Hear ye! Thou who knowist thy speakers..

All you speaker connoisseurs, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. I live near Yosemite Park in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California, so getting to enough high end audio stores to audition speakers is very difficult and time consuming. Steering me in the right direction will save me many days and hours of travel. I own a Meridian 508.24 CD player, Audio Research LS 16 pre-amp, Plinius SA 100 MKIII Amp. Nordost SPM interconnects on the Meridian and NBS Monitor IV interconnects on the pre-amp and amp. Black Mamba on the CD and NBS Monitor IV power cords on the rest. My current speakers are NHT 2.5i with either (I switch them occassionally) NBS Monitor IV (warmer) or JPS Superconductor+ (revealing) bi-wire speaker cables. For the money ($1300), the NHT 2.5i are the best speakers I've heard, but it's time to get a speaker that compliments the rest of my system. I'm willing to spend no more than $5,000 for used or new speakers. I do have them hooked-up to the DSS receiver and DVD (stereo), but I mainly listen to music. Classical, jazz, world beat, rock.. If it sounds good, I'll listen to it. Which speakers in your humble opinion should I focus on and why?
My advise would be - not necessarily in this order - Vandy 3A sig's, Proac 2.5's or if you can stretch to about 7K (what!!) the Proac 3.8's. These 3 speakers are really the only ones that really move me towards a purchase at this point. The 3.8's are the best of the bunch. I don't like Hales, Audio Physics, or Aerials. Just my opinion.
Did I forget to mention my wife..."The speakers should look furniture not spaceships!" My livingroom is approximately 20'X 40' with high ceilings. I really liked the sound of the Dunlavy SC IV's, but they are a bit too tall.
A used pair of B&W N802 would also be in the relm of possibility. I have owned this speaker for almost a year and it has not stopped impressing me. As far as looks go - you either love them or hate them. My wife fortunately loves the look of our N802s, and we both love the sound. Check out www.bwspeakers.com for more info and photos. Cheers Dan
Hi Rosstaman. I would suggest the Genesis V's, which I've seen used for about $5k on Audiogon. I was in a similar situation as you - I owned a pair Dunlavy SC-IV's, and liked the sound, but had them displaced on account of low WAF. I listened to Aerial 10T's, B&W Nautilus 801's, Revel Salon, and Wilson WATT/Puppy's, but the Genesis V was the clear winner. The finish on the Gen V's is a beautiful rosewood, and they easily fit in the room (42" tall). The sound is spectacular - maybe not as coherent top to bottom as the Dunlavy's, but much greater resolution, more air around instruments, deeper soundstage, and better low bass extension. They also work well with Plinius electronics (probably the only solid-state stuff I'd pair them with). Hope this helps.
I have to agree that the Proac's just sound so right that they can't be denied. I waited about 8 years and found a pair of 2.5's that still just blow me away. I paid $2700. You need plenty of solid state power though to make them stay tight and perform as designed.
Check out B&W Nautilus 802's used or 803's new. Wonderful speakers on a wide variety of music. The bass will not blow you away, but they have outstanding highs and mids. Stereophile also recommends these.
Ther are a pair of Used Coincident Super Eclipse on for 3250.00 from someone in California.If you can give them a listen,I think your search will be over.Read the review go to www.coincidentspeakers.com
You will probably think I am crazy,but I speak from experience.I would try to find a old pair of altec lansing voice of the theatre speakers with the 511b horns and 808-8a tweeters.I came across a pair and I am still in disbelief of how good these speakers sound.I have owned some Thiel CS3.5's,Lower line B&W's,Snell type E 111, I have a pair of JBL L7's,I have heard some very expensive speakers in my day and I am telling you my Altecs' blow them all away.The realism and soundstage is amazing.And they are so efficent that you can drive them with very little power. Let me say that all of the speakers that were suggested are awesome,but for me personally these altecs' did the trick. However,they will take up alot of space. 89vett
The new Dynaudio line offers a selection of very musical and yet accurate speakers in a variety of styles. The cabinate workmanship is outstanding. The larger floor models (ie 80s etc) have outstanding imaging and realistic, not BOOOOMY, base. You may want to check out their website for more information before you audition. Good listining.
Try to listen to the Talon Audio Peregrines before you buy. There are 2 dealers in CA (but I dont know if they are close to you). They sell for $6000, but I am sure that you can work with a dealer on that issue. As to the why of things, they are simply awesome monitors. Prodigious bass, and awesome ouput capabilities for a monitor (which would be neeeded for your huge room). All the classic audiophile descriptions apply, but then again the way that these things reproduce music cannot be put into words. Check them out. E-mail me if you want any specifics.
I would give a listen to the Meadowlark speakers. I have a pair of Kestrals and to me everything a speaker should be. The kestrals are on the bottom of the list so I would think that the higher priced models might be your ticket. Check there web site, very informitive. Good listening
Rosstaman, Your equipment deserves Dunlavy-IV or IVa in your price range, used. You will not regret it
If you like NHT's sound, you might want to go for a 3.3. That is a very well regarded speaker. It has very powerful bass, excellent imaging, and a 'good' level of detail. It is also designed to sit near a wall. I own the Virgo which is also a good choice; Not as much bass, needs to be out in the room more, but has tremendous detail and imaging. If rock is your priority go for the NHT for the bass. If it's jazz, then try the virgo for it's clarity. You might want to read up on stereophile's descriptions.
I agree with Rzado, the Genesis' is the ticket. I've heard the rest and settled on Gen 201's but the V's are great also. WAF is very high also-they are pretty speakers. Brandt
...either electrostatic (the best, but more reliability problems) or magnetic (i.e. Magneplanars, Alternate Audio, etc). I don't know how you are going to work around the dealer problem, maybe find the closest one (S.F or Montery area?) that has the highest number of speakers you are interested in. Take your own CDs, make special appointment, etc. Good luck. Tim
Dear Rosstaman: Here is the text of a comment I posted the other day for a person seeking to spend $3,500 for speakers which, although geared toward another person's specific question, I believe addresses your query : "'ve read with interest all of the above entries and have a STRONG recommendation. Listen (I didn't say "buy") to the Dunlavy SC-3. Addressing the first potential problem, your girlfriend's sense of aesthetics, the big Dunlavys (SC4 to SC-6) are BIG to GARGANTUAN, but the SC-2 and SC-3 have a very small footprint and are merely tall and skinny -- I steered two colleagues toward the 2's and 3's, both having finicky Upper East Side wives, and they both bought the speakers, their wives finding them to be pretty. Of course, this is an individual thing. Second, price. The SC-3's in light oak retail for $4,000. You will get 10% off, and if you buy from an out-of-state dealer, there's no sales tax and they're yours for $3,700 (Dunlavy's Des Moines, Iowa, dealer ("Audio/Video Logic"?) ships Dunlavys for free). Third. Sweet spot. Dunlavys are a very special speaker that are very inexactly, but descriptively, described as a "beam" design. All of the drivers in the speaker focus on a defined listening area, creating a small sweet spot. That said, they do not sound awful off-axis like electrostatics can, just merely good. But if you are in or near the sweet spot and you have a decent recording and reasonably good electronics behind them, they are damn close to live music and I challenge you to find a better-sounding speaker at ANY PRICE (other than a bigger Dunlavy). Fourth. Cabinet finish. Very good, but not wood art (but you'll have to sacrifice sound for wood art at this price point). Five. They MUST be set up at least 11' apart with the listener at least 8' away to sound their best (some Dunlavy dealers don’t seem to get this). Which brings me to their strengths. They just sound better than anything else out there. Suppose I should stop there, but I add that they (really) are 91 db. efficient, and each speaker features five drivers (two smallish woofers, two mids, and a tweeter in each speaker), so they go loud as hell with not much juice (they would be VERY dynamic with a 200 watt Rotel). Unless you have them in a gigantic room, they have great (and very accurate) bass down to about 40 Hz and are still kicking below 30 Hz. The SC-3 has the same 6.5" drivers as the Dunlavy SC-5 (a $16,000 list speaker which also features two 12" woofers per speaker), and has the same tweeter and 5" midrange drivers featured in Dunlavy's flagship SC-6. If you're wondering about the Dunlavy SC-2, they list for $2,500 in light oak, but will be somewhat bass-shy in many average-sized rooms (and having three drivers as opposed to five, don’t go as loud). I have heard the B&W805's, 804's, and 803's, every speaker Sonus Faber makes (maybe not their center-channel), the new WattPuppy 6's, the Thiel 2.6 and 3.6, the Aeriel Acoustics 6 through top-of-the-line 10T, the big Revel Salon, the big Naim’s, JM Labs Grand Utopia (and not as big Utopias), Audio Physic Virgo’s, Hales 2's and 3's, and speakers I cannot remember. Some of these speakers feature individual areas of performance that exceed the SC-3's performance in those areas, but overall, to me, the SC-3 sounds better than any of them, period. The only thing I have heard that compares is the Meadowlark Heron and Shearwater (note that both Dunlavy and Meadowlark speakers are time-coherent designs). Give the Meadowlarks a spin too (they will definitely pass the girlfriend test). As for why a $4,000 SC-3 sounds better to some people than $20,000 WattPuppy 6's or Sonus Faber Amati Homages or $70,000 Grant Utopias, it seems to come down to Dunlavy simply having a superior overall design. Dunlavy partisans tend to be nearly obnoxious in their enthusiasm for the product [ : ) ], but it is rare to hear a criticism of the Dunlavy sound. Yes, I have owned a pair of SC-3's for over five years. I run them with a VAC Ren. 70/70 Mark 3 amp, CAT Mark 3 pre-amp, VPI Aries table with 10.5 arm and Grado, and CAL Delta/Sigma II CD. I am not the only person to prefer the sound of Dunlavy’s -- I have helped six friends buy stereos in the last two years, and every last one of them ended up buying Dunlavys. This is a really long e-mail that you may not even end up reading, so why did I do it? I love music and I assume that you do to, and it’s just amazing what a really good speaker decision can do for a music lover. So give them a listen. P.S. After speakers, your next move is to put the Rotel pre-amp in a second system and buy a demo tube pre-amp. Then you'll have a serious system (that Rotel amp you have is ridiculously good for the money). P.S.S. CSA Audio in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, and ProMusica in Chicago are good Dunlavy dealers."
I agree with the ProAc recomendation. Any Responce 3.0 and up used would be perfect. I owned a pair of Responce 1's and thought they were great. I bought a North Creek kit and it is very close to the design of the large ProAc speakers and enjoy them very much. The imaging is very good. They are a very lively speakers with good energy impact and a clear smooth top end.
The Revel for $3k (fine midrange); the 803N ONLY if your room allows listening in the farfield (they don't integrate well closer than 10-12' away; splashy if close to sidewalls, too, and a bit out of control in the bass); used Aerial 8, if you need the warmth; demo Verity Audio Fidelios can be found for $4k (but since woofers are rear-firing, you must dial them in); Thiel 2.3? (a bit relentless). After careful demos of all of these reasonably spouse-approved speakers (except the Revel!), I decided to bite the bullet and get demo Verity Audio Parsifal Encores ($8k). They are unbelievably resolving, work exceptionally well in the nearfield (7' triangle), tolerate sidewalls pretty well, and, with their reversable woofers can be set up in almost any decent room easily. You will not believe the quality of the midrange!...and they are VERY spouse-friendly. Your system as described could use a speaker as resolving as these. I too started my search in the $3-4k range, but HAD to buy the Encores, and know I will probably NEVER replace them! Now for a good digital front end....OY!
I think you have answered your own question when you mentioned the Dunlavys i suggest you buy a pair of Athena's or currently know as Aletha's (same speaker) they sound incredible and will work great with your plinuis amp and best of all they look great !! check out the demo pair under full range speakers cherry wood finish $4795 i think or call Brian at hello hi fi they are a platinum dealer of dunlavys. They advertise on this wedsite . good luck definitive .
Thanks, everyone. This has been very helpful. I've recently heard the Dynaudio 1.3 MK SE and couldn't believe the quality of sound coming from bookshelf size speakers. I'm off to San Diego for a few days and will audition some of your suggestions. I'll keep you posted.
FYI-I auditioned the Hales Revelation 3, ProAc 3.8, Dunlavy Aletha and SC IVa, Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MKII SE, Contour 3.3, Confidence 3 and 5, B&W 802, Maggies 3.6R and Martin Logen Prodigy. They all had their pluses and minuses. I was most disappointed with the Maggies. They were very transparent, but didn't have near the detail in the high frequency. The one speaker that made me smile was the Dynaudio Contour 3.3. The Dynaudio's were the nicest that I heard all around. The Confidence 5 was my second choice. Very true to the source, but I really liked the full range, tight bass and detailed sound from the Contour 3.3.s. Again, thanks for all your thoughts and advice.
Hi Rosstamen. Seems like you've been exercising your ear/brain, eh? Your reaction to the Dynaudio recalls a conversation I had with a dealer just before I purchased my Verity Parsifal Encores: as I understood that Verity sources their custom drivers from Dynaudio and ART (current shop run by E. Skaaning, who was responsible for Dynaudio's best drivers), how does the comparison hold up between a Canadian outfit using these tweaked drivers vs Dynaudio's own shop? His response was that the Dynaudio drivers sound great individually, but lack the coherence of Verity'e efforts with their tweaked drivers. Hmmm.... My reasoning revolves more around Skaaning's incredibly smooth midrange (5.25") and that Verity lets it run full-bore, only crossing to the Dynaudio 8" woofer at 150Hz, and Dynaudio's tweeter at 5.5kHz. Since you were so taken by the 3.3's sound, I suggest you try to listen to Verity Audio's go with tweaked versions of these drivers. I know that the 8/5/1 Encore w/ reversible woofer may be out of your price-range (used-$8-9k), but if room placement works for the rear-firing Fidelio 7/5/.75, you may find a bargain as dealers might sell their demos in the $4-5k range. Please understand that room-matching will be much more critical with the Fidelio, and that the 3/4" tweeter isn't as open as the 28mm in the Encore. (WAF is MUCH better with the Verity, if that's a consideration). If your preferences weigh large-scale dynamics over midrange smoothness and coherence, then stick with the 3.3; but if you treasure electrostatic-like midrange quickness and honesty, you should check out the Fdelio. If you want both, listen to the Encores! Sorry to be so long-winded, but I spent a good amount of time on this path, and know the Encores are the ONLY items in my system I expect to NEVER replace! Happy hunting. Ernie