Forever speakers around $5000


Hi Audiogon! Your help has been invaluable in the past so I’m back yet again. I think I’m close to purchasing my forever speakers and am looking for recommendations of what to consider. Here are some qualities I’m looking for, in order of importance:

  1. Amazing soundstage. I really enjoy a speaker that can throw a BIG soundstage.
  2. Fun, slightly U-shaped frequency response.
  3. Tight, punchy, musical bass.
  4. Airy and clear high end, think Magnepan.
  5. Good R&D and technology. If I’m paying this much for a speaker, it better not just be a damn box with some bargain paper cone drivers in it.
  6. Nice looking. This is a speaker, first and foremost, but it is also a piece of furniture. It really does have to look nice (I hate to say it, but this probably disqualifies offerings from GoldenEar).
  7. Semi-compact. I like a speaker that has a good physical presence in the room (not too small) but not something massive like a Magnepan (been there already) or Wilson. I like units no more than 45" x 10" x 16" or so. Also cant weight a million pounds as we are still in a rental and will have to move these.

I currently own a pair of LSA 2.1 Signature floorstanders, which have certain qualities I like (soundstage/imaging due to rear firing tweeter, size/weight, U-shaped). But things I feel are missing (bass feels a bit loose, build quality could be better, feels very low tech with paper woofers and unbraced MDF cabinet). I listen to a wide range of music, mostly a lot of intimate jazz combos, some experimental electronic and IDM, funk, some rock, black metal, and a bit of classical.

Here are some speakers I have heard and liked:

  1. Magnepan MMG - amazing detail, imaging, mids and highs
  2. LSA 2.1 - for all their shortcomings, they check a lot of boxes
  3. Dynaudio Focus 20 XD - awesome balance and great bass for a standmount
  4. B&W CM10 - I really like this speaker, though I’ve seen some measurements that have turned me off
Speakers I have heard and were disappointed in:

  1. KEF LS50 - honestly seemed very shrill and shouty to me
  2. Martin Logan ESL - weirdly didnt get a great impression of these
  3. GoldenEar Triton 3 - not only ugly, but I found these a bit boring to listen to
So, any ideas? I'm willing to consider new or used (if it can be found somewhat easily) speakers around $5000. I can give more info if you have questions, thanks!
primarist
I think Dynaudio or Dali are going to have the right frequency balance for you.


Right now my gear is:

Preamp - Schiit Freya
DAC - Schiit Gungir Multibit
Phono - Schiit Mani
Power Amp - Adcom GFA555II
Turntable - ProJect 2Xperience SB
Tonearm - 9cc Evolution carbon
Cartridge - Nagaoka MP200

... However, my dream gear list that I'm working towards is:

Preamp & Phono - Cary Audio SLP98p
DAC - Schiit Gungir Multibit
Power Amp - Odyssey Stratos Extreme (taking suggestions on this actually)
Turntable - ProJect 2Xperience SB
Tonearm - 9cc Evolution carbon
Cartridge - Nagaoka MP500
kef ls50 are award winning state of the art. The best in the world. 
Spendor D7 checks most of the boxes.  I got mine new for $5500 just about in your range.

New: Proac DT8.

Used: Vandersteen Treo CT.

I owned MMGs for a long time, great speakers, BUT the Maggie .7s I heard at a friends home were better more spacious and more base, at $1400 a pair out of my range now that I have been retired for 13 years. The company has GREAT support also! Have fun!
I also owned a pair of Martin Logan Sequel 2s a while ago bought used and repaired (crossovers rebuilt and new woofers). Martin ESLs need huge quality power (I used a Crown DC300A) and careful placement. I have not heard any newer models, the Sequels are ancient history.
persona 3f used, dynaudio C60, both around $6k in vgc the persona will have the fq balance you’re looking for the dyne is a big speaker that can pump some air. I don't have experience with Legacy or the newest revel f228be, but personally i'm looking at the first two for myself.
I agree that Spendors may check all your boxes but I’d go with the A7s over the D7s if you found the KEF LS50s "shrill."

BTW, the LS50 is a balanced speaker if listened to as KEF intended, off-axis and below ear height. Unfortunately, many dealers lack this insight it seems.

You should also look at the Elac Vela range, which are alleged to have an airy yet non-fatiguing top end.

Another speaker I like is the Martin Logan Motion 60XT. They’re much better than MLs entry-level ESLs, but might not be as dynamic as you're wanting. A side warning regarding AMT tweeters: just like soft or metal domes, there is a wide variance in quality among manufacturers. ML makes some nice AMT tweeters, while some AMTs sound like cheap boom-box tin.

I very much enjoy my pair of Maggie .7s  but the Spendor A7s will better them in most regards and their price reflects that - bigger soundstage, greater detail, deeper bass, sweeter midrange... Admittedly, that's an assumption I'm basing on my demos of the smaller A4s which are the most well-rounded, can't-go-wrong speakers I've ever heard. 

I have Spendor 2/3s paired with stereo subs and the soundstage is only limited by the width of the room. 
I have never owned any Ohm Walsh speakers, too expensive, but friends own them and they are spectacular. Very hard to find, but they offer 120 day in home trial.
I meant hard to find to listen to. Some great reviews online.
I'd look at Revel F206 or keep saving and get some B&W 804D3s (used price around $6000).
To be fair to KEF, I heard the LS50s in way less than optimal conditions. I’m sure they sound better when they arent 1 foot away from your face and 8 feet apart! I’ve been considering the Dynaudio C60 and it is definitely on the shortlist. The Vandersteen is also really well reviewed so I’ll look at that as well. I also have to look into the difference between the A and D lines from Spendor.. Any thoughts on the PSB Imagine T3? How about the Sonus Faber Cremona?
None of these speakers are CUSTOM TUNED.

They are ALL mass produced mass market boxes designed to profit the speaker designers. 

Do not be tricked
From here on A’gon:
- Reference 3a Grand Veena (original model with supertweet), $3950
- VonSchweikert VR-5se, $5836
- Vandersteen Treo CT, $5995

From US Audio Mart:
- ProAc D30, $4000
- Joseph Audio Pulsar (monitors but pack quite a punch), $3650-$4995

Any of these will meet your stated criteria and are great speakers and are not too hard too on amps, but which suits your particular tastes best — well, that there’s the tricky part.  Best of luck. 
Tekton Moabs - $4500 everyday price. Much more speaker than you'll ever get from any other manufacturer.  They are huge though! They won best sound of show a few months ago at whichever show that was. I think RMAF, but don't quote me. I own the Encores, but the Moabs are a steal for true fullrange speaker with 17 drivers per speaker. 

https://www.tektondesign.com/moab.html
Focal aria 948 revel f208 
You expressed an affinity for Magnepan's MMG and you also want to save for other associated equipment. So, why not meet both goals simultaneously and get the LRS? Admittedly, it lacks the bass you specified, but you could add sub-woofers and still be below your spending limit.

kenjit
490 posts
kef ls50 are award winning state of the art. The best in the world.
I am glad you found a great speaker that you can enjoy!  Sit back, relax and soak in the beautiful sounds.!!

Happy Christmas to all!
Find a good used pair of Vandersteen model 5As and enjoy them for a long time since they listed at $30K!  They will only get better as your equipment gets better.  Many adjustments to tune them to your room.

Happy Listening.
I just purchased a used pair of Dynaudio Focus 260. It’s a dream purchase and probably a ‘forever’ speaker for me.  They sound amazing and now I’m ready to start my upgrade process on the remainder of my equipment. The Schiit Freya S and a single Vidar are coming next week. Then a Gunguir to replace the Meridian Director.  Lastly a second Vidar. Good luck in your search. Dynaudio has always been at the top of my list. Merry Christmas everyone!!
Tekton Deep Impact SE and Paradigm Signature S8’s V2 need to be checked out.  Make sure Paradigms have beryllium tweeters.  V2 and above did I believe. 
Minus the Jazz we share subject matter. I was once pondering Maggie’s but the need for a sub killed that. Then Spatial M3 but by most accounts would need a sub still (still haven’t ruled these out) and then Dynaudio Special 40 which I’d like to demo.

Curious what you end up with.
Used pair of Martin logan impression 11a's. Talk about a HUGE soundstage and more air than a hot air balloon.  Or new pair of Martin Logan Classic Esl 9.  No dynamic driver can come close to the resolution and low distortion electrostatic speakers provide. Every box speaker sounds like a box until you spend Vandersteen 7 or Wilson Audio money. 
I had great luck with the Magnepan 1.7i and SVS SB-16 Ultra subwoofer.  It's a great combination and the Adcom GFA-555 is a wonderful amp to run them.  You would have a hard time coming up with a better combo than this.  A little hard work getting them set up and some room tuning will pay dividends with really great detail, imaging, and just plain enjoyment.  Good luck!
Try the Magnepan LRS entry model from the factory.  Free shipping and you can return them if unhappy.  Yes they will lack some bottom, a pair of small subs or three or four will compensate and complete an overall great speaker system for the price.  The down side is they need 3 to 4 feet of space from the back and side walls.  Small Martin Logans would be my next recommendation.  I am currently using the ML Clarities, my MMG are in temporary hiatus.

Happy listening with the choice you make.
Two speakers I have heard recently and quite enjoyed:

Totem Element Fire v2
Ariel Acoustics 6T

On sale (floor demos) or lightly used they’d be in your price range. 
Both are good to around 30-35 Hz of tight focused base. Both throw a wide soundstage. They offer tremendous control. My ears really like Totems. 
The Ariels did a remarkable job of sorting out very complex large ensembles—They really unpacked everything happening in Pharaoh Sanders Summun Bukmun Umyun and gave everything its place. A slight bit of bass overhang from stand up bass (still breaking in) but everything else was spot on. 
I could live happily with either for a long time. 
Polk Audio 707. They are on sale too right now. It the bargain of the century! You wont be disappointed.👍
primarist OP
Fun, slightly U-shaped frequency response.
The Brits liked to recess the mids a touch 1k-5k they called it the BBC dip, it gave the impression of more depth, the new Wilson DAW has it. Have a look at the other Watt/Puppy’s bench tests some of them may also have it, and they would be in your $5k price range. The W/P-7’s were my favorite.
https://www.stereophile.com/comment/589919#comment-589919

Cheers George
I think the DeVore Orangutang O/93 are really good if you can find a used pair.

For new speakers I remember being impressed with Audio Solution at a show.  Probably their Figaro M model that was about $5000 new.

http://www.audiosolutions.lt/products/figaro/figaro-m
new: Salk Song3 BeAT 

Used: Proac D30R/D48R
There are lots of smallish floor-standers available that are very good new and used in this price range. Not sure if the will be forever quality by my standards but we all have different tastes.

I like monitors with with one or two subwoofers. I feel you get a better quality speaker and I tend to like the soundstage projected by a monitor better than a floor-stander. In my experience, it is uncommon that the optimal placement for bass reproduction in a room is the same as mid and treble reproduction. You usually have to treat a room pretty significantly to get that to happen. By de-coupling them, you can get better performance with less room treatment.  

This is my opinion and I suppose is worth what you paid for it.  To that end, the rest of this post is focused on monitors.  

Regarding R&D, larger companies tend to spend money on driver development. B&W, Focal and Paradigm all have unique drivers. They all have mundane (MDF) cabinet materials that are shaped in interesting ways. Some speakers in the space can be kind-bogglingly good. Raidho for instance.

A few smaller companies either use off the shelf drivers or drivers they have modified from a manufacturer like (SEAS, Scanspeak, Eton, Accuton) and invest heavily in R&D on cabinets. Wilson, Magico, Kaiser, Verdant (my company), Marten are examples.

A smaller number have proprietary drivers and extremely innovative cabinets. Vivid and Wilson Benesch are the two I can think of.

In your price range, you should be able to find a pair of Vivid Ovals. These have a bold design but are awesome speakers. Fiberglass cabinets and proprietary drivers, Vivid is one of the most innovative companies in the market. You will need a sub for them. There is also going to be a Kaya S15 coming soon. Not sure about the price, you will need a sub but they will be great speakers.

You ought to be able to find a pair of Raidho X-1s used for less than $5K and you might find C1.1s for about $5K. Raidho’s tweeter is what makes these special and Raidho’s soundstage is addictive. But, you must have 9’ between the speakers and 3’ from the back wall to get the most from them. You will also need a subwoofer with them.

I make a speaker called the Verdant Nightshade 1. It has a fiberglass cabinet with a DuPont Nomex honeycomb core. I use Eton Drivers that were selected based on how they react with the fiberglass cabinet. They are $5K, deliver a huge soundstage and work best with solid state amplification. But, mediocre bass response and will need a subwoofer to get the most from them.

There are other monitors that that will deliver much better bass response and are very good sounding. You may even be able to live with them without a sub. Check out the Focal Sopra 1, B&W 805 D3, Joseph Audio Pulsar, Magico A1: All are above your price range but used will be in your price range. I have not heard the Magico A1.  It is new and to me the most exciting speaker on this list as Magico has a very innovative cabinet design and a great sound profile though I don’t know how that will come to life in a monitor.  

Good luck.


Your current and planned upgrade amp will both drive Vandersteen 3A signature, massive and tight low end - no fatigue mids and highs. Or as Bigkidz recommendation the 5a

the Stratos should remain on your list, an excellent power amp and superb SS value, there are of course others..
There are some great speakers mentioned here. Finding the right speaker, IMHO, is the key and the most difficult of all building a great system. I just went through this process.

Here is my recommendation. Brand new pair of Canton Reference 3 DC Speakers. Once Stereophile Class A Speaker, if that means anything to you, reviewed when they were $16K. 

On sale at Accessories4Less at $4k shipped and no taxes. You need to take in account of shipping as well unless shipping is included. Truly a Reference Caliber Speaker and my last speaker.

Good luck on the journey. The review and the purchase link is below. There is no difference between the Reference 3 DC and 3.2 DC but the tweeter and the 3DC has the better tweeter for a thousand dollars less. 

https://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/canton_reference_32_dc_loudspeaker/#dQY0lBjuUfkR9XeJ.9...

https://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/item/cantventoref3dcblka/canton-vento-reference-3-dc-8...
For good sound and great styling, I'd take a look at Salk speakers.
I owned the Salk HT3 for 5 years and it's one of the best sounding speakers I have heard. Highly recommended. I prefer the Cantons over the Salk. But you definitely can't go wrong with ANY of the Salk Speakers, very musical and great midrange and bass. 
I second the B&W 805d3. Stylish looks and with proper room placement and power they will check all your boxes. I have a pair in my office setup. Absolutely no need for sub. Enjoy the adventure. 
I have a pair of LSA 2.1 for sale if your interested in wonderful fidelity that compare to speakers above $5k.  I’ll give you the AudiogoNer price discount as well.
I have owned many open baffle speaker brands, none as satisfying as my Emerald Physics KCIIs with factory upgrades. They play all types of music extremely well, lacking only some deep bass, but, EP is moving their factory and have a few pair of their TOL 2.8s, normally $10K at 50% off including shipping
Hurry
GoldenEar Triton One variants or used Triton Reference.

Tweeters are very revealing and airy like Maggies, bass is amazing...lots of tech...good pricing...good looking...meets your requirements.
Spendor A series or Legacy Audio speakers in your price range.
A used pair of ATC SCM40 V2 speakers would be right up your alley. ATC speakers are used by many recording studios because of their sound qualities. I heard a pair about a year ago and was very impressed. If listening to some, make sure they are well away from the front wall as this affects the soundstage considerably. They are well built, the exact size you want and have very rugged drivers with the ability to expose all that is on the recording. They look nice, in an understated way. The V2 speakers go for just under $7000 new. Although the specs say they go down to 48 hz, they have tremendous, punchy bass and seem to go way lower when listening. The bass had no whomp or boom to it.  No need for a sub at all. Zero breakup in the sound at high levels.  The mid driver is one of the best in audio and the tweeter in the V2 is now very good also. Vocals were beautiful and complex passages never got messy.  Very dynamic speaker and the cabinet is heavy at about 75 lbs. for its 40" height. I own a pair of Vapor Audio Joule Black speakers which are awesome in all ways, but I wanted to hear the ATC 40’s. I think, if I was allowed to hear those speakers with MY amps, they would have produced even better sound. The farthest the speakers could be pulled out in the room (about 4-5 ft.), the better they sounded at the store. The wires they used were only long enough to go that far. I listened to many types of music that day and all who heard were impressed. Many of the employees came in to listen to them while I was there. It’s a big place with many rooms all over it.

Bob
Good luck in your quest
i have to say the LS50 sound amazing in my bedroom rig perhaps u did not listen to them well set up!! The spendor and treo are 2 good recommendations from earlier posts.

+3 Tekton MOABs.
I've heard them. I just sold my house. After I find my new house those are the speakers I will buy. I currently own the Double Impacts. As great as they are the MOABs are in a class of their own. The best speakers I've ever heard...period!
Good luck on your search!