Paradigm 3f, KEF reference 3, Monitor Audio PL300II


I've been auditioning speakers in the $15,000 range and am almost ready to decide.  My short list right now is the KEF Reference 3 and the Monitor Audio PL300II.  I'm planning to hear the Paradigm Persona 3f this weekend.  I've also heard speakers from B and W, Wilson, Wilson Benesch and Proac but none made the final cut.  I really expected to be blown away by the Proacs and, while they were very good, I prefer the KEF and Monitor Audio. Unless the Paradigm is even better, it will be a tough call. They both seem to have great imaging and soundstage, reasonable bass and pretty life like presentations.  We all know how hard it is to compare and contrast speakers, especially when there's a large time gap between listening sessions. The Monitor Audio dealer has offered to bring them to my house, set them up and let me live with them for a week at no cost. Sounds like a great offer but I don't want to accept if I'm leaning more towards the KEFs.  Any helpful advice would be appreciated.  
puli
For that price, if you go with KEF, I'd go for a set of used Blades over the Ref 3.
The PL300 II’s are a very well rounded speaker that is great for long listening sessions. I’m very impressed with all of the Platinum II series for the price. For 15k you could get some amazing used speakers. There is really no need to limit yourself to such cookie cutter products.
I have been trying to talk myself OUT of getting a KEF Reference 3 for the office because I definitely will be getting a Blade 2 for my family room. I was thinking it maybe too much of a good thing to have 2 similar types of speakers.

I have looked at exactly the 3 speakers you have listed. I have not heard the Monitor Audio but have read reviews, mostly good. However, the footprint of the Monitor Audio speaker is a little large for my office.I heard the bigger Persona 5F in a terrible room but I liked the speaker because it disappears well. So far I have not been able to convince myself to deviate from the KEF 3 for the office. I love the sound of the new KEF speakers. 

However, recently the light bulb in the brain has made me consider shifting gears for the office and try something out of left field such as a German Physiks Unlimited speaker or some brand using different tech than a dynamic speaker. 

Not sure my ramble here helps you but you will have a good speaker whatever you choose from your list.

I wouldn’t pay $15,000 for any of those without at least auditioning Legacy Audio Focus SE at around $10,000. Focus SE is a more full range speaker than any of those, rated down to 18Hz bass extension, and you get the AMT ribbon tweeter/mid driver. For me, the problem with the Paradigm Persona 3F is that it is a pretty small and bass limited speaker to be paying that much for. It is only rated down to 48Hz. You have to go up to the Persona 7F to get a speaker of the scale of the Focus SE.  Heck, you could get a set of Legacy Aeris for just a bit more than your $15K price. The Monitor Audio Platinum II line has been getting rave reviews, and you can’t beat being able to audition speakers in you own home before buying.
When considering speakers, or anything desired or needed, one just about has to look at what is there in pre – owned. For the same money.

Its nearly well, at least myopic not to do so.

We’re all facing this question from time to time. If possible, take a little road trip and get at least some inkling of the other missing link. Spending this amount just about dictates it. Again, if possible.

IMHO the single issue of contention is warranty, if all else is on a level playing field with what ever seller.

Therefore the question becomes, is my $$$$$ better spent on higher performance or a particular esthetic and assurances, which BTW may well end up forcing me to ship the new speaker off if needs be, just as it could ocurr with the used one?

I’ll say this and close. I’ve had speakers that ranged from 25 yaers old. 30 years old. Several new ones. And some from 2 to 5 years of age. The most ancient of them did eventually require me to get them refurbished and luckly two sets of them could be done by the orig maker. I still have them. The newer ones are all gone. I don’t miss but one pr of the dozen or more I’ve owned. Only the refurbished ones remain along with a couple sets of monitors and all sound just great. Only one pr were of ‘flagship’ quality.

Higher priced speakers usually include more robust builds, especially those one can capture for near double the investment of say $10K to $15K, or $25 – 30K.

It adds to the conundrum, but it’s a nice mystery.

Good luck.


In your price range, I would try to give a listen to the Sonus Faber Olympica 3's... They are a truly fantastic speaker for the money.  
Loudspeakers are a personal choice. So it's best not to rely on others experience. This is what I learned in the past 2 years looking for loudspeakers. Nevertheless, I have listened to all the loudspeakers you mention in the past several months.
All the loudspeakers that are on your list - I could live with them without any issues. The KEFs and Monitors are accurate loudspeaker and can be as neutral as a PSB Imagine T3 with the right ancillaries. I highly encourage to find out a dealer and listen to the Paradigm Persona 3F/5F. They are amazing loudspeakers. I demoed them in a "not a good setup" and they really sounded good. So, if a right room, they will have the chance to shine. I found the Sonus Faber to be a bit too warm for my preference.
If you get a chance, try to locate a Spendor dealer and listen to a D9; I think you will like them, even though they are priced below your budget.
What are your room dimensions and the equipment you would use to drive the new loudspeakers? What is your current setup?

Post removed 
So Puli and Stebrn, are one and the same?

But you have a nice sized room and equipment. Good luck on your loudspeaker search. You will not go wrong with any of them, on your shortlist.
Puli we sell both the Personas and the Kefs, and we sell the Legacy as well, and we sell PSB, and Daili amoung other great speakers.

The Personas are faster and more transparent then the KEF's with a more precise and holograhic image they tend to sound a bit smaller than the KEF
s or the Legacy's. If you love transparency and realisitc imaging the best. 

The KEF's tend to sound a bit bigger and have a wide soundstage, the speakers are not a transparent. These create a slightly less transparent sound but sound a bit larger good bass and dynamics a great overall speaker and fantastic for home theater. 

The Legacy's Focus plus a Wavelet Dac/Preamp and room correction processor will make a stock pair of Focus XD into a pair of mini Aeris which will give you a huge soundstage, very deep tight bass and a liquid midrange and treble. This package around $17k is a game changer for all you need is a power amp and you have one of the best all around packages in audio. 

Not as holographic or transparent as the Personas, but big, room filling, superb deep tight bass and with a Wavelet totally free from room bloat or boom. 

Please feel free to reach out to us via PM if we can be of further assistance. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Thanks again for the advice. I just heard the Parnadigm Persona 3f and was very impressed by the imaging, soundstage, and feeling that the performers were standing in front of me.  The KEF Reference 3 and Monitor Audio PL300ii were at the top of my list but now I'm favoring the Paradigm. The dealer is going to have the Paradigm 5 set up to compare to the 3 when I go back later this week.  It's great that the 3f is a third less than the KEF and Monitor Audio.  I'm not sure it will be worth 70% extra--the price difference between the Paradigm Persona 3 and the 5--to get the additional bass. Seems like a huge upcharge for this.  Listening will tell. 
I too was confused by the difference in price between the 3F and 5F. Seems nonsensical, but I asked Paradigm and they basically said they are selling the 3F for very little profit to hit the magical $10k price point. I can see where they’re coming from, but it kinda makes the 5F a pointless speaker (and incidentally, the 3F an absolute STEAL, truly). Can’t imagine how many of them they will sell, but I haven’t heard the 5F yet.

Looking forward to your impressions of the comparison.

Eirher way, I can’t recommend the 3F highly enough based on the easily 500+ hours of active listening I’ve had with my pair.
In this grouping, the MA's are going to be the only speakers that will be full range in room. It faces an issue with integration of the AMT tweeter and the mid range, but I'm sure that isn't surprising and will need a bit more setup work in room in comparison to something like the Kef. The benefit is being the AMT driver offering up a good deal of speed and transparency without becoming exaggerated.

The Reference 3 is going to be the neutral benchmark here. A bit lighter in the lowest register, but this only when compared to the MA's here. You get a lot of coherence, balance, and well placed sound stage and imaging the others won't quite have across the audio band. Nothing will stand out, not much will be missing, and everything will be in balance. The only comment you could lay upon it would be a slight lack of treble air when compared to the Blade2. Yes, that is a notable step up in price, but uses similar technology, it makes for an apt comparison and that well curved baffle is likely the contributor to the improved treble response.

Now the Paradigm is one I haven't heard, but there is little doubt the Persona series has a bit of voicing to it. A bit elevated in the upper mids and part of the treble, which give the impression it will will provide a transparent sound. Going to be a bit bass light and you may want to plan on some sort of sub at some point. This one might need some time listening to see if its something that allows you to enjoy a good deal of your favorite records due to what appears to be a targeted sound. 
Mmeysarosh, 

We sell both the KEF's and the Paradigms, and the Legacy's which also use AMT drivers so we have a pretty good perspective on all three.

So far have heard the Monitors also at a few audio shows, and our opinion is that if you are going for the magic of AMT drivers the Legacys offer more performance, deeper bass and a larger soundstage for less money.

Your impression that the Persona's are tipped up is not the case, the Beryilium drivers are not bright but show a level of transparency that will show you everything both good and bad in your system. 

The speed, transparency, and holography of the Personas is that of what you would find in way more expensive speakers in the $20+ price range, such as Radiho, Magico or Rockport. 

The only issue with the Persona's is that some of the dealers setups are not going to be right. We show the Personas with T+A electronics from Germany for the big 9H and we show the 3F with Naim, or Micromega.

Your statment that the KEF's are neutral is pretty accurate the KEF's are very well balanced, to my ears the Paradigms are more special and once you hear a speaker with this level of transparency and image realisim it is hard to listen to a lot of much more ordinary loudspeakers. 

As I mentioned before the Legacy Focus XD with a Wavelet is also really special combo that rivals way more expensive speaker systems.

The Monitor audio's are good speakers but whenever we have heard them they sounded good and were less of a standout than either the KEF's the Legacy's or the Personas. 

If you guys are ever on the East Coast and want to visit our store to hear our large collection of superb loudspeakers please give us a call.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Being voiced and bright are not mutually exclusive and B&W is another example of a voiced design. Bad, good, all the ear of the beholder but as you said, its not exactly a forgiving design and you didn't mention the source material as its often a pretty common culprit to bright sound.

Now for the Persona's elevated response on some spots of the frequency response by no means indicate a forgone conclusion the speaker will sound bright, as long as it can produce the ranges cleanly without linearity changes. It does indicate the speakers will need some placement work to get there. The upper treble response is elevated on axis but seems to be engineered with the fall off curve. Its likely something you don't want to have dead on to your listening spot and instead use the off axis response to make the in room balance work. The second is the flare between the mid and tweeter as there is an elevated response area in this range. A bit of that transparent sound is certainly comes from that and I see that upper treble elevation an effort to prevent the loss of treble air due too the tweeter fall off in area.

Knowledgeable setup work would be advised for this speaker more than others. Certainly not the only speaker that is well regarded doing this and this seems to be another design that follows that trait. I might add Focal or Triangle in that grouping as those also have a targeted response and both brands have their fans and advocates on their particular house sound. I think its more a certain sound one might be seeking than anything else. In my own personal experience, I've tended not to enjoy this style as often as I do others.

The Monitors are good speakers, and may be slightly high priced in terms of performance compared to some others in its range. They do provide a differing aesthetic which may speak to some over others. Maybe glossy wood veneers are really your thing! If that was the case, I go for the top end Dali Epicon, as those have some striking wood finishes and from experiences with them are quite good in their own right.

So many good options, so little time!
I have been auditioning speakers in my listening room, as well as visiting friends on the west coast and listening to their speakers and systems (some have blown close to $1M!). Here is my $0.02, which is probably worth a great deal less.

I AM BIASED: I like highly analytical speakers, not musical speakers such as B&W or Sonus Farber.  I slightly prefer passive speakers, do not like electrostatic speakers and enjoy power amplifiers driven by tube preamps, and do not use vinyl but high-resolution DSD and other file types from TIDAL. I have a 302 sq ft room in my basement (underground) that I insulated along with a professor in audio engineering who is a friend of mine. He used microphones and other devices to achieve a blend of sound absorption and reflection (not an anechoic chamber). 

In the under $20K range, including demo's and slightly used (I try and not spend retail price), here is my list so far. This is biased and I listened to these on a plethora of different systems (not in stores).

  • Paradigm Persona 3Fs or 5Fs: Hard to find these as used or demo models as they are brand new products. For my space, the 3Fs are better but lack a bit of bass. The 3Fs I could find at $10K for a pair (which is how I believe all loudspeakers should be advertised as pairs of speakers, not individual ones), the 5Fs at $16-17K;
  • Wilson Audio Yvettes. Some demos are becoming available at $16-$18K.  Much different than the Paradigms, but slightly better mid-range IMHO for reproduction of strings and orchestral music;
  • Vandersteen Wood Quatro CTs. Wonderful speakers, $14,600;
  • KEF Blade 2's. Hard to get discounted, but have found some advertised for under $20K;
  • ATC SCM40As.
These are what I like so far...also have wonderful Focal Utopia headphones. Thanks for listening - Gerry
Your perception of analytical vs musical is so hilariously skewed.  

Literally every speaker you mentioned in either category is very musical.  Then you go on to say you like tubes...  which are usually more “musical” and not analytical at all.

My head is spinning.   Good luck.
I've never read someone say they like analytical speakers then go on to call B&W "musical". My impressions are the exact opposite. 
I have the Monitor pl300ii’s and they’re amazing!! I don’t think you can do much better!! Obviously, it all comes down to personal preference in sound, but I can promise you the Pl300ii wouldn’t disappoint you!! Plus, please don’t pay full retail!! 
bigdady76,
Of course there are better speakers than PL300s and PL500s.
(This constitutes an update in my search for replacements for my beloved Thiels CS3.6)

I want to thank Dave from Audio Doctor ("Audiotroy") for letting me listen to KEFs (3R) and Paradigms (Persona 3f) last night, mostly with the Naim Uniti Nova DAC/amp. There aren't many places where you can try a lot of great brands (including schlepping heavy speakers around) in a relaxed environment, and he offers that.  If I buy something he carries, I'll try to route the order through him. I think we have to support places that let you listen.

I found the resolution and soundstage of the Paradigms to be extraordinary. You can hear the wood of the solo viola, and the movement of cymbals when struck, the voices and locations of individual string instruments (even low strings) in ensemble, clear as a bell.  I don't think it's a speaker for big bass, but that's not a huge priority for me.  I like the impression of the ensemble or orchestra laid out in front of me, life-size as possible.

My only reservations were a) I don't find them terribly attractive visually, and more importantly, b)possible longer-term listening fatigue.  The Paradigms came off as a little hot in the treble, to me. Dave disagrees, in person and in this thread above.
Doubting my aging ears, I looked up test bench measurements last night.  Multiple measured (on-axis) frequency responses of both the 3F (and 5F) are certainly consistent with what I heard, showing a substantial bump from 5-12khz:

https://www.soundandvision.com/content/paradigm-persona-3f-speaker-system-review-test-bench

They were toed in a bit, and if you look around you'll read a bunch of reviewers/users are setting them up facing straight ahead to avoid an overly bright presentation.   I'd like to listen to them against the KEF Ref 1 (and maybe 3), and try the off-axis set-up this time.  Apart from the brightness, I think the Paradigms are *very* stiff competition for the much more expensive Wilson Sabrina.

The KEF 3Rs are a really nice speaker.  Not quite up to the resolution and soundstage size of the Paradigms, but a great value for much less, and great looking (in Walnut particularly).  I think you could spend a lot of happy listening hours with them, and I suspect it would be hard to do better at that price point, at least from my limited experience.

I still wouldn't mind listening to PSB T3, Monitor Audio, Vandersteen. The latter is a longer drive, and the former two would seem to require mail order trial, which is a schlep with such heavy units.
One possible wild card:

I have a pair of JBL L830s in my country place. My son bought them for me after blowing out their predecessors (Mirage).  I am often very pleasantly surprised with these little $400 speakers. There is no good listening position in this (angular,open-plan, 1968, architect-designed) house, but the horn covers a huge part of the frequency range smoothly and sweetly (never really been a horn guy before), they throw a decent image from a variety of listening spots, and they have surprising bass response (I ended up getting rid of the subwoofer).  It makes me wonder what the $10k S3900s can do with a similar design.  JBL is pretty mass market now, but I have some fond youth memories of them....
Just ordered a set of 3f’s with Anthem STR amp and can not wait to get them set up! I still rock some late 80’s vintage NAD & Polk equipment that has served me well for a long time. Ended up adding a JL sub cause I couldn’t justify the over 6k persona sub. Loved the bright side of the B & W but was left wanting in all other areas. Paradigm was not where I thought I would end up but the more I listened the more I loved em!
Cmc3 congrats the combo is very good, we used them with the Paradigm SW 1000 which is a $3k sub you probably got the JL E 112 which is a $2k sub.

We used to sell JL as well the Paradigm was even faster and more articulate although a bit more expensive. However even the Paradigm dealers rarely display all the Paradigm subs.

You are very correct that a good sub plus the Persona 3F are a fantastic combo, the additional bass of the woofer provides greater bass punch and warms up the 3F's presentation a bit.

You got a fantastic system there, burn in the speakers, use a good power cord on the STR, and when you are ready add a set of Isoacoustic footers under the speaker to replace the factory spikes and boy you will be in real heaven

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Paradigm Persona dealers