Impossible? Small towers, efficient, musical, loud

I've been reading on threads here for different speakers that sound good with rock, which is my primary pleasure. But I am also a lover of high fidelity and do not want to compromise on sound quality, so this isn't necessarily about speakers that just sound good with rock. My situation may be a paradox or impossible, but I'm hoping I can be enlightened favorably. I'm looking for smallish floorstanders that are tube friendly, placement friendly, and can still sound nice and full at reasonable to loud levels.

Room is an open design roughly 23' wide, 12' deep and vaulted ceilings 8-12' high. Listening area is 15' wide as opposed to the 23'. Speakers must go along the wide wall at 10' apart, one speaker is in a corner. Listening position is 10' from the speakers. I can pull the speakers out at most 2' away from the walls, depending on how large the cabinets are.

Associated gear:
Cary Rocket 88R (30w triode/60w ultralinear)
Promitheus passive TVC Ref 4
Eastern Electric minimax cd

The amp and the TVC are new, haven't yet received them yet in fact but will be replacing my current gear.

Current speakers are Usher 6381, large speakers that I believe are too big for my room. With the tiny amount I can pull them away from the walls, staging is pretty flat, though surprisingly I haven't had any issues with bass boom. Hoping to put them up for sale/trade soon and wanted some feedback on what I should be looking at.

I was considering something like the smaller Silverlines (though they may not be good enough) or perhaps some Devore's. Above all I value musical speakers that emanate a sense of realism. I don't require subterranean bass, just a natural, full sound that doesn't sound wanting without a sub. Musicality is key.

Thanks in advance
Gallo 3.1? Small, musical, good with tubes and can play loud. I traded my Usher 6311 for the Gallos and found the Gallos to be a better fit for my room which sounds similar to yours. They are both wonderful speakers with different presentations.

You can always add the sub amp to the second voice coils if you want more low end.
I suggest you consider Salk SongTowers. I have SongTower speakers in a room as large as yours. They can be placed as close as 12" to the wall without compromising bass. These are fairly efficient speakers with an excellent midrange and sound stage. Several users have reported the SongTowers are driven easily by a 30W tube amp. SongTowers may be purchased with a very good dome tweeter (which I have) or may be upgraded to the ribbon tweeter version. Custom finishes are another plus. More information can be found on the Salk forum at
I was going to recommend the Gallos but Johsti beat me to it. The Cary amp should provide plenty of power (I'm using 12 wpc SET monoblocks with mine), though I'd pair it with an active linestage.
You may also want to check out some models from Duevel and German Physics.
Your query seems tailor made for the Merlin VSM.
I am a Gallo 3.1 owner and I believe they are perfect for your size room. Mine is similar. They are tube friendly but do require a tough break-in which requires some power. This may be difficult with a tube amp. Also, for best performance you will want to place them those full 2 feet you have available off your wall. Of course this is all IMHO.

Efficiency is at best inversely proportional to cabinet size. Cut cabinet size in half from a reasonable 4 cubic feet (for 40Hz exension) and efficiency goes down 3dB.

Efficiency is at best inversely proportional to the cube of the low frequency cut-off. Increase bass extension in a small speaker from 80Hz to 40Hz and its efficiency decreases 9dB.

Switching to separate woofers (I wouldn't really call an enclosure covering up to 80 or 100Hz a sub-woofer) will help with small main-enclosure size.

>Current speakers are Usher 6381, large speakers that I believe are too big for my room.

Provided that you can sit far enough from multi-way speakers for the drivers to integrate properly (10' should do it) you can't have speakers too big for the room.

With a small room and high fundamental resonance you may get room gain in the audio pass-band; although a high-pass filter may be a better option than changing speakers. Your room's fundamental resonance is at 24.6Hz so this isn't an issue.

>Room is an open design roughly 23' wide, 12' deep and vaulted ceilings 8-12' high. Listening area is 15' wide as opposed to the 23'. Speakers must go along the wide wall at 10' apart, one speaker is in a corner. Listening position is 10' from the speakers. I can pull the speakers out at most 2' away from the walls, depending on how large the cabinets are.

Your biggest problems are the speaker in the corner, the speakers too close to the front wall, and your seat too close to the back wall. NO speakers are going to provide high-fi performance with that asymetric placement without changes to the input signal.

At low frequencies speakers are completely omnidirectional. A 100Hz wave is 11' long and wraps around any speaker you can fit in your living room like it isn't there. Most audiophile speakers have the on-axis sound cut at high frequencies so there's more output at low frequencies to compensate for this loss. When the front or side wall is nearby wall the energy is not lost and the reflections are closer to in-phase so they add for a big bass (through lower midrange in extreme cases) boost. This can be 5dB for one wall or 10dB in a corner which provides Bose-like frequency response and sound (good frequency response isn't +/- 1dB before you get the room involved).

Sitting nearer to the wall increases the frequency below which all frequencies add-in phase with their rear wall first reflection. Getting too close (6' is probably a good number, since it keeps the first reflection 10ms out) also means that your brain is integrating more of the rear-wall first reflection into the direct sound at high frequencies.

Shelving high-pass filters (as on a pro-sound parametric equalizer) or DSP room correction (Audyssey, TACT, DEQX, etc) will fix the excessive bass problem. A piece of rigid fiberglass (preferably thicker) on the wall behind your seating position will help, with such products available with attractive fabric (even printed) coverings for increased spousal acceptance.

Ripping some favorite tracks, measuring with an inexpensive Radio Shack SPL meter, correcting for C weighting, and adjusting those tracks with free software (maybe Audacity?) before writing them to a CD-R would be interesting. Stop correction at a few hundred hertz - your worst problems are at low frequencies and at low enough frequencies your brain needing a few cycles to pickup a tone means steady-state power response is a reasonable approximation of what you hear.

There may also be modal issues.
Merlin VSM should do it, and are among the best speakers made, if you don't neet the lowest octave, down to 30hz or so they are world-class.
The Mirage OM3-FS is 93 dB efficient in-room, in a 42" tower with a 5-1/2 x 6-1/8" profile. They're practically invisible, yet can fill a large living space with sound. They are very dynamic, yet excellent with inner detail and clarity. Best of all is how they energize the entire listening space with a radiating pattern that approximates live performers. The result is a natural, timbre-correct sound, a totally stable soundstage, and large sweet area with no suckouts, lobing, or venetian-blind effect. They are also amp-friendly--30wpc should give you about 108-110 dB clean, in-room.

The only downside is the very bottom octave. These are good down to about 50 Hz, but can use a little help below that. They don't need much--a small sub the size of a 9" cube should do the trick, and would be easy to hide.

I strongly recommend you audition these--they practically re-define what a speaker this small, driven by a modest amount of power, can do in a large space.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mirage or any Mirage dealers in any way. I've been a satisfied customer for a dozen years, but have been particularly captivated by their current offerings using the Omniguide and ribbed elliptical cone surrounds.
You might want to consider an older generation pair of Merlin VSM, like the SE. These speakers were IMHO voiced a little thin through the mid-bass and I found that the octave to octave balance actaully benefited from near (front) wall placement, though I thought the VSM's wonderful imaging capabilities suffered a little.

The corner/sidewall placement issue will be tough on any speaker, including the VSM SE. Horns and other "waveguide" designs that control dispersion may reduce problems at higher frequencies, but problematic bass issues will be tough to avoid. Sub/sat designs are probably your safest bet, with the sub tightly in the corner and the sats as far out as you can manage.

Good Luck


The current gen VSM (while IMHO terrific speakers) are pretty much neutrally balanced and you might find yourself with something of the same problem you have now. Also, IMHO none of the VSMs show their best at really high SPL.

Good Luck

As much as I like Merlins (I owned the mxe's for a while), I wouldn't recommend them for someone whose favorite music is rock. Imaging and detail are to die for on the Merlins, but they are not the best for rock IMHO, as there are more dynamic and punchier speakers out there.

In my opinion the Gallo 3.1s would be a great choice for your situation, but I'd sell the tube amp and get a high current class D or A/B SS amp with these. I had Cary sixpacs on these, and the bass was loose and floppy. A wyred 4 sound amp cleaned that right up.
I agree with Goat's general statement re: Merlins not being the first choice for rock music (and, in particular the VSM SE that I suggested) because of less "thump" below app 100hz.. But, but, but...

Your desription of the sound in your room and the required set up suggests that you may have too much energy in the bass region due to speaker/room interaction. Hence my suggestion of a "non-rock optimized" speaker for a rock music fan. BTW, the Merlins are tremendously dynamic through the presence region ("jump" factor), particularly with some tube amps that ride the impedence curve a bit.


PS One other thing to consider is a tuned Hemholz resonator like the bassbuster. If you have 10 or 20db too much energy from 80ish hz to 150 or 200hz - a reasonable guess - these devices can help a ton.
Oops, your post says NO ISSUE with bass boom - I misread it. My bad. As Emily Litella put it "never mind".

my 2 cents..keep the ushers and move them a bit...they're great even in a smaller room. a cary or other active pre would firm up the bassand put entire the presentation in order.....nice system.
Sorry you didnt ask for this but have you thought about room correction??? Tact makes some cool stuff that sounds like it would help you reach hi fidelity nirvana.
I have a room that is very similar to yours. I cannot speak for rock as I'm not really a fan, but I use very efficient Coincident Super Eclipse III's which I feel are well suited to the room. One suggestion; have you tried bringing your speakers closer together? You may find the soundstage improves. You are probably listening right up against the back wall from your description. Check out this thread for some further input on this - specifically for options on treating the room. I'd highly recommend the Coincident speakers, but I'd qualify that by reiterating I don't listen to much rock. I'd imagine they'd do very well, but you should ask someone who uses them for that purpose. They do well with both tube and SS amplification. I have also used Silvirline Sonatina's and they did work quite well in my room too, and I did like them very much, but I prefer the Coincidents for their fuller range among other qualities. I would check to see if you can get the room working in your favor before you go changing speakers though.

Good luck!
Appreciate the feedback.

Jaybo, I will be holding onto and playing with the Ushers for now as they are my current speakers.

Jax2, I wish I could bring the speakers in but I can't. thanks for the link to the other thread, helpful. I read about the Master Set technique last night and will give it a whirl. Intriguing

FYI I have 4" thick acoustic panels behind the speakers -- one is doing double duty in the corner as a quasi-bass trap-- and Cathedral panels in the corners of the room. These all provided nice improvements: less boom and hard edged frequencies thus more clarity and ease.

To my ears my room isn't too problematic, soundstage is just rather flat. I know that a level of acceptance and compromise is in the cards. My aim for the smaller floorstanders is to give me some flexibility and freedom to move them further into the room, or more accurately, further away from the walls. I also want to try tubes and am afraid the Ushers won't like them, though I have yet to experiment. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
You mentioned that your ceiling is vaulted. Is the listening position under the short side or the tall side?

It sounds like you have absorption panels behind the speakers. Have you tried diffusion instead?

In my room I am 8 feet from the speakers and they are about 7 feet apart by necessity. My soundstage is very focused and can sound deep, but doesn't go that wide. I've experimented quite a bit with speaker positioning and that is where I ended up in my 12 foot span. Your soundstage issues may largely (though not necessarily completely) be around the positioning of the speakers in the room.

I also want to try tubes and am afraid the Ushers won't like them, though I have yet to experiment.

I thought you already were using the Cary, but I see you are not. What is the rest of your system that you're forming these impressions by?
Jax2 - listening position is under the short side. Can't change it.

Have not tried diffusion, no. I went with absorption because there was a ton of room boom and slap echo

I've had various components throughout my system. The only constant was the Ushers. I agree 100% about speaker placement in the room affecting soundstaging, hence one of the points of this thread. I feel if I could get smaller cabinets and thus get them away from the walls more, I could get a more dimensional soundstage. The Ushers are 18" away from the back wall, the one in the corner is roughly 2' away from the side wall. Width isn't the problem as speakers are 10' apart and fill in the space between nicely.
Considering the room, have you considered speakers that are actually designed to go against the wall/corners? Thinking Audio Note AN/E or J.. maybe Klipsch? I have Silverline Sonatina 1st generation.. they're laid back and throw a wide & deep soundstage when out from the walls.. against the walls they're kinda boring.
Another very positive change would be to move your cabinet to the short wall and leave the speakers on the long wall. That may not be possible, but it would be ideal to have nothing in between your speakers. I still feel 10' apart in that room dimension is too much. I could not imagine it sitting here looking at my own room. An asymmetric corner arrangement might work also, but could be challenging to make work depending on the contents of your room.
Either my last post got lost in space or Audiogon hates me (they didn't like the last swear word I slipped in another post). Appreciate all the room correction suggestions (those never go out of style) but I've tweaked my room about as much as I can within my workable parameters.

Getting back on topic, are there any more suggestions for tube/placement friendly floorstanders? If i can get smaller speakers away from the walls more I think it has a good chance of helping with soundstaging.

What about Totem Hawks or Forest? Devore 8's? Living Voice?
Check out WLM loudspeakers. They have a new entry level one coming out soon called the Stella and there is a good review on 6 moons on some of their other models. One of the big pluses is they are not as room dependent as most other speakers.
Kclone those look like promising speakers. Small and efficient. Did some reading and Vince from Red Wine Audio seems to really like them, which tells me that they'll prob sound good with my 30W of power. Thanks for the tip.

I should mention that I have 0 outlets locally to audition, so I will likely be buying used from agon or new online with warranty. My Ushers bluebook for ~$2000, likely putting up the matching center channel as well so trade value would be up to $2500 for all 3, $2k or less for just L/R.
I think you have it right yourself with the Silverline Audio Prelude. I have heard them with very modest (in price and output) electronics, and I was extremely impressed. Soundstage that goes on forever. That said, if you are used to the Ushers, the Preludes may be a step down. Another good demo, based on your post, is the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand. Small, smooth and highly musical.
I have been looking for the same thing, one word: PROAC.....really any model. Using with 30 watts solid state and they kick a**. Try Studio 140s to knowck your socks off, small footprint, elegant, rock like hell.
Perhaps the smaller models in the Tetra line?
Upstate, i see in your system you use or used Hawks. What did you think of them? You mentioned in one of your posts that bass was light. Care to venture how low they went? Totems are on my short list, though I've not heard them.
An update, I received the Cary and it seems to be handling the Ushers remarkably well, even in triode. Nice full sound, don't detect much if any distortion. I'm still very interested in getting speakers that are better suited to this amplifier, but I'm pleasantly surprised with the current sound.