Just confused about where to start


Hello all,

I'm looking to add speakers to my audiophile setup which currently consists of (very high end) headphones. I want speakers for everything the headphones cannot do - simple enough. Problem is, I'm having difficulty deciding which gear I want to buy. I demoed a pair of B&W 705 S2's today and was very impressed. Unfortunately, my budget isn't that high. It's $1500 total, for the speakers and amp combined. Source is a computer. I listened to a cheaper pair of B&W bookshelf speakers (can't remember which, but were around $1200) and was not impressed. I am leaning toward bookshelf speakers but don't know if getting floorstanding at this price point would be a large increase in quality. The room they will be placed in is only 100 square feet. I am willing to buy used.

So, my questions, summed up are:

Is bookshelf a better option than floorstanding?

Is it worth looking at cheaper B&W models, or should I look at other companies altogether?

At least with headphones, I like a pretty neutral sound, if not a tad warm. Are there any companies that predominantly have this sound signature?

How should the room size inform my choice of speakers?



muffinhead123
For $1,500 this is the way I'd go:

Speakers: Elac Uni-Fi UB5 (currently on sale for $350 @ Amazon, normally $500/pair, and they'll easily best speakers costing quite a bit more)

Amp:  Elac Element EA101EQ (currently on sale for $620 @ Amazon)

Subwoofer:  Either SVS SB12-NSD ($449) or Rythmik L12 ($539)

You didn't explicitly mention a subwoofer, but if you're going with bookshelves, and want to do things headphones can't do, one of the big things being tactile response from the music, you want a sub.  The beauty of the Elac Element integrated is that it has built in subwoofer integration with automatic room EQ and subwoofer blend including phase adjustment, so you can get the speakers and sub working beautifully together.  It also has a built-in USB DAC so it's easy to hook up to your computer.  

I have the UB5, SB12-NSD, Elac Element comb.  I use it for my computer audio setup and it's excellent.  The Rythmik sub is certainly worth a look though.  Either way you're within spitting distance of your budget.  
Thank you. That amp sounds good with the autocalibration feature, so I'll look more into it. How would it be if I took out the sub and spent that money on a floorstanding speaker? I'm not a basshead and don't really need visceral bass. I just really like the open feeling and imaging speakers provide.
If you want imaging and clarity without brightness the Elac Uni-Fis could be right up your alley.  

A subwoofer is about more than visceral bass, it also helps unload a lot of work from the amplifier and can ease positioning issues with the mains (especially if you have to place them near a wall or on a desk where having too much of the bass coming from the mains can cause the sound to be muddy).  A pair of bookshelves and a subwoofer can oftentimes outperform towers, especially in a smaller room like yours.  

Plus, you can always adjust the gain on the subwoofer to apply the amount of bass for your preference.  I'm not a bass-head either, but I enjoy the fuller sound that a subwoofer provides.  With the room correction and auto-blend functions of the Elac amp I don't have any boom, just nice full music from top to bottom.
I'm looking to add speakers to my audiophile setup which currently consists of (very high end) headphones. I want speakers for everything the headphones cannot do - simple enough....
At least with headphones, I like a pretty neutral sound, if not a tad warm.

Can you share your headphone setup?

If it is 'high end' and you value 'neutral' sound, you may have a mis-match between your expectations and what you can achieve given your budget.

Sharing more will help others offer better and more specific advice.
I my opinion, given a 100 sq ft room and a budget of $1500 for a pair of used speakers, I would purchase a pair of stand mount 2-ways. Given the subjectivity, I find it difficult to recommend speakers. I love my Esoteric MG 10s and will not part with them, though a used pair would likely be at or slightly under your budget.  
Don’t rule out active speakers (amplified). That might be a good choice for a smaller room and using a computer as a source.
Budget is:

It’s $1500 total, for the speakers and amp combined.

Speakers and amp combined.
Agree with tutetibiimperes
@david_ten sorry if I didn’t make myself clear. I have $1500 to spend on the speakers and an amp. I don’t really care how that money is distributed between the two purchases as long as it gives me some of the best quality at this price point.
@david_ten I have Stax SR007’s and Audeze LCD2’s. Maybe my expectations are completely out of proportion, considering I will probably only be able to afford decent dynamic driver speakers with my budget.
@ OP  You did make yourself clear. I was pointing it out since one of the recommendations was for 1500 into the speakers.

Given where you are coming from with your headphones (which amps and sources are you using?) I think you may (will?) be disappointed with the performance, given your budget. 
@david_ten OK, thank you for that. SR007 is using a modded T1 amp and LCD2 is using a Schiit Lyr2. Source is a computer fed through a Modi Multibit (not impressed, looking for DAC recommends as well).

As for the budget: I was thoroughly impressed with $2500 speakers. Granted they were hooked up to McIntosh components. but let’s ignore that for now.

Say I up my budget to $2500. Will this better approximate the SQ of my headphones? I realize it will take $10,000+ speakers to match the level of detail that the Stax present, so I don’t expect to attain that aspect of quality. What I do expect, however, is getting some speakers that image very well and present soundstage in a realistic way. Clearly, I won’t be satisfied with muddier sound, but I’m willing to accept it as a tradeoff for the inherently more expensive nature of speakers.

As for amplification, how much does it matter with speakers? With most headphones, it accounts for about 10-20% of the sound, in my experience. Is it the same with speakers?
Post removed 
Amp and speakers have to work together. Consideration needs to be given to an amp that will be powerful enough to drive the speakers to their full potential. So matching is much more important than with headphones.
The nice thing about headphones is that they take the room out of the equation. For speakers the room, furnishings, treatments (if any), and positioning can make a big difference.

Is this a dedicated listening space or are going to be practical concessions in terms of placement?

As far as amps go, you’ll want something with enough power to drive the speakers you choose and that can handle whatever the impedance of your speakers is.  

Most integrated or standalone amps are fine with 4 ohm loads, and the vast majority of speakers don’t present a load appreciably less than that.  

Since you have a small space you aren’t likely to need tons of power.  
@lowrider57 So suppose I match the power and impedance, current, etc, between speakers and an amp. That's surely not the whole story. Does component "synergy" play a big role with speakers?

Powered Kef LS 50's may be good for you. the LS 50 has great reviews and after listening to them I agree the do music justice.  

http://us.kef.com/ls50-wireless


@tutetibiimperes the room will be used as a living room space among my flatmates and I. That means that the room will have some furniture in it. It will be carpeted. The speakers will be set up with a TV, but I personally intend to use them for mainly music.
@glennewdick
So suppose I go the powered speakers route: are there any major concessions being made over bookshelf speakers? I'm seeing the LS50's for $800 used right now, so that means I could spend a bit more.
When I first read your post, I thought "oh my, he is going to get soooo many ideas that it'll be very difficult to sort through to come up with a good solution".... with that, even though I have a few different ideas than posted, the solution that tutetibiimperes laid out is a very satisfying system. It'll have balanced sound, image well and fit every room except very large rooms.  I'd run with his suggestions. 
@muffinhead,
Yes, synergy is very important. Specs need to checked, but the amp and speakers need to compliment each other. ie, you may not want a detailed amp with highly resolving speakers.

Lack of synergy may be the most common reason components are put up for sale. Auditions and a return policy are vital.
I have two questions:
1 Do you already have a headphone amplifier?
2 Would you mind using e.g. a Chromecast Audio streamer instead of a computer? I ask because computers usually have usb output, but amplifiers with usb input tend to be less common/more expensive.

In a situation like yours you want the cheapest decent amplifier you can find (e.g. a Yamaha AS 501), to have as much budget as possible for the speakers. In a small room like yours I would avoid floorstanders.

Small active speakers would be a good alternative, but the choice is more limited.
@timlub ok, sounds like I'll give the ELAC setup a go. I'm going to listen to some speakers today at some more HIFI stores, so maybe I'll find something else in the $1000 range. Otherwise, it sounds like that's the best option.

One more question:
Should I be averse to buying used speakers? Besides the obvious problems of dented drivers and tweeters, are there any issues I should look out for?


Overall, no it isn't a problem to buy used speakers... You might want to ask questions first.  If the speakers have been driven very hard for years, their suspensions could be weak.  I'd personally want them to be under 7 or 8 years old without abusive treatment. 2 or 3 year old speakers should be safe and really,  if a friend had 10 plus year old speakers and I knew that they were driven with quality components and never abused with clipping & such, even then, I would buy them.... Alot to absorb and this is just my opinion from my experience.
@timlub fantastic. I think I'm going to go used to save a couple hundred. Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction. 
There are both Dynaudio XEO 2 standmount and XEO 6 floorstanders on Audiogon right now.  1K and 2.5K.  A lot more bass with the '6 if that's important to you.  An excellent way to go.
Used is a good way to go, but you need to research the speakers online and try to find a shop that carries that line of speakers. They may have newer models, but you can get a sense of the sonics for that brand.

And there's no returning used speakers. That's why Elac is worth looking into.

Polk LSiM 703
Dayens Menuetto

These two pair extremely well together and the LSiM is a better speaker than it gets credit for.  Given the budget, space, and intended sound, I think this would be a prime contender.

The 703 retails for $1500 but street price is around 40% of that or less.
Another idea...
Magnepan MMG speakers
Peachtree Audio 150 integrated amp
Combined around $2200.
That would make a good combo. I have these speakers and have heard great things about the amp.
My 2cents
I am sure the Magnepan speakers will sound great. However, I am not so sure about the Peachtree amp. Other Peachtree amps have shown pretty weird measured performance in Stereophile tests. I think a Yamaha AS 501 would be far better, and for less. See here for a review of its predecessor the AS 500, identical but for the lack of digital inputs. For example, the frequency response under load is stunningly flat (and a lesson to Peachtree).
You've discussed New vs Used, but there's a middle-ground option...Refurbished. That gets you a significant discount and still usually includes a decent return policy if you aren't happy with the results.

At accessories4less.com they have refurbished Kef LS50s & Focal Aria 906s both for $999. I have a pair of LS50s and highly recommend them.

Pick up a decent integrated amp for <$500 (yamaha a-s501?) and talk one of the flatmates who uses them for TV into picking up the cost of the subwoofer if any deem it necessary to feel the room shake. I have my LS50s in a master bedroom system and am more than satisfied without the subwoofer though.
OK, just got back from best buy...

Listened to the Kef LS50’s and thought they sounded like hot garbage. Dark, muddy, poor articulation. No way they’re worth $1000.

I listened to a pair of Martin Logan Motion 15’s...sounded great. Almost as good as the more expensive B&W’s to my ears. The salesman gave me a deal of $1500 which included the speakers, a subwoofer, and an amp. The pair of speakers is available for $600 shipped off the web. I told the salesman I would consider his offer and come back later.

Any thoughts on these?


You went in, used the shops' time and staff. If you like the system, you should buy it from him. 
Accept the limitations of headphones.
Improve your current setup: power supply, headphone amp,
cables, vibration control.

I am getting the feeling that you may avoid some big problems
this way, and it may be more likely that the results will be satisfying
if you "stick to what you know" (and like).
Well if you have an itch to get an audio system quickly... go for it. I helped my neighbor install a Sonos system from Best Buy to meet his needs and he really enjoys it. I think you could do better but your ears are the ones that must be satisfied. The Peachtree Integrated gets many postive reviews even if it does not test well. I suggested that amp because it has the ICE amps that would push the MMGs to sound stellar. 
Listened to the Kef LS50’s and thought they sounded like hot garbage. Dark, muddy, poor articulation. No way they’re worth $1000.
I listened to a pair of Martin Logan Motion 15’s...sounded great. Almost as good as the more expensive B&W’s to my ears. The salesman gave me a deal of $1500 which included the speakers, a subwoofer, and an amp.

Was the same amp used for both speaker demos?
Can you tell us which amp you would be purchasing?

I have $3000 in headphone gear, which is well beyond the point of diminishing marginal returns. There's really nowhere for me to go from where I am with those. One other reason I want speakers is because I like listening to music with friends.

As for having to buy because I used the saleman's time: I am in no way obligated to buy something just because someone did their job and showed me the features of a product...just putting that out there. I neglected to mention that the visit to the best buy also led to a purchase of $1800 tower speakers for my mother, and that the $1500 total of the offer doesn't include sales tax nor the price of shipping the stuff up to college.

I know I can do better with the price of this gear, and want some more opinions and more listens to additional speakers before I make a decision.
@lowrider57
Sorry, I forgot to mention they were the Ls50 wireless model. Likely a different sound than the passive model, I would imagine. My experience with powered speakers hasn't been that great, but maybe I'm not listening to the right models.
and the amp you auditioned?
@lowrider57 I forgot what it was. But it was around $1200 retail.
I kind of surprised you liked the Motion 15s considering the sound signature you mentioned upthread, I found the ML Motion series to be unpleasantly bright, but it could've been set up poorly in the BB when I demoed them, there's a ton of variation between different stores, and even between speakers in the same store with them.  The first time I checked out the ML Electromotion ESLs I thought they sounded like junk, heard them at a different store and they sounded great. 

The LS50 Wireless is supposed to be superior to the unpowered version, so it could have been a setup issue.  Having built-in DSP and amps matched to the drivers should actually lead to a performance edge.  I've only demoed the unpowered version and I thought they were nice enough, but I didn't think they sounded any better than my Elac Uni-Fis and weren't worth anywhere near twice the price.  They are finished much more nicely though.  

If you're going to add a sub (which again, I do recommend) make sure whichever pre-amp/amp or integrated you choose has built-in bass management and some form of room EQ.  Aside from the Elac Element there's also the Paradigm PW Amp and the Martin Logan Forte (which is just a Paradigm PW Amp in a Martin Logan case) both of which offer great subwoofer integration and ARC room correction.  They don't have the built-in USB DAC or a remote control like the Elac Element, however, you have to use a smartphone app to control them.  
I am a fan of buying used and maximizing your budget especially when its a smaller one. Browsing the listings a couple  things jumped out at me.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis8gig3-snell-m-7-stand-mount-monitor-speakers-monitors

A nice pair of monitors from Snell $1800 new for $450 I like that they use s silk dome tweeter and paper woofer more natural sounding materials. Snell tends to make solid musical speakers and these look like a bit of a steal.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis8f99a-luxman-l-530-stereo-integrated-amplifier-solid-state

A nice looking vintage Luxman integrated for $700 the first 15 watts are Class A so it should have a warmer sound. One downside the listing ends in about 90 minutes but if you not the sellers name you can always contact him later.
Those two pieces call them $12-1300 shipped leave you a little money leftover for speaker stands and/or cables. No affiliation with either buyer. It doesn't have to be these exact pieces but that's how I would approach your project. Good luck!
@jond Thank you. Buying used is something I enjoy because of the recovery of costs in the event of resale, and the fun in hunting for deals. I just made an offer for the speakers, hope I get them.

Would it be best if I match receivers to speakers based on wattage? My concern is not getting enough volume.
@muffinhead123  You are getting great feedback and suggestions. 

All the best with your offer.
Muffinhead, on which speakers did you make an offer?

Would it be best if I match receivers to speakers based on wattage? My concern is not getting enough volume.
When you select speakers, look at the specs; sensitivity (in dB), nominal impedance, recommended power rating.
If possible, check the impedance curve; how hard it is to drive the speaker throughout the frequency range.

When selecting an amp/receiver, choose power on the higher end of the speaker’s rating.

@lowrider57 https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis8gig3-snell-m-7-stand-mount-monitor-speakers-monitors
At 28 lbs each and having a recommended power rating of 100-300w it looks like I'm gonna have a field day finding an amp for these. I didn't buy the Luxman mentioned earlier because it looks like it doesn't have enough juice for these.

Where did you find the power rating of 100-300w ?
@lowrider57
https://content.abt.com/documents/8800/M7_cut-sheet.pdf
At 16"x13"x8", they're massive for bookshelf speakers
Thanks, looks like a terrific speaker... 87dB, so not very efficient. But 8ohm is good, typically it’s an easier load to drive.
Frequency Response down to 45Hz is very good for a bookshelf.

This is a very good find.
@lowrider57
Thank you,. Fingers crossed I get these.