Gone are the days of the great audition.

Only a short while back we could go to multiple audio rooms in a town just around the corner and listen to all the styles and brands of speakers you wanted. Now of course, only the bargain speakers are available for audition at that yellow sign store and unless you are very lucky the exact model you are looking for isn't reachable for an hour or two drive, if that. I'm certain from the desperation in some the posts in this very forum, that people have purchased things solely on word of mouth or even just specs and looks. Dark ages of getting what you want and yet so much more available. There is so much reviewing and so little listening going on. I live in the DC metro and wanted to look for some towers in the 2k range. The two places I went only had a couple of towers in that range and I'm just not doing the yellow sign place. What do you do?
Your situation is the exact reason that audio trade shows such as RMAF, T.H.E. show (and others) have exploded on the scene in recent years. In your area, go to the Capitol AudioFest. I have been to the RMAF several times and enjoyed the experience immensely. This year I will go to Newport Beach T.H.E. show for a change of pace. It's the audiophile world we live in now.
And very soon even the Yellow Sign store may be gone too. What do we then? At least a subsidiary company of theirs that goes by the name of a certain flower brings some very good brands to market for people to audition. I bought my Viennas from them after a lenghty and enjoyable audition.

This is why I am not quick to advise people to go out and listen to a speaker themselves rather than ask opinions about it in a forum. They simply can't. There are no venues in their area to do it. They must rely on forum opinion or published reviews.

Everytime each of us buys something off the internet vs a local B&M guy, we have only ourselves to blame. Everytime we bash the Yellow Sign company because of incompetent help, we put another nail in the coffin. Everytime we put the absolute cheapest price before value, we ultimately limit our choices. And since the number of participants aka potential buyers is very small, this will only hasten the total collapse of the HIFI hobby even more.

These ain't the glory days of the seventies! I like your comment about the Dark Ages of getting what you want when so much more is available. But where?
Vandersteen 2CE Sig 2
Best Selling loudspeaker
in High End Audio history.
Made in USA
If you cand find em
Pop up to NJ
I promise you its worth the ride.
Vandersteen dealer for over 20 years
Your can't go wrong listening to JohnnyR. Keep to it, Johnny.
1) Buy used, do not overpay, audition in-home, keep or sell as needed and try the next thing

2) Buy direct from vendors that provide a generous in-home audition period and return policy

3) listen to as many systems as you can at dealers or shows and attend a lot of live music performances for reference. I go out of my way as much as I can to still buy from and support the availble local vendors when I can but do not limit myself to only what I can hear there.
While brick and mortar retailing has shrunk, an increasing number of regional audio shows is taking up some of the slack. Try Capital Audiofest in Maryland in July or The New York Audio show in April.
If you are unsure buy used and you can resell at no loss.

I bought a pair of thiel 2.4s off of audiogon unheard and they match the user reviews and I was pretty pleased. I would not trust the major publications. I have bought speakers unheard based of the reviews and was very dissapointed.... The review flat out lied. I don't even read the reviews anymore but lets not get into that.

I think the key is know what you like and having a popular speakers to use as reference (IE, better/worse that you reference). If you compare all speakers back to the same reference it gets easier. I like to use Wilson Sophia's not because they are the best but because many people have heard them.

The vandersteen recommendation is a good one. You maybe able to get a pair of Usher Mini 2s, thiel 2.4s or magnepan 1.7s around your price range used. They would also be good buys.
I used Mapmans (number one) suggestion for all my gear except for speakers. I would be hesitant to buy (used) speakers that need to be shipped. Big time chances of shipping damage unless strapped to a pallet and freight used instead of ground. IMO, not worth the risk.
The op must live in NYC or London.. Because nowhere near me could I do what he claims 'used to be easy'.. No oway.
Locally maybe a few brands at 3 or 4 dealers..
Travellinga few hudred miles might get a few more.. And then the problem of snotty dealers who would rather ignore you... Or insist on selling what they want you to buy.
Well, that depends on how long ago it "used to be easy." During the so-called golden age of stereo there were rooms full of a wide range of speakers and components coast to coast. However, most were populated with the usual suspects--JBL, Bose, Altec, KLH, AR, Advent, Infinity, and perhaps Dahlquist, ESS, and Ohm. However, if you wanted to audition some truly boutique speakers (e.g., original Klipschorns, JansZen, Soundlabs or other full-range electrostatics) it wasn't much easier than it is now. For that you always needed something like Sound By Singer in NYC.

Living in Seattle, I have immediate access to Sonus Faber, Vienna, Magnepan, Wilson, lower end Focal, GoldenEar, B&W, Linn, Tannoy, Rega, Quad, Martin-Logan, Dali, Gallo, Totem, Alon,and several others, but not Dynaudio, Magico or Focal's Utopia series.

However, I have to say that if were in the market for a $170K pair of speakers, a flight and overnight hotel stay for an audition would be chump change.
"The op must live in NYC or London."

Slooow doooowwwn and read the original post again. You will be enlightened to the geographical location of the poster in question.

I live in a area of 1.5 million within driving distance of another area of 9 plus million..
Still i say no way could I EVER have gone and listened "to all the styles and brands we wanted"
Maybe many brands.. but most of the stores carry the same brands,, with a few variations.
So I STILL say I never found the wide amazing variety over my 47 year career as an audiophile.
And half the time the place with the speakers would not give you the time of day let alone allow a good in store audition
Everyone has made valid points. It seems as if a perfect storm has formed and there is enough blame to go around as to the cause. Greed and hubris are the main culprits. And this applies to the customers and the sellers /makers.
I would add this.

Is it possible that the MANUFACTURERS of high-end audio, do not want their products to be TOO readily available? High price and scarcity, equals exclusivity. And exclusivity is important in most high-end products. It seems to me that if the high-end snob brands wanted to expose their wares to the masses, and possibly gain customers, and make it more convenient for their high end base customers, their stuff would be sold in Best Buy. Or Crutchfield. etc... Or, ALL brands would be available at the same stores. Either way, there is a lot the makers could do to solve the problem. Unless they think a Wilson Maxx might contract some working class disease from sitting next to Polk or, god forbid, york! But given the profit margin they get on each item, they are doing just fine. It's your responsiblitiy to seek them out.
I agree 100% Rok2id that uber high end manufacturers do not want their products too readily available. In this MP3 era where the vast majority of consumers do not even care to purchase entry level Polks, there is no mass market anymore for HIFI. So some savvy high end manufacturers know there is more way profit to be made selling a few units at a very great premium rather than more units at a reduced margin in a shrinking market.
As long as Magnepan, Klipsch, Vandersteen, Paradigm, Legacy Audio, and some others Ive owned are still in production, I am confident I can always find a great speaker at a price level to meet the demand.

Most the ones I'd like to hear now are Online direct sales anyway.
This is what happens when corporations usurp an entire industry!

These corporations have no soul so they cannot appreciate the art of music and the tools that make music and the passion and spirit that is felt through music..though the blue polo shirts are a nice touch.

As a kid my life was changed by my local hifi shops in Northern California in the 1970's is was the most incredible thing: the dim lights, the gear, oh the gear... and of course the music!

I was just over at Deja Vu Audio in Mclean Va just outside DC and they had a number of Proac towers setup and playing. Great sound and really great people to deal with. Lots of super cool gear to ogle too!
Those who auditioned at retailers and bought on the internet probably got what they deserved. It's the other folks I feel sorry for. On the other and they probably don't even know what they're missing.
Hmmmm, the only place I can think of that matches Elizabeth's description is Milwaukee.
Thanks for all the responses. If you have any more specific speakers ideas, I would love to hear them and find a place to audition. I will check out Deja Vu and the PROACs, JOND, thanks for that tip. I'm running a Prima Luna Prologue 5 tube amp with a Van Alstine pre with sources ranging from an Apogee Ensemble DAC/mac to vinyl/sacd etc. You don't want to know the brand of my current speakers...

In terms of the yellow sign store. It reminds me of when Tower Records was the last record store and now, gone. I'm hoping there will be a resurgence of mom n' pop hifi shops. There is a growing number of Vinyl only record shops again now in most cities, so who knows.
Nostaliga and inability to flex with changing conditions blinds people to opportunities which exist today. :(
Jma, definitely keep a look out for Capital Audio Fest nest year. Tube gear and various speakers that go with them have been prominent at that show.

I saw Prima Luna gear, perhaps the amp you have at Soundscape in Baltimore recently. You might contact them and see what they recommend with that amp. Unfortunately I do not recall what speakers they were using with the PL amps.

The best tube amp/conventional tower speaker combo I have heard in your general range (used perhaps) was Rogue tube amp and PSB Synchrony towers at Listening Room in Pikesville, MD. That's a very small shop and a drive from DC though so I would call there in advance if interested in what the owner there could offer. I've never heard anything sound BAD there! I think Gramophone in Baltimore is carrying the PSBs these days and LR had moved back towards Sonus Faber of late. Magnepan is always a staple line there running off tube amps.

With the modest power rating of your PL amp, something high efficiency would seem to be in order. In you price range, Zu might be an option. I heard some larger Zus last year at Capital Audiofest running of a flea power SET amp and they were quite serviceable for much music that way, though something with more power like your PL would probably fit the bill better with those for rock/pop music as well.

Another line, though hard to find in the US these days, I would consider if I were you is Triangle. I have Traingle monitors (bought from Listening ROom in Pikesville years ago) that work quite well with tube amps. I suspect some of their tower designs in your price range might be just what the doctor ordered.

the D.C. area is loaded w/ dealers/retailers. You have access to D.C. proper, Maryland & Virginia.

I had the pleasure of visiting Baltimore last year on business. Check out Soundscape- ask for Ed.
Additionally, check out The Listening Room (weekends only) ask for Don. Both great home-grown places, w/ different speaker lines.

Happy Listening!
Herr Schroeder,"ability to flex with changing conditions' translated from rightwing political sloganology., means bending over deeper when you job goes to China.
For a $2K range floorstander friendly with a tube amp, you have GOT to audition the GoldenEar Triton 2 and Triton 3. Triton 3's come in right at $2K/pair. There are two authorized dealers in the DC area:

IQ Home Entertainment
7101 Democracy Blvd
Westfield Montgomery Mall (Upstairs - Macy's Home Wing)
Bethesda, MD 20817

IQ Home Entertainment
10890 Fairfax Blvd
Fairfax, VA 22030

Sandy Gross, founder of GoldenEar and previously co-founder of Polk Audio adn Definitive Audio, powers his personal pair of Triton 2's with a low-powered SET tube amp. These speakers come with a Heil-style motion transformer folded ribbon tweeter, midrange drivers with response of to 20K for a good blend with the tweeters, and internally powered, passive radiator augmented woofers. I heard the Triton 2's in a factory demo a couple years ago. Very impressive.

One caution: the GoldenEars are low enough in cost that many dealers pair them with mass market receivers for demos, in which case you will be underwhelmed as the Tritons will amply reveal the receiver's shortcomings. The GoldenEars deserve excellent amplification. You might want to call ahead to see what IQ's setup is, and if they can't provide a quality amp, see if you can bring in your PrimaLuna.
"One caution: the GoldenEars are low enough in cost that many dealers pair them with mass market receivers for demos, in which case you will be underwhelmed as the Tritons will amply reveal the receiver's shortcomings."

That's a good point. I think it is not uncommon for less expensive speakers to sound underwhelming due to more common use with other less expensive gear, particularly amps, rather than because they themselves are in fact "underwhelming".

A lot of speakers from even 30 years ago run off "underbuilt" Japanese receivers of the day sounded a lot better with top notch amplification behind them.
Mapman, it's definitely true in general, but even more true with the Tritons because their ribbon tweeter and 20Khz response midrange are particularly revealing of upstream electronics while their low price invites the use of sub-par electronics. One lower-cost amp that *would* be a good match is the Marantz PM8004 integrated amp. That's a $999 unit that sounds more like something in the $2.5 to 4K range.

Your point is well taken. For a long time I powered my ADS L1090s with a Vector Research receiver (built by NEC). Then one day I auditioned a VSP Labs TransMOS Gold Edition 200wpc high current power amp in my house, powering the L1090s. The difference was stunning and at that point I said to myself, "no way is this amp leaving the house."
So what type speakers would be "unfriendly" with a 40-60 watt tube amp then? Sensitivity below x???
There is a new model developing. HiFi seems to be becoming more of a cottage industry, with one man operations selling direct. They often offer home demo's with owners of the speakers. I have Daedalus speakers and Lou Hinkley offers that to potential buyers.

I would find this more useful anyway, you feel less under pressure than in a shop, where time is money, you can listen in a home setting and speak to an owner who has long term experience with a product
Would you travel and pay an "audition fee" at an audition house? Perhaps allowing you to compare 16 different speakers exclusively from on line retailers?
You don't buy them at the audition house, you just go there to pay for the capability of personal comparison and listening pleasure. How about that?
Not likely 16 manufactuers really want their babies in that much head to head battle, if you had to pay for the speakers you'd need an awful lot of auditions.
Rocker...that is where i was heading. I'm wondering if there is a business model there. I would gladly pay 100 bucks for a few hours of listening with no pressure from salemen.
I'm sure audiofests are similar, but you have to wait and wait for them to come every year!
I'm still waiting to hear suggestions for the perfect speaker that will expose the high fequencies on my prima luna prologue 5. A local dealer offered to let me bring it in and try it out with some of his Linn,Vandersteens and Sonus Fabers...

02-16-13: Jmacinnis
So what type speakers would be "unfriendly" with a 40-60 watt tube amp then? Sensitivity below x???
With tube amps it's more than just a power thing; it's an output impedance/damping factor thing as well.

First, with the power, it's a combination of speaker sensitivity and room size. 36 wpc may be plenty for a speaker of 87 dB efficiency and up in a mostly enclosed room up to--say--14x18. If it's a much bigger room or open architecture and you listen to big band, metal, and/or largescale orchestra, the power may not be enough. If you listen to more acoustic small ensemble music it could be fine.

The other part is that some tube amps have a high output impedance, which means they need to see a load of 8 ohms or more. Some speakers also require a higher damping factor (related to the amp's output impedance) to control woofer cone excursions. These factors comprise what is often meant by "tube friendly. That is, a speaker with a higher average impedance and no great requirements in damping factor.

In the case of your PrimaLuna, however, it has large enough output transformers to offer 4-ohm taps, so that part of the "tube friendly" equation is taken care of. Your amp is very highly reviewed internationally. Still, for a floorstanding full-range speaker the GoldenEar Triton series have built-in amplifiers to power the low bass drivers. This provides an easier task for your PrimaLuna to shine where it's best--the upper bass and above, especially the magic you get in a tube-driven midrange. And there are two locations in Greater DC where you can audition them.
Thanks johnnyb53....hitting the goldenear dealer tomorrow. They also sold me the amp so they want me to bring the amp with me. Now this might just be a great audition. Vinyl preselected!
Jmacinnis & Rocker, I have given your idea some thought.. I thought about approaching mfgs to use my place as a demo room for their speakers that don't have a dealer in my area (LA)that stocks the speaker....no sales from me, just a demo fee. The demo fee is credited back to the customer if he purchases from the mfg or a local dealer that doesn't stock the auditioned speaker.
Yes Mitch!! Let us know what they say. Good ideas have to start somewhere, especially where there is a need.
Seeing an ad in the Seattle Times that Magnolia HiFi is having a "moving" sale at their Roosevelt store, I went to see if they had any good bargains. Turns out they are "moving" to a small space in the big Yellow Sign store a few miles away. While I didn't see any terrific deals I was interested in, I have to say the loss of a stand alone Seattle stereo brick and mortar institution is a disturbing sign of the times. I realize that Magnolia was bought by the Yellow brand a while ago, but the Seatle stand alone in the Roosevelt district was the anchor for three smaller shops on the same block, and was the last tie in Seattle to a local icon. This move was inevitable, and while I still bought gear from the stand alone store as recently as this year, I doubt I will visit the new "location" that much. In addition to the three surviving shops, there are two more boutiques less than ten blocks away in the U District and another downtown, making Seattle relatively flush with HiFi B&M stores. But I have to wonder for how long. kn

PS - Johnnyb53, Tim at Experience Audio sells Dynaudio speakers. Check him out.
I don't think audio shows are the answer. Even tho I just got back from Capitol Audio Fest and did hear some interesting stuff it's of limited value overall.

1) much of the equipment is flagship mega bucks
2) most of its set up in spaces that are so small the equipment doesn't sound optimal.
3) speakers tend to have cost no object electronics driving them which doesn't translate to what you own
4) you're listening to music preselected to sound good on that speaker and none that show it's weaknesses.

The answer is for manufacturers to greatly simplify their systems into all in one so they take care of optimum component matching. That's why I've moved to the Wadia with amp, pre and Dac built in. I just need a single match between speakers and electronics for synergy.

Powered speakers also can greatly simplify system matching.
Knownothing: I just tried calling Experience Audio and the voice mailbox is full--just like when I tried it a couple of years ago. At the time, I talked to the guy who runs Audio Connection down the street and he said Experience had been "temporarily closed" for some time. Do you know for a fact that it's in operation again? If I were Dynaudio I'd look for more reliable representation in the area.

Magnolia closing down their anchor store on Roosevelt is sure the end of an era. I almost bought a pair of Sonus Faber Veneres there last Fall but wound up getting Magneplanar 1.7s from Definitive down the street instead. I have bought various things there over the years.
Hmm, dunno. I should have bought more stuff from Tim! I happened to be in the neighborhood this weekend and saw that his store was still there with gear in the window. Try sending him an email. Yeah, I have gone in the Magnolia stores on Roosevelt since the mid seventies. Bought an AVR and sub there earlier this year. Sorry to see them go, but they had too much space for the nature of the business at this point. Competition with Internet for a small market will continue to put pressure on B&M outlets. Hope others here like Definitive, Hawthorne, etc. can stay around. Hawthorne looks like they are trying to straddle both worlds, their current inventory of used gear is insane.

If the OP hasn't bought new speakers I might suggest Dynaudio Excite or PSB Imagine Towers as good matches for the Primaluna in his price range in addition to Golden Ear.