Never-ending Speaker Journey ($1,000 budget)

Like everyone here I've spent years tinkering with different setups, but I'm hoping to be happy once and for all with a final speaker purchase--wish me luck!

Short background: At the age of 14 I purchased a kenwood receiver and HUGE cerwin vega AT12 3-way speakers (12" woofer). At the time I listened primarily Rap music. I LOVED my system. A decade later I had a Denon receiver and bought some Dynaudio Audience 50 bookshelfs (7" woofer). I felt a massive step up in quality of sound. I could hear piano hammers moving, fingers sliding on guitar strings, drum sticks being set down, every rasp in female voice. I listed to a lot of pop and rock music (Bjork, Tori Amos, Cure, Nirvana). In both of these instances I was enamored with my stereo. Yes, I realize these are fairly low-fi by some standards on this website.

Fast forward: I've been trying everything to gain that same 'awe' and impressive sound. I've had the following:

Low end speakers: Boston Acoustics A25 (boring, no detail), Pioneer LS22 (had a 'hall' effect), Mordant Short Aviano (harsh, bright), Def Tech (harsh, bright)

Better Models: 

* Wharfedale Denton-- Nice, but not refined. Kind of lazy or blurry, no decay in sounds. GREAT bass, sounded overall very nice.

* Boston Acoustics E60--super bright, possibly due to the 60hz lower end.

* Dynaudio Audience 50-by far my favorite speaker I've owned, but after ten years with it my ears became sensetive and it started sounding harsh/bright.

* Harbeth P3ESR--amazing speaker, but couldn't integrate with my subwoofer to create a cohesive sound, possibly due to the 75hz lower end.

There are probably five or size models I'm leaving out too (Mission, PSB, etc). So here's what I've learned....

(1) I listen to mostly Rock and Pop (Prince, Arctic Monkeys, White Stripes, Tool, Cure, Tori Amos, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac).
(2) I'm 'super' sensetive to bright/harsh speakers (at least half of the pairs I've owned were sold due to being fatiguing)
(3) I need bass. Speakers I've owned that cut-off above 60hz just sound thin, or 'missing something' to me. I have never been skilled enough to integrate a subwoofer to work well with such a speaker.
(4) I love resolution and imaging. Love hearing things in my speakers that I've only heard before in headphones (I realize this conflicts with #2 above).
(5) I would prioritize vocals, realistic piano, then mid bass (realistic drums).
(6) None of the lower end ($400-ish) speakers made me happy. Typically a model around $1000-$2000 has worked.

I have a decent amp, Parasound 2125 (150W@8ohms, 225W@4ohms). I have decent sources (NAD CD player, Technics turntable). The room is about 20x12 and I sit about 10 feet from the right and 15 feet from the left speaker. They would sit about ten inches from the wall (I can pull them more into the room for critical listening, but the overall setup is fairly up against a wall).

So... based on my history I am considering Dynaudio Focus 140/160, Kef R300 (or maybe Q300), Swan Songbird, Ascend Sierra... I believe I'm more a fan of the details and bass of Dynaudio than the sweet mid-range of the Harbeth (I'm likely in the analytical camp). Of course I don't want a midrange that sounds like a sheet is thrown over it either. Vocals are VERY important.

So for Rock and Pop... punchy bass (but not bloated)...amazing details in vocals.. and at least reaching 50hz (or lower) what would you recommend? I am about to sell the Harbeth P3ESRs because as much as I love them I can't integrate the sub with the 75hz lower end.

Detailed and analytical, without being harsh is the key. Maybe some brands use a sweet/easy tweeter, but pair it with a revealing midrange?

Or do I say screw-it and just get some cheapie Cerwin Vegas :)

Fb927ac4 ffc7 44ee 9f23 2d93ff1223cdrobertjason75
Just an Energy S10.3 (aka, Mirage Omni S10) 200W RMS. Nothing great, but not bad. I hope to get a Rythmik or SVS someday soon. It's off to the side of the couch as there is no room up front.
I suggest that you should keep the Harbeths and get this JL subwoofer. It is a sealed sub and blends perfect with my P3's.  It does not have a high pass filter so you run the Harbeths full range. That ported sub that you are using is more for a home theater type of setup!
I'm sort of new to the whole HiFi game as well.  I've always loved music and share similar tastes to what you have mentioned.  I have auditioned a pair of Revel M106s and they rocked.  Great clean low end and very crisp, but not too bright, highs.  They are a little above your price but if you can find a preowned set they are great.  I  have a set of Nola Boxers.  Same deal as the Revels.  They don't have quite the punch on the low end but handle rock really well, very crisp highs without being too bright and enough clarity to clearly differentiate the different instruments in a song.  They also have a higher sensitivity than the Revels so you don't need as much power to make them sing.  I am actually looking to sell my Nolas if it is something that interests you. Good luck with your search and I understand your dilemma.  There are just too many great choices out there.

I think it is time in your life for you to consider DIY! :) 


Funny, I was just about to recommend Nola Boxers as they have great mids and not overly bright highs.  Also Joseph Audio RM7si IIs another great speaker.  Both can be found on hifishark for a little over your price range.  I'd think the Revels might be a little too revealing up top given the other speakers the OP found to be too bright.  Agree with @tute that a speaker with the super smooth Raal ribbon tweeter would be well worth a look if you can find one near your price point. 

Also agree with @yogiboy that the $500 sub is probably the issue with bass integration rather than the $2200 monitors -- they're pretty flat to 80Hz, which should be workable.  Sub placement and lack of integration software/hardware likely not helping either.  That said, the P3ESRs are not the speaker I'd choose if I'm mainly listening to pop rock music as they do have their volume limits.  Best of luck.