Great bookshelf or small towers suggestions


I'm looking to upgrade my main speakers for home theater/music setup.

Currently have Sound Dynamic 300 ti's that are about 16 years old. I have a Marantz 5009 AV receiver and some Orbs for side and back channels. I have a sound dynamic center speaker too. The room is 11x15 with a fairly low 7' ceiling. I want to replace the LR main and Center speakers.  Budget < $5K.

floorplan:  http://tinyurl.com/zd68dqf

Soundwise I am after improved brightness and up front treble and mids. I am not the biggest bass nut - a) I have downstairs neighbors and b) I've played drums for 40 years and have heard it all. I hate being bounced out of my seat every time stuff explodes and mainly want to hear dialog better for TV and clearer more sparkly acoustic pianos and spangalang of cymbals like they're in the room with me.

So far from what I've heard in stores, I liked the Magnepan .7's a lot. But they just won't fit the space. Too wide and didn't pass WAF. I listened to a few other speakers - mid level B&W's, Golden ear, martin logan, and so far little compared to the magnepans except maybe the BW 805D3's - which are way over my budget. I thought about looking for used 805d2's. I did like a pair of Focal 714's and could probably live with them. But this is the last pair of speakers I ever want to buy. So I keep coming back to thinking about the new 805's or something close.

I've been interested in a lot of the factory direct speakers like the Sierra Tower & 2's but it bothers me to buy speakers I can't hear first.

Any advice appreciated.

Thx!
wolfernyc
I like the HT packages available from Paradigm and KEF. Hopefully there's a dealer near you that handles them. 
Kudos has some excellent small speakers that perform way above their diminutive size.

Regards...
The Sierra 2's are excellent.
Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor And Cremona center are lovely and may fit your budget on the 2nd hand market.
Thx!  I heard the Guarnari and Best Buy and just loved it.  But $7K was just too crazy!  

Are the Cremona's the predecessor?  Or are they more related to the lower end lines like the olympica or venere?
BTW, I don't necessarily need tiny speakers.   The existing speakers are 23x11x12 and are on stands that are 12" high.   thx!!
You might want to consider the Evolution Acoustics MicroOne loudspeakers. The clarity, dynamics and musicality of the speaker are right up your alley.

If you want to hear them, we have a dealer in NY.
thx - who's your dealer?  I'm in NYC.
The Cremonas were replaced by the current Olympicas I believe.  The 2nd hand market will make them fit in your budget, but new, the Cremona or Olympica is fairly expensive.
Worth checking out the Mini Maggie 3 piece system, but with two of the bass units...not sure if it will work,, but I love mine in a 10x12 room with one bass unit...
Ah, - it was the Olympica I model not Guarnari that I heard in Best Buy. They were about $7K and did sound amazing. The sales guy was completely enamored with them in comparison to the 805D3.

Used Cremonas? Hmmm.  Where to even look other than ebay?


You don't say anything about potential speaker placement.  If you can pull them at least a bit away from the wall, I'd suggest trying out Reference 3A De Capo's.  I find them to be very immediate sounding, with good sparkle, but not over the top.  Their articulation is excellent for HT dialogue.  Bass certainly won't overwhelm you, but is satisfying for a stand mount.
In my floor plan link they kind of look closer than the actual speakers currently are. They're ~14" from the wall at present.  The TV isn't wall mounted and a low sanus media cabinet is there holding the tv and all of the gear.  So nothing needs to go directly against the wall.  But it can't come out much further.
I believe I saw some Cremonas here on audiogon 
Two brands that sell directly and get good reviews are Aperion and SVS.  I especially like that their better center speakers are designed with the tweeter above a dedicated midrange rather than the more common MTM configuration.  Both companies get high marks for customer service and I believe they both offer generous in-home demos.  Best of luck. 

Wolfernyc,

There's one in every crowd, Know what I mean? I'm going to offer up the contrarian post now......

The Sound Dynamics 300ti is a very good speaker and was considered one of the true Giant Killers when it was produced. Even today they are very highly regarded. You may end up buying different speakers that are not necessarily an improvement, but are simply different.

Looking at your complete system, it makes me wonder if your $5000 budget might be better spent on electronics instead of speakers. You are using a mid-priced HT receiver for processing, pre-amp and amp. What are your source components? DVD player? Dedicated CD player? Digital Music Server? Vinyl? What type of media do you play? Redbook CD, vinyl, mp3, FLAC, hi-res digital, etc.? Digital, especially low-res digital, is notorious for having highs that do not sound natural.

The Sound Dynamics 300ti is capable of sounding very good when feed a good signal from the source and amplifier. You may be looking at the wrong part of your system for an improvement.

Now, that said, I have not heard your system or any of the components you own, so I could be totally off base. However, I suggest you do a search on "Sound Dynamics 300ti Reviews" and read what has been written about them. People who own Quad Electrostats, Magnepan and other high end speakers have kept their old Sound Dynamics 300ti's because they were too good to get rid of....

The Contrarian
As a former long-term Sound Dynamics 300ti owner I completely agree with the contrarian point of view submitted by reubent. You should seriously consider his comments. Best, Rob 
Thanks! I get what you’re saying. I have an NAD 516 CD player and a Rega 2 turntable with an NAD preamp.

I’ve enjoyed the 300’s for many years. They’re spiked and do sound good. They seem to be in perfect shape and I’m the only owner. And I found a center that matches them on ebay last year.

Maybe I’m just tired of them, but what I notice is listening in direct mode stereo 2 channel just isn’t as satisfying as when I turn on the surround speakers and use various music modes. And what becomes glaringly obvious is that these little spherical Orbs and Gallos that I have for sides and rears add more mids and highs and music just sounds better.  (but not great)

On top of that just using it all in media mode when watching TV, the center and fronts just don’t have much sparkle and pop and I find myself cranking the volume so we can understand the dialog. It gets super annoying.

I’ve thought about just upgrading the center, but I think the mains do leave a bit to be desired too.

I’ve toyed with every setting on the receiver and at this point no longer use audissey and have just a few tweaks for dialog and set the speaker levels by ear. I really wish there was a better EQ in the receiver - maybe for each speaker. I’ve tried using the EQ but it gets disabled when you use various other features.

I thought about replacing the marantz but I really don’t want to go crazy with expensive separate components. I’m not a huge fan of messing with equipment. I’m kind of a set and forget guy. And I just wouldn’t know where to start.

-Bill




Replacing a $600/pr of (albeit highly regarded) speakers with a <$5K budget does not make a great deal of sense to me (especially for such a small listening room with the other components you mention).

If they are still available you might look into the Gallo 2 speakers being closed out, here @  A’gon, for gobs off the original MSRP.

You would need higher (24”, or so) stands for the speakers, but as they are being closed out for <$400/pr the additional expense is a drop in the bucket considering your stated budget.

I’m kicking myself for not picking up a pair, when they were still available in a natural wood finish (last time I looked @ the ad only Black was offered).

Not trying to be mean, just trying to offer a more realistic solution.

Have not listened to the Gllo 2, but have heard the much more expensive Gallo Stratus speaker (which they are compared to in a 6 Moons review), and I liked the original Stratus. 
There are a pair of Celestion SL-700s for sale that are worthy of consideration. You could use the rest of your budget to upgrade electronics.
If I was in the market for a diminutive floor-standing speaker, I would, almost without question, order a pair of PSI Audio A215-Ms. You’ve no doubt never heard of them. They are very high-end professional studio mastering monitors made in Switzerland by an offshoot of Revox, no less. They aren’t fancy (but should have a good WAF), and they may seem rather expensive @ $3150 apiece, but they’re an "active" speaker, meaning the amp is built into the speaker. Thus, not only do you not need a separate amp, the amp is designed specifically for that speaker, and each speaker simply has an XLR and an IEC power cord input.

OK, but how do they sound? I don’t directly know. BUT, I use a pair of PSI A-21s in my mastering studio, and they are stunningly open, precise, detailed and yet VERY listenable. Frequency response is essentially flat throughout their range. By almost all accounts, that is true of the entire PSI line. If it’s clarity, sparkly and "spangalang" cymbals you’re listening for, I’m certain you couldn’t do better for the money. You can find several reviews on-line, but I would pay the most attention to the comments on Gearslutz. Those folks are pros.

I can recommend this dealer; there are also rumors of one in NYC.
http://www.zenproaudio.com/psi-audio-a215-m
Check out Tekton Pendragon for half of your budget and a huge sound

Post removed 
Wolf, I was in your shoes over a year ago, somewhat tired of my existing speakers, but not sure which way to go. I did much research on the net, and kept coming back to the Sierra 2's. For a bookshelf, anything decent from the traditional retail market was well over 2000, and these internet direct companies seemed to be able to offer much better bang for buck.

So a tried a pair on the free trial they offer, and they were so superior in the theater system to my Paradigm Monitor 7 that I moved the Sierra 2 into my high end 2 channel system. Airy highs, detail, lush vocals, they blew me away. I ended up with 3 Sierra 1 across the front of my theater and I'm an Ascend fan for life. If you can feel a little adventurous, it's really worth it. The Raal ribbons are spectacular.

In your cozy room you really don't need more than that, save your coin, maybe upgrade the surrounds if so desired.
How about the Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus. 
You really do not get it. It is your ancillary equipment, amp, cd, wires, and so on. Not the speakers. If you have $5,000.00 you could put together a well-matched killer system will all the attributes you desire; but it does take a little bit of time, research and work...perhaps you could do a little appropriate reading. There are many stellar articles on putting together outstanding stereo/home theatre systems for $5,000.00 or less. Enjoy the Music, for example, had a great article some months back featuring Coincident amp, Tekton speakers, good cables and power cords, Schiit DAC, etc., this was for 2 channel, but these helpful articles exist in nearly every audio publication. 6 Moons, Stereo Times, Stereo Mojo, Positive Feedback, Wall of Sound, Enjoy the Music, and many more that include Home Theatre. Best of luck, Rob

Vienna speakers have a small footprint. I heard a pair at a dealer in Rochester NY they sounded very nice with a open large soundstage
Thx all. 

One has to start upgrading somewhere and for me the speakers seem to make sense as a starting point. They're almost 20 yrs old and I know their sound well. I'd certainly like to keep well below my budget if I can. Since I need LR and a center channel it won't be cheap no matter what. I also don't want to get on the upgrade merry go round.  I'll probably die with whatever I get. (I live in a 5th floor walkup! So when they carry me out, they can take the speakers too.)

There's nothing particularly substandard about the CD player or turntable. And the AV sources are what they are these days: Apple TV and the Cable box.   The receiver might not be the best but it doesn't seem to be a bad one.   I'll upgrade it eventually when the inevitable must have AV feature pushes me to.

I am looking into various speakers you've all recommended.  The Sierra 2's or perhaps the towers seem interesting as do many of the others.  But not being able to hear them first is a problem.  So I am thinking of looking for something used but that I've already heard or can find nearby, like the Sonus Faber's. 

The speakers don't need to be tiny.  The 300ti's on stands are taller and wider than many floor standing towers.  But being a small apartment, if they don't need to be big that would be great.

Thx




The mini Maggie system is better than any box speaker in the same price range. 
What is you budget ?
I bought some Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary speakers. They are wonderful and better many of more expensive speakers. More information can be found here:

http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/wharfedale-denton-80th-anniversary-a-non-professional...

good luck with with your hunting/purchase. 
I think you're barking up the right tree...given that you are happy with your electronics, and that you would like these to be the last speakers you ever want to buy (wouldn't that be nice!), I would buy the best speakers you can find and afford that have the sonic signature you like.  Chasing cables is not the way to go, I completely disagree with anyone who sends you cable shopping given your parameters.  And your turntable and CD player are fine.  You don't have a big room, so unless you end up with some low-efficiency speakers I don't see the Marantz being a problem.    It's the speakers...not that there's anything wrong with them, they may be perfectly fine for others, but they don't have the sonic signature you like, so find speakers that do.   With your budget you have so many fantastic options, many of which have already been mentioned.

I actually like your idea of going after some 805D2, or even the 805 Diamond or 805S.  They're easy to find on the secondary market, and if you didn't like them after a few months they'd be a breeze to sell.  I don't know that there's another speaker on the market that's easier to sell, or that holds a larger percentage of original retail value, than the original B&W 805.   You could buy a pair, listen for a year, and if you didn't love them you could resell them for what you paid or very close.  Wilson Benesch Arcs are another option, more transparent and a little less boxy than the 805, but harder to find.   I've been where you are, in a space that size, looking for the sonic signature you're looking for - if you liked the 805D3, I think you should go in that direction and don't be afraid of an older 805.
I was in your position last year and did a lot of listening. I use my Marantz as a pre-amp through a Parasound A52 so I have a little more juice flowing. (After you get your speakers chosen and shake some extra funds loose in the future, you might just add a 5-channel amp to your system.)
Before I talk about my choices, let me say that getting all 5 speakers with the same voicing may have been the single best thing I have done. I had been stereo only, then added a pair of surrounds that, even though the same manufacturer, were voiced differently. Then I added a very nice center, but it was also voiced differently. So I looked for a set of 5 speakers, a 5.0 system.
I set my price target at $3k, but eventually moved up to $4500 for the setup. It seemed to be cost-effective - more than i could afford, but I wanted these to be my last speakers.
I tried Monitors, Paradigms, Totems, Goldenears, Quad, Klipsch, and a few more, bringing several home for a weekend. None of these were what I wanted, which you described pretty well for me. After moving up that last chunk of change, it was a face-off between a Paradigm Gold, the B&W 805D3, and Dynaudio Excites. I ended up with the Excite X34 floorstanders, X14 standmounts and X24 center. 
Four things caused me to make that decision. First, I heard no phase-shift, they were clean and articulate with classical, jazz, and vocals - they sounded like the artists when I heard them in person. Second, the floorstanders are diminutive in size and the WAF was better than a standmount. Third, they have a really great dynamic range - they will rock on without sounding like they are shouting (the others shouted) (I use my Radio Shack level meter to know when it's loud because a good speaker can play louder without sounding bad). Fourth, and what set them apart from the B&W, was their ability to sound musical at low volumes. I didn't have to crank them to some thresh-hold to get them to "speak."
In assessing all this now, three months later (I am happier each passing week), I think I like 2-way speakers better, and first-order crossovers. I know intellectually about phase shift distortion, and each crossover introduces that element, especially if it is more than first order. I am particularly sensitive to tweeters, and the Dyn's neo??? led the B&W diamond??? for clarity and dispersion (imaging).
SO, I'd recommend getting a 5.0 system, and that you listen to the Dynaudio Excite series.
I have the sierra towers (w/ Raal tweeter) from ascend acoustics (http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/SRT/srt.html)
I'm very happy with them.

'Enjoy the Music' wrote:  "The midrange on the Towers...is a main event. Inner detail is fantastic...(http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0312/sierra_tower_speaker.htm)"
I couldn't agree more.

I demoed the following speakers in my room:
Magnepan Super MMG
ZuAudio Soul
Tekton Lore-S
Sierra Towers (Raal)

The Sierras are (by far) the most accurate (based on my REW room measurements) and more importantly: Sound right through their full range.
I've been very interested in the Sierras.  I just wish I could hear a pair here in NYC.   That said, based on what I've read, if I was going to take a risk on something i haven't heard yet, they'd be at the front of the list.

I don't think I can fit the Sierra Horizon center in my setup though.  Just too big.  Would have to use a sierra 1 or 2.

I'm going to start to hit the stores for demos soon.

There are a few Toem's you should check out.  Great sound-to valuse ratio.  I was also very impressed with the Atohm speakers while I was at the Munich Hi End Show.
It's quite a surprise that the focal 714 did stand out against the others you've listened to... Such an inexpensive speaker.
I am thinking about getting a pair, but there's no dealer around me.
what did you like about them? Midrange definition, forward or laid back, bright?
i am worried that at this price point they would sound boxy.

Without question my favorite speakers in this category are the... WaveTouch Audio Grand Tetons.  Few speakers at any price sound better (professional reviewers' and show opinions, not just mine) - they do it all, for a "pauper's price."  And they're efficient as well.  

I've got several superb speakers, all of which are virtually as "good as it gets" - and the Grand Tetons are right there with them.

And... they offer a trial period - nothing to lose by proving me right.

http://wavetouchaudio.com/products.html
I did like the Focal 714's. I heard them next to the magnepan .7's and various golden ears (which I didn't like) and they sounded good - great for the money.  I will give them more of a listen. I'm not sure what the diff is between the 714 and 716 other than for some reason the smaller speakers are more expensive though.  

The wavetouch looks interesting. But it seems to be very directional and living space wise, I'd rather have something that has a narrow sweet spot.
Out of curiosity I looked around, and it seems the 716 has a higher list price, but the 714 a higher selling price. maybe manufacturer incentives. One uses dual 5 1/4 the other dual 6 1/2 so maybe a very different sound.
the closet dealer is 3hrs from my house unfortunately.  When i will have cash, i'll order a pair of 714 and see how they compare to my regas.
which regas do you have?  People seem to rave about them.  What are you looking to improve?

Thx!
I have the rs5, along with one sealed sub, the svs sb1000.
Yes the rs5 are absolutely awsome... Detailed but never bright, very fluid midrange, decent bass, great imaging. But i have had them for 5 years, and i am always curious to hear what other speakers do.
focal is big in france, and the chorus 714 is sold 900 euros in places like hh gregg, bestbuy, and so on... That’s why i am curious to see if they are in par with good british gear in terms of definition and tonal balance, and curious to hear the focal sound.

Hi Wolfer,
     Read this review for the open baffle hybrid from Tekton. Sounds like everything you are looking for (musically), and they are presently on sale. They do offer a trial period. http://hometheaterreview.com/tekton-design-sigma-ob-floorstanding-speakers-reviewed/?page=2
I have their Pendragons and I love them, but they are huge, and they will cause your neighbors to riot.
Post removed 
That's some review.  But they are waaay to big.  Thx 
Another great option, though a bit more expensive than the Grand Tetons is... the Nola Brio Trio - also superb in all respects - with that famous Nola hybrid open baffle sound.  
I'm not a big fan of sub woofer systems.  But they do look interesting.  Thx

Hands down, the Wharfdale Denton 80th Anniversary speakers  They are nothing short of amazing.  Their sound is accurate, yet musical without sounding mushy or trident. This is a real keeper. They sound better in many ways than my Golden Ear Technology model 7's 

Another candidate, but less so,  is the Golden Ear Tech Aeon 3's bookshelf speakers.. I have seen a few positive testimonials to its sound, but in my opinion, Wharfdale Dentons at 499.00 at Music Direct are a steal and the real deal. Good Luck. 

I didn't care much for any of the low to mid level Golden Ear speakers I heard at Lyric Audio.  The Triton 1 was Ok but too  expensive and large for me. The Magnapan and Focal 714 were far better sounding for what I was after.  Given that the magnepan won't fit and I'm on the fence about the Focal's I'm still looking at things that compare to the B&W 805D3 and am interested in various ribbon tweeter speakers.  Just haven't been able to get to hear any yet.