Looking for new monitors - $300-$600 budget

Hello, all.

New here (first post), and I'm sure this topic has been done to death, so if there are are any "greatest hits" threads on this topic, please feel free to direct me there.

I'm currently using a pair of KEF Q10s I picked up at an estate sale with my setup (Rega Brio 3 and P1, unremarkable Sony single disc player). This is the living room setup so we listen to the occasional movie, podcast, etc... over the system too.

The KEFs were a definite improvement over our old speakers, but not quite my taste. They seem to have a bit of a bump in the low end that I'm not wild about. I'm looking for something a little more honest.

In terms of listening habits, I'd say:

65% rock
15% acoustic/folk
15% jazz
5% classical

Listening levels tend to be pretty moderate. Below a list of what I've listened to so far, as well as a list of others I'm curious about. I'm just curious to get some input. Maybe there's a pattern to what I like that might suggest some others to listen to?


Morel MLP-202 MKII (current front runner) Balanced-sounding, nice imaging qualites, extended but not fatiguing high end. Extreme low end stayed musical and under control.

Rega R1 - (new version) Fairly neutral-sounding to my ears, but not boring with rock. I just can't seem to get that excited about them though.

B&W 685 - a little sizzly I guess, but I actually liked them better than the larger model in the line.

Vandersteen VLR-1 I liked these quite a bit but at $600 EACH they are way out of the budget.

did not like:

Usher S-520 Too lean/clinical sounding.

Quad 12L2(?) Low mids seemed a bit wild n'wooly. A little too hyped-sounding overall.

Rega R1 - (old version) Too "cardboard-y" if that makes sense.

Snell Acoustics Type KII - Fatiguing treble, bass seemed overly reigned in.

curious about:

Tekton 4.5 and 6.5 I definitely find the idea of a single, high quality full range driver appealing, but I've never actually heard this type of speaker design.

Linn Kan These seems to be in my budget when they pop up used. There seems to be some debate about the relative merits of the different versions. Somehow I think these are probably all wrong for me.

Dynaudio Audience 52 - There's currently a pair up on my local craigslist.
Since most of your listening seems to be rock, I would hesitate on single full range driver design. The Dynaudio Audience 52 that on your local craighlest would certainly be worth having a listen to, and might indeed, serve your listening wants and needs. Good luck in your quest.
I think one of the best spk. you can buy would be Tannoy. I own two prs. of Tannoy bookshelf spks. (Fusion 1 and the MX-1m.) Absolutely great sounding loudspeakers! Do NOT let the low price put you off. They sound way better than their price point. I've listened to them using your my Rega Brio 3 int. amp. (BTW, what a great int. amp!) Tannoy improved the Fusion 1 and they are now called F1 Custom. "Audiophile Liquidator" is stealing them for $98.55 NEW! (You can order them in two finishes. Just be aware the "Dark Oak" is black.) Good Luck w/your search! Bill
I use a pair of Dynaudio Audience 42Ws in my office w/ my Luxman integrated amp, and they sound great. But the new Rega R1 speakers are supposed to be just the thing with the Brio amp, but I haven't had a chance to audition them yet. I'm thinking of using that setup for my daughter's college dorm room.

What is your room size and placement limitations? Do these need to go against or near the back wall, or can they come out into the room a bit? If the latter, you might see if you can find a used pair of Von Schweikert VR-1s - one of the most musical monitors I have ever heard. But they do need to be placed carefully for the best sound.

Good luck.
Find a pair of Infinity primus 150 speakers and buy a small sub with the change.
well i'd have to say that with a smallish, not necessarily tiny, room, the tektons with the fostex 167e really does rock more than i thought it would, pressurizing the room to give you that presence while retaining that nice rich midrange, especially for the money ($350 on his site)and non-fatiguing level of detail that these speakers do so well. of course, these aren't speakers for large scale presentations of orchestra and a six inch driver can only sound but so "big" reproducing marshall stacks and double kick drums but i was usually surprised by how big they could sound (I was using a trends 10.1 t-amp). mine are boxed up because i got some mirage omni 550s, but i can't seem to let them go, even though they were too small for this room, partly because with the better midrange and detail, they sound bigger than they really are, not that much smaller than the 550s with two 6 inch drivers, though that is not fair to the mirage speakers, since i haven't heard them with a proper amp yet.
Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone. I might see about listening to the Dynaudios.

This has done nothing to reduce my curiosity about the Tektons. Sigh. I've also been wondering how the 4.5 model with the FE127 driver compares. I like my bass on the light side for a rock listener. On my old Denon tuner I usually left the bass down a notch.

I love my Brio 3, but the lack of tone controls is part of the deal. One of the appealing aspects of the Morels is that I was able to hear them with a Brio 3 at the shop.

Re: Placement limitations, these will need to be pretty close to the wall. 5 or 6 inches from the wall is probably the most I could get away with. Current speakers are on either side of the TV, which is on a wide-ish entertainment center. They're sitting on Auralex Mo' Pads to try to decouple them a little. Arranging the furniture in the room was a bit of a challenge, so unfortunately the spacing of the speakers is not really optimal (on the close side). The basement system will be set up more properly in this regard.

Hopefully the household decision maker will be up for some listening this weekend. This whole thing was partly her idea. I guess I've been good or something.
PSB Image B25. Smooth, full-bodied, detailed, very linear, and mfr' list price $479/pair. Usable bass down into the 30's.

Stereophile review and measurements.

Even when compared to similarly priced offerings from Epos, NHT, and Alon/Nola, overall it appears that the PSB was a better all-rounder, with excellent bass extension and articulation, less dynamic compression, and better detail while sounding natural.
Paradigm studio 20's can be had used around $600.
Thanks for the new suggestions. I've listened to some PSBs and Paradigms a step or two down in the line pretty recently and wasn't wild about them. I do have a soft spot for Paradigm though. The first system I heard that really made me say "wow" was driving Paradigm monitors.
I would suggest you audition the Silverline Audio Minuets @$600/pr list.
Maybe those mobile fidelity monitors oml-1 for sale would work for you;also Bondmanp suggestion is worth looking in to.
My wife and I listened to a few more today. Unfortunately the Morels were gone.

Totem Rainmaker (new) - Pretty nice imaging, fairly open and natural sounding in the upper end. The bass seemed a little disjointed. Tony Williams' ride cymbal on "Maiden Voyage" sounded very brassy and flat. The salesman seemed to think these qualities would lessen with break-in. These were out of the budget anyway, so it was on to the next.

Soliloquy SM-2A3 (used) - A little more detailed in the midrange than the Totems, bordering on harsh. We preferred these over the Totems but they still had difficulty sorting out complex low frequency material like the deep gong bass drum and bass guitar interplay on Luna's "Whispers".

Epos ES-14 (used) - We listened to these on the recommendation of the salesman. They were immediately more musical and sounded very open and balanced from top to bottom. The imaging was also impressive, particularly with the classical and jazz recordings we brought. The only flaw I could find is they came up a bit short in delivering a proper bass kick in the gut from Fugazi's "Bed for the Scraping". The rawness of the vocals and guitars still came through though. They are also a little brighter than I'm used to, but not in a fatiguing way as far as I could tell. My wife liked them a lot with the recording she picked (Calexico, Kristen Hersh, The Be Good Tanyas). She heard many details in these recordings that were new to her.

These might be it.
I own a pair of quad 11L speakers paired with a classe dr6 pre and modded dynaco st70. This setup sounds fantastic in my 10 x 10 listening room.

I have owned various ss seperates and klipsch heresys, kg4's, snell type jIII, paradigmn v20 and several other speakers.

None of my other systems over the years have had the warmth,musicality, and a soundstage as wide and deep with the detail of my current rig.

I think it is more about matching components that work well together to achieve great sound, not just one pair of speakers, amp, etc.

You have already auditioned many very highly regarded speakers, but have found shortcomings with most of them.

You mentioned that this is a second system.... what are you using as a main system? I ask because from your descriptions of listening to the various speakers, I can tell you are a seasoned audio veteran and it is almost as if you are trying to find $600 speakers that have as full and detailed a sound as your main system.

I apologize if I come across as a jerk for saying this, it is not my intent. But $600 for speakers even used is not going to get much more than budget entry level speakers from any of the quality speaker manufacturers..... there is a reason why there are so many speaker company's..... if there was a $600 speaker that had low deep bass, magical midrange, and airy detailed non fatiguing highs that all blended together perfectly, then no one would ever pay more than $600 for speakers.The old saying applies you get what you pay for (to a certain extent in audio gear).

I would love to have most of the speakers that you have auditioned. I have heard several totem models and think they sound fantastic. I also really like the sound of dynaudio speakers.

One thing I did notice in my current rig though... I recently purchased a bryston 3b st amp and put it in my system in place of my dynaco st 70.... and while it had slightly more top end detail, my soundstage shrunk and musicality all dissapeared from my system. I will probably keep the bryston packed away in case I build another system, but it is sitting in a closet now.It is all about system synergy.

Good Luck and keep us informed.
Sorry about the second system mention in my first post.... I was thinking about another thread. My listening room is also my ht area and I watch a lot of shows on my 46" h.d.t.v. through my system.

Also speaker placement can have a big affect on how they sound in a room.

Good luck in your search