New Speakers up to $15k - The more I read the less I know!


I am looking to upgrade my speakers and I am in search of guidance. I presently have B&W 803S and I find that these are excellent speakers and have really responded as I have steadily upgraded my system. I am now looking to buy speakers that will disappear, image and sound as neutral as possible. The 803's are close. 

My system is: ARC REF110 w KT120s, ARC LS27, ARC PH8, VPI Aries 3 fully upgraded, Lyra Delos, Rega Saturn CD, Oppo Sonica DAC, AQ Water & Niagara IC's, REL R528se Sub and more...

Actually, the ARC REF110 and B&W's are a much better match that I would have ever thought and the amp has plenty of power to drive at very high levels. I mainly listen to analog. 

I am looking at Vandy Treo CT, Quatro Wood CT, B&W 802D (used) but I need more ideas... I would prefer to buy new but I will look at used if the right deal presents itself. I am leaning towards the Quatro Wood CT so if anyone has experience with these and a REF 110...?

Thank you.
pilrem
If I had $15K to spend on speakers, the last thing I'd do is ask for recommendations. That kind of dosh demands that you listen before you buy. Anyone here, can have the same equipment as you but your room will and can not be considered so any recommendation will be moot. Also, taste in music and listening preferences will be all over the map.

Start planning on some trips to salons and audio shows and give yourself lots of time. You'll know it when you hear it. 👍

All the best,
Nonoise
pilrem,

nonoise is correct. You really should go out and listen to various speakers in that price range. If you can get an in home demo, all the better. In regards to the speakers above, I have experience with all three. I owned a pair of B&W 802D's. Nice speaker but is a little mid bass heavy in smaller rooms. The diamond tweeter is very articulate and fast. 

I now have a pair of Vandersteen  Treo Ct's, with a Vandy 2Wq sub. This combo is excellent and has the classic neutral Vandersteen sound. I also listened to the Quattro Wood Ct. It is even better overall, but alas, I could not afford them at 14k. They would be a very good choice to put on your short list of choices.
Cheers,
Tim
Don't solicit opinions on "sound," just ask for recommendations based on your current gear and room size; then, listen for yourself. Also, don't get stuck on price ... you may find that you can get great speakers that will fit your needs and ears for far less than your maximum price point.
For that kind of money, you should expect an in-home audition. 
Previous comments reflect my take on this.
The best thing anyone considering buying speakers is to visit as many dealers as possible and audition as many speakers as possible.
Don't get caught up in the associated equipment. Just get you ears open.
I promise that you will find a speaker that speaks to you.

That being said, Vandersteen is probably one of the best choices out there. I, too, own the Treo's with the 2wq subs and am not in a hurry to change anything.
Other companies you may consider:
Magnepan- many Vandy lovers like them. I know I do.
Zu- I had a pair of Union that sounded very close to the 3a sigs, but something was missing...
I know that Zu and Tekton have trial periods, so you can listen to the speakers and only be out of shipping costs.

Agon member, Ctsooner will probably be chiming in soon, he has a pair of Quatro Wood CT's and knows about a lot of other speaker manufacturers. I bought his Treo's, so I would think the Quatro CT's would be a good move on your part. -In my opinion, B&W are nice speakers, but not as good as Vandy's-something about the time and phase alignment sets them apart. (And even though the Zu are full range driver/no crossover speakers, the Vandy's just seem to do thing better).
HTH
Bob
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Given what you're looking for the Vandys are an obvious choice.  I'll add the Joseph Audio Perspectives as worth a serious audition as well.  IME B&Ws don't match the transparency or 3D imaging and soundstaging capabilities of either of these, but we all hear differently so YMMV.  For something a little different, Nola speakers would definitely be worth exploring as well.  Their designer loves pairing his speakers specifically with Audio Research electronics.  Agree with others it's well worth some travel time and expense at this level.  Best of luck in your search. 

(p.s. You should also talk to Ric Schultz of Electronics Visionary Systems about modding your Oppo DAC -- serious return on investment)

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Being a planar enthusiast, there are two $15,000 loudspeakers I would check out: the Magneplanar MG20.7i and the Sanders Model 10.
If your in the NJ, NY, PA area make it a point to stop by Charney Audio in Somerset NJ. and listen to the Companion with any of the offered drivers (Omega RS7, Lowther DX65, or Voxativ AF2.6) Depending on the driver chosen you will come in well below 15K. I have had the privileged of listening to the complete B&W line and the Charney products leave them in the dust in every listening category! Imaging, Soundstage, tonal balance, detail retrieval, and serious emotional engagement!
Hope you find what moves you.  
Thank you for support. I 100% agree that listening to as many speakers as I can will be the only way to properly judge what I like. I have heard Treo's, Quatro's, 5A Carbon's but my critical listening sessions are just beginning. I have an excellent local dealer near me (Ultra Fedilis) that carries Vandy, Sonus Faber, KEF but thay are telling me Vandy all the way. They recently had a booth at Axpona. https://positive-feedback.com/show-reports/axpona-2018-my-top-rooms-for-sound/

John at Untrafi will do the set up if I buy Vandy and I have no doubt that he is one of the very best in the US. 

Does anyone know of good dealers to find and listen to other equipoment near Milwaukee,  Minneapolis or Chicago?
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Mike Kay / Audio Archon ( @audioarchon )  in Chicagoland.
Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove IllinoisHolm Audio in Woodridge IllinoisNextLevel in Wayne Illinois
All good stores that I've been to.
If you are looking for neutral then ATC should be auditioned. You could sell your tube power amp and get large active ATC on your budget.

Frankly B&W 802d is definitely a weak aspect of your setup. I would also try to audition Wilson as they will be like your B&W in the bass but with a more balanced mid range. B&W tend to have a mid range bbc style dip.

Of course all comments are guided by your request for neutral. B&W are excellent speakers but not neutral.
There's a set of Legacy Audio Aeris speakers w/Wavelet on this site for just over your budget (dealer demos), those sounded beautiful paired with Raven Audio tube amps at Axpona, and did that 'completely disappeared' thing you like, so I imagine they'd pair very well with your ARC amps.  

Another brand that seemed to just disappear into the music was Raidho, and while they're uber-expensive brand spankin' new, there are some nice pre-owned deals to be had.  
Precision Audio & Video in Chicago. 
dweller,

Any time frame for the new PS speakers?

ozzy
How about the new Bob Carver line arrays. They look pretty interesting!
It's a shame that you don't get a complimentary discount on air-fare and a hotel room in NYC for example (if you're looking to spend over 10 to 20 grand or more) so you can audition systems at as many audio stores as possible.  If only "someone" could sponsor such a program, the positive outcomes might be extremely beneficial for both buyer and seller. I even
saw a similar offer by a dealer in the past if you were seriously interested in a (pretty expensive) speaker system- i.e. they would pay for your plane tickets.  IMO, It's worth a shot with the diminishing number of stores offering a 1st class audition.  
It's a shame that you don't get a complimentary discount on air-fare and a hotel room in NYC for example (if you're looking to spend over 10 to 20 grand or more) so you can audition systems at as many audio stores as possible.  If only "someone" could sponsor such a program, the positive outcomes might be extremely beneficial for both buyer and seller. I even
saw a similar offer by a dealer in the past if you were seriously interested in a (pretty expensive) speaker system- i.e. they would pay for your plane tickets.  IMO, It's worth a shot with the diminishing number of stores offering a 1st class audition.  
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Audio Perfection in Minneapolis, Minn. Carries Vandersteen, Magneplanar, Sonus Faber, Spendor, Wilson and others I can't remember.  UltraFi in Milwaukee is excellent. John Spelt is a true 2 channel set-up guy. He helped me get my Vandersteen Treo Ct's when I still lived in Wisc. There's also a place up in Green Bay called HI-Fi Heaven that carries many speaker systems and features Legacy Audio Loudspeakers which are great choices also.
Check out Decibel audio for the Harbeth 40.2.   Musicdirect for atc or saturday audio exchange Monitor gold.  I personally love the Harbeth sound.  Good luck!
I would be surprised if Atma-Sphere and Magnepan couldn't offer an audition, but the recommendation of Audio Perfection by mr_m would be a good route.

B
John will take GREAT care of you. Yes, he can let you audition a varying array of speakers.  As Bob said I do own teh Quatro CT's and sold him my Treo's, but as he will tell you, I made him listen to them in my system first, lol....

There are a ton of gimmicky speakers on the market (IMHO).  I have heard so many different speakers from the one driver fits all mode (can never have a full range speaker sound as good as a speaker that has separated drivers that cover all ends of the spectrum.  

Crossoverless sounds great, but it just doesn't (law of physics) have the extension and then you lose the fun of rock or orchestra etc...  Using a great crossover with the best parts, will give you a crossover that most will never hear in their system.  There is a reason that 99% of speaker manufacture's use two or more drivers in their speakers.  YMMV.

I'm only a Vandersteen owner because they make the best speaker to my ears in the 25k and under speaker market.  We all love our speakers or we would never have paid for them, lol. ;)....  I do know that the majority of folks never actually audition more than three different makers of speakers when purchasing.  All too many just read about 'cool and new' stuff that is 'reviewed' and go with the flavor of the month. 

I've been in audio all too long to get caught up wiht flavor of the month. I listen to a lot of live music when I can and I want my system to recreate as much of that tonality and extension (without fatigue) in MY room.  I feel blessed to be able to afford a 25k speaker and that's why I went with the Quatro CT's.  I have enjoyed Maggies and others, but in the end, the Steen's haven't been knocked off the pedestal yet.  When they are, then I'll gladly switch, but these proprietary carbon tweeters are not just giving me gobs of micro and macro detail (where the emotion is), but also crazy dynamics when it's on the track and so much extension without any fatigue.

Also, please don't get swayed by someone claiming that speakers are genre sensitive as TOOO MANY do now days.  To me, that's a fallacy that is perpetuated by companies who's speakers are majorly lacking. 

A properly designed speaker will play everything great or everything poorly, lol....  Just ask any top designer and they will agree.  I have spoken to a few about this adn that's the only reason I make this statement.  
I would look at Totem and usher. I have had both and just moved up to the usher x-towers for a little less than $15k. The usher be-10 and be-20’s are also excellent sounding speakers.
DeVore Fidelity speakers are absolutely phenomenal.  Very happy with the pair I bought about 5 months ago after lots of searching.......
As no one has yet suggested auditioning open baffle speakers , two brands worth considering are : Spatial Audio and Pure Audio Project . I'm more satisfied with my Spatials than any speaker I've yet heard in my 50+ years as an audiophile . OB has clarity like a panel speaker but with impact and bass of dynamic drivers . No boxes for me !
 Emerald Physics is another brand, but many of theirs require DSP units and multi-amping , so not as simple .
  Spatial has a trial period and return policy . Unsure of others .
Network with friends and audition with the same tracks of 2 or 3 CD's on every one .
   
Joe
Curious how you thought the Quatros compared to the Carbon 5as?
G
We need AudioTroy over here. He'll set everyone straight.
guswatte5 posts05-11-2018 2:03amCurious how you thought the Quatros compared to the Carbon 5as?
G

The 5's are just a better speaker.  No doubt about it, but I own the Quatro and feel that they are also very special. Honestly, to me, I feel strongly that the Quatro is the sweet spot in their line.  Would I have liked a carbon fiber midrange too? Yes, I would have, but for ME, I just couldn't afford the 5's.  IF you have the money, then you will get a much better speaker in all aspects.  The bass is bigger and that midrange with the matching tweeter is incredible.  Personally I feel that the 5 is a GREAT bridge between the Quatro and the 7.  It should be selling for over 40k and the Quatro should be in the 25k range (with a carbon midrange upgrade).  

That all said, I did put my money where my typing is and got the Quatro and am not looking back.  
The Quatro CT's with your specific gear are a fantastic match. ARC and Vandersteen pair beautifully. At $14,600 the Quatro's are a top pick for an under $15k price point.
ctsooner said... " the Quatro should be in the 25k range (with a carbon midrange upgrade)."

ct...I do appreciate your input and sharing that knowledge with us in concern of the Quatro CT...sounds like a great speaker system indeed.

But,I have to ask though...do you really think with the addition of the carbon midrange it could possibly justify a $10,000.00 + price increase for the Quatro? That would be one uber- expensive drive unit!!!

Many good suggestions above.  I'm very fond of the Vandy 5A Carbon's, Legacy Aeris, Maggies & Sanders.  I own Totem Mani-2's and absolutely LOVE them (though they needs lots of Watts, like Maggies).

But NoNoise wins the prize.  You have to go an audition a bunch of speakers & figure out YOUR favorites.  Just make sure you choose spkrs. that are a good match form your amp.  If the spkrs. are your system's "lungs", then amp is its "heart".  They need to work well together.  

BTW, I've seen NoNoise's post in several threads, and I want to cite him as one of the most reasonable posters in Audiogon.

Hi Pilrem
I agree with the DeVore Brand. If you have the patience try to find a used pair of Silverbacks. If not then check out the Gibbon X. For 15K the best investment you will ever make, perhaps the last if you match them with the right set of cables. The Frequency response is only matched by speakers 2-3x the price.

I am not a spokesman, but have witnessed first hand comparisons of the DeVore's to other speakers. I started out with B&W a great starter but as you grow you look for better options especially with the gear you have. Best of luck
www.devorefidelity.com
Check out Thales Cables
www.aaudioimports.com
Is there a speaker with flatter frequency response, better imaging or that disappears better at ~$15k than KEF Reference 3? I am not particularly a fan or a detractor, but it certainly fits the bill.
Check check out Gato speakers from Denmark.  
I would suggest a listen to Focals and BW.

For focal I think brand new Kanta 2 or used Sopra 3.  

For BW I would go brand new 803d3 or used 802d3.

Another to consider is used Sonus Faber Futura.

i have heard Vandersteen 5a carbon.  Pretty good too.
See Mick at Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove, IL.

Don't forget the Joseph Audio Perspectives if you can find a JA dealer -- it'll be worth your while given what you're looking for. 
If you live in the tri state you should get yourself to Audio Connections  and talk to John
I did that myself and got a pair Vandersteen Quatros  best purchase  I have ever made in    
audio biggest improvement in my system to date  John can dial in the speakers to sound great in any size room   A few thing to finish then I will post my new system   
Tom, I agree with you of course.  I love Johnny. He's one of the few around who isn't about the up sell. He actually does the down sell as he knows how to put a true system together.  He also sells other than Vandersteen's like Proac and B&W adn some others.  He gets lumped in as a Vandy only guy and honestly, of all the Vandy dealers I know nationally (most of them), they all listen to the customer and show them everything and let the customer choice without pushing unlike so many other dealers I've met.  

aolmrd1241644 posts05-11-2018 10:10amctsooner said... " the Quatro should be in the 25k range (with a carbon midrange upgrade)."

ct...I do appreciate your input and sharing that knowledge with us in concern of the Quatro CT...sounds like a great speaker system indeed.

But,I have to ask though...do you really think with the addition of the carbon midrange it could possibly justify a $10,000.00 + price increase for the Quatro? That would be one uber- expensive drive unit!!!
 Report this

Do I think it's worth the upgrade?  If someone had the money, it surely would be.  That carbon fiber driver that Richard designed and produces (well he makes the cone and sends it out to have the custom driver made) is sick good.  Just is.  It makes (to my ears) a HUGE difference in the mids.  Just look at the 5CT's.  it's so much more than just better bass.  If you have heard the 5ct's, then you would understand why I say what I do.  There are so many directions he could go with his CF technology, that it's nuts.  I have heard other speakers with a carbon type of driver, but none come close to the Vandersteen one's to my ears.  Some are not implemented the way they could be for the best musical sound, but for marketing purposes.  

There would have to be other upgrades for a full 10k mark up, but not much.  Yes, I think it would put that speaker in a totally different class, but it should since it's also in the 25k range (hypothetically).  
ctsooner said..."There would have to be other upgrades for a full 10k mark up,"

Agreed!!!
Disappearing speakers have minimal audible cabinet resonances. They're still there but below threshold of hearing.

Harbeth M40.2 s or TDZ 712s are well worth considering. Like any loudspeaker in existence they'll have faults for sure, but cabinet colorations won't be one of them. Both spooky good on imagery too.

Planars are also noted for obvious low cabinet resonance but I've not heard one here in the UK I could recommend. Quads just don't sound right with Pop to me. Or maybe they are just too honest for their own good! 

http://www.harbeth.co.uk/hifi-speakers/monitor-40-2-domestic.php

http://www.eclipse-td.com/uk/products/td712zmk2/index.html

@cd318 -- agree with your point about cabinet resonances, but given that I was surprised at your Harbeth recommendation.  From John Atkinson's measurements of the 40.1:

"There are no obvious discontinuities in the impedance traces that would suggest the presence of panel resonances. However, that big, minimally braced cabinet is considerably more lively than the norm; there are many closely spaced resonances detectable on all surfaces. Fig.2, for example, is a cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from the output of an accelerometer fastened to the name plate on the rear panel. Many ridges of delayed energy can be seen between 80 and 250Hz, and while these varied in strength depending where on the panels I placed the accelerometer, there was no position at which they were absent. The point of this behavior, of course, is to make the cabinet panels floppy enough that the inevitable resonances will be low enough in frequency that they fall below the region where they will have audible consequences. This is the opposite of conventional enclosure design, in which panels are made as stiff as possible to push the frequencies of the resonances above the region where they will lead to coloration."

Apparently the speaker is designed to somewhat compensate or maybe even use cabinet resonances to its advantage, but it appears to do very little to move them to below the threshold of hearing.  Between the thinly-braced cabinet, the associated resonances from 80-250Hz (certainly not below the threshold of hearing), and the wide baffle I'm frankly baffled as to how these speakers disappear at all.  While they seem to make it work somehow, the Harbeths seemed like an odd choice given your initial statement.


@soix You are correct in that the resonances are easily measurable.

However it’s Alan Shaw’s opinion (designer/Mr Harbeth) based on historic research carried out by the BBC that the best way of dealing with these inevitable resonances is to allow them to move below the threshold of hearing. Then it won’t matter how they measure as long as you can’t ever hear them.

Harbeth argue that brute force methods of resonance control only serve to move them upwards in frequency to where our hearing is most sensitive. Any coloration in the midband, even the mildest, can quickly destroy the illusion of reality.

Since loudspeakers cabinets will always resonate due to considerable internal pressures caused by the movement of the drive units and the harm they do as they try to force their way out of the box and back through the drive unit itself, something must be done to reduce this pressure. But what?

The Harbeth approach of lossy cabinet design is one method of dealing with these resonances. Doing away with the cabinet altogether as in Open Baffle designs is another, but that has its own issues.

Still, I prefer either of those approaches to the solid 2 inch thick, glued, screwed, reinforced cabinet wall approaches where something beautiful can so easily get lost.

Can't say enough about how good I find the GoldenEar Triton Reference speakers.
Hopefully you could try them in your house if you are interested (borrow overnight from a friendly dealer).  And you'd have $7K of your budget left over...

My 2 cents on the Harbeth (and other wide baffle designs):

The Harbeth speakers - the larger ones included - do a surprising level of "disappearing" as sound sources. Not what you’d expect from looking at them. So their design philosophy does seem to be working to quite a degree.

That said, Harbeths don’t "disappear" as sound sources as well as any number of other speakers that take the "dampen resonances" approach.

Thus far I’ve auditioned 3 brands of the wide baffle, resonating cabinet approach: Audio Note, Harbeth, Devore. In each case they disappeared more than their shape lead me to expect. But also in every case, that aspect was pretty easily bettered by other resonance-controlled speakers (e.g. my Thiels and others). In the wide baffle/resonating designs, I always sense some level of "fill in" between the sonic images. This can lead to a nice cohesiveness and richness to the sound, but can also become a bit more confused with more complex material, with a lot of instruments playing in the mix.

One of my go-to tests for this are some cuts from the Lost Angeles Guitar Quartet, in which 4 similar sounding guitars are simultaneously playing complex parts. The wide-baffle speakers I auditioned could make it harder to untangle one guitar from the next, vs my Thiels and some other low-resonance speaker designs.

The trade off is that wonderful bigness and warmth of tone from the wide baffle designs. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve heard from Devore speakers which is why I’m contemplating buying a pair from the "O" series.


Yes, the state of the art loudspeaker design still involves serious compromise.

I'll compromise on anything this side of a screechy treble to get a vivid midrange. Its the best way for me to forget that I'm listening to loudspeakers.

For some others the goal may be the imagery / disappearing act combination. Devore seem to be a modern take on the classic DC Tannoys from the past with their luxury bass.