Need help generating a short list


Well, I'm parting with my original VR-4's, which have served me well for many years. In some ways, I wonder if I'm making a mistake selling them, as they're still a wonderful loudspeaker even by today's standards.

At this point, I'd like to consider a more "lively" loudspeaker. The VR-4's are very "warm" sounding, and easy to listen to. The downside to this presentation is a lack of dynamics and impact. Bass extension is not an issue with the VR-4's, but the slam of a kick drum, the pluck of a bass, or the crack of a rim shot just isn't there. Having played the drums for many years, I yearn for a system that can recreate the dynamic impact of a drum kit!

I've tried many speaker technologies over the years; Horn (Altec 19's), Planar (Maggie's), Electrostatic (Martin Logans), and Conventional (Legacy Convergence, Thiel 2 2, Thiel 3.6, VR-4, others), and for some reason, have always come back to conventional designs. Of all the speakers I've owned, the Altec 19's were the most visceral, but they lacked detail and imaged poorly. The live event was there, but it was all mixed together. The most dynamic conventional speaker I've owned was the Legacy Convergence (similar to the Focus), but the presentation was too "hi-fi," and very fatiguing.

I realize it would be impossible to find a loudspeaker with the dynamics of a horn, midrange of a planar or electrostatic, and top to bottom detail of a superior conventional design, but I would imagine some speakers come close. I'm not talking $50K+ speakers, but speakers in the $5K range.

I've seen many a reference to the Aerial 10T and Talon Khorus as being very dynamic, yet detailed and extended, but what other speakers might be considered, particularly current models? I have a very large room, and need a speaker than can play loudly without compression. I realize horns are ideal, but I cannot afford the entry price for even a mediocre horn system.

With hundreds of manufacturers out there, I'm trying to develop a short list so I can limit my search/research. We don't have many "high-end" shops in my neck of the woods (Tampa Bay area), so it's likely I'll have to seek some of the products out during my business travel. Any help would be most appreciated.

By the way, I am intrigued by the "Waveguide" technology, that seems to offer the benefits of a conventional design, with some of the properties of a horn. I've been away from this hobby for 12+ years, so I'm very wet behind the ears. To my chagrin, there are still no shortage of companies trying to stack drivers in a tower configuration (ala Legacy), but it's certainly possible that this configuration has improved over the years.

Any help would be most appreciated!

I think a larger model ATC might meet your described needs.

realize it would be impossible to find a loudspeaker with the dynamics of a horn, midrange of a planar or electrostatic, and top to bottom detail of a superior conventional design, but I would imagine some speakers come close. I'm not talking $50K+ speakers, but speakers in the $5K range.

Second hand you can probably find something around $5k in a passive 50 (or 100 if you are lucky), or you could go for the new 40's. ATC's are even better if you can afford active (add to your budget what you think you can get for your power amp second hand).

(Disclaimer: I own ATC so obviously I am biased. However, based on your described needs ATC honestly does fit the bill. They go extremely loud with lots of dynamics (little compression),a very tight accurate lower end and a mid range that is highy regarded by all. So I am not wasting your time by this suggestion. Not just another mindless plug for a my favorite speaker but reasonable advice)
Selah Audio,possibly the Gallos (3 or Ultimate).
Totem Mani-2's. I have them in one room, and VR4 gen III's in another. I like both, but if you're looking for more lively maybe the Mani-2's should be considered. If you power the Mani's properly, the dynamics and imaging are incredible.
Isn't this essentially the same question you asked in an earlier thread?

It'd be helpful for those of us who contributed to that thread to know which suggestions you are considering and which you are dismissing. It'll keep the repeat suggestions to a minimum.

I'm going to once again recommend the VR4 Gen III HSE. I recently played a drum track for a friend (Steve Smith's Vital Tech Tones). He is a film production sound mixer in LA who also does work in sound studios. He said my system sounded more real than most studios he's been in. If you are not considering them, then please say so and I'll stop suggesting them in your threads. It's no problem either way, and I won't be offended.

Have you thought of auditioning the Zu Druids or Definitions? They are both very dynamic and would potentially suit your criteria. The Definitions are the most live sounding of the two, but they're twice your budget.
VMPS speakers
Sorry, I guess this is a similar question, and I apologize for not clarifying my intentions with this new post, as I had intended to take a different direction with this.

Specifically, I'm interested in getting away from the typical, conventional designs. My first step back into this hobby since 1995 was at the 2006 CES show, where I visited Thiel, Von Schweikert, Vandersteen, Montana, etc.), and aside from different voicing, very few of the speakers clearly bested my original VR-4's in overall performance. Sure, there were $20K+ systems that were impressive, but only in scale. It could be argued that the newer designs had more detail, but each had its good and bad attributes, as all speakers do. What I realized was that something was missing in all of these conventional designs, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

It seems there’s no shortage of companies putting SEAS, Scan Speak, Focal, Dynaudio and other high quality drivers in furniture quality cabinets, and with good cross-over designs, obtain excellent detail, sound staging, and spooky imaging. As I’ve mentioned before, how many Legacy, Avalon and Wilson knock-off’s are there???? At the risk of being objectionable, I’m really put off by the price of many of these speaker systems. Incredibly, my $50 PC speaker system with subwoofer offers similar attributes, albeit on a lesser scale.

When nothing I could afford impressed at the CES show, I decided just to keep my system intact. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to attend several concerts of varying music types. After attending the concerts, I finally pin-pointed what was missing when I listened to my VR-4’s; excitement. Yes they have spooky imaging, yes they throw a nice sound stage, yes they have great detail; but they’re boring.

A friend of mine is an “old school” audiophile, that raves about the ‘70’s designs, particularly those from Altec and JBL. He brought my attention to a speaker called the Iconic Stonehenge, that evidently utilizes what is regarded as the pinnacle of Altec’s coaxial designs. Interestingly, most of the recent fanfare seems to surround these “single point source” designs, from the simple Iconic Stonehenge to the ultra-expensive Cabasse and other horn based designs with a single, multi-function driver. Tannoy has been well respected for decades, and their primary technology remains unchanged, big drivers with coincident source tweeters.

What is the opinion of this type of speaker, such as the Iconic Stonehenge, Klipsch LaScala, Tannoy’s or Gedlee’s? Has anyone heard these speakers, and how would you compare them to they typical Legacy-type speaker? From what I understand, they provide dynamics well beyond what a conventional “stack of cones” design can, even though the drivers date back to the ‘70’s.
Thanks for the clarification. Considering you want to try something other than conventional dynamic designs, I'll retiterate the Zu Audio products, which can be auditioned in-home.

Also, the single driver designs from Omega Speaker Systems which utilize Fostex and Alnico drivers might be interesting for you to investigate.
The Klipsch lascala is not bad for what you seek, however not gonna put out enough low's for you it sounds like... Tannoys I believe will be a little polite, and honestly from my understanding unless you move into their pricier stuff you will be out of range pricewise too.. And as the Above poster stated Zu Definitions would do all you are looking for with some to spare, but will be very expensive, at double 5 grand if that is what your looking to spend. I would suggest forget Lascalas if you can setup K-Horns, they will extend a little lower and have a better balance than the Lascala which uses the same drivers but a different cabinet.. The K-Horns are corner loading, and create a bigger sound, but you gotta have open corners to place them in.. Also, you can get K-Horns in good shape for probably under 3500, but I suggest getting the older ones, I forget what year klipsch changed to the newer Plastic Horns, but I don't like them, the Older metal horns are far better in my opinion.. Also, then you can have the crossovers upgraded in them for a little more money.. Many people on this website and others can show you the way for all that.. Or go to and they have months of forums for you to read on how to go about this. I owned many klipsch until replacing them with the Zu definitions myself..
Specifically, I'm interested in getting away from the typical, conventional designs

Driver design has not changed or improved that much since the 70's, IMHO. Competition and price pressure has continued to increase (after all, pretty much anybody can make a speaker using third party drivers). Many of these old designs you referred to, were and still are extremely good.

When you mean "conventional", do you meaning the currently popular slender small driver speaker designs, even as floorstanders (popular since roughly the mid 80's) ?
Since the sound quality of your system is going to be dependent on more than just the speakers, could you list the rest of your system?

I found in my system that my speakers really woke up when I put a decent tube preamp into it. Although all other components were also upgraded to higher end spec earlier.

I'd recommend you listen to some Energy Veritas 2.4i's. They are noted for much of the qualities you are speaking about and are looking for. And they appear to be built to a similar philosophy as VS speakers. Soundstage has a review on their website of the 2.4i's. Their description includes "Bold, exciting sound" -- "visceral punch and abundant musical energy".

It shouldn't be too hard to find a place to audition them. But try to take them home, because that is where the rubber meets the road.

I would pay great attention to the gear that the 2.4i's are associated with when you audition them. The 2.4i's I had never really impressed me until I had the other components up to spec as well. Then the sound blew me away. I will characterize this by saying that the 2.4i's can be underwhelming with poor system synergy / component matching.

The 2.4i's finally in my system show some amazing traits. As you mentioned earlier, in good recordings the pluck of a bass, the shimmer of a cymbal, the pluck of a pick guitar, maracas, etc. demonstrate an eery realism. The 2.4i's show excellent and uncanny imaging, a very large soundstage, great dynamics, smooth sound, excellent midrange, great musicality, amazing detail, and excellent PRAT.

To note, the 2.4i's have great bass and fairly low, but not as low as the (new) VR4's.

I have listened to some nice Tannoy's. D700's in a good system. They sounded great, with more bass than my speakers, but I found the soundstage and high frequency response of that system couldn't match mine with the 2.4i's. Smaller soundstage, and just not as much shimmer, openness, airiness in the highs. It was interesting to hear the difference. I preferred the Veritas. My friend with the Tannoy's owned Klipsch as well and preferred the Tannoy's.

Finally, I also find any system I've listened to is dependent on the quality of the recording, including mine. Some recordings just don't have the dynamics to be as impressive as others. Maybe that is part of it.

2.4i review....

Good luck.

You mentioned liking the Legacy so why not have a listen to their latest in your price range, used, around 4.5-5.2K the Legacy Focus 20/20's. New they'd be about 6.2K with standard finish. You liked them in the past perhaps you still may and with improvements overtime they may satisfy you.
>> Considering you want to try something other than conventional dynamic designs...<<

Tvad made a good recommendation, the Zus are getting GREAT reviews. So, too, do the Gallo Ref 3s - talk about unconventional!

I am, however, biased: I have an all-Gallo system and I don't see me changing it for many years to come. It rocks my world every single day! And, by purchasing them via Audiogon, I got a pair of Ref 3s and 3 Dues for < $2700 delivered. Talk about SMOKIN' deals! Color me one HAPPY camper...

Well I don't know if they'll recreate the dynamic impact of a drum kit but Triangle make some very lively, quick-sounding speakers and your price would cover a model with a fair bit of woofer area. They're efficient, too, so you get more headroom per watt--not as much as you get with Klipschorns at over 100dB, though. More like 90-91 dB.

I like the Loth-X Polaris horns too, but they are over your budget new and very hard to find used. Quick, though, and as efficient as the Klipsches.
Thanks everyone......My system consists of a Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 pre-amp, Parasound Halo A-21 amplifier, and Rotel RCD-965BX cd player......

I'm very tempted to consider horns, as I still like the design concept and lively presentation, but I'm afraid I'll miss some of the qualities of a good dynamic design. I'm really seeking a sound that's fast, percussive, dynamic and powerful, with good top to bottom extension, and no loss of character at high volumes. I've just heard so many conventional, dynamic systems that were "warm" and uninvolving.
Upgrading the preamp is an option.

As for horns you could consider the Tannoy TD10's. They are a newer version of the D700's I listened to. Audiogon has a set for sale. And there are a few reviews on the net. Interestingly Soundstage had great things to say about them using a SF line 2 preamp.

While I am not an expert (and on the High Efficiency Asylum over at AA, there are lots of horn experts), there is obviously a difference in the way sound propagates out from a front-loaded (horn) driver speaker when compared with a plain point source. I think by its very nature, a point source speaker will be "punchy" whereas horns will provide a more "enveloping" soundfield. While I find good horns to be dynamic, there is less of a visceral impact to strong sound levels with horns vs the same sound level on box speakers. It may depend on what you value most when listening... is it the woofer making your pantcuffs fluff in the wind? Is it being able to correctly visualize how far back from the front of the stage someone is standing? Is it being embedded in a sound envelope?
I guess that's what made my Altec Model 19's what they were....A standard, front mounted, lighweight paper cone 15" woofer in a simple vented cabinet, with the 811B sectoral horn on top. In a sense, the best of both worlds. Despite their imposing size, they were fast and articulate. I'll bet properly set up, and with the right associated electronics, they'd give today's $20K systems a run for the money.

I think I've come to realize that I'm just not a fan of the typical tower speaker with 5 or 6 drivers stacked one on top of the other. Too many inherent limitations, including poor efficiency. There's 100+ companies throwing drivers in nice cabinets, and simply giving them unique sonic characteristics by varying the cross-over designs. It's interesting how all of these companies either come up as "recommended," or have received "rave reviews." It's a good thing loudspeakers are subjective!

I don't mean any disrespect, but I can see that the "high-end" has made little progress since I walked away from the hobby 12 years ago. Honestly, I was disgusted by the time I threw my hands up, it had gotten so ridiculous. "At only $9,500/pair, anyone considering speakers in the sub $20K range should audition these." Good grief....And the speakers in question had $1K in off-the-shelf drivers stuffed into tall, admittedly nice tower cabinets.

Wow, let me get back on track.....

What I do like is:

Realistic imaging, good placement within the soundstage, fast execution, and wide dynamics. When a drummer hits a rim shot, I don't want to hear a muted pop, but that mettalic "crack." When a bass drum is struck, I want to feel the percussive attack, not a thud. I also enjoy the subtleties and intricacies of small ensembles and vocals, but don't like that "lush" presentation that most speaker systems offer.

I'm not a big fan of "spooky" imaging, that has things coming from the walls directly to your left or right; it's not realistic. When I see a concert, I don't sit in the middle of the stage. Being able to realistically place the performers is high priority, but "spookiness" is not on my list. Finally, the ability to remain uncompressed and accurate at any volume, including concert levels, is important.

Now, I'm sure I could find many a $30K speaker that might satisfy many of these desires, but if technology has really progressed as many say, then I shouldn't have to spend even one-quarter of that.

Ok, I've stepped off my soap box........

Unless you are willing to adjust your requirements, it appears you are headed down a road to disappointment with currently available audiophile loudspeakers.

Perhaps you should stick with what you have, build your own DIY loudspeakers or buy some Altec 19s.

Have you considered that the problem you are having with your VR4 loudspeakers might be the result of your electronics...or even old or low-resolution tubes in the SF preamp that should be replaced?
I don't doubt I'm looking for something that doesn't exist, or may not be available at a reasonable price point. The sad thing is, I believe this level of performance should be reasonably affordable.

I've tried the VR-4's with several amplifiers (JFET/MOSFET), and have listened to them with tubes as well (BAT), and the tubes imparted a real tubbiness to the sound. I've upgraded/changed the tubes in the pre-amp, etc. Nothing markedly changed their overall balance, which was warm and restrained, with very little mid-bass excitement.

It seems that there are two general camps when it comes to the conventional cone/dome loudspeaker camp; there's the warm and lush camp (Thiel, Vandersteen, Von Schweikert), and then the analytical camp (Legacy, who knows who else). I find the former boring, and the latter fatiguing.

I wonder if Altec's reborn A7 would be the ticket, albeit at a lofty price point. Perhaps I'll wait until '07, when I attend the CES show, to see what's out there. If I could find a mint pair of Model 19's in the interim however, I might just complete the circle!!!

Thanks again for everyone's input!!!!!!!!!!!!

there's the warm and lush camp (Thiel, Vandersteen, Von Schweikert)

My VR4 Gen III HSE are anything but warm and lush. Crisp, dynamic, clean...anything but warm and lush.

You saw the Altec 19 for $1000/pair which I liked to earlier? Mint? Unlikely.

I'm moving on, my friend. Good luck.
Sorry Tvad, I didn't realize that a link was embedded in your response....

I'll be attending CES, so I'll definitely visit the Von Schweikert suite. I'm sure they've changed since I bought my VR-4's ('97 I'm guessing), so perhaps the sonic signature has completely changed. I actually inquired about the "VR-4 to VR-5 upgrade," but it's no longer being offered.

There's seems to be a lot of fanfare regarding the Gen III HSE, so I should at least give the line another listen. What current VSR speaker replaced this model?

I have owned the Sonic Frontiers Line 1, and you might want to consider upgrading the preamp as an option. I find the dynamics to be little flat with the SF pre. Just an opinion.