How good does it get?


I'm trying to complete my modest audio system with a pair of quality speakers. To date I have:
1) Two Citation 7.1 amps- 4x150 W/ch. (2x450 bridged)
2) Arcam FMJ CD-23 cdp
3) Conrad Johnson PF-R pre

Right now I have a pair of speakers which provide GREAT imaging, have a very natural, detailed and spacious sound and are very decent in bass response and lack of coloration. Now I want MORE!

I'm hoping to get a pair of speakers which will; by a VERY, VERY, wide margin; surpass my present speakers.

I'm willing to spend over ten times the money on a used pair of speakers as I spent on my present speakers-NEW.

The bad news is that I presently own a pair of Wharfedale Sapphire 88's (6" woofer, 6" mid in separate enclosure and 1" silk dome tweeter) that I purchased for $79.00 each plus shipping-(Total of $290.00 delivered to my door)

I have no drivers liscence and there are no high end audio shops within 30 miles of me. As a result I have heard none (not a one) of the offerings put out by the various manufacturers that may be of interest to me. This situation results in my having to buy a pair of speakers without the benefit of an audition. I am therefore relying on the opinions and impressions of Audiogon members, (whose opinions I trust) to steer me to the speakers which will satisfy my audio cravings.

I'm sure that by now it's quite clear that I'm VERY inexperienced in high end audio. I have heard absolutly NO high end systems.

So back to my original thought- How much better does it get? (For a guy who is so inexperienced in high end audio) I've been trying to do my homework as far as whats available in my price range- Von Schweikert VR-4,VR-4 Gen II, VR-3.5, Silverline Sonata, Sonatina ,Sonatina II, JM-labs 920.1, 915, Vandersteen 2Ce-sigs,3A-sigs, VMPS RM-2 Neo's, B&W N804, N803,Matrix 802 S-III, Legacy Classic's, Dunlavy SC-III,SC-IV, Norh 9.0 Marble, Dynaudio Audience 82, Contour 3.0, Contour 1.8 Mk II, Hales Rev. IIII, Snell V, NHT-2.9, 3.3, Monitor Audio 9 silver, 20 Gold, Theil 3.6, 1.5, and various others by Joseph, ACI, KEF, Ect,Ect......

So what should I buy? I'd like a highly detailed, smooth speaker with terrific bass response.

I'm looking for a full range floorstander, the thinner dimensionally, the better, the fuller the sound- the best!

Will 10 times the money buy me 10 times the speaker? 5x the speaker? 2x the speaker? A "noticeable difference" or something like "A huge difference in the percieved response of all audio frequencies, audible or not"

Please, looking for a straight shooter to set me straight.



Steve..although I'm not too familiar with your equipment my word of warning after looking at your list of loudspeaker choices is that most of these speakers will leave you in need of major equipment upgrades..of the group I'd recommend
(something warmish and forgiving) the Vandersteen 2ce sigs maybe that leaves you some room for a component ugrade I'd look at amplification but remember that old saying about a chain being only as strong as it's weakest link.
Hi Steve,

I'm familiar with at least one amp of yours. Why don't you come on over and listen to SCIIIs or SCIV's?

Best wishes,

Bill E.
Thiel 3.6s can give outstanding results. However, I have heard that a replacement model is due out. In speakers, trust your ears. Find a procedure to follow while auditioning speakers that puts every aspect of performance to the test. Don't throw in a bunch of variables. Leave the store's recordings out of the picture. Stick to the "playlist" you have devised and try for a home audition or bring your electronics to the store to see if the amp is up to the task and, again, to limit variables. Listen with your ears not your eyes. Don't belive every comment you hear or read. Don't listen through a padded wallet. Good luck in your quest.
Greetings Say811,

You are setting out to make a highly subjective choice without the benefit of listening, since you don't have the option of driving for an audition. May the audio gods smile on you!

Speaker choice is a very personal thing because, until they make the perfect speaker, the best we can hope for is to pick the pair whose shortcomings bother us least. And that varies from one person to the next.

Extrapolating from your stated preferences, I'd suggest either the Vandersteens or Von Schwiekerts of VMPS's from your list. Apparently I like speakers that start with the letter "V". But I'd want to talk to you a bit more about your personal preferences before making a recommendation from among these three. If you place a really high premium on the narrow-front format, you might look at Audio Physic or Coincident. I sell none of these.

Best wishes,

Nice post Duke. Steve, your list of speakers covers both a wide cost range and a wide sonic range. The Vandersteen 2Ce/sigs are excellent and pretty forgiving speakers-- and don't cost a lot (in high end terms)-- I enjoyed them for several years, and as I up-graded my electronics they just sounded better and better.

The Thiel 3.6s are excellent too, but a lot more expensive and are VERY demanding of up-stream components, ie they can be ruthlessly revealing. Speakers are the most "colored" of all components, so you need to find a way to audition even if it means buying and selling used until you find something you like. But Good Luck in your quest.

I'm not personally familiar with your present speakers or amps, but as a philosophy, I'd agree with Duke. Cheers. Craig
I've had my Silverline Sonatinas (Avalon version) IMS for over two years. My buddie has the same speakers, so we've heard them with a variety of components (7 different amps collectively). We both enjoy them very much, and if it weren't for my recent aquasition of a SET amp I wouldn't even consider replacing them. The Moth with 45 tubes puts out 1.8-2wpc, the Sonatinas are a friendly load but only 93dbs - not the best match. Still they sound great together, I can only wonder what the Moth would sound like paired to a more sensible driver, thus my thoughts of speaker auditions.

Not wanting to cost Alan Yun a sale, based on your preferences I wouldn't recommend the Silverlines, or instead of the Sonatinas, I would think the Sonata would be closer to your preference. While the Sonatinas are highly detailed, smooth and have a small footprint they are not "bass happy" speakers. While very pleased with the propulsive bass IMS, there're alot of speakers with a more prominent bass profile.

As far as ratios go, 10 times the monies will not give you 10 times the speaker. YMMV, but I would hazard to guess more along the lines of 2-3x. My advice is that JUST changing one component, even a core component will not typically result in a "very, very wide margin" of improvement. The result of all the upgrades TOGETHER will have or could have a dramatic improvement in performance. Syngery is a powerful thing, it isn't always the pedigree of each component but how well they work together as a system. In my case the SET amp made a big difference, but the resulting change in sound was actually small, its that THAT small change was greatly valued. Some may either not discern the change or appreciate the upgrade from the fine amp it replaced. But I did.
Dear Steve, It gets really good but you need a plan and a budget to stick to. On this site you will get all the advice you need to make "Sound" decisions but nobody will tell you what to do. Here is my take; go to the members systems and find a price range for yourself, then contact these members and get their opinions. Maybe match some of the components you already have for now. Then take that giant set and buy a pair of speakers that you choose. If you do not like them make sure you can resell them without taking a beating. You will get what you like. Look carefully at the combinations of amps/ speakers used by the members, these are well educated people who are passionate about this hobby. We all make mistakes in choices and pass this along to others, NOT pass the same mistake on to others. GOOD LUCK but don't sweat it . ANY of your speaker choices are good ones , of your list I can only comment on the B&W's. Started as my reference but within 2 years moved to home theater duty and are supperb For music I would add Merlin VSM-M to your list with a integrated tube amp of 50+ watts.. I hope this helps. Dredster
If you want narrow, I would suggest newform research 645's, narrow and tall, easy to drive, and will take any equipment upgrades in the furture....they sound great on both music and movies....they can be delivered to your door and if they don't rock your boat you're only out the shipping fees. However they should be easy to resell. You do not see them second hand very often...I use the r8-2's which are no longer made being replaced by the 645's. Both tubes and SS can sound wonderful on the ribbons....speakers are so personable, don't be afriad to go somewheres where you can listen. You'll definately have preferences. Good luck and good hunting....
Your question is impossible to answer. Audio is a 100% subjective sport. The best speaker is the one that you enjoy most in your room with your particular setup. No one else can tell you how much money you spend will give you how much "better" speaker.

Let me share with you an experience I had recently. I own a pair of Martin Logan SL3 for a few years and recently I have upgraded it to a pair of Vandersteen Model 5. Of cause I think the Model 5 is much better than the SL3 or I would not have spent 4x as much to upgrade. But a friend of mind disagrees. He likes the SL3 better than the Model 5. Why? Because the SL3 has faster transient responses and that he thinks make music sounded more real. So I offer to sell him the SL3 since he likes it so much. He said thanks but no thanks, he wants something better.
Must'have jumped the paragraph about lack of car and distance to shops. I will stick to the gist of my earlier comments though, you have to hear them to know, so whether you take a bus or bum a ride from friends or family, you have to be in the same room as the speakers, listening to familiar recordings, to form any kind of opinion. While the 100% subjective sport comment is not 100% objective, when it comes to speakers, with their individual colorations, you have to give them a serious listen before buying. Of all components, their size makes them, in my experience, the hardest component to sell from a distance.

Parting comment: buy a brand manufactured by a concern that has been in business a good while and, hopefully, will stay in business for the foreseeable future. Again, Thiel have been tremendous on servicing for my 12 year old CS 3.5s. Vandy is also a great outfit, producing excellent sound. There are many others, but I would stick to an established manufacturer, since there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get replacement parts. Again, a company using drivers from a major manufacturer as an outside source can be a good bet (ex Dunlavy). Of all components that I have owned over 25 years, speakers are the ones that have required replacement parts and servicinfg the most often by a LONG shot. If they falter, who cares how good they sound when they do work.