Dynamics at lower volumes?

Assuming appropriate source material, what technical characteristics of speakers/amps contribute to good dynamics at low to moderate volume levels? Are there are any speaker or amp designs that are thought to generally be inherently better at producing good dynamics at lower volumes?
1. Speakers need a very good signal to noise ratio. Eectrostatics, for example.
2. Tubes compress dynamics. This acts as a loudness control at low volumes giving the impression of greater dynamics. The ear is most sensitive in the upper midrange and the least in the bass.
Short answer, listen to some Quads and some very quiet tube amps.
I noticed that my Aerial 9's are able to sound great at low to moderate sound levels. Some speakers sound much better at higher volumes. Maybe it is the array that features a larger number of medium size drivers.
1) Horns
2) Revel Ultima Salon 2's
Yes!! a hard answer to find.
I listen exclusively at lower volumes.
i bought a pair og Maggie 3.6 (which so many say you have to play LOUD to sound good) the thing is Maggies have a good low level playing ability.
With the Bryston stuff i have i am happy. I have a Audio Research pre (the SP-15) problem with that pre is it does rally sound better at 3/4 volume control on up. ctually using a passive pre vol to LOWER the level going into the AR made everything so much more alive at lower SPLs.
The word is the PRIME speaker for lower SPL playing Quads.
Harbeth and Naim
Elizabeth. You are gain matching. Try using the passive after the preamp instead of before.
As with certain tube designs, some Class A designs sound particularly good at lower level. I think it would maybe follow that more efficient speakers are probably better at low levels than greatly inefficient speakers, as they need less juice to open up, but I'll defer to the more technically inclined audiogoners to confirm or disconfirm that.
That's one think I liked about my friends Audio Physics.Some just can sound really nice at lower volume levels some don't.That's one think I like about my Odeon Horns they do sound good at low levels.And as above some electrostatics as opposed to most planars like Maggies and Apogee's can sound good at low volume.
I have yet to arrive at :"Dynamics at lower volumes?". My system sounds fab,indeed. I do have to crank it a bit to get the goose bumps. No matter what combinations I have run in the past,it has always been this way.--Meaning it sounds good at low volumes but ever so much better with more volume.
Peter Walker (Quad) maintained that every recording has a specific volume at which it sounded best. Loudness controls are band-aids at best. I use a digital dynamic loudness control that I can program as I wish (a Tact DRC program). It is enjoyable, but does not restore what has been lost by using the "wrong" volume.
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I like your explanation,Samujohn. I had never heard it explained this way but it makes a lot of sense.
Peter Walker's unorthodox opinions are well worth studying. He did not believe in flat speaker response (try his roll off formula by using, say, Audacity to burn an equalized CD). He designed his speakers not to image in the listening room, but to approximate the sound of music coming through an open window.
My favorite was his comment when asked how far our hobby had come towards the actual sound of music. He snapped "about 15%"!
Horn speakers have a greater dynamic range than any other type, not only on the loud end, but also the soft end. Elizabeth's suggestion of the electrostats is the next best choice for soft dynamics.
If you are talking dynamic range - it just can't happen at low volumes. In valid question.
6550c - finally - adherence to a definition - correct. My guess is that what the earlier commenters meant was either (1) that the lowest level of the recorded sound (i.e. the first few seconds of Verdi's Requiem for example) was audible - thereby being able to hear all of the music; or (2) it "sounded" loud (rich, lush, exciting, 'dynamic' or some other subjective term) at low volumes. The first is limited by the acuity of one's hearing. The second was once accomplished by a "loudness button" in consumer recievers (never to be even considered by an audiophile lest consignment to the dungeon). The loudness effect is now accomplished by speakers designed with a non-flat frequency response - so you have the dreaded "loudness button" in all of the time.
Horn based systems deliver clarity, and dynamics at low volume. Some single driver systems are also quite good at low volume. The same can also be said of lower powered triode tube gear, when such gear is also running nowhere near full output. Put the two together and you have the best combination for low volume listening.

I also like electrostatic speakers for low volume listening because of their clarity and ability to clearly convey small volume changes, though they cannot fully benefit from low-powered tube gear.
Efficient speakers + high power SS = dynamics at lower volumes.

I recently experienced this listening to a pair of Acoustic Zen Crescendos and an Ayon CD-2 powered by a Wyred 4 Sound STI-500.

Face - there is something different with class D amps. They tend to play well at low volumes. I noticed it with my Rowland 102 but also read in review of class D amp later. Speakers I use now are 90dB.

Your STI-500 is also Icepower beast.
Tube amps sound better at low volumes because they compress dynamics. My Tact digital amplifier actually sounds more dynamic (a different way of sounding better at low volume) because it has a much better signal to noise ratio than a conventional solid state design.
Samujohn: I put the passive at the amp end and it is better. I own an Adcom 750, the 'Stereophile class A passive.. and stuck it at the end of my 25 foot Kimber Hero, the a very short sliver balanced fro the Adcom to the Bryston amp.
The available volume control at my main preamp is really wonderful about ten times the usable range as without the Adcom in there. Better. thaks for the tip!
Gain matching improves signal to noise ratio (which is right next to Godliness).
A simple resistor on the "hot" side of the amplifier input is all you need to do it correctly.
Here is how you can determine the value you need:
1. buy a few cheap resisters: (say two pair of 10K pair of 5K pair of 1K)
2. take a pair of junk interconnects, cut them in half and solder (or alligator clip) the 10K across the center wire and then reconnect the shield/ground side to complete the circuit. If 10K is not enough add more. When you decide what value resister you need, you can buy low noise Vishays or Caddocks from Parts Connection and solder them in. (When you sell the amp, just remove them.)
Great post, 6550c, bravo!
OK 6550c, Trelja, define your terms. I will venture that reproducing the dynamic range of "real life" in the home is impossible.
What we actually do is play recordings that have a very limited dynamic range.
The question posed was "Are there are any speaker or amp designs that are thought to generally be inherently better at producing good dynamics at lower volumes?". The answer is that some designs are more liner at low levels than others, and that some designs are perceived as such, even though they are not. This question is related to, but not the same as the question of how we perceive sound through our ear/brain. Cheap loudness controls and speakers with depressed midrange response are certainly to be avoided. The DRC that Tact uses is quite sophisticated and can be user adjusted to conform to any set of curves one wishes.
For dynamic speakers, low mass materials (like paper) used to construct the cone (while maintaining rigidness) help with micro-dynamics and transients, which are the dynamics that matter at low volumes. This is because of simple physics: low mass = less inertia = driver more responsive to signal provided.

The Triangle Titus speakers in my second system are a great example of speakers reknowned for exceptional sound at lower volumes. Their fairly decent efficiency rating also helps them deliver with a wide variety of amps.

Walsh drivers work differently than conventional dynamic drivers but are capable of delivering similar results when properly amplified (they are lower efficiency in general however so not just any amp will do). Their sound is often described as electrostatic like but with better dynamics.

Damping factor (determined jointly by amp output and speaker input impedances) also play a role in delivering good transients and microdynamics at low volume. Good impedance matching between other interacting component pairs upstream is important also.

Old 78 records are an interesting source in regards to transients and microdynamics. Despite their limited dynamic range and frequency response overall compared to more modern media, their microdynamics and transient response can still make for a pleasantly involving and lively listen at modest volumes when done right. Try it sometime!
Yes, this is mostly how I listen, at lower levels.
I find that if the Source is "clean", and the amplifier,
and pre-amp are neutral, with sensitive speakers, the
"jump factor" is right there.

A term reserved for speakers like the Von Schweikert VR-11.

Because I implement multiple drivers, no single one,
has to work harder than the others, to fill the room.

Rule of loudness:

If it does not sound good at low level, it does not get

any better, increasing the volume.

It is finding the perfect match to optimize the first watt,
into extracting every iota of the Recorded material, to
the speakers.

I could never afford a pair of VR-11's so I tried, in a
rather crude method, to create the same results with
multiple drivers, to cover 12hz.-30hkhz.

Klipsch speakers can sound amazing, if "synergy" exists.

Hearing Is Believing.
Looking at your question from a different angle, investing in an acoustically-isolated, low-noise room will improve perceived low level dynamics.
Double glass panes, double walls, thick carpets / curtains and silent air-conditioning do wonders.
Have fun!
Agreed with the above poster. At 0-dark 30 (REAL late) when the power is quietest and the neighborhood is quiet, you can hear so far into the music it's like new material.
I sometimes rotate my panels to face each other and sit between 'em. Kind of like giant, open air headphones.

How much does SNR of speakers matter? Few speakers turn even 1% of what they are fed into sound. I'd suspect speaker 'noise' is electronics limited.
One bad ground can ruin your whole day.