maybe wait for the Maggie 1.7 that would be my choice...
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I think your room is just fine.
However, true "panel" (dipole) speakers can be of three basic kinds:
Electrostatic (MartinLogan, ET, Acoustat, Soundlab)
Full-range ribbon (Apogee)
They're all technically planar dipoles (flat, and radiating both front and back) but that's where any similarities end -- both in terms of sonics as well as the equipment necessary to drive each kind optimally. So you need to do some auditioning and reading so you get clear on their differences. You will definitely discover you prefer one type (and maybe one brand) over the others; but this is not the time to solicit recommendations, since you haven't yet discovered which of the three types suit you best.
I can tell you this: If you like the sound of Maggies, you probably won't like the sound of (any) electrostats as much, and vice versa. And if you like the sound of a full-range planar ribbon like the Apogee, you won't like either stats OR planar magnetics ;--) If you can't decide, you haven't listened enough ;--)
In the meantime you can click on my 'System' link to see how my CLS-IIz system has evolved over the last 20 years ;--)
A tube amp would be my first choice with any electrostatic speakers. Tubes with electrostats tend to have a very nice mid range. I own SL3s and until very recently used a Audio Research VT100 mk3 to drive them. This is a very nice combination. I really like the SL3s. The Martin Logan cls iiz are nice but they need stands and I think more power than the SL3s. The clarity seem small for your room. The Maggie's are also very nice but were not an option for me. I have not heard the Eminent Technology LFT8 speakers. I did hear the Maggie's driven by an Ayre amp and preamp. This seemed like a nice combo also but it was at a dealer and very poorly setup. The Aragon would not be my choice to drive electrostats but it has been a long time since I have heard one.
I would try the Emminent Tech speakers first, then the Martin Logan's. The reason being, that even though the Maggies can be had at a great price used (under $1000), the really need good amplification to sing.
Both the ET and ML's use a cone woofer and are easier to drive. The sound is not as seemless as the Maggies, but it's easier to set up, and they both still sound pretty good.
My new rule on Maggies, after having them for years, is you should probably plan on spending 2x the price of your speakers on amplification if you want to really hear what they can do.
If you want a very good balance and what is supposed to be an improvement over all 3 maybe then check out he New Magnepan Model 1.7. I hear it's all ribbon and much more advanced than the 1.6. Check the link below. The CLS and the Martin Logans are awesome speakers. For some reason many of todays electrostatic speakers membranes don't last as long as Accoustats did back in audio hey day. Making it an expensive upgrade down the road.
I love the Apogee speakers. They had one of the best midranges I think ever. They do shine on vocalist. I have always wanted a pair of Centaur Majors. The ET's are very good but still I would choose the new Maggies over the majority of speakers. Mainly because of dynamics and they pull you into the music. I have not heard the new Quads yet but I don't think you will get the volume you need to do HT part-time. Check out the link below or visit Magnepans site for the 1.7. I'm curious, very curious.
You should also consider a Moscode 600 or 401 or 402 amp to drive your speakers. Try and give that combo a listen and see what's you think.
I have never heard Eminent Technology but have heard other models from Martin logan and Magnepan.
I found that for the Martin logan Summit x and Spire sound very good. The Spire seemed like a very good buy. They are fast and very clean with stunning highs. BUT all models under them came up pretty short. The Vantage and purity were just bad IMO of course. The bass did not blend well with the rest of the speaker. The Purity was unlistenable for me. The bass was a big blob and the mids sounded like a different speakers.
With that being said all the Logan's had great midranges and vocals with amazing inner detail. I have never heard the CLS,CLX but I am sure they are great.
I just listened to the Magnepans (1.6, 3.6, and 20.1) for the first time yesterday on all Mcintosh gear. They were all really great. They were balanced, had very good detail and a very good soundstage. The bass was very detailed but not hard hitting on the 1.6 and 3.6. The 20.1 ($13,000) had lots of bass...
The 1.6 would be a good buy used. If you are going to buy them new I would wait for the 1.7s to come out. They are just around the corner and should be a big step up over the 1.6. My only concern would be that the 1.6s would not have enough bass to fill your large room but I don't know. The mids/vocals are very good. They filled the room and made the singers sound very realistic . The mids had lots of body and warmth (on the Mcintosh gear).
Magnepan vs Martin logan: (note these are general statements related to the lower end Martin Logan and Magnepans).
I would choose the Magnepans in your price range. They will be much less tricky to set (opposed to cone panel combo of logans) up and more coherent top to bottom. The Magnepans lack some of the speed and transparency in the mids compared to the logans but if you did not hear them back to back you would never know what you were missing. The sweet spot is much larger on the magnepans (still a little small compared to cone speakers) than on the Martin logans in general. Near or far field listening seem to work fine on the Magnepans while you need some space to get the bass to blend well with the mids on the Martin Logans.
Anyway these statements are just my opinion and you should go listen for your self. Good luck and enjoy the music!
If you have any inclination to DIY, Id suggest considering John Kreskovskys NaO Mini. The NaO Mini will give you the air and openness of the stats and maggies, but have dynamics closer to a box speaker. Most of the people that have built the NaOs are former stat and Maggie owners.
Ive heard or owned various planar speakers over the years, including Quads, MLs, and maggies, and my NaO IIts are the best all around performance dipole speaker that I have heard.
Youll get clean and open mids (yeah, female vocals are great), while also having tight, punchy bass that will shake the floor when needed for HT. The NaO Mini only needs one, moderate power, stereo amp.
The build is very simple. Even if you needed a cabinetmaker/woodworkers help, the cost would be no more than those you mentioned. However, the Minis performance would probably be more comparable to a much more expensive speaker.
I appreciate a feedback.
(I tried a post on the HT forum 1st and just was not getting what i needed from that)
Choice by auditioning: I wish i could drive around an audition speakers - but im married with little kids and thats just not going to fly. The used market keeps its value so i am going to buy something based on recommendations and sell it if im not happy.
Maggie 1.7s: I'd love to try them out... but they will only be had new for awhile and i cant afford 2k for them.
Recommendations vs Budget: I appreciate all the recommendations. Many of them have been outside of my price range though. I have a little over 2k to spend on speakers + amp.
Any more thoughts?
Woodenpeter (creative name, dude), how far out into the room can you place the front main speakers? As you probably know, most dipoles require aome significant space between themselves and the rear wall for proper timing and imaging.
Since you have stated that more than half of the intended use is for HT, you might want to consider mixing Maggie wall-mounted HT speakers (MMGW) with MMGs or 1.6s for a well-integrated setup. Just a thought...
i have quads. don't like the sound above 200 hz with any solid state amp. i have tried several. quads and a tube amp is the way to go. the newer quads were assempled in china. don't sound as good as the 63 or esl. i have owned both .
i have a partiality to the martin logan 2 z, but frequencies below 80 hz may be lacking in sound pressure level.
the ets don't integrate well. i also own magie 1.6s. go with the martin logan's
I have some thoughts.
Maggies vs. Stats:
1.) Maggies are not satisfying at low levels, so like me, if you use your system for long periods at background levels (in between actual listening sessions) you probably won't be happy. Electrostats remain full-bodied at low levels.
2.) Maggies can't (practically speaking) be driven with tubes. They require a lot of voltage in each watt of amplifier output, a feature of SS amplifiers. The opposite is true of electrostats. They require current more than voltage, and tube amps deliver more current (per watt) than SS amps.
3.) If you're willing to bi-amp, you can improve the performance of the larger Maggies by putting a tube amp on the ribbon tweeter/midrange, and a ss amp on the bass panels. However, with the (current models of) MartinLogan electrostats, biamping is not necessary since they already have internal ss amps for the woofers, allowing you to use a nice tube amp for the panel -- in oher words, they are sort of "pre-biamped" ;--)
4.) The smaller Maggies are like smaller box (non planar) electrodyamic speakers. Less is just less. Small electrostatic panels sound just like big ones -- as long as the room is also small; and as with all stats, will need some bass supplementation.
5.) All the Maggies except the very small ones, will do best with solid state amplification. If you opt for a MartinLogan hybrid (stat panel + built-in woofer) then for the best result for the dollar, buy one of the recent models with self-powered woofers so you only need a decent tube amp (the external amp) to drive the panels; giving you the best of both worlds without the expense and hassle of using two different kinds of external amps. With an SL-3 for instance, you won't get the best out of the panel with just an SS amp, nor will you get the best bass if you try and get away with just a tube amp (even a big tube amp.)
6.) There are occasionally used Apogees available within your budget. You may find them a bit off the beaten path in popularity, but not in looks or sonics! And they're coming back for two reasons: first the company has been re-started, and second, we now have amplifiers that are easily up to the take of driving them.
Maggies are not satisfying at low levels, so like me, if you use your system for long periods at background levels (in between actual listening sessions) you probably won't be happy.That's interesting. I was so taken with the 1.7 at CES that I'm thinking I may want to give them a try, but "not satisfying at low levels" could be a deal breaker.
Drubin, my remark about low level listening with Maggies might not apply to the small(er) models, I don't know because I haven't spent time with any of them.
With the right amplification, they do stand up and sing nicely at higher levels. At lower levels, the ones I'm familiar with sort of thin out at the top and from the lower midrange on down; making it a perfect candidate for a preamp or receiver with a "loudness" control contour circuit.
FWIW - I have heard of the low level listening 'problem' with Maggies before but I think it is only in comparison with something like a Quad ESL which excell at low volume detail. I owned 1.6s for a few years and the thought never occured to me (maybe the bass was down in level a bit but detail seemed fine at low volume) and I am sure the 1.7 must be better than the 1.6 in regard to detail.
You will not get mids that blow you away with planars or cones if you don't put bass traps in the room. I'd start with a good amount of bass traps before buying new speakers. Something like GIK Tri Traps. They can be moved to a future room easily. They can go in corners, can be stacked in corners, can go along floor/wall boundaries too.
What you should get with planars over cones isn't necessarily better mids, but different mids. A more seamless midrange maybe. What you should experience also is the dipole deep and airy sounstage. Also the super fast quickness of transients, attack and decay, but once again, you won't experience this if you don't have bass traps. Poor bass response in the room will mask this. The other thing you'll need to do is commit to putting the speakers well out in to the room, further than you would cones. See the Cardas dipole calculator to see what the location is.
And you already probably know about the power you'll need.
The ET's have some advantages over Maggie 1.6s IMO. They arguably do not require as much current, but still need power. This can be a cost differentiators. Also, I would speculate you'd need to modify the Maggies to equal the ET's. And the ET's have high frequency adjustment. And you might need a subwoofer with the 1.6 but not with the ET's.
All your choices are good. No speaker is perfect but all the ones you listed are very enjoyable. You might even try the little MMG @599 pair and a small sub like the Hsu 10 inch @350. Your room will be fine but you'll have to pull the speakers out from the wall a bit (5 feet or more). Good luck.
Ive had some insanely exspensive setups, and my current budget system is now the best Ive ever heard. Our rooms are very close in size and ceilings. I'm about 9 to10ft from the speakers, and they are 36-40" from the front wall. Toe in is about 7-10 degrees or so. They are about5-6ft apart. I use a pair of 0.27 ohm resistors from partsexpress (.39 cents each) to reduce the tweeters a HAIR. They are MAGIC. I use a svs ultra 12/2 sub, and filter at 80hz. The sub is placed dead center between the speakers with base off, subs forward. I run the speakers full range though. I use a hard drive and all lossless flac and wav files (PS3 with external hardrive). I use a onkyo NR906 receiver and Emotiva XPA-15 channel amp.
The speakers are the Magnepan 1.6, and I'm in heaven !
Ive owned the Martin Logan aeon i's, Ascent i's, using Bryston and Ayre equipment. The Magnepan 1.6's with the budget gear above, and it smokes them. If the Magnepan's are set up right and you dont want 95-110db's, they cant be beat. Id put my setup against top stuff. Ive owned that stuff. Magnepan just get it right, once you tame the brightness and throw in a clean sub.(get the sub playing acurate) My friends and wife always reply how clean this sounds. All types of music, and even older recordings sound great!