Need Small Bookshelf Speakers With a Big Sound


Good morning.  I have been out of any kind of audiophile circles for a long time.  We moved into a house with built-in speakers about 5 years ago, which I really enjoy, but of course it's better for casual listening at a party than for quality listening.  Our family room is in a pretty open space that borders our living room and kitchen, so my wife is very focused on speakers being unobtrusive in appearance.  I was therefor looking for small speakers and got turned onto KEF LS50s, which sounded really nice for the price, and more than good enough for my desires.  And they are small.  But I didn't really focus on their "untraditional" looks.  It turns out that was a deal-breaker when I brought them home to demo.

So, I am back to square one.  What I would really like is a speaker that is about the size of the LS50s, or maybe a little bigger, and has a nice looking, traditional wood finish.  Bright colors and artificial surfaces, no matter how good they sound, need not apply...

I would say my self-imposed budget is around $2,000 at the top.  Unless new speakers leads me down the audiophile slippery slope, the speakers would be powered by my old Adcom 545 II amp and GTP 500 II tuner, with either an Adcom CD changer or Apple TV streaming the music.  Not exactly Audiogon Best In Class, but I think it will bring a smile to my face.  And you never know if this will lead to upgrading the whole shebang.

Any thoughts appreciated.  Not that it matters, but I am in the Chicagoland area.
chiguy
Look at Dynaudio. Excite 14 for 1500.00. Same price and I like them better. I have both. Dynaudio have a lot of great speakers in their line. I also have Contour 1.1’s they are smoother and have more bass but I prefer the highs on the Excite 14's. I also have the 12's and they are an earlier version that became the 14's. They have a slightly bigger one in the excite line but I have never heard it.
You could build the LM-1 for around $500. Aesthetically they look like the cabinet. :) With a brand on them they would be around $1,200 to $1,800 depending on whose label was on it.

The tweeter is the same as used by some megabuck speakers, including Krell, old Magicos and Sonus Faber and others. The woofer is a find for the price range. Inside, go as fancy as you want to. ( I may have the list a little wrong, but not the prices! This is a great tweeter found in several $5k+ speakers)

Overall, it's a sensitive speaker with a lively midrange, and very smooth sounding treble. Objectively VERY neutral and will play anything well. You cannot hear their location when well placed, and throw a great sound stage. In a lot of music you also won't hear how small they are, but hey, they're small, so for movies and R&R you'll want a sub.

If you have any questions while building, come to DIYAudio’s Multiway forum.

Also one of the best kits ever in terms of documentation. No tricks either, the crossover is very high quality without attempting to juice any part of the spectrum. Frequency response is as neutral as you can get, and (within it’s performance envelope) very low distortion.

The biggest advantage, aside from cost, is being able to tweak the treble/bass balance yourself. You won’t find yourself trying to trade them for less or more treble or better cables. :-)

I make no money if you build them or not. I am promoting audio education by encouraging audiophiles and kids to build their own.

Best,


Erik
Thanks!  The Dynaudio are nice and small.  And a Chicago-based company.  Will have to check them out.


Check out the Harbeth P3ESR or the Spendor 3/5r2. I have owned and enjoyed both ! The fit and finish on the Harbeth's are outstanding!
I really like the LS50 - too bad that it didn't fit with the decor.  You might check out the new Technics SB-C700 speakers, as they are somewhat similar to the KEFs and have received excellent reviews (with the exception of WhatHiFi).  They are under 2K new.  Apparently they go a little deeper in the bass, which should give you the big sound that you want.  They come in black or white, so hopefully that's acceptable.  

Good luck!
Scott
Would you consider used speakers, and more specifically horn loaded tweeters.  Not sure the max height you are considering but look for a pair of Klipsch RB-75's(20.2"x10.0"x11.8", 32lbs) if you want "big sounding" bookshelf speakers.  If they are a bit too large, look for the smaller brother RB-5's(17.0"x9.0"x12.5", 23.15lbs)).  Both have real wood veneer, 8" woofers, and horn loaded tweeters.  The 75 has a 1.75" titanium compression driver while the 5 has a 1" titanium tweeter. 

What about the KEF R300?  Larger(15.2"x8.3"x13.6") but pretty big sounding, traditional wood finish, and fall within your budget.

Bill
Thanks everyone!  I have heard the R300s and like them too.  Will try to check out the Harbeths (never heard of that brand!) and Technics and others mentioned.  I do think 20" is too big.

FWIW, my original title really meant "looking for small speakers that don't sound like small speakers."  I'm not sure what "big" implies on audiogon -- it's been quite a while since I hung out here -- but I just would like a good sounding speaker.  I listen to a lot of Grateful Dead and related, as well as other classic rock (Neil Young, Steely Dan, Rolling Stones, Doors, Bob Marley, etc.....), if that matters.
Forget the speakers that I recommended, not for the type of music you listen to!!
Save a lot of money and get great refurbished and upgraded speakers right from the factory for less.

Take a look at the pro or cam 16 models.

http://ohmspeaker.com/outlet-store/


If if you can go bigger consider the L or c2 models. You will get more high quality sound this way than with anything new of comparable cost plus the benefits of buying direct from a reputable maker that has been around for decades.
Dali Ikon2 Mark2. Full sound, great imaging and throws a wide soundstage. Excellent tweeter with a overall unique design, I have had a pair for 3 years and they sound  great, check out the Dali website. Retailed for $1500 per pair 3 years ago. I don't think the retail price has changed much. Holm Audio in Woodridge carries the line, check their website, they may have a used pair for sale around $800.00, last I checked.
The McIntosh XR 50 has a huge sound.  
Post removed 
Too bad about the LS50’s they are superb! I rather like their appearance.

But... another alternative... which also sounds way, way bigger than they are... and... superb in all respects, rivaling the "best there is," regardless of size (in a modest size room) - WaveTouch Grand Tetons. And... they’re reasonably priced too.

Just depends on whether you like their appearance, or are up to staining / painting them.

http://www.wavetouchaudio.com/products.html

Be sure to check out the reviews of all those who have sold their "multi-thousand dollar" full size speakers for the Grand Tetons.
Try some Tannoy DC8.  Great bass, coherent, lively and good speed.  Good luck.
Be sure to check out the JBL synthesis studio 530 speaker's,  this is the hottest thing on the market currently,  so hot,  JBL is on back order till January, 2016, no worries,  you can get them on ebay new on the used market,  they come in black wood grain or chery wood, 45htz to 40khtz!
Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2's.
Wow, thanks for all the recommendations!  FWIW, in a couple of coincidences, I went to Holm Audio to hear the KEFs.  While I was there, I also was advised to listen to PSB Imagine Minis, which I liked, but seemed to need a subwoofer to fill out the sound.  So I wonder if the slightly larger PSBs would be a good all-in-one alternative.

I also listened to a pair of Tannoy floor speakers there, although my wife decided she liked the "lighter" look of smaller bookshelf speakers on stands, than taller floor speakers.  Appearance is very important to her, and I think I can find speakers that sound good to me if they fit her "blend into the woodwork" eye.  Lots to check you.  Thanks for the ideas!
chiguy,about a year ago I had to downsize from Sonus Faber Toy Towers & SimAudio i5.3 integrated amp.I wanted the absolute best combination in my budget range of small size & big sound as replacements,they had to sing with lowish powered tube amps(10wpc.+)& as these would probably be the last pair of speakers I would ever buy they had to look special.
I went through 3 pair of Dali’s,long demo’s of Martin Logan Motion 15, 35XT’s,Focal Aria 905,906’s & my VERY hard earned $ went for the Made in Denmark, Dynaudio Excite X14’s in Satin Tiger Rosewood finish on Pangea DS400 stands.
Do yourself a favor before you drop coin & have a look at the physical size of all the speakers on your short list & the baby Dyn is smaller than them all.It has the ABSOLUTE most beautiful finish of any of your choices & in either the Rosewood or Walnut finish they can stand next to the finest furniture.
My room is 4mx5mx 2.5m & with a 10wpc.single ended Class A tube amp they can ROCK Judas Priest Metal Gods until the walls shake!They never drop below 7 ohms impedance & have a very mild Phase Inversion Angle so every watt goes straight into driving the speaker.The crossover is designed to eliminate early floor reflections so they integrate easier into areas with reflective floors.Lastly the sound is IMO superb!Driven by a 25wpc.Class A EL84 tube amplifier it has everything I required in a speaker.Tone,texture,imaging & sound staging is all there & present in spades!You can feel the resonance of a cello being pushed,the difference between the dull thud of a plastic bass drum & stretch of skin,horns have bite but are never brittle or hard,closely miked vocals are so perfectly portrayed you can hear the parting of a singers lips just before the first notes sing out.Bass is just amazing & hits a solid low 40's in my smallish room & after hours long listening sessions absolutely no listener fatigue.You do yourself a disservice if you don’t give the Dynaudios a long look & listen...
"Check out the Harbeth P3ESR or the Spendor 3/5r2. I have owned and enjoyed both ! The fit and finish on the Harbeth's are outstanding!"

and then

"Forget the speakers that I recommended, not for the type of music you listen to!!"

Are you sure they wouldn't be appropriate for rock music?  They looked nice online and got very good reviews.

If you really dig through all the P3ESR reviews as I have you will find several references from listeners who have stated they just don’t rock...IMO based on fit & finish/price ratio they are also WAY overpriced when compared side by side with the Dynaudio’s!!!
You might want to consider the Gallo CL-2 from the Classico line.  It looks like the Classicos (which meet your decor requirements) might have laid an egg commercially.  Gallo dropped the prices a fair bit and Underwood HiFi was discounting them, too.  Last I looked, they were under $1k per pair.

The key here is the very wide dispersion Gallo tweeter, which gives their so-equipped models something of an omnidirectional feel.  It's got a 5 1/4" ish woofer in a ported box, so bass isn't going to shake the walls, but it's satisfyingly full.  

If you want big sound from a small speaker, this may be a good choice.
Tetons
Reference 3A de Capos big sound for a stand mount, very eff.
The de Capos are awesome but very far from small with that 8" woofer and a bit more than $2k unless you go used. 
I would recommend you take a listen to some Ryan speakers model R 610. In full disclosure I am a dealer for them. Depending  on where you are you may have someone local you can take a listen to them. They fit your criteria for size performance and appearance.
A little sour grapes here- your Adcom amplifier is a poor match for speakers that can reveal a lot of detail.  If you can afford a better front end and a better amp, then a refined pair of speakers can perform as they should.
OTOH, a pair of A/D/S or Advent speakers would match up better-
IMHO.
I am fine with finding good speakers, and then deciding if I want to upgrade my amp.  I'd rather buy good speakers and then decide that my 20 year old amp needs to be replaced rather than trying to match new speakers to a 20 y/o amp.
Ryan R10s are pushing the size envelope a bit, I’m afraid.  As are the de Capos.  
chiguy those recommendations by yogiboy were good ones and both Harbeth and Spendor will be fine with the type of music you listen to not sure why he said to ignore his recs. I've heard both brands and can second both recommendations. And too bad about the Kef's I also find them very cool looking.
That old Adcom is a good amp. You can have it updated, too, by Musical Design.
For my money, I would check out Zu Audio. A pair of Omen Bookshelf or Cubes would provide some nice sound for the money. A sub or pair would make it a pretty nice little system.
Take a look at the omega take a look at the omega single driver speakers if you like female voices guitar and less complicated music.

After many years and having heard various setups both large and small, I am of the opinion that for a truly "big" sound, even in a smaller room, you need at least 8" woofers or larger and larger enclosures to match.

In 1978, few serious speakers used bass drivers less than 8" and these could be had for a few hundred dollars.

Nowadays, for that price new, "high end" speakers are minuscule in size in comparison. They may be of very good quality for what they do but do not sound "big" or close to full range and dynamics are limited. The result is nice but not very exciting sound compared to what is possible.


Platinum Audio Solo speakers..musical, sweet, warm and punchy....in a Stereophile review they were flat down to 32 Hz!

I posted a few quick pics of the Tiger Rosewood finish(natural light) in the "Done For Now"virtual system forum.Click on my user name & follow to virtual systems if your interested.
Freediver, I stumbled upon the Virtual System forum and found the Done For Now section, but couldn't figure out how to search for your uploads. Sorry, I am new here.
freediver.... they look nice... how far do you have them from the back wall ? hard to tell from your pics ...  i have a real small space (11x12) ....
Just get the LS50's, Donn. :-) :-) :-)
:-)

You just want to see me divorced.
Chiguy & jond,
I rescinded my recommendation because the Harbeth and the Spendors though outstanding are really not headbanger type speakers for your preference of the classic rock you enjoy!
Yogiboy
yogiboy none of the music listed by chiguy is really headbanging stuff I listen to much the same so your recommendations stand sorry dude :p
  A lot of good recommendations here, but I may as well throw in my two cents. As long as you're okay with listening to (rather than feeling) the bass, you can't go wrong with the smaller Harbeths.  They're very natural sounding & I doubt your wife could find fault with the cabinets.  If you want something more visceral than the Dynaudios are great (if you have enough power), but nowhere near as attractive.

  I also had to integrate my speakers into pre-existing decor (subject to approval), and ended up with the Monitor Audio Silver 2 's.  They don't quite have the cohesive character of either of the above speakers--more a jack of all trades, master of none--but I feel they beat out any floorstanders I've heard in the same price range; not only in their articulateness (they're very revealing of any upstream changes) but also in their fullness of sound. They're not exactly small, but perhaps their excellent finish & rather reasonable price will make up for it--as it did for me.

Kirk

  (There's also a smaller Silver 1, but I haven't heard it.) 
Oh and don't sleep on Audio Note An/K's a great sounding speaker designed to be placed close to the wall or in a corner. With 8 inch woofer in a sealed cabinet it gives surprisingly deep bass and is a good looking speaker as well. Easy to drive to boot and I believe under $2K.
I think 18" high is too big, but thanks.
I had the same issue with the LS50. Instead, I got the KefR300. It is to my ears better than the LS on the bass end and a little less bright on the high. In piano black it looks great in my living room and my wife is good with the look. I thought the R100 viable too though it had less bottom end. I have the Spendors recommended and feel they are not good rock speakers...great for jazz and acoustic and voices. I also have Ohms Walsh units and love them.

chiguy,click on my user name,click "Details" & then click on "MIGHTY Mouse"...
oem-wheels,my room is the same size as yours 11'x 12'x8'..They are 32" from back wall to front baffle & 36" from side wall to center of speaker.I tried them as far as 5' out from the back wall,imaging & sound staging was unreal but the sound thinned out to much in the bass so they went back a bit...
You might check out the new Technics SB-C700 speakers, as they are somewhat similar to the KEFs and have received excellent reviews (with the exception of WhatHiFi).

No surprise here. What Hi-Fi seems to trash anything that isn't British.

Dynaudio was already suggested. It looks like the Excite X18 might be a good fit, has better bass than many in that size, works well on a wide variety of material, and should come in under $2K.

Thanks everyone for all the ideas.  I will resume looking in a couple of weeks and let everyone know what I come up with.  I appreciate all the good advice.
Just curious if Holm had the Joseph Audio Prisms there?  I know they're a bit above your price range, but they may be worth a listen just for reference if nothing else.  Be interested in your thoughts if you ever get to hear them.  Also, if they happen to have any used JA RM22s or RM7s around you should definitely give them a listen.  FWIW...

I agree that Monitor Audio Silver 1s are worth an audition.

For your preferences, I would check out the Epos Elan 10 or Elan 15. Both can produce astoundingly deep bass for their size and have a very neutral sound that pairs well with almost any type of amp. EPOS makes matching ST35 stands for them and your invested total would be under 2k. They are no longer made but new pairs can still be found online. Musing Direct might still have some. 

Their look is sort of a modern take on a British monitor. They're no nonsense good quality speakers that use tried and true technology.
I can’t say my defn of a big sound = yours. But I listened to a lot of speakers but decided to take a chance on the sierra 2’s without even hearing them.

I listened to harbeths, spendor, rega, focal, dynaudio, golden ear, various others in some notable shops but wasn’t hearing the high end and opening imaging I was after (and that other speakers seemed to deliver). Most sounded too polite for me. Although Focal came close to what I was after.

The speakers I did like a lot included maggies .7 and 1.7 (too big), B&W 805D3 (too $$), sonus fabers ($$$).  Probably speakers some would think had exaggerated highs.  So in the end I decided to take a chance on Ascend and their ribbon tweeters and got a LR & Center for under 2K. Hope to get them this week.