KEF LS50 vs Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MkII vs Thiel 1.6


OK I should probably explain before I weird everyone out...

I have a nice pair of Thiels but always wanted to try a nice monitor.  Particularly since my room is smallish and weird shaped and I love great sound stagging and accuracy. (I figure they would be easier since I'm constantly rearranging). There's a pair of nice Countours nearby but Sterephiiiilie reviews suggest the tiny KEH set are terrific monitors.  Price is about the same. 

Any advice?
Thx, DD

Bryston B60
Rega Planar 3 (highly modded) w/ Zu Audio DL 103 MkII Cartridge
Luminious Audio Passive Preamp
Tascam CD-200
SVS PB-1000 sub (if needed)
BlueJean cables all around
Tinnitus & high frequency loss in ears...:8(

dancub
Couple questions.  Do you currently own the 1.6es?  Why do you have both the B60 and a passive preamp?

What kind of music do you listen to ?
How do you like the ZU DL103 ?
soix & schubert

Thanks for the quick responses!

soix
Yes, I currently own the 1.6s after owning 1.5s.  The passive preamp was one of those "itches" that I needed to scratch.  Much to my surprise, it is way more to my liking than the internal one in my beloved B60.  Less 'boom' in the bass and better, clearer sound staging. Pain in the rear switching back and forth between sources...but pretty special sound...to me.

schubert
Small group & vocal jazz (live if possible), world music (particularly africa and brazil), folk when I'm feeling nostalgic and, of course, Bach. 
On the cartridge, I had a stock DL 103 and it was better than the Rega Elys or Blue Point Special I'd been using.  Had a chance to get the ZU at a good price and it was distinctly better...before breaking in!  And it just keeps getting better and better.
I was fortunate to have the 1.6es in my system for an extended audition, and I think they're very good speakers.  Especially if imaging and soundstaging are important to you.  I will say that I was powering them with a 100 WPC amp, and substituting a 200 WPC amp opened them up significantly.  Point being, I think your 60 WPC amp is probably not enough to get the best out of your speakers.  And since you're not even using the preamp section of your Bryston I'd strongly consider getting a more powerful amp.  The 1.6es are not big or heavy at all, so not sure you'd be gaining all that much in portability.  All that said, if I were you and wanted to replace your Theils I'd look at a pair of Joseph Audio, Vandersteen, ProAc, or Reference 3A monitors.  They also have outstanding imaging and soundstaging on par with your Theils and do not require as much power to shine.  Best of luck. 

Thanks soix.  I did try the 1.6s with a couple 100w amps but they were not as resolving as the B60.  OTOH, they were older and probably mid-fi types (Adcom). While I'll probably go listen to the Dynaudios (they're local and used), sounds like I'd best try out a more powerful amp.  I've hesitated to do that so far because I've enjoyed the B60...and had just super customer service from them.

I guess I don't want so much want to replace the Thiels as much as up my whole system's game.  Funny, when I bought them, most of your speaker list was my list. Thanks again for your comments.
For system you have the KEF LS 50 seems the ticket, the B60 is not bright
, the KEF is a bit. Not hard to drive .
Dynaudios are better speaker but need LOTS of power you don't have .
Disagree that Dynaudios are a better speaker than your Thiels.  I think the time and phase coherence contribute to the soundstaging you are getting and would be tough to replicate.  If I'm you, since you seem to like the Bryston sound, I'd sell the B60 and buy a used 3 or 4BSST2 amp to flesh out what you have and use that with your passive pre.  I have found the SST2 to be a big upgrade over the SST so I'd pony up for that version FWIW.  
Based on what you shared, I too like that small list that poster above mentioned:   Joseph Audio, Vandersteen, ProAc, or Reference 3A monitors

All of them are really nice speakers in the right set up.  Room size and what you run and will run later will obviously be important, but that's a great list. I was a Proac guy for over 25 years.  I ended up selling three pair and then heard the Vandersteen's and was hooked.  The thing to me about monitor, is that I need bass and they just don't do it for the most part.  They may make you THINK they do, but physics say they don't.  That's the nice thing about Vandersteen's as they are point source in their sound and are time and phase correct.  Do you have dealers near you that carry any of these speakers?  That's where you should go and find someone you feel has YOUR best interest at heart and not what they like to hear.  You can get that though this thread, lol.
Well, lots of great feedback.  Thanks.

I just returned from auditioning the  Dynaudio Contours and learned a couple things.  They sounded as good or slightly better than my Thiels...sound stage a tiny bit wider and precise, sound balance maybe better.  However, a big HOWEVER, the guy had them set up with his main system. Two custom made mono-block tube units & what appeared to be a passive preamp & a Linn cd player.  I know enough to know it's the system you hear, not an individual component.

At my request, he was nice enough to rewire them to a 60wpc receiver so I could hear them with underwhelming components. Wow, everthing collapsed - they sounded flat and un-dynamic.  We both agreed that I need to hear them in my system but I'm now convinced they are not what I'm looking for.  

Then, being the nice guy he was, he re-hooked up his main system and I was totally blown away.  The only change was the speakers he had, some sort of three ways from a small European company who I never heard of using Seas(?) drivers. Best sound I've heard in 20 years...since the SF Stereophile show at the Joseph Audio room.  It delightfully reset my whole idea of what's possible.  One thing I do know, I need to get to some of the local listening rooms (Boston area) and relearn what I thought I knew. Thanks for all the advice!

Off to see (hear) the wizard(s)!
A quick follow up on my rambling last night. The speakers were Penaudio Sara Signatures, a "2.5 way" from Finnland. At 86 dBw/m, they were being driven by pretty light weight tubes (30w?). I'm confused that they could perform with such poise while my Thiel 1.6 (90dB/W/m) apparently need significantly more power to shine. I don't doubt that it's true but is that due to the speaker's specific black magic or tubes versus solid state?

Also, if anyone can suggest other speakers that have similar sonic signatures to the Penaudios, let me know...I am, as you can see, lusting for that sound.

My next step, after two cups of morning joe is to look for more power to explore the Thiels full potential and then, if they don't make the cut, look for a change there.  Onward and upward.
Dan, you are in Boston?  If so, take the 2 hour drive to Berlin, CT and come listen to my system.  Would love to speak audio.  We have some great stores near here also.  It's always fun putting together systems for folks in all price ranges.  
If you are going the Bryston + KEF LS50 route you do not need the 4B-SST2. That is more power than you will ever need with those speakers. I actually had the KEF with some 7B-SST’s for about a week before I sold the 7B’s (I had no other amp to use). It was overkill. I think a Bryston amp with about 100-150W would suffice for the KEF’s. The 3B-SST2 or 3 would fit the bill.

I myself am going to get the Benchmark AHG2 amp for my KEF LS50 controlled by the Benchmark DAC2 HGC. Check out the reviews on the Benchmark amp if you like the Bryston amps.
Is haven't heard the Thiel or any Thiel for that matter although I would like to. Between the KEF and the Dynaudio I feel the Dyn is much better balanced and definitely more full range. As said above you will need an amp with some balls to get the best out of the Dyns. 
ctsooner - heck, I was about 20 minutes away from Berlin last weekend...:8(  Not in Boston, north near Portsmouth, NH...last stop going north on NH's vast 12 mile coast line.  I go to NYC to see kids from time to time...may check in with you then.

yyzsantabarbara - I would love to keep my B60 but it seems that to give my current Thiels a fair test and be ready for anything I end up doing later (multiple comments like mofojo's & sofix suggest that), it's reasonable upgrade. I'll check out the Benchmark but Bryston has been such a pleasure to work with...once a lightening strike wounded my B60, they repaired as a warranty fix saying the "we don't usually do this"...gee, a real lesson in how to make loyal customers.

" One thing I do know, I need to get to some of the local listening rooms (Boston area) and relearn what I thought I knew. Thanks for all the advice! "

You are not too far from Audio Connection in NJ. Its a trip you'll never regret making.
I don’t know if they are available in the USA yet, but Acoustic Energy just released an active version of their AE1.

DeKay
Dancub,

I had a lot of Bryston gear in the past, 3B-ST, 4B-ST, PP300, 7B-SST, and BP-25 (pre-amp) that are all sold now due to downsizing. I never heard the B60 though I think it is supposed to be smoother sounding that anything I have listed above.

At one time I also had the Thiel SCS4 with the PP300 (essentially a 4B-SST) and it was pretty good. Not as good in near field as the KEF LS50, but pretty good for it’s price in a larger room. Heck I like my KEF LS50 over my prior Revel Salon 1 ($20K speaker) driven by 7B-SST (of course comparison is near-field only). I am also using a very cheap Parasound A23 amp with the KEF LS50.

If you are not crazy for bass then I would recommend the LS50. I have them on my office desktop (on Isoaccustic stands) and it is such an nice monitor for near-field. I will never sell these speakers and will pass them to the next room in the house as I get bigger speakers..

The reason I want to try the Benchmark over the Parasound is that the Parasound is dying and needs replacement. The Benchmark is touted as being measured as the quietest amp in any price range.
yyzsantabarbara  - I had my 1.6 Theils in a near field set up before changing my room and they really worked well. However, it's my home office and listening room and they don't exactly fit on my desk. With my latest rearrangement the space works better but I can't quite do a near field in it.  On the amp side, the B-60 ought to be pumping 120W into the Thiels (4 ohms) but apparently that's not enough.  So my plan, again, is to up the amp power and then go from there.

Funny, when I start getting "the itch" to change things, listening rather than reading reviews has served me best.  When I was much younger, I can remember running thru a bunch of mid-fi speakers based on looking in magazines. Then one day I wandered into a store in Eugene Or and listened to a weird looking set of speakers that sounded amazing.  Turns out they were Maggies and my journey into better sound began.  So it's all ears going forward.
IME, amp choice is as important for the KEF LS50s as it is for most speakers.  I'm using a 175 watt into 8Ω Ayre VX-5 Twenty.  I use two Velodyne HGS-10s low-passed at 100 Hz by a Beveridge RM-3.  The sound with a good SACD played on my Ayre C-5xeMP is superb with great sound staging that can be deep and detailed if it's on the disc.  I admit the Ayre stuff is pricy even used.  I'm using a K-5xeMP preamp, but looking for a used KX-5 Twenty.

db
Well - and this is nod to soix - I just happened to find an amp that's more powerful than my B60 nearby (OK...two hours near) and it's now installed. Bryston 4B SST.   So I've gone from 60w/channel to 300w/channel into 8 ohms.  My Thiels are 4 ohms so they're seeing more I presume. 

I've generally categorized my attempts at upgrades as "nope-maybe-yep". The 4B is a definitely a yep, maybe a YEP-YEP.

Thanks soix, the Thiels are now really paying attention to what's going on.  What's surprising to me is that the soundstage is more distinct...don't understand how that works but not going to argue about it...it works.
Dekay:

They are the Airpulse Model 1 and I'll be taking delivery of mine at the end of the month and post a review shortly thereafter.  They have been described as having a full range electrostatic quality going down to 30hz.  I s/w Phil Jones and he seemed confident stating these will blow away anything in their price range at just under a grand. I guess I'll find out in a couple of weeks.  If I'm not mistaken I will be the first customer aside from Bob James stateside to receive a pair


dan, I don't know why this thread wasn't being updated when I signed in.

Heck, I was up near Portsmouth yesterday.  My daughter is doing summer school at UNH, where she captain's the National Champion woman's cheer team, lol.  You are invited when you come down.  Would love to meet you.  Even in NYC at Audio Connection as I get down there a bit and it's only 30 minutes from the City.  email me at ctsooner@alumni.ou.edu   Johnny even carries your Briston and can use them on any of the speakers you listen to there from Proac to Vandy's to Maggies. Lot's of choices and we'd have a blast.  
ctsooner  Looks like we're destined to be "ships passing in the night".  Is  Audio Connection in NYC or NJ?  I get to NYC to see kids regularly so will give you a heads up then.  Still need to find a Penaudio dealer closer than Ontario...or buy a ticket to Paris...they have 'em there...:8)
He's in NJ, but pretty close.  I had this conversation with a friend yesterday.  His system is well north of 250k or so.  Neither of us like to purchase from a smaller company that isn't established in the US.  For us, we've learned over time that you may need to get things fixed.  They aren't even sold in the US and they have one dealer in North America. I have heard them before and they were very nice. Clean sound and tight.  Due to the laws of physics, they aren't going to give you much in the lower octaves, but if I recall the top end was very nice and not to harsh or bright like so many monitors can be.  

I agree with poster above who said that going from a  time and phase correct speaker to one that isn't may not be the best idea.  The older Thiels could be bright on occasion, depending on amp/cable hook ups, but they didn't smear the transients.  You are used to that and seem to like that sound.  There are other monitors around that will give you great sound, plus the prices of the Penaudio's are around 4k plus aren't they?  That amp works great on Vandersteen's of all sizes as Johnny sells a lot of Bryston.  He will set up the Belles amp for you as well as the Rotel so that you can hear the differences.  Open mind and ears and the ones you love with pop for you.

email me and let's talk.  
I thought so, NJ wouldn't work for me as I go to NYC by mass transit. More importantly, it's not an issue at the moment since I've just invested in the bigger Bryston (my third) and won't be doing anything else major until I've "digested" what I have.  

Short version is that I've got zero interest in hearing other amps or speakers at the moment. Frankly, my Thiels sound better than they ever have, not bright at all. While I've heard (& owned) some nice speakers - Joseph Audio, Maggies, Thiels, Linkwitz, etc. - my ears told me that system's sound was the best my ears have ever heard. So eventually, I'll chase another pair of them down to listen to. For now, I've got all I'm interested in. 
Fully understand Dan.  It's all good.  Glad you love what you have.  That's what counts.