Forward sounding speakers that Rock

I sold my Revel Salons1 recently due to space issues after a house move. I really liked the speakers a lot and was sad to sell them. I had them for 5 years in a perfectly proportioned room. I t has been 1 year now since I moved and I have changed from the Salons (170 lbs) to the Audioengine2 (5 lbs). Such is life :).

I listen to lots of genres of music but Rock is my mainstay. I use Rush's Moving Pictures CD as my reference to see if a speaker can get to me emotionally. One deficiency with the Salons, for me, was the feeling that it was a little laid back for Rock music, but it was over the top brilliant for others (Reggae, Folk, Jazz). At that time I was willing to live with it.

I am also extremely happy with the audio gear that I have. My goal was to create a clean clear neutral chain of audio gear. I think I have accomplished this to my satisfaction and I will not pull any hair over any minor deficiencies. My audio chain is as follows:

Bryston 7B-SST monoblock amps (with filter choke upgrade) | BAT VK-42SE Solid State Pre-amp | Sony SCD-1 SACD player with VSEI Level 5+ mod |Au24 balanced interconnects from pre to amps | AudioQuest Volcano speaker wire| Virtual Dynamics power chords and interconnect from SACD to pre

It looks like there could be a return to audio bliss again in 12-18 month timeframe (move to a house) so I started investigating some new speakers. First I went and heard the Usher Tiny Dancer and was sold on its sound from such a small package. It was also laid back and may not be the best Rock speakers but I felt it was a very high quality speaker. I may buy these to tie me over until move into a house with more space.

Next stop was a store in Santa Barbara, CA that only carried B&W gear (I was initially disappointed at that prospect). I went through the lineup and stopped at the 802D floor standing. I cued by my standard CD and was really emotionally moved by the sounds. It was forward, clean and got my energy levels pumped up. This was the way I want to listen to Rock. The speaker was smaller than the Salon1 and it likely won’t have the same level of bass, but the forward presentation was really very attractive to me. It was also in a smaller package so that was a huge benefit. The gear used was all Classe and we used an integrated Amp that was underpowered to really bring out all the best qualities of those speakers.

After I left I walked across the street and went to a Revel shop. I wanted to hear the Sudio2. It was setup with all Mark Levinson gear with enough power. I cued up the same music (3 CD’s) and I heard the same sound I had at my old house. It had a little more detail but the presentation was laid back. I was surprised how much more I liked the B&W over the Revels for Rock. So I decided no more Revels in my future. The B&W 802D is the current top contender for my dream house.

So I wanted to ask fellow A’Gon members their opinions on what they would consider a competitor to the B&W 802D. I would be willing to have a bit of top end coloration since I think I have a clean audio chain. I want that forward (non-laid back) sound that I now think works best for Rock. My price range is 12-14K for new speakers. I would also like to keep the height less than 4 feet due to potential WAF.

Thanks for reading this long post.
Greetings YYZ,

I've noticed exactly what you're talking about with Rush recordings - many otherwise fine-sounding systems sound lifeless with Rush. I don't think the entire answer is necessarily a forward tonal balance; rather, I think it has as much if not more to do with conveying the dynamic inflection of the musicians.

Rush uses dynamic nuance to convey rhythm more than most rock bands, and if the system doesn't get the dynamics right Rush will let you know. One of my test songs is Dreamline off of Roll the Bones, which sounds awful if the dynamic shadings are opaqued but magnificent when it all comes together. Then once the system is working well, I'll put on Camera Eye and turn out the lights and leave the world behind for eleven minutes or so.

Now the primary enemy of dynamic contrast is thermal compression. That's where the voice coil heats up (virtually instantaneously) from a music peak, which causes its resistance to rise. When the resistance rises, not only does it now take more power to overcome that resistance but most amplifiers will actually put out less power into a higher resistance load. In my opinion the answer is high quality prosound drivers (which have negligible thermal compression at normal in-home loudness levels) ideally combined with an amplifier that does not deliver reduced wattage into a higher impedance load (such as an SET or OTL tube amp).

cast in this unlikely role
The 802D is designed with a hump in the bass and a scooped midrange. It is a
great choice for rock. Rush moving pictures is one of their best. Originally
mastered on ATC's by Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk in NY (if you are like me then
you have an old Vinyl version with "RL Masterdisk" written on it). The 1997
CD version was remastered again by Bob Ludwig at his own Gateway Studios in
Maine, again on ATC. If you want a more forward sound than B&W then try ATC
but if you liked the B&W's I don't think you will like the more forward ATC sound
and missing bass hump. Bob uses Eggleston's now so you might want to check
them out (they have lots of good quality bass too - good for rock). If you like
loud rock with dynamics and clean sound then ATC is definitely worth adding to
your short list.

I had the Revels and had to sell them to. I have owned the Eggleston Andra's that were not to tall but was very disappointed in the bass. I have also owned the Thiel CS 7,CS6,2.3 and the 1.6. I also have listened to the 3.6 alot and it will really put out some great sound and alot of DB's if you have the power. I.M.H.O. and some speakers that I watch for are the Thiel MCS 1's. I A-B'd them against the Wilson Cubs and the Cubs broke up at LOUD volume while the MCS 1's just kept going. I used a Genesis R900 Sub, still one of the best I have ever heard. Some people may laugh but I always wonder why you dont see any MCS 1's for sale. No one will part with them and before its said and down I will have another set!!!!
Eggleston Savoy's for sale right now on gon in your price range, this is a unbelievable price for such a speaker. These would awesome, unfortunately they are a little bigger than you description. The build quality is amazing, pictures do not do them justice. I owned the Andra II's, one down from these and which are really nice speakers also but at this price it's a no brainer.
Moving Pictures on LP and my MFS CD works wonderful for demoing. Many early Rush CD masters where never mastered proper for CD sound is very hard bright but not on my Rush LPs and MFS CDs bass + drums are powerful. Trebles not hard at all. Loudspeakers for me that sound best on my Rush collection are mostly large horn systems. Maybe look into Audiokinesis loudspeakers Duke has a nicly designed compact horn I mean wave guide loudspeaker;) Or 12-14k would go far for a custom built or DIY loudspeaker easy to pass WAF let wife pick finish.
After reading your post one brand came to mind...Thiel. Give the 3.7 a listen and I think you will be pleased. The 802D does sound good with rock music (my favorite type of music too). But I don't think it is what you are looking for. They have a lot of bass that can over power the mids...

The Thiels on the other hand are very balanced with lots of detail. I would not call them bright or forward but neutral. The bass is punchy and fast but still has depth. If you are used to dark speakers they may sound bright to you though. I find the Thiels better on all levels than the 802D. I should note that I have not heard the Revels before.

Anyway give them a try am I sure you will like them.
As John suggests horns are a great idea for rock. Le Studio (Andre Perry & Nick Blagona) in Quebec was where many Rush albums were done including Moving Pictures. In the early 80's, bands like Police and Rush would have heard themselves played back on Westlake monitors at Le Studio, which was rated number 1 along with Air Studios Montserrat at that time.

I am sure you can find something more aesthetic but horns may be worth investigating especially for rock. These Westlakes are in your price range - used of course. They can look kinda cool though in a home system - a real conversation piece.
Lots of great new information in this thread for me. I have a lots of different paths to investigate. I hope the journey takes me to the enlightented path :)

Thanks for the time and effort involved in the responses.
"Forward Sounding Speakers that Rock"

Immediate response is of course JBL. From the 70's of course:
L-166 Horizons, L-300 Summits if you have space and $$$, L-65 Jubals, L-150 various versions tall ones with the passive radiators.
These will rock and make your ears bleed. Yes they suffer from Listener fatique. Yes they are not Hi-end. Yes they are FUN!
Also above post on Westlake is good advice.
There is a world of difference between "sound reinforcement" pro speakers and those used for mastering or main monitoring.

It is a valid concern (raised above) that most pro rock speakers are only "fun" and not High-end. Generally this is true.

The way to identify a high end speaker with high quality sound (lowest possible distortion) is to ask about the drivers.

Are the drivers "Long Coil in Short Magnet Gap" or "Short Coil in Long Magnetic Gap"?

Cheaper lower quality drivers made for sound reinforcement will always be Long Coil in Short Gap. This means you get a continuous rise in distortion with excursion as the voice coil sees less magnetic field. These drivers run much hotter too and therefore they compress at typical rock SPL's, as well as drifting in the crossover region as voice coil impedance rises with temerature. These drivers will quickly lose their "punch" from Neil Pearts kick drum (sound noticeably better at the beginining of a track and then turn dull). The major advantage is that for little cost they play loudly and they are a bit harder to "blow up" as less and less amplifier power reaches the driver at higher SPL.

High quality "audiophile" type drivers will always be "Short Coil in Long Gap". This type design means the distortion remains extremely low throughout the drivers excursion as the coil sees the same magnetic field. These drivers will not compress thermally nearly as much and are very expensive to construct - they also distort badly whe over driven and the voice coil exceeds the gap - therefore the preference is to use several massive drivers like you see in the link I gave above.

Most high end consumer speakers are long coil in short gap - so don't simply assume that most high end audiophile speaker will necessarily be better quality than a pro "fun" rock speaker.

Thiel often use short coil in long gap on their speakers. Someone mentioned Thiel above. Another good option.

I am sure Duke can add to this as Duke uses the higher quality type pro drivers in his designs ....another great option might be to check one of his designs out! (As a plus, I bet they look much nicer than anything I have suggested)

Note that the pro drivers alone in some of the designs I have suggested would set you back more than $5,000. You would be lucky to find more than $500 devoted to drivers in most high end audiophile designs. You may ask why high end pro and high end audiophile are often similar in price? The difference will be mostly in high quality wood work and finish that you get with a high end audiophile design (wood work is extremely expensive as anyone who buys high quality furniture will know). This is where something designed and built by Duke might be attractive as it straddles both camps.
In the years I have read this forum (on and off) I have came across many of Audiokinesis posts. I did not dig too deep into his background but I do remember that I paid attention to his comments and suggestions. They seemed well thought out.

I spent the last few hours at work researching Duke's speaker line and I came to the conclusion that he has a lot of online and print fans. I occasionally read a Bryston online "circle" and the Audiokinesis "circle" was on the same web page. I never looked into it before. I will check out his speakers this year.

I am going to listen to the Thiel 3.7 and MSC1 when I move back to the Bay Area in March. There is a shop in Palo Alto that carries both models. It is funny that I had a review of the Thiel 3.7 in the recent issue of Stereophile at home and I never read it until last night due to the suggestion in this thread. I am not sure if it will work with my electronics but I will listen to it.

The ATC speaker is not an option for me at this time. It is too expensive and a little ugly. If I had my own "man cave" in a basement I could get by the ugly factor but in California there not too many basements. I used to think that the Revel Salons1 were ugly too. I wish I had heard about these speakers 5 years ago when I could put anything in my living room. That is not in the cards for the future.

I had seen the Eggleston Savoy's in the For Sale section but they are too big and my timeframe to purchase is 12-18 months.

There is some tremendous information in this thread. It sure has raised my awareness. I do not think I would have understood these comments 5 years ago but after living with a pretty good system I have a better frame of reference to see how these comments line up.

BTW - I have a family member in Canada who is next door neighbours to a recording studio where Rush made one of their 90's albums. I think it was Presto. Next time I am in Canada I will see if I could go and check it out. I am also not a Rush fanatic but I grew up with their music in Toronto and after seeing them live for the last 30 years I just know how they sound.
Of course you are not a Rush fanatic. Neither am I. I don't have a long haired wig and large glasses in my closet. I don't even know their secret handshake - . - - - . - - - - . .
Try the small Avantgarde Solos.

They have plenty of WAF, even for horns. They certainly rock and you could even sell your Brystons as well as they're active. I bought some second hand Solos for my Brother and they're a great speaker. Not quite as good as my Avantgarde Duos, but my sister-in law is very happy. She even approved them before the purchase.

"I don't have a long haired wig and large glasses in my closet"

Well I do have those but that is another story.
I am not sure if this link is allowed on A'Gon but it is a great review of the Thiel 3.7 and Bryston 28B-SST amps. A sweeter version of my amps (7B-SST).

Now I really want to hear the Bryston/Thiel combo. The reviewer is a VP at Bryston.

Interesting. What he says is very complimentary - in fact he claims that Thiel 3.7 approach "active speakers" in transient accuracy. That is quite an accomplishment with a three way with passive crossover. He says,
I prefer Active speakers generally because they have an ability to respond to transient information better than most passive systems I have heard. The Thiel is the FIRST passive speaker I have heard that really seems to be able to approach active systems in this regard
(my emphasis on "first")
IMHO, The spectral decay is ok - what you would expect for metal drivers (some ringing but not to worrying). The midrange reponse is outstanding - very even and great dispersion - great realtionship between on axis and off axis - this will sound very very natural. I have not heard them but they would make an awesome choice. I'd pick them over the B&W's just from the response curves in Stereophile's December issue. Let us know what you think when you get to hear them.