spec'd above. They do NOT have the small footprint you are looking for. In planar speakers, form follows function - it's the physics & you can get around that. Anyway, this is my input, FWIW. Thanks.
Bombaywalla -- thank you for giving this so much thought and for providing some technical foundation to my request. I have always appreciated your comments on Audiogon but rarely see you posting these days.
I will give more thought to what i mean by "refinement." It's not detail, or it's not only detail. I owned GMA Europas for a while and felt, ultimately, that they did not have enough refinement. Whatever that is, as you say.
One comment about planars is that in general they do not have the small soundstage I prefer. The giant vocals and 6 foot tall pianos can be a problem. I've been tempted to try some, but worry about my cats. :-)
I will give more thought to what i mean by "refinement." It's not detail, or it's not only detail. I owned GMA Europas for a while and felt, ultimately, that they did not have enough refinement.
thanks for your kind words, Drubin. I did hear the designer admit that these speakers were made to a certain price point hence the various compromises. when you have a tweeter & mid/woofer in 1 cabinet, there is going to be some interference between the 2. If you popped the grill you would have found acoustic felt around the tweeter to minimize this. in the end, physics will rule & the 2 drivers will talk. This will detract from the listening pleasure. It's much reduced in GMA speakers compared to other brands. Another thing I read was that the x-over component quality could be upgraded for better sound. Same for the internal hook-up wire. All these are fully expected for a speaker sold factory-direct for a affordable price. The designer has some other improvements in his design for his new series of speakers Rio & Chroma. The issue is resolved if the customer pays more for the Eos which has a out-of-the-same-box tweeter. Plus, the new series of speakers come in a HD version that gives you the best for that model. It might be time again to re-sample GMA?....
Musicfile wrote: "Duke you have some great speakers as well"
Thank you very much, but I don't have anything that meets the "small footprint" requirement. I tend to use prosound drivers which inherently do some things well, but delivering good bass extension in a small box isn't one of them. Tradeoffs, always tradeoffs.