New Speakers for $2000


Hello, new to the forums and wanted to ask your guys' advice for my next step up. My system right now is Lossless Files -> Benchmark DAC1 USB -> Cambridge Audio 650A -> Jamo 707 (Speakers from the early 90s I think).

I have about $2000 maybe up to $2200 MAX to spend on speakers. My sound preferences as you can tell from my set up is fairly neutral.

I went to the local hi-fi shop recent and listened to MartinLogan Electromotion. I found that they both lack bass extension which wouldn't really be a problem but also that they have a really lax midrange (too lazy for metal).

My wants in order of preference are:
-Resolution
-Neurality
-Imaging
-Sound stage width
-Good highs
-Not so slow mids that it'd make listening to heavier music unenjoyable
-A decent amount of bass or even slightly weak on punch is fine

Any recommendations are welcome and thanks in advance.
ninjasquirt
I would take a good look at Vapor Audio's Breeze speakers.
The speaker retails for $1250.
That said, I'm sure you will get alot of great recommendations as there are many great speakers in that price range.
Magnepan 1.7's
Useful to know speaker placements constraints and rm size, but I'd definitely consider:

Selah Verita
Fritz Carbon 7s

The Selah's a bit over your price range (I think there's been an increase), Carbon's a bit under. Both Rick and Fritz very worth chatting with.

The Vapors I've heard also sound very good.

John
Revel F50 was first thing that came to mind, and they're available here in your price range. Not sure if your room is big enough for them or if the Cambridge would be a good match, but probably possesses most if not all the qualities you're looking for. A couple other ideas in your price range might be Merlin TSM or Joseph Audio RM22XL (although these may bottom out if cranked with heavy bass). Best of luck.
Ninjasquirt, you're right about the ElectroMotion speakers. I confess to never having been all that impressed with Martin-Logan for some time, however. But every now and again I pop in, hoping to see what the buzz is.

I was in your boat a few months ago, settled on NOLA Boxers and haven't looked back. They have every attribute that you crave. Like you, I listen to everything from classical and rap to black metal. It's hard to find an audiophile quality speaker that lets it rip as hard on metal as it does on classical. For me, the Boxers are that speaker.

Some of the biggest things for me are the way they disappear. Huge soundstage with pinpoint imaging, to boot. They have some bass, enough to satisfy me since as we know, most music doesn't contain a ton of low bass content anyhow, even hip-hop.

I'd try to give them a listen, along with others that people here have suggested. I'm responding because you mentioned the M-L mids being too lazy for metal. That won't be a problem with the Boxers.

Good luck in the quest.
I would suggest a home audition of Ohm Walsh 1000s. Ohm offers a 120-day in-home trial period. You are at risk for the shipping charges only. Provided your room is not too large for them (there is a guide on the Ohm web site), they should deliver on your checklist.
Check out the Kef Q 700,Q 900 and XQ 20 speakers.All excel in imaging,soundstage and detail.
Two value leaders at your price point are Magnepan 1.7s at $2K and the GoldenEar Triton 2's at $2500. I've heard both. The GoldenEars give you flat response, near world class soundstage, and true full range performance as well as excellent transparency and clarity. Since the low bass is handled by built-in amplifiers, your amp situation would work with the GoldenEars better than the Magnepans.

Really, you shouldn't buy until you can hear at least one of these two speakers.
Given the list of qualities you lay out in your post its an easy recommendation. I would go with a pair of Vandersteed model 2's. At the $2000 price point, nothing even comes close. They are very transparent, neutral and have tons of resolution. In order to get the best out of them, though, there are some things you need to consider. They need to be placed and set up properly in the room. A lot of people just place them by ear like you do with most other speakers. Vandersteen gives you a simple formula that you use. It's not difficult; you just take some measurements in your room and plug the results into the equation and follow the setup instructions from there on. For equipment, since the Vandersteens are phase and time correct, they benefit greatly from electronics that are fully balanced and use 0 negative feedback. Just as an example, on my 2's, I have Wadia CD player going fully balanced into an Ayre V5 amp. Using those components, it allows the signal to stay in phase from the source so you can get the full benefit of what the speakers have to offer. Lastly, you have to do a real double biwire (2 separate runs of speaker cables). Makes a big difference. I use 2 runs of Audioquest CV-8. I know all this seems like a bit much, but if you take the time to build a system like this, you will not believe how good it sounds. For comparison, I have a pair of Wilson's in another room with even more expensive electronics. They sound great but my Vandersteen system is easily the better sounding. I hope this info helps you out. Good luck with your system and if you have any questions, just post them and I will check this thread and help if I can.
Thanks for all the suggestion. My current list of choices are:

Magnepan 1.7s - Concerned it might lack in bass since it is planar and lacks a woofer

Vandersteel Model 2s - They sound very nice but the Stereophile review seem to jump straight through the fact that their sound stage isn't top-notch. On top of that my amp doesn't have fully-balanced inputs (which was heavily stressed in the suggestion). I'm using a pair of Cardas XLR to RCA converters right now on my Benchmark DAC1 USB to take advantage of the XLR (notorious for sounding better than the RCA out). So that may disquality the Vandersteel as well. Also they apparently put in you a music hall like sound stage, sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. I like a bit of a forward presentation but I'd have to listen to the Vandersteels to really find out.

Nola Boxers - Definitely heavily considering this one but I really like the tower look but that's not really an issue.

Goldenears Triton 2s - Out of price range.

-Ohm Walsh 1000s, my room is fairly large (really high concrete ceilings) and the suggestion said that was a factor.

My listening environment is not optional since my apartment is kind shaped like an L and my stereo area is kind of small width-wise.

Vaporaudio - Haven't read reviews yet but again prefer the tower look. Otherwise will follow up on the suggestion.
With all due respect to Rlg_audio and Stereophile, IMHO, while balanced gear certainly has it's advantages, it's not a prerequisite for successful integration of an enjoyable system utilizing the extraordinary value leader Vandersteen 2's. Furthermore, despite what you might have read in Stereophile, I firmly believe that one of the strong suits of the Vandersteen's is their soundstage. I will say that an appropriate room and proper placement and listening position needs more than typical care. I've heard these speakers many times over a long time, in many different rooms with lots of different gear. Improperly set up, or placed in an inappropriate room they will disappoint. In a proper room, appropriately placed they are capable of proving themselves to be perhaps the best value in all of high end audio.
Unsound. Just to clarify, I didn't mean that you will not get good results if you don't use equipment that is balanced or any of the other characteristics that I mentioned. With Vandersteen it's not hard to get good results. I do recommend them if you want the best possible results. I am not talking about tweaks; the differences are large and easy to hear.

OP. I understand that you don't have all of the best equipment now. You can start with what you have now and get good results and as you upgrade over time, you have a speaker that will be worth the investment. As for the 1.7, you state:

My wants in order of preference are:
-Resolution
-Neurality
-Imaging
-Sound stage width
-Good highs
-Not so slow mids that it'd make listening to heavier music unenjoyable
-A decent amount of bass or even slightly weak on punch is fine

Most of what you are asking for on that list is the exact opposite of the Mag., with the exception of the bass. The bass is excellent, its the mediocre mids and the bright, metallic highs that are not good. Magnepan knows the highs are a problem for most people so they even include raw resistors that you are supposed to attach to the binding post to roll the HF off. More importantly, though, and I hate to sound harsh, is that you have already failed. At this point it doesn't matter what you buy, Vandersteen or something else, putting your faith in equipment reviews is the single biggest mistake you can make. The worst part is that you probably won't realize this until after you have made some very poor choices. Along with this, though most people will deny it, is that most audiophiles I come into contact with get their listening experience by reading equipment reviews, as well. Again, I hate to be so negative, but I just don't see any kind of success going down your current path. Better to just save your money or go to a casino. Good Luck.
Rlg_audio, Gee, I really don't want to pick a fight with you :-), but again I feel the need to comment on your last post. I basically share your preference, I don't think the Maggies are nearly that bad, in fact I think though quite different, they're quite good, though I think you really have to move up the line to something like the 3 series to really compete with the Vandy 2's, albeit for more money. IMHO, the highs of the Vandy's and the Maggies both veer from neutrality, but in different directions. I'm not at all surprised that a Vandy enthusiast might find the Maggies bright, but a Maggie fan might find the Vandy's dull. IME, the Maggies can offer a different, and perhaps better soundstage than the Vandy's, but the imaging might be better with the Vandy's. The Maggies might be quicker in mids. The Vandy's can offer better if somewhat ripe bass. The Maggies are probably even more room/placement sensitive. It's really a matter of taste.


My wants in order of preference are:
-Resolution
-Neurality
-Imaging
-Sound stage width
-Good highs
-Not so slow mids that it'd make listening to heavier music unenjoyable
-A decent amount of bass or even slightly weak on punch is fine
I should have paid more attention to this set of requirements. Given these plus your narrow listening area, I think Nola Boxers would be the way to go. A mini is going to be easier to place given the narrow room boundaries than a tower. You can use the $500 saved for stands and cables, or toward a powered sub if desired.

I did, however, remember one more $2K speaker worth checking out, the Atlantic Technology AT-1. Available at $2K/pair, it's a tower with an MTM (D'Appolito) array backed by Atlantic's own H-PAS bass loading system that produces meaningful bass down into the 20s. Stereophile's review and measurements indicated an unusually flat response overall. The MTM array helps keep ceiling and floor reflections out of the image that reaches your ears. Review excerpts here, third-party measured response curves here.
respectfully, your 75w/ch amp may not be enough juice for magnepan or revel. in your budget i'd look at the ohms, von schweikert vr2 (huge soundstage and low end) or energy veritas; vanns is also selling mirage omd28 for $1400--they're extremely room-filling.

01-11-12: Loomisjohnson
respectfully, your 75w/ch amp may not be enough juice for magnepan or revel. in your budget i'd look at the ohms, von schweikert vr2 (huge soundstage and low end) or energy veritas; vanns is also selling mirage omd28 for $1400--they're extremely room-filling.

The Vann's price for the OMD-28 is $1400 each, so that would be $2800 a pair. That's still a bargain given that they retailed at $7500/pair and were very competitive at that price. However, the OMD28's little brother, the OMD-15, is also available at Vanns at $1K/pair down from an original $2.5K/pair. They're plenty competitive at their original price and with a sensitivity of around 91dB, will match well with that Cambridge 650A. I've been living with my OMD-15s for 3-1/2 years in an open architecture cathedral-ceiling living space. They definitely fill the space well.

Also, with the money you save you could pick up one or two decent powered subs and then you would have a true full-range system and you could dial in the bass energy for the program material and your listening space.
Salk SongTowers!
Revel F12 new $1500? With the $700 left over sell your Cambridge and get a new Bada Purer 3.3se. This will give you power/current-dynamics and bass extension needed for hard rock/metal.
I second the Mirage OMD-15s. I had them before the OMD-28s, and they are excellent speakers. Add subs and you are rockin. :-)

Mot
Used Energy Veritas 2.3i or 2.4i fit your discription. You may have enough left for a more powerful and highly regarded integrated from Anthem, Yamaha or even Musical Fidelity.
Hi all ! I think from now on the first thing I will ask folks who ask for speaker recommendations is the following question ... Do you want a typical mostly laid back " hi fi " sound or do you want immediate , live and very dynamic ? I presently own Thiels , Magnepans and Tektons . The first two are " hi fi " sound , the last one will have you rolling on the floor with their dynamics and live sound . The Tektons were put in the system and have never been taken out .
Hey Ninjasquirt. You described your sonic tastes pretty well - the first thought that came into my head was something with a ribbon tweeter and Scanspeak drivers. Not many of those around from the traditional commercial manufacturers, but there are some smaller speaker makers out there that do them.

Otherwise, I think you might like the Focal 826W or 836W - these really hit all your requirements and would be worth an audition.

Do consider used items, too, to save some money and open up your options.
Daber Audio Monitor 3's. May need stands. Really nice.
Again, thank you for all the suggestions. Unfortunately, as a student, I can't afford the time and the distance I'd have to travel to audition all your suggestions. The brands that are really available to me are: B&W, Rega, Dynaudio, Revel, Goldenear, ML, Harbeth, and maybe Thiel. Sorry, I seriously should've mentioned this earlier.

I did audition some Dynaudio DM 3/7 and like them a lot for good recordings. They're $2000 on the dot and I can do a trade in to take them to $1600. As far as laid back hifi vs. forward and dynamic. Right now, my Jamoes are forward and dynamic but the Dynaudio I listened to are definitely laid back. I loved their everything on them with the exception of them lacking some bite if you will, on the mids. Maybe a little too bassy for my taste.

I'm going to go back and try out the Revels if I can later.
Don't buy until you hear the GoldenEars. And don't let them demo them with some mass produced receiver. They shine with quality amplification. You won't find a better combination of refined midrange/treble, bass extension, imaging, and dynamic range at that price.
Tekton Pendragons are as good as I've ever heard. $2500 Internet direct with trial period. No way a Brick and Mortar store with distributors, and their overhead can compete. And maybe you can find a local audition? That's what I did and loved them immediately. Just my $.02.
As a fellow student, I encourage you to buy used. I love supporting the dealers and the companies, but we have plenty of time to do that after we graduate...I listen to jazz, classical, classic rock, and metal. It is next to impossible to find a speaker around 2k that will reproduce all those genres correctly. With that said, if you do listen to mostly metal I highly recommend a speaker that satisfies your first 5 requests then pair it with either a vandersteen sub or rel sub(strata III). Some say that adding a sub may interfere with the coherancy of the speakers...and for jazz and classical I tend to agree...but for rock and metal, a sub will take your system to another level.

My final advice, buy used on audiogon. Only buy if the speakers have their original box, manual, spikes, etc. Dont buy until listening to those speakers locally. Finally trust your ears and only take peoples recommondations with a grain of salt (including mine). We all of our own preferances and point of view. Afterall its what makes this hobby so fun!

Speakers I recommend for you:

Used Magnepan 1.6 (900-1000 used) pair with rel stata III (750 used). (Total: 1750) Nad or Rotel equptment will be a good match.

Your first couple of wants kinda spells out maggies! They also have stellar highs. Again with the rel...bass wont be a problem even with some the most brutal double bass action! Do make sure you have some room tho...maggies need room...and power.

Merlin TSM monitors (1100-1600 used depending on model) Also pair with the rel. (Total: 1850-2350)

I have owned merlins before and find them to have a very forward sound. Not in a negative way tho. Very bitey, clean, fast as hell, and uber transparent midrange. This pairing would also sound nice with tons of other music. The merlin is such a neutral speaker...whats on the recording is what you hear. My experience told me this: merlins have that hifi feeling with also that live type of sound mixed in. The soundstage is very realistic and just lets the music take over. Lets not even start to talk about the resolution...its better than any other speaker you would be willing to fork the cash for....

Good luck man, its awesome to see another student up here!
Fritz Rev 5
Not to be sarcastic, but it seems like the OP's wish list encompasses all of the great attributes of a perfect speaker system. Ok so he said he did not need bass slam. I would think that there are many 20,000 speakers that could not meet all of these preferences. I am surprised someone has not said that this is a tall order to fill for two grand. Or maybe , I am off base and there are many or a few that can meet all of these.
Todd
01-21-12: Toddnkaya
Not to be sarcastic, but it seems like the OP's wish list encompasses all of the great attributes of a perfect speaker system. Ok so he said he did not need bass slam. I would think that there are many 20,000 speakers that could not meet all of these preferences. I am surprised someone has not said that this is a tall order to fill for two grand. Or maybe , I am off base and there are many or a few that can meet all of these.
Good point, but not quite true: Besides not asking for deep powerful bass, he didn't mention anything about wide dynamic range or the ability to play at live concert levels. There are many stand-mounted speakers that meet all his criteria--$2K will buy many different mini-monitors, any of which will provide that imaging and soundstaging, plus airy highs and a transparent midrange. It's when you try to maintain those characteristics and add in dynamic range and bass extension that it gets expensive. The Nola Boxer sounds like an excellent match at $1500 (or Paradigm Studio Ref), and if he adds this excellent sub from SVS he'd still meet budget and be able to do the metal thing fine as well.
Honestly, my current speaker system does many of these things to a satisfying level. It lacks a little bit of resolution but as far as sound signature goes, mids and bass are both perfect. Highs a little rolled-off but I can deal with that. Sound stage width could be wider. I'm just looking for basically the same sound signature with a resolution and imaging upgrade. These speakers were $1600 in the early 90s. I don't know how the whole market goes but I'd like to think the industry could do that with $2000 in 2012.

Another thing is, I've been reading about stereo amp power. The speakers I have, have 200W power requirement and are 4 ohms yet my amp only has maybe 110W at 4 ohms continously. I've read that this can cause distortion. Maybe, I should just invest in an amp upgrade since almost everyting I read recommends twice the power required by the speakers on the amp.
"Vandersteel Model 2s - They sound very nice but the Stereophile review seem to jump straight through the fact that their sound stage isn't top-notch"

Huh? Which review is that? To my ears, the 2Ce Sig IIs can throw as good a soundstage as any speaker I've heard (a list that includes models from Avalon, TAD, Wilson, Revel, Aerial, Thiel, B&W, Paradigm, MBL). In fact, they're *better* than most of those. The Vandies also can disappear into a room as good as any speaker I've heard (even when all of the signal is in one channel). Overall, I don't think you can do better at the price point. They are very musical and are above average at most any sonic parameter. In fact it's easier to talk about their (few) shortcomings. Compared to the *very* best I've heard (Avalon Ascent II, TAD Ref 1, and Vandersteen 7), the 2Ce Sig IIs are: 1) not quite as highly resolved; 2) lack a bit of extension at both frequency extremes (more obvious in the bass); and 3) have a somewhat veiled midrange. This last point I was able to mitigate with a cable upgrade (also, Vandersteen has recently upgraded the midrange driver; I've not heard it but presume that it sounds better than my iteration). For $2K, Vandersteen gives you a big, fat helping of what's possible in high-end audio. Best wishes in your quest!