Nearfield Upgrade?

Greetings everyone,

While I've been an audiogon reader & buyer for some years now, this is my first post to a discussion forum. I hope readers will have some good advice for me.

First, my system is irrevocably nearfield: speakers are set on my oak desk about four feet apart, eighteen inches from the wall; each is toed-in about 15 degrees from parallel with the desk sides. Recently I discovered that I might have made a mistake using Isoblocks to isolate them from vibrations, but thereby permitting deflection, so I anchored them to the desk using dual-sided mounting tape. Results have been quite good thus far: bass seems to have bloomed with good expressiveness & speed. Soundstage, which has always been good, is now better.

The gear itself is pretty simple. Speakers are Spendor SA1, which I've had for nearly two years now. They were an amazing bargain I got right here from Gene Rubin. A couple months ago I upgraded the electronics to an LFD mk iv (also from Gene), Sony XA5400, Shunyata Hydra 4 for power, along with Shunyata power cords & moderately priced Cardas speaker wire & interconnects.
I have no complaints at present, so perhaps I ought not to be thinking of upgrading the speakers at all. It's just that they are a bit out-of-balance financially speaking--I do agree with those who believe one ought to put at least 50% of available funds into the speakers--and I may not have another opportunity to upgrade at all for quite a long time.
I've been offered a fantastic trade-in deal on the Harbeth compact 7, which would be my dream choice--only it's so big compared to the Spendors. It's hard to see them as anything but overwhelming on my desk.
Other considerations have been the Proac Response D Two, the Dynaudio Contour 1.4, SP Timepiece Mini, B&W 805 (if I could find used or a demo) & many more the names of which escape me right now.
But it also occurs to me that I'm just looking to spend money I don't need to spend. I believe both TAS & Stereophile recommended the SA1 as a first-class nearfield monitor. Perhaps within a reasonable price range there is nothing significantly better.
As I wrote before I have no complaints. I don't think I need more bass or better soundstaging, but I do work at home, spending nine hours each day at my desk, so getting the best sound possible is a non-trivial issue for me.

Any thoughts...?

I'm in the same boat. Work at home with the amp on my desk, speakers beside. Had Spendor S5e's which have a great midrange. Switched to an old pair of Aerial 5's. It's all in the tweeter when you are sitting close. I really like the Spendors, but the top end just isn't right. You might look at the small Harbeth (not sure of the model). FYI, I'll never sell the Aerials - pure magic.

You've got a great amp. I couldn't afford one, so am using an Exposure 3010s2.
Hi Meiwan,

Funny you should mention the P3esr, that was number one on my list two years ago, when I ran into Gene's ad for the Spendor. Given they were both in the same price range & both had their origins as BBC monitors I thought how different could they be?

Granted the Spendor is sealed-box while the Harbeth is rear-ported, I think I have enough space between speaker & wall that rear-porting shouldn't be too big an issue. Both have received accolades from the hi fi press (though I think the Harbeth has made a few more "best of" lists than the Spendor). I just don't think I could pull the trigger on the P3esr without being positive that it would constitute an upgrade. My Spendors by all accounts are different from any of the company's previous models, so you can't really go by past experience.

As luck may have it the closest Proac vendor to my location in NYC also carries Harbeth, so if I can figure out how to get there w/o a car I might have the chance to compare them.

Ironically for a budding audiophile I'm a bit hard of hearing (not from music, though;-), so I generally rely on cost & reputation to make my purchasing decisions. The differences between this & that component aren't obvious to me until many, many hours of listening, so auditioning speakers at the store is something I'll do, but it's not the last word in what I decide.

I just read up on the Aerial 5 ... nice little speaker, btw.

Oh, & the funny thing, I had written to Gene about buying an Exposure 3010 myself this past December, to upgrade from my Rotel amp/Luxman pre combo. He wrote back recommending the LFD quite strongly. I knew he wasn't just out to make a buck 'cause he'd helped me out for free when I blew a woofer on the Spendor a few months earlier. So I dug a little deeper, spent more than I ought at the time, & sprang for the LFD.

Very glad I did.

I got the other items on special--e.g. the Sony was a floor model at J&R, so that helped. But the problem was I made so many upgrades at once that I couldn't possibly tell to what degree each item is responsible for the terrific sound I'm now enjoying.

That said, I think I would have liked the Exposure, too:-)

Getting just the right sound requires some careful listening. Tough to do in a store. I just try to listen to the tweeter - very few are magical, most are just OK. But you must hear them for yourself. Good luck.
Hey Andy - I recently picked up a pair of P3's. I'm not sure if they'll be an upgrade to your ears to the Spendors, but I preferred the Harbeths. BTW, the P3's aren't ported, so placement is easy. I think they're one of the best near field monitors.
Hi Z, the new P3 isn't ported? I didn't realize that. I'm really thinking I need to consider them ... at least to the point of giving them a good audition.

my experience matches Andyk's. Aerial 5's up close are great.
Compact 7's are great speakers and a good match for your LFD. IMO, probably too big (and tall) for nearfield desktop listening. P3's with a REL sub next to your desk would be my choice. I would be sure to decouple them from the desk with something like Vibrapods.
Thanks for the comments, Dr Dennis. More's the pity in that everything I've read agrees that Harbeth + LFD is a dream combination ... whenever circumstances permit me to set up away from the desk I'll be first in line for the Harbeths.

I'm curious about your vibrapod advice. As I wrote I had them on Isoblocks to separate them from the desk, then I read about the possibility of deflection, particularly with smaller speakers (& indeed, Mapleshade advises against using Isos with speakers). Bearing in mind all the comments about solid, heavy stands w/firm connections to the speaker being the best way to set up I thought my heavy oak desk would be more solid & less resonant than any speaker stand, so I used thick, double-sided tape to anchor them down. With results that seem quite good to me.

In time I'll probably replace the tape with blue tack.

Do you really think I'd benefit from Vibrapods? I'd be willing to try some, but doesn't that leave the issue of deflection again?

You might also look into the High Emotion Audio loudspeakers. We have been using their S-7 monitor for quite a while in the studio.

High Emotion Audio patented a new kind of tweeter that is sort of a cross between a ribbon and a horn, but really isn't either. It is a lot faster than the prior art though and has a very wide dispersion angle- about 120 degrees! Here at Atma-Sphere we are using their Bella Twin, which is quite honest down to about 36 Hz.

So far the speakers are easy to drive with very flat impedance curves. IMO anyone considering nearfield needs to consider these speakers if they have the budget. They are some of the best in the industry.