I wonder if you would be better off upgrading your Cambridge Audio integrated. I used to believe speakers were, by far, the most important component in a system. I have learned that the room itself, AC power, and amplification (in that order) are the absolute starting points for a well designed system.
I bet you could find a pretty nice integrated within your price range here on Audiogon -- perhaps, a SimAudio I3, or better yet an I5. Then, once you have extracted the full potential out of your existing speakers by careful room tweaking and speaker placement, you could start all over by looking into speakers...
You are correct in looking at speakers. The speaker/room interface determines the sound of the system. The Revel's would be my pick from the one's listed.
When you decide to upgrade the amp for more power, you might want to pick an integrated with both preamp out and main amp in jacks or separates. You can then insert a bass management controller for handling a subwoofer.
I like the Cambridge, a power cord upgrade maybe. The Totems are great but will not carry a large room. Vandys will. Or look for some higher efficiency speakers in the 92-94db range with at least 6" woofer should do the trick.
How you do the room as far as acoustical treatment will make a huge difference. Hardwood floors with throws will project much louder than say carpet with cloth furniture and heavy drapery. I think you have enough power here with thoughtful room design.
Brace yourself for self serving propaganda. I've my Coincident Triumphs up for sale and they are 94db.
If you are patient and can keep an eye on the ads here on a regular basis, I bet you could upgrade both amp and speakers and have a really nice system. I'd look for Soliloquy 5.3's (because the company is no longer in business all their speakers seem to be going for a song). I've seen them for $600. Take the balance and pick up a used Portal Panache...OK, you'll need to go a few hundred more, but you'll be cooking with gas with that combination. Only downside is no remote for the amp, but if you can live with that, the combination would be a significant upgrade, IMO.
The larger B&W 600 series models are worth looking at. They are not my cup of tea - not as smooth as the CM series - but the 604 would probably fill the room nicely. It will be less lush than the Vandersteens but depending on your tastes might work out.
Of the speakers on your list I've owned only the Vandersteens. They were way too large for the room I had at the time so they never got a fair evaluation. That being said, I'm going to recommend you check out the Polk Audio LSi-15. These speakers are extremely well reviewed and fit within your budget. I find them to be very revealing but never hard to listen to.
Okay, so they aren't esoteric. They are worth investigating.
Jalapenos has a very strong point, and I second his order of importance. However, given your altec bookshelfs and the size of the room, you will probably have to focus on speakers first. If you are sticking with the Azur for the time being, I would look for large, sensitive (90db+) but forgiving speakers. I'm surprised that nobody has recommended Klipsch La Scala (used on Ausiogon for 900-1300) or other good Klipsch models for that matter given your music preference, room size, and amplification limitations. But there is a lot of options out there....
Buy a used pair of Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 active speakers, with powered subwoofers and RABOS room equalizer onboard. These were Stereophile Class 'A' and will fill rooms twice the size of yours. NOTE: you don't want the passive version.
Later when you can afford it, look for a push-pull tube integrated amp with 40 watts, such as an SLI-80 Signature, or comparable BAT, Jolida, Canary, etc. -- you can build a great system around a pair of Intermezzo 2.6's.
An older pr. of Snell floorstanders would be an outstanding choice. I own E/III's and J/IV's and these are both GREAT spks. Check out the Snell D/C/B's as well. Forget the Arro's. Too small for the room and IMO a little overpriced. The Vandersteen would be good option as well. Good Luck!
I have to second the B&W 600 series suggestion. They will fill a large room and have the grunt to carry off classic rock and blues very well. They are not quite subtle enough for jazz for me but they really are a punchy speaker that should work well with the Cambridge amp.
Thanks for the feedback so far. I have thought about the B&W 603's, is that one worthwhile to listen to? I'm also going to listen to the Vandersteens in the next couple of weeks as well.
I'll also have a more exact measurement of the room on Monday so maybe that will affect the choice as well. I'll post the real size then.
Vandersteens are wonderful speakers and one of my favorites. They require a good amplifier to be at their best.
I have a very similar room set-up and bought the Totem Hawks - I auditioned the Arros in my room and they were just too small - the bass got lost in the second story. The Hawks are better but not perfect. I kind of wish I'd spent a little more money and gone with a fuller range speaker. That being said though, the clarity and imaging of the Hawks is beautiful to listen to.
So... I am in the process of evaluating subwoofers to provide a better situation and thus far it is working out although I have not settled on one yet - I may end up with the best of both worlds if I can find a sub that passes the always stringent wife/decor test. Bottom line however is that we both have listening room issues that nothing will completely overcome short of huge, expensive, full-range speakers. I think your amp is fine for any of the speakers you might consider in this price range.
Feel free to email me with any specific questions....
Yes, the 603 is worth exploring, as is the 604 which is a bit bigger and would definitely fill up your room. I think the Vandersteen will be a little more refined than these but depending on your sonic preferences you may prefer them.
As I sit here in our tiny furnished apartment (part of the relocation package) imagining my new listening room I am wondering which speaker in my price range has the widest soundstage? Since the room is fairly large it would be nice to have a nice wide soundstage instead of one located between the speakers. My expectation is that the speakers would be no farther than 10 feet apart. What is everyone's opinion? Am I asking the speakers to do something that $1000+/- can't buy?
OK, I had a chance to measure the room today during the inspection. The dimmensions are 23Wx18Dx20H. The speakers will be along the 23' wall and we will most likely sit 8-10 feet away from them. The floor has carpet but the rest of the walls are drywalled. The ceiling is vaulted and open to the 2nd floor which is a loft on one side of the room only. Given the measurements my guess is that I should be looking at the same speakers (higher efficiency floorstanding) as before, right?
You may find this article interesting and possibly effective in your situation. I found myself in a similar situation. Large room (22 x 24), small speakers that are designed for a room less than half that size (Audio Physic Spark). I tried a zillion different speaker placement methods. The problem was always a thin presentation with little bass weight. Then I read this article, talked my wife into the idea and applied what I read and have been very happy ever since.
A quick update. Today I spent some time listening to the Totem Hawks and Thiel 1.6. Overall I'm fairly sure I liked the overall sound of the Thiels over the Hawks. The Thiels seemed to have fuller, more engaging sound. That being said, will the Thiels work in my larger room with my current amp? Also, since I am going to try to listen to the Vandersteens, do they have a similar overall sound as the Thiels?
mctigues, that was an excellent article! Thanks.
Another update. We are moving into the house this coming Friday (finally) so I am getting closer to making the decision on which speaker to get.
I was able to listen to the Polk LSi15's and liked what I heard. They put out a good soundstage and I heard details in several of my demo CD's that I hadn't heard before, alot like the Vandersteens. My concern with the Vandersteens is that they have the full "acoustic sock" fabric which might be an issue for our two cats, even though they are front declawed. My question is has anyone done a side by side of the LSi's and Vandersteen 2ce's? How are the Polks/Vandersteens and as far as room placement goes, easy or hard to get setup properly? Also, given that my Cambridge integrated has 60w/90w into 8 and 4 ohms, will I really have enough power for the size of room or should I be looking at upgrading the amp as well, and if so, what are some suggested 2-channel amps that can be added to the pre-out on the Cambridge?
I know, alot of questions, but any help is appreciated!
I briefly owned the 2CE signatures and am currently using the LSi-15s. I didn't sell the 2CEs because of the sound as much as the placement issue. Although I will say the I prefer the Polks. Much like you said, I hear things with the Polks that weren't apparent with other speakers. This could have something to do with the improved source/amplification but I attribute most of it to the speakers. I've had the Polks for six months or so and when ever I put on a familiar cd I hear something different through the Polks. Can;t say I remember this happening with the Vandys.