TSM-MXe or MMe
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I'll only go so far as saying my Focal-JMLabs BE Micro Utopia monitors have helped to "slow down the quest". The build quality of these is such that it has to be seen to be believed. Coupled with my JL Audio F112 Sub, it's hard to imagine replacing these any time soon... ... ... although those Gemme Katana's look pretty interesting.
Mer;in VSM-MXe - should stop the quest no matter what type of speaker you are looking for, unless you have a very large room and you want the presence of a orchestra; for most music in most domestic settings, I think they are the very best speakers available. The TSMs are also superb, if not with the same scale of the VSMs. You may want to look up the reviews in AudioReview and the review in Bound for Sound. Reviews may not mean everything, but I think you will be surprised by the number and consistently of assessment from hundreds of owners.
Hales Revelation One's in the Sapele finish mounted on 24" Sanus "Ultimate Foundations" stands (the stands from the late '90's with the three fillable steel uprights on the triangular fountainhead base.. very stout!). Too bad neither are in production anymore.. I had originally bought the One's to use as surrounds for my other Hales but after listening to them at home I couldn't relegate them to mere surround duties.
Although these are monitors and over ten years old, I still have not met a standmount speaker that makes music like the Rev. One. They have terrific bass and "play large" on demanding material. On most music, they give up very little sonically compared to my larger pair of Revelation Two floorstanders..
I am not a professional reviewer -- only a music lover, but was asked to do a review of Fritz Carbon 7s after posting a few comments on audiokarma.org. My review appeared in the December issue of http://www.affordableaudio.org/.
In short, for the money, I do not think you can do better. I am sure there are better speakers out there, but I suspect they would cost substantially more money.
At least that's my take on it!
Krell Resolution 3. Not cost-no-object speakers, but not inexpensive either, they were $4,000 (not including stands) when I purchsed them in 2005. Now it is almost five years later and I am still happy with them. While I am not prepared to say that I will have them for life, they are good, satisfying speakers that also look good.
After I posted my response. I gave it some more thought and since Nyctc7 mentioned the Krells I will mention a speaker that I though about yesterday. It's the speaker I think would end the quest if you were on a budget. It's the Polk LSi9. Uses the same tweeter as the above Krell and is a darn fine speaker. I had them for a bit when I had my TSMs and I have to say they were not shamed by the Merlin's. The Merlin's were more better, but the Polk's are all people that are not totally sick like us need. I could live with them and be happy.
Will they end MY quest? No, but they will end many peoples. At $500 used they are IMHO were diminishing returns set in.
Well, then I stand I my belief that the Merlin VSMs are the best monitors ever made, though the "stand" is integrated into the speaker. My second choice would be the Harbeth HL5s which are wonderful indeed, but not quite is resolved and communicative in microdynamics as the Merlins. I can see someone liveing with either one for a long time with a great big smile on their face and not thinking twice about whether or not their speakers are "good" enough IMHO.
Raidho Ayra C-1.0 - indeed, as Kiwi_1282001 put it: a truly brilliant pair of speakers.
I just received my pair today, taking over their "little" siblings, the X-Baby MkII Ceramic. I never imagined the step-up in sheer musical insight to be this pronounced, but believe me, it is. The whole frequency spectrum seems tightened up with more speed, resolution, lack of restraint, cohesiveness, dynamics(both micro and macro), clarity, background quietness(almost eerie), fluidity, soundstage stability and dimensionality, etc. etc. The overwhelming sensation of being presented with a musical truth, this right-ness, is awe inspiring and places me in a purely receptive and attentive mode. I'm sitting in my sofa a late hour past midnight and can't get myself to part with hearing yet another piece of music; it grabs hold of me, pulls me in.
You wouldn't know it walking into it, but once you hear it, it suddenly makes sense...
Phusis... Your above rave review of your Raidho Ayra C-1.0 speakers is pretty much a mirror image of what other published reviews say. Congratulations!
Im wondering how much of what youre experiencing is simply the product of listening to a $17,000 pair of monitors compared against a $5,000 or even a $10,000 pair of monitors? Is it possible that the old adage of you get what you pay for applies here?
I also would rate the Merlin highly but I don't see it as a monitor. If you want a monitor, the best I have seen so far is made by High Emotion Audio. http://www.highemotionaudio.com
The Pyra Bella 7. This speaker employs a unique tweeter that puts **all** dome tweeters to shame. It is much faster, with an extremely wide dispersion angle (in fact nearly 360 degrees as there is a rear-firing tweeter integrated into the tweeter array). So the sweet spot is really wide- almost as wide as the spacing between the speakers. Naturally the imaging is the 'best' regardless of make of speaker. What I mean by that is there is no speaker that excels in imaging compared to this speaker. High Emotion Audio was granted two patents on the technology of the tweeter.
The crossover and woofer are designed for a very seamless transition and the impedance curve is exceptionally flat so almost any tube amp can drive it as can transistors. The woofer itself is a custom design as it has to be very fast to keep up with the tweeter. The cabinet is quite dead and employs a rear-firing passive radiator. It takes about 40 hours to break in the speaker, once that is done it is quite honest down to 40Hz. The efficiency is about 92 db 1 watt/1 meter as best we can make out. It needs to be about 1 foot to 1 1/2 feet from the rear wall for best bass response. We use it on a Sound Anchors monitor stand.
We have used this speaker at our shop and also in the recording studio now for about 2 years. Not only is is faster and more detailed than the best planar speakers, it is also relaxed and you can listen to it all day. The tiniest nuances are revealed- you really need your electronic ducks to be in a row to take advantage of all this speaker offers, but in the studio we have relatively inexpensive transistor amps that we have used for monitor amps in a pinch, and its amazing how it still reveals very minor issues in the master tapes without the amp calling attention to itself at the same time. I attribute this to the slight phase angle and flat impedance curve- its not demanding of the amp!
They are not cheap by any means but there are not the most expensive either. If you really want the 'best' monitor out there, this is in fact the speaker you are looking for,
I recently read the US retail price is in the vicinty of $18.000 a pair. My C-1's were slighty(4 months) used when I bought them, and was given a very fair offer by my dealer when trading with the X-Baby's. The C-1's of mine are in very good condition, and I gather they have been properly run in. I reside in Denmark, by the way, the "origin" of Raidho speakers.
They are indeed a beautiful pair of speakers, on top of it all :)
"Phusis... Your above rave review of your Raidho Ayra C-1.0 speakers is pretty much a mirror image of what other published reviews say. Congratulations!
Well then, we must be writing about the same speakers, won't you say? Congrats yourself for this piece of enlightenment...
"Im wondering how much of what youre experiencing is simply the product of listening to a $17,000 pair of monitors compared against a $5,000 or even a $10,000 pair of monitors? Is it possible that the old adage of you get what you pay for applies here?"
This is both a fair observation as it is distrust keeping my oppinion in a fixed context. I'm certainly comparing the C-1's to the X-Baby's, and as such my "rave" is also dependend. However, the expressed "truth" or "right-ness," as well as other ways to describe the experience, is my way of going beyond(or transcend, if you will) the sole context of comparison alone; I'm simply hearing a pair of speakers that truly overwhelms me, and the insight of the sound they produce tells me this could very well be the speakers to hold on to. Your distrust is not assuming my context to be more complexs than that of "lesser"(in your words: cheaper) equipment alone, but in principle it's the simple suggestion of yours on my oppinion as non-valid, or limited. Certainly we get what we pay for(and sometimes we don't), yet in no way should it keep anyone away from feeling sonic bliss has touched them even when they don't know what they could be missing, so to speak.
Intersubjectivity has its limits though, so I'm guessing your real problem lies with the speakers?
The SP Tech Timepiece 3.0 are wonderful speakers. It's really a fullrange stand-mounted speaker, and among the two or three candidates of mine as a "keeper" - a place I now believe settled with the recent purchase of the Raidho Ayra C-1.0. The C-1's may lack the wallop, heft and extension of the Timepiece 3.0's - oh well.. :)
I've been auditioning a lot of full range and 2-way monitors in the past 3 years. The best I've come across in my search for my taste is the Ridge Street Audio Sason. I did audition the Magico Mini and I'v found the Sasons to be better in all parameters important to me. I was interested in the raidho but haven't had the chance. But at $18k, it's almost twice the cost of the Sason. I must add the level of attention and detail that goes into a pair of Sasons is the best I've come across, better than the Magico and probably the Raidho from what I've read. That's the benefit of having the designer of the Sason actually build you a customized pair, not some factory worker.