Looking for "realistic" speakers

I just had my pair of Cary Audio Silver Oak speakers get fried along with the rest of my Cary gear in some kind of power surge (sniff sniff). And absolutely loved the Silver Oaks because they just made everything sound authentic.

The instruments had the right timbre, scale, the balance was just right, and aside for perhaps a touch of richness had no character of their own. This made them sound great for any type of music.

I can't afford the $8K I spent in the day to replace so am looking for something closer to $2K-$3K max (used Ok). I'm looking less for something with super trick staging, imaging and some of the other high end niceties (though I wouldn't kick them out of bed).

More for a musical speaker that just makes the music musical and the presentation realistic sounding. That makes you forget you're listening to speakers/electronics and hearing the music the way it should sound.

Easy to say, I know.

My preamps and amps are solid state Cary stuff that will be replaced by insurance though sadly the Silver Oaks are no longer made.

Any ideas?
Glad you'll get your claim straightened out. I also live in surge area due to the very old electric wiring going from powerplant. I turn OFF equipment whent it's not being used from the wall completely. Surges may occur during severe weather, high winds or simply when heavier bird may collide with wires(rare case tho since they're usually very smart). Nevertheless, I use Aerial 10T that I consider very realistic and balanced speaker capable of delivering music of any style and ganre just as great.
They used off the shelf drivers, you can get 4 new woofers and 2 new tweeters from Madisound for approximately $ 1200

Pull the drivers out and check the stickers on them for the exact type, the excel woofer comes in two versions.

The Millennium tweeter is still available also

Best of luck

I agree with Peter, I also think these should be repairable, especially seeing how you liked them so much. There could be some damaged components in the crossover as well though.

If you are not comfortable doing the work yourself, there are companies out there that will do the work for you. I am very fortunate to have a very good company like Millersound located close by. If you Google speaker repair, you may find someone close by who could help you out.

Good luck,
Magnepan and Cary pair up well.
Actually they use Scan-Speak drivers that are no longer made or available - and the president of Scan-Speak himself was kind enough to write and let me know that the replacements wouldn't fit the old enclosures and wouldn't sound the same in any case.

There actually is a company that could have fixed the voice coils - but the mouth breathing "Speaker Repair" guy took it upon himself to slash the speaker drivers as a way of removing them from the enclosures. (pause for blood pressure to come back down).

I should have known when I asked him if the speaker drivers could be repaired. He answered that they weren't called "Speaker Drivers". I asked what they WERE called and he answered "They're just called 'speakers'."

And stupid me actually let the guy proceed with the "repair work" - which amounted to "speaker" mutilation.

Anyway thanks for responding and please keep the recommendations coming!
I've heard good things about the Aeriels in that regard, maybe also Revels? I'm actually auditioning some Maggie MMG's that I'd consider adding some REL subs with.

But one other thing I liked about the Silver Oaks was how good they were off axis. The MMG's haven't had many hours on them but at this point they sound horrid off axis and 200% better on axis making them barely listenable. I'm sure that will change dramatically after 80 hours of burn-in, but still doubt they'll be what I'm looking for.

Also the system is in a small room at the moment, though we'll be moving next year sometime. But larger Maggies are out of the question because of WAF and room size uncertainty.
No; they won't change their dispersion pattern, regardless of the hours played. Planars are narrow dispersion, by nature. IOW: you have to be sitting in a sweet spot, to get musical enjoyment/realism. The best at what you crave are Walsh or MBL(out of your price range) type, omni-directional speakers. Next to that; cones & domes.
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Any picture I googled on the Silver Oak used two Seas 7" Magnesium cone
drivers flanking a Millennium tweeter. Then you must have the older models that
used the ScanSpeak 8" Clear Polycone woofer the 21W8553. Happen to
have three of them :-) , Send me a message, I do have four like you need but one
needs a foam surround replaced, Im sure we can arrange that.

Good Listening

Used Magico S1 or V2 etc jump on them now!!
I think Joseph Audio speakers do a lot of the things you're looking for very well. Very good off axis, exceptional imaging and soundstage, very detailed but in a very natural/musical way, and they disappear extremely well as a sound source. There is a pair of RM25s on sale here now at a little under $2k that might be worth a look. Best of luck.
Pbnaudio - Yes - they're the 21W8553's! Actually I may only need two or three of them since I can salvage 2 from my center speaker that wasn't affected - and I probably won't use again.

PM me with how much you want for them. The only thing I'm concerned about is whether or not the tweeters and crossover were also affected. Someone else mentioned the tweeters are still available - would the X-over be replaceable also?

PBNaudio, Joseph Audio and Magico added to the list - thanks!
I don't think RadioShack carries the "realistic" brand speakers anymore. You might have to go to the used route!
I have heard most of the speakers out there and the only speaker that I have ever heard that could fool me into thinking I was listening to live acoustic instruments was a Philharmonic speaker. The Philharmonic 3 speaker is from 3.3k which is close to your price range. The 50k Vandersteen 7 did come close too and is, of course, a better speaker. There is not much music that is recorded well enough to feed them to that level though. You will need to be able to have the back of the speaker at least a couple feet from the wall and I am not sure the styling is what you might prefer. Also, they won’t make the music sound better than it is. They are open in the back of the midrange to allow a natural sounding ambient bloom and image.


May want to consider some pre owned Dynaudios. 2 that come to mind and for sale here on Agon is the Contour 3.4 and Focus 340. The Focus will be a bit more forward than the Contour 3.4's.

That said I used to own the C1's and C1 signatures and found them to have a huge sound stage due to their high dispersion tweeters. No need for very much toe in.

Best of luck
Get a Cary tube amp set up and your speakers will sound more life like.... but that's a whole new can of worms, sorry couldn't resist.
Trust me - if the insurance replaces the amp I'll definitely go Tube with the Cary stuff. That said their solid state amps do have a tube like sound along with excellent slam and dynamics.
Checks out Selah Audio, very fine detailed speakers that won't break the bank. Rick uses Scan Speak drivers as well as may other, what ever you are looking for in a speaker he has something to fit the bill.
I keep hearing about the KEF LS50's. I've never liked the KEF sound - to me they always suffered from a kind of artificial sound - though I have to admit I haven't auditioned them in the last 20 years..lol

Where do you hear them? Do they have them at Magnolia?
ProAc loudspeakers were Dennis at Carys loudspeaker Inspiration
Take a listen to any of the Proacs that fit your range and compared to what you had should prove to be a blessing.
Best JohnnyR
Dealer Audio Connection
I have been very pleased with my Tetra 120u monitors in a small room. They have recently upgraded them. Tetra is a relatively unknown Canadian firm with a huge following among musicians, (Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Kieth Woods). Check out their web site..very hard to find used. People wont give them up..
tetra new model is the 222. And it's Keith Richards, not Keith Woods, who loves his Tetras and travels with them.
I trust Dennis Had's ear like noone else in the business. I'll check em out - thanks.
Stirling V2 ls3/5a.....

I'm thinking about your requirement for realistic. Audio-people often throw darts at the well-known 'old-fashioned' traits of this speaker. But I have never heard more realistic timbres, nuance and decay as I experience with these speakers.
I'm an acoustic musician and I need that realism. With a sub or the purpose-made bass extenders (AB-2), they are even better. In a smaller room, no need.
imaging and soundstaging: ethereal. Once they are set up well, it doesn't matter where you sit. Fabulous with tubes, or vintage ss.

hope you get your claim check quickly, my condolences.
This gives you a great 2nd start of sorts. I would be remiss if I did not suggest the Thiel CS 2.4 -check it out and keep us posted.
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Did you find and buy one??
Good news! Just heard from Allstate and they're paying for the whole system. Max $15K but I can live with it (especially since the equipment was 12 years old). Good hands people indeed!

Surprisingly they only gave about $5K for the Silver Oak speakers - so that looks like my speaker budget.

Best realistic speakers under $5K anyone? I currently have everything in a fairly small room, that may or may not change in the near future. I want something that can scale - but giant Maggies (or anything else giant) won't work.
With a $5K budget, you have so many great options, and you're going to read lots of great names from the good people here on the forum. Unfortunately, nobody here can help you. I've learned this myself, from experience.

What sounds good in my room, with my furnishings and layout, and my music, to my ears, may or may not sound pleasant to your own ears. Your only move is to not only listen to as many speakers as you can in your area, but try to find a dealer who will let you bring some home and try in your own space. Speakers, more than any other component (in my opinion), come down to personal preference and how your own ears perceive and enjoy the way they are voiced, and the way the frequencies are represented.

Right now in my office I have a pair of Proac D2 sitting next to a pair of B&W PM1. Both fantastic speakers, but you should hear how different they sound. They're vanilla and chocolate, but I never would have anticipated that, I had to hear them side by side for myself. Point being, I genuinely believe that speakers are the one component nobody else can help you with. Again, all just my humble "non-audiophile" opinion.
NO, No, NO! "They only gave about $5K for speakers, so that looks like my speaker budget."

NO! Larrybou, don't get trapped in the compartmentalization of the previous allocation of funds for the system. If I understand correctly, you have new, free reign to reallocate the funds (I don't see how the insurance company could dictate how the system expenditure is allocated), and by doing so can end up with far better sound than if you stay with the valuation placed on the speakers by the insurance company.

I strongly suggest you look into one of these options; integrated amp, integrated DAC/preamp ( I currently have an integrated amp, as well as an integrated DAC/Pre under review). Either of these should allow you to allocate more than $5K to speakers, which imo will enable you to set up a superior system overall.

This may be a perfect opportunity to move to file playback if you have not already. You should be able to get far superior sound quality with a PC or Mac and file playback to a more recent DAC. The switch to file playback may seem daunting initially but the outcome is well worth the effort.

I strongly suggest you consider reworking the entire system, not simply replacing the components with same and limiting the speaker budget. You have the potential, rare as it is, to upscale the entire system by several steps. :)

I suggest you invest the time/dollars to attend a show or two and come away with a stunning rig, not just a redo.
I would buy the speakers I liked best if close enough to be "affordable" perhaps more than the $5K. I think that you should build the rest of the system around the speakers you selected (-eventually). What sources are you considering and which amp/s have you been thinking about? You'll save a lot if you go with an integrated- at least for now.
Douglas - you're right. I CAN reallocate anyway I want up to the $15K+ limit. And actually going to some local audio stores was an eye opener as I really didn't like ANY speaker under $5K.

The only speakers less than $10K that I liked were oddly enough Totem Forest Signatures for $6.5K. And those only had 20 hours of burn in so they'll have a different character once they're burned in anyway.

Here's the thing - even though my Cary 5 channel 200 watt amp had two fried amps, there are still three that work fine that could be used for two channel audio. So either I find a preamp that mates well with the 5 channel amp or start over with an integrated.

In that case I'd use more budget on a Media Server, DAC or maybe just a preamp DAC combo. I listen to Spotify on the main rig more than I'd care to admit.

All this choice is a nice problem to have - but educating myself on what's best in class on an entire system plus what plays nice together is more than I have time for these days.

I kept things really simple with my last setup - All Cary Audio electronics and all Purist Audio interconnects, speaker wire, etc.

The definition of dumb but since they all played nice together it saved LOTS of research, fiddling, and trial and error.
Where are you located?
Suggest you look at the new Bud Fried Towers. A BIT more than you requested, but VERY similar to the Cary speakers you lost.


"The Bud Fried Tower not only earns a no-brainer thumbs-up recommendation at its price point, but I find it to be competitive with any box speaker I’ve evaluated under $6k." ...Dick Olsher, 11/11/13, The Absolute Sound
Actually, what you need is a whole house gizmo that prevents surges to take out your valuable electronic stuff. I had a Vandersteen amp fried because of a surge and put in a surge protector. It protects the house and makes the system sound better too. If you are interested I'll go out and check the brand.
"Best realistic speakers under $5K anyone? I currently have everything in a fairly small room, that may or may not change in the near future. I want something that can scale - but giant Maggies (or anything else giant) won't work."

I'd agree with others about allocating more than $5,000 of your check for speakers. Can you expand on what you mean by "scale"? I do think I understand what you are talking about not being impressed with speakers under $10K, especially if your are talking about traditional speaker lines that sell via dealers.

On Saturday, I was able to audition some speakers in Houston at a dealer as well as at an "Audio Fest" at a local hotel. At the hotel, Legacy Audio was demonstrating their whole line, including flagship models as well as the more reasonably priced Focus HD. They also had the new Signature HD, but I did not get to hear it. I also heard the Dynaudio Focus 340 and Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 at the dealer.

Now, the 340 are very high quality and accurate speakers, but they are achieving that with extremely high quality, but small woofer drivers. This is where I think one can have problems creating "scale", if I understand what you mean by that word. In contrast, the Legacy models take a different approach, using larger woofers and much larger cabinets at similar price points.

I don't mean this to be a cut on Revel--as I said, they are very high quality speakers, and there are many other top tier manufacturers that produce speakers at similar price points with similar size cabinets. The thing is, the Focus 340 retail for $7500, which seems to me a bucket of money when I actually saw and heard them. I was really surprised at how small they actually are. Great speakers, but I'm not sure they are going to produce the sense of "scale" you're looking for.

For less $ than that, you can get the Legacy Signature HD, which includes dual ribbon tweeters and is rated down to 22Hz on the low end. If the Signature is too large, they also have the Classic, which is a bit smaller, but still goes down to 32Hz(+/-2dB). Deadalus and Selah are a couple other brands you may want to check out as well. There are just a bewildering number of speaker makers, so I know how frustrating it can be to figure out what to purchase.
Now that Sonus Faber's Olympica line has replaced their Cremona line, you can find lightly used Cremona M's (a $10K floorstander) in excellent condition for around $6K. There are two such A-gon listings right now (I have no affiliation with either of them). I think the Cremona M is a fabulous speaker, musical, articulate, detailed, and emotionally involving. It doesn't take a very expensive amp to bring them alive, either.

They are also drop-dead gorgeous, so there's a good chance that they'd have a high WAF as well.
Yes - please let me know what you're using for whole house surge protection. When my new gear comes in I was thinking of investing in PS Audio stuff. I don't want to trust it to my lower end Furman stuff.
When I say I'm looking for scale, I don't mean floor to ceiling speakers or anything (we're currently set up in a smaller room anyway (15 X 25) but that will change.

I have to say even the Maggie MMX's now that they're breaking in have a nice sense of scale. And I have to say I'm enjoying the speed, sound staging and imaging of them even if it doesn't sound as natural as I'd like (but there's still burn in to go).

Sadly the next step up in Magnepan is already too large for the room (and WAF). I'll return the MMX's even though for $600 I see what everyone's raving about.

There's an audio store that carries Legacy speakers about an hour from my house that I'll be checking out tomorrow. Most of the ones I've seen have been pretty hulking, but hopefully they have more modest sizes that would work.

The weird thing about the insurance money is that if I don't buy any more audio gear they cut me a check for $1000 end of story. OTOH they'll compensate me for any audio gear I buy dollar for dollar up to $15,000.

Sadly I have to confess to the wife that I have no choice other than to buy a new $15,000 audio system or lose money. Needless to say the most ironclad of all possible setups for the audio connoisseur. ;)
"When I say I'm looking for scale, I don't mean floor to ceiling speakers or anything (we're currently set up in a smaller room anyway (15 X 25) but that will change."

OK, I thought you were referring to the "scale" of the musical presentation the speakers were capable of.

"The weird thing about the insurance money is that if I don't buy any more audio gear they cut me a check for $1000 end of story. OTOH they'll compensate me for any audio gear I buy dollar for dollar up to $15,000."

Wow! I've never heard of that, but, then again, I've never had this type of claim. Also, even if your Legacy store doesn't have the Classic HD or Signature HD on hand, I would think they should be willing to obtain one for you to audition, since you are clearly a serious buyer with money to burn!
Oh, also, as Johnny said, check out those Cremona M. I've heard those, and that is a sweet sounding speaker.
^^^ ... well, true enough, but the Cremona M is a $10K speaker now available on the lightly used market for $6K. Reviews can't capture how the Cremona Ms put a smile on your face, even when driven by the right $1K integrated amp. It is one fast and resonance-free box speaker.
Thanks for all the suggestions. Problem is there's a limited selection of speakers to listen to locally. I DID hear the B&W PM1's. They're nice sounding but a bit forward (at least in their setup).

Also listened to the Sonus Faber floor standers ($9K) and bookshelf ($7K) and the were good but didn't light my fire. The less expensive $3.5 floorstanders were a major step down as I expected.

I finally heard Dynaudio Confidence bookshelves ($7.5K) - These were my favorites so far. They were also a bit forward sounding on the Ayre integrated they were playing on but that could be fixed with higher end electronics. Plus the guy set them up so i had to be literally 4 feet in front of them.

They played the same CD on the Contours and it honestly sounded like completely different music - and even so they sounded good for a speaker half the price. In fact in the $3.5K range the contours were by far the best I've heard so far.

Went to another store and listened again to regular Totem Forests (not signatures) on not so great electronics and they sounded not so great.

I wish I could hear Proac, Legacy, Tetras, even KEF LS50's locally but no dice.

Where does that leave me? I might have to start auditioning speakers in home from companies that sell direct and offer that. I'm thinking of Salk Song and others. Anyone have recommendations for speaker companies that sell direct? I may start a new thread about that..
Larry, the Legacy, Deadalus(30 day no-risk audition period on all non-showroom direct sales), and Selah(45-day money-back guarantee) brands I mentioned above are sold direct.
Bud Fried (built by Salk) should also offer an in-home demo...and the sound is much more like your lost Silver Oaks than any of the Salk speakers.
Not sure where you are in Maryland but if you can get to Déjà Vu Audio in McLean, VA go over and have a listen. They carry a nice line of speakers including Audio Note, Spendor, ProAc and Quad. I think the classic British monitor sound might appeal to your tastes. Don't be fooled either, many of these monitors are fairly large in size and tend to image better than floorstanders.

Personally I would give a good listen to the Spendor Classic Series and specifically the 1/2. This is still one of my favorite speakers. Derek Hughes has recently designed the Stirling SB-88 which has a lot of similarities to the 1/2 and is also worth checking out.
Clio - Oooh, I'd love to hear the Proac and Spendors in particular. I'm in Ellicott City MD closer to Baltimore but it sounds like it's worth the trip.

Mtort - thanks. I'm starting to think going American or Canadian with direct in home demo could get better bank for the buck than European speakers at the moment.

I probably had an hour long phone conversation with Jim Salk this morning and am getting close to ordering the Veracity ST's for just over $4K. 30 day in home trial and was very impressed with Mr. Salk, his candor, knowledge etc. This would leave me more money to sink into electronics etc.
Vu is very knowledgeable and you will get to hear some really good speakers. He was a huge Cary dealer at one time, might still be, and he knew Dennis well. I bought my first Set of Cary gear and Spendor speakers from him.

FWIW I have heard the Salk speakers many times and even visited with Jim Salk at his home demo room in Michigan. They are very nice speakers. However, I think they will present a different sound than what you were used to.