picking speakers (and electronics) for a relatively large room - new


Hi guys I am purchasing my first high end 2 channel audio system for a reasonably large room in my house and would like some input. My speaker budget is approximately $13k and overall about $20k.   I will be streaming exclusively. I've done some listening and am trying to decide between Goldenear (Triton One and Reference), Sonus Faber (Olympica III and Serafino) and Focal (Kanta 3 and Sopra 2 - haven't heard yet but about to listen). I listen to a lot of electronic music, somewhat loud, in addition to having been raised on jazz, standards and vocals which I will return to often in smaller quantities. I mostly listen around my living area rather than in a dedicated listening position, but I appreciate my music.

I think my first issue is the size of my space which is 15x25 with a 12 foot ceiling on half and a great room cathedral ceiling on the other half. Also the room opens to another room with a lower 8 foot ceiling and has two french doors that in nice weather open to the outside - so, a rather imperfect and large space.   I am trying to figure out what will fill the room appropriately in terms of speaker and then power.  

 My questions are:

  1. are those Sonus speakers physically too small for my space and do I need physically larger speakers than those (note: I realize they require more power but take that out of the equation for this specific question assuming I can spend more to supply them with what they need)?
  2. the Focal Sopra 2 is physically smaller but from the higher product line and more money than the larger Focal Kanta 3 - should I go with the higher end but slightly smaller speaker (46"H and 7" largest drivers vs 50" H and 8" largest drivers for comparison) or is it physically too small?
  3. how much power do I need and how does a guy in my position determine this? (I already know the sonus require more power but what I am asking is once I pick a given speaker how do I determine how much absolute power do I need? do I take gear home and keep trying (seems impractical)? how do I decide between 100, 200, 300, 500 or more(?) wPC?   is it like hard drive space where more is just better up to a certain limit so spend as much as I can? (seems irresponsible - I would like a more satisfying answer)
  4. I have been thinking I would invest more dollars in solid state amplification because of the dynamic music I like and a tube preamp so that my midranges and vocals benefit from this treatment.   at my knowledge level how do I tell if a speaker and amp 'get along?' which I read about but don't know that I could really screen unless it is super obvious.   I don't trust my ears enough to really now or know how to evaluate. should I just buy some very reputable separates (I have been thinking used to save money) and string em up?

 

Would love any opinions about these questions specifically or generally. Cheers!


gryphonite
First, your room is better than most including many “ dedicated “ rooms

how loud you listen and how far away from speakers w real data would be helpful, most free cell phone spl apps are off by ten dB 
buy an analog Radio Shack SPL meter on eBay, about $30 and you will be ahead of many on this site....
jim smiths and Harley’s book on Audio would be good investment, as would relationship w dealer to allow at home demo. Take your spl meter to showroom also.
in your price range there are some fantastic speakers... I would widen out the aperture of choice a bit.....
enjoy the music !!!!!
And yes a tube preamp w SS power can be wonderful and so can powered bass, which if executed well w room taming analog EQ can greatly reduce power demands on main amp...

@tomic601 I was really moved by what i heard from the Sonus Faber Olympica II over the Goldenears in terms of fast bass with punch and defintion - and this was without any type of sub with the Sonus.  the Goldenear was less crisp on the low end with my music.  i was surprised because i assumed with the Sonus I was paying more for the cabinetry than the speaker.

what else do you recommend with the type of music I like to hear?
Of the three you mentioned, my hands down pick is the SF
they have a musicality that appeals to me ... while I don’t currently own a pair, I have in past.
dont take it wrong but w electronica there really is not going to be a true reference unless you know what the studio artist and production ( mastering team ) used
ATC is certainly popular with many studios.
the studio I spend the most time in has both Focal and ATC, JBL also popular
cert your other music tastes would IMO reward accuracy, me ? I am a Vandersteen fan, but I own and use other brands.
In your price range you could get Treo CT with two sub three subs or a pair of Quattro CT
but you should listen to other speakers as well
my shortlist in your price range in addition to your list would also include Magnepan and Emminent Technology, both with a competent sub
have fun and enjoy the music and journey !
where are you located ? There are some outstanding dealers who actually love music more than gear :-)
best
jim

I never mention it because I don’t want to be that negative guy but I just don’t care for goldenears. They just don’t play in the same league as other highend speakers. Just one man’s opinion. 

The Olympica III will be fine in that room. They have a ton of bass output for their size. Crazy really how much they put out. I demoed a pair a few weeks ago and really liked them.  

I use smaller speakers about the size of the Olympica II in a 25’x27’ deticated room and it is fine but I sit 10’ way and most of the room is not used actively. It come down to how close you sit. 

In my living room my wife has a pair of paradigm shift A2 speakes (I think that is the name) in a 19’x26’ room. Those A2s have tiny little active 5.25” drivers and they more than fill the room with background music and in the “sweet” spot are perfectly fine. it is not about how big the room is but how far you sit from them and how many people you want to hear them at the same time. Most hifi rooms are really only good for one or two people to actively listen. 

I have not heard the Sopras but focals in general are a lot more aggressive in the mids and highs than the sonus faber Olympicas. They might sound aggressive played loud in a big room. I always liked them but I tend to like a lean and mean speaker. Just try both the focals and sonus faber, they are different enough you should have a clear winner. 

Now if you want want to play crazy loud and rock the whole house as you walk around there are probably better speakers with bigger drivers from maybe legacy audio with duel 12” drivers like the Focus SE. They are around $12k I think. 
Power requirement is more based on the efficiency of the speaker. The Olympica III is 90db which is pretty easy to drive. Keep in mind every 3db of loudness takes about twice the power. I would think 100-200 watts would be plenty for them. 
If I were to start building a new system and had a total budget like yours, I'd get a pair of ATC SCM100ASLT active floor-standing speakers and a nice streamer/DAC like a Lumin and be done. Or go with a ATC SCM150ASLT if you can stretch your budget. Take all the guess work/headache around what preamp, amp, and cables out of the way.
Incredibly engaging musicality. Don't let the moderate size fool you. 
As someone above mentioned I would definitely be looking at Magnepan 3.7i ( or the 20.7 if budget permits)with a couple of good subs. You could power them with a Pass 250.8 and a good pre or a Pass integrated and have great sound. I know it would be heavenly with jazz but don't have experience with electronic music.
Great comments all.  I'm glad to hear some affirmation for the Sonus Faber because they really spoke to me over the Goldenears.   I am looking forward to trying the Focals, Dynaudios and perhaps the ATCs and Vandersteen  

I'm going to listen to the Maggies as well (probably 1.7 or 3.7) but I am a bit daunted about placement in my room (I can only get them about 3ft from the wall before things get awkward and the corners are not identical due to a door opening).   Also i'm concerned that I will need to augment them with a lot of power and also well matched subs for the bass required with my preferred style of music).

I really liked the Olympica IIIs paired with the MC252 but at 100wPC I am concerned it's not quite enough power for the electronic music I intend listen to in that space.  That is something I am looking to resolve either with subs or more power.  @tomic601 or anyone, what is your thought about this?






a MC252 is 250 wpc, capable of welding and melting voicecoils...

I had a 202 driving Vandersteen 3 A- SIG and then Vandersteen 5a, warm sounding, very few sins, pretty legendary reliability, perhaps not the last word in detail and definition but like IBM, nobody gets fired for buying McIntosh....

and for the flamers, a careful look at my virtual systems will reveal.... mc gear in two out of three...not bad...
The Magico S3 paired with the right electronics could be a real treat if they don't sound too chesty. The price is terribly tempting.
Otherwise, if you are thinking of SF, try to find the wide baffle models. Absolutely among the best speakers I've ever heard at any price.
I don’t understand you intend to invest $13k for speakers and overall about $20 so only 7k for the rest of the system ?
If so it’s a huge mistake trying to move speakers properly with system that cost overall half will not fulfill the full potential of your speakers. I did the same mistake in the past and now my current system which I am very pleased with the value of my system and cables is more than twice of my speakers.
speakers
Dynaudio Contour 60
Revel Performa F228Be

amps
Bryston 4B Cubed
Parasound Halo JC5

DAC/pre
RME ADI-2 DAC
Benchmark DAC3L
Post removed 
@audiotroy thank you for the detailed recommendation!   I'll have to look into the Wavelet device.  I've not yet heard about it.

I am going to do some listening and it sounds like Legacy should be on my list.  Whether I need bass augmentation or subs is an open question for me.  If i had to act without any more auditioning (and I don't) my initial move would be to go with the Sonus Fabers with suitable power and then test if subs were needed or not.

I may reach out after I've done some auditioning and refined my taste.  I feel building around a speaker presentation is my first order.  thanks!

All.

Thanks for the comments.

I didn’t post how loud I like to listen and the answer is - I’ll listen to my electronic pretty loud at times alone and at 18’ (where most visitors would ask me to turn it down) and I’ll also listen moderately and somewhat critically at 9’ (when I pull out the jazz and standards I was raised on). I think one of the lessons I have taken is that I should not skimp on the power/system (thank you @ititzhak1969). I’m going to buy a cheap sound meter and calibrate this response. I might post back here when I do.

I clearly still have some listening to do - I need to hear the Focals, Dynaudio and it seems Legacy. And B&W for good measure. I don’t know anything about Magico, will look.

I have not listened to Magnepans as the advice I’ve gotten is that they (i) will require a lot of bass augmentation for my needs, (ii) will be particularly finiky in a room like mine to get right and (iii) siginificantly power hungrier. I decided to forgo listening to them right now since as a novice those are another three problems for me to solve and potentially get wrong over the more basic ones I have now so it is best to keep it simple - does that make sense?

I truly appreciate the sharing of info here. What an outstanding community! :->


@erik_squires which of the SF are wide baffle and what does that aspect buy me?
The fact that you do not sit in a dedicated sweet spot leads me to recommend an omni, such as Ohm. The largest model is in your price range, as well as proper amplification to drive them. And, if streaming is your main source, listening mostly to electronica, you should consider passive preamplification. This recommendation coming from a horn and passive lover and user. Enjoy ! MrD.
Op you have a giant space a loudspeaker sees the entire cubic volume of a room that includes the cathedral part as well.

If you dont go with a speaker like the Legacy which has real subwoofers you will absolutely require them with the other speakers mentioned.

Also efficency is key in getting loud without compression.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ 
thanks for the definitive response @audiotroy   appreciated.
OP:
The SF Stradivari.

Wide baffle speakers are amazing in terms of how much of the recording's room acoustics they bring into the room. Those are some of my all time favorite speakers of all time.

Best,
E
Erik a pair of SF Stradivarius no matter how great they sound and they sound wonderful, would accomplish these goals.

The issue is sheer cubic volume, which affects bass response, to overcome this you need multiple high output subwoofers and a way of rolling off the bass reponse that the smaller mid woofers or lower woofers in the main loudspeakers would see therefore, those drivers would not have to go as low which would increase power handling and provide enough sound pressure levels to provide clean undistorted sound to fill up the room. This can only be accomplished by an electronic crossover either in the preamp or a control processor.

Same things with panels they can only move a tiny fraction of space before they compress and hit the limits of their physical stops, which is why any flat panel loudspeaker needs to be gigantic to play loud and they still won’t play that loud, ever go to a concert and see a planer?

The way to accomplish this goal

1: Multiple subs 2 with an electronic crossover which can get expensive and most electronic crosovers suck then you have the cost and physical look of two large boxes in addition to the mains.

2: A horn loudspeaker which again tends to be big and ugly and many times very colored without the delicatness of a great conventional speaaker, but great for rock and EDM ala a Klilpsh Lascala

3: A high efficiency large conventional loudspeaker with an electornic crossover and dsp.

4: A Golden Ear Triton Reference is nearly the perfect answer but we think this gentleman wants to move into an even higher end loudspeaker.

4: Pro audio loudspeakers or PA or DJ rigs.

If room volume and desire to play loud weren’t an issue than almost any good high end loudspeaker would be fine.

So there are a number of issues to make this gentleman happy which is why we recommended the Legacy Focus and Wavelet combo.

The Wavelet’s Bohmer room correction system provides a phase coherent sound in the room at the listeners seat.

The Legacy’s high power handling and high efficiency means that there will be many nights of fun parying without melted drivers.

We are also not saying that our products are the only game in town see comments as stated above.

We also build professional theaters the concepts of high dynamic range, high output and room filling bass all apply. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Legacy dealers

I concur with AudioTroy’s assessment that high dynamic range and a lot of low-frequency air-moving capability would be really nice to have in gryphonite’s situation.

Legacy’s large floor-standing speakers have these characteristics. And as AudioTroy posted above, there are theoretically other possible solutions. I’d like to comment on one of them:

"A horn loudspeaker which again tends to be big and ugly and many times very colored without the delicatness of a great conventional speaaker, but great for rock and EDM..."

We all have bad memories of horn PA speakers so harsh they hurt our ears. This kind of speaker is designed for maximum SPL per dollar or per pound, along with durability, with sound quality being way down on the priority list. Unfortunately many audiophiles associate this sonic disaster with horns in general. While I’ll readily admit that many home audio horn speakers do have audible colorations, I believe that, with good design, there can be worthwhile exceptions.

Note that there is an extremely demanding area - extremely demanding from a QUALITATIVE standpoint - where horns are widely used. And that is, high-end studio main monitors. Many of the world’s best recording studios use horn or waveguide loudspeakers for their most demanding applications. A "waveguide" in this context is a type of horn that focuses exclusively on radiation pattern control, without acoustic amplification as a consideration. Among the prosound speaker companies that build horn and/or waveguide studio monitors are:

JBL, Ocean Way, Augspurger, Kinoshita, Meyer, Westlake, Genelec, Amphion, Reflexion Arts, Neumann, and Dutch & Dutch.

My point being, among an intensely demanding group with extremely good ears, who isn’t handicapped by prejudice but only cares about performance, whose very livelihood depends on having accurate loudspeakers, horns and waveguides are very competitive.

In addition to the low coloration and good SPL capabilities that a GOOD horn or waveguide speaker brings to the table, they can also be a good match for gryphonite’s somewhat kinetic listening style:

“I mostly listen around my living area rather than in a dedicated listening position.”

Briefly, the right kind of horn/waveguide speaker, set up properly, can give not only good tonal balance pretty much throughout the room, but also still recreate an enjoyable soundstage for listening positions that are well outside the traditional apex-of-the-triangle “sweet spot”. This is somewhat counter-intuitive so I can explain it if anyone is interested, but I think this post is already plenty long enough.

Duke

dealer/manufacturer/yup I do horns & waveguides, including custom studio main monitors


The issue is sheer cubic volume, which affects bass response, to overcome this you need multiple high output subwoofers and a way of rolling off the bass reponse that the smaller mid woofers or lower woofers in the main loudspeakers would see therefore, those drivers would not have to go as low which would increase power handling and provide enough sound pressure levels to provide clean undistorted sound to fill up the room. This can only be accomplished by an electronic crossover either in the preamp or a control processor.


Well, I've been schooled. I guess this is my first time hearing how a real audiophile would approach the issue. Thanks so much, I'll go do more research.

< sarcasm>


Erik

Erik...join the club, seems like one in every thread....The ATC importer gave him advice he cannot seem to follow...oh well

As Duke so aptly points out, there are many viable choices bessides legacy, which is a fine product from a long standing company with a solid reputation...just like Sonus Faber.

OP it sounds like your preference is for loud and low over a larger swath of the room. IF you want an off the shelf solution w global support and bullet proof reliability, inside your price range get a JBL or if leaning more botique get Duke to build you something, get a nice integrated w streamer and off you go. I would also consider a pair of ATC used but only dual LF models w adequate power...new those are north of your price range.

Some of us on this board have live sound reinforcement, recording studio, mobile recording experience , high end audio retail, speaker design and manufacturing experience, and we love music too. Gather a wide base of inputs, but GO listen soon , music is key...

take along some things you like.

best to you

Jim




and in keeping w the Ohm omni suggestion, you might also consider a used pair of Shahinian...they make models w subs that throw a massive soundstange and will shake the pillars of the earth....and sound sweet doing it...

 @audiokinesis maybe a bit off topic, i have been doing some patronage work w hall in Tacoma using Meyer....Pink Martini, best amplified live sound I have heard, ever.....fun

I thought this group would appreciate an update on some recent listening and impressions.

I auditioned some Focals and the Wilson Sabrinas yesterday. The Focal (Sopra II) and Sabrinas made a very positive impression on me. I listened to the Focals with a Bryston 300W amp and preamp. The only negative observation about these was that in comparison to the Sabrinas I felt the bass had authority but was slightly over-full on the Sopras (I wasn't expecting this as the bass not being fleshed out enough on some Kanto No2s I heard with a much smaller 100W Luxman amp, possibly too small).    

By comparison the Sabrinas blew me away - balanced, articulate and with more 'air' on the lower end despite the authority in the low mid and low.   The Sabrinas were driven by a Linn Selekt DSM with an integrated amp rated at 100W and their Katalyst DAC.   With the difference in powerI was even further surprised with the comparison.   These are currently my first choice.

I'm wondering how to describe what I liked about the Sabrinas to the Focal representative so he can have a chance to make a stronger comparison perhaps with different electronics. When I say 'air' in the room I will note the room with the Sabrinas was a larger family sized room like the one I have at home while the Focals were in a more intimate dedicated listening room; I'm not sure if that makes a difference and I'd enjoy the Focals just as much in a slightly larger room.   I'm leaning toward the Sabrinas because I have heard a combo that works for me right now but since I still have a couple of listening appointments ahead I'm still somewhat interested in how to integrate what I heard and possibly work with the Focals. Interested in impressions and positive combinations with both speakers from anyone.

Cheers.



The Sabrina is a great speaker. I'm surprised you didn't like the Triton Reference much. It seems ideal for your room. There are many great choices. Good luck.