Will you be putting the speakers far away from rear and side walls?
I recommend buying used - you can double the value of your system options, and I believe at $4k you can see a material improvement in overall system components, particularly WRT speakers. You should have a few good options on the integrated for between $800 - $1,500. I just upgraded from a Marantz PM-8005 to a PM-11S3, but the 8005 was excellent in its own right and has both a great phono preamp (MM only) and headphone stage. These are $1,200 new, but regularly show up for $700-$800 used.
I am a fan of Focal speakers, but have seen lots of good used options offered for under $2K. Theer is a pair of Triton 2's for sale on Audiogon for $1,800 ( I have no relation to seller). I would STRONGLY recommend auditioning any speaker before buying as the SQ at this price point vary significantly.
I can't really audition too many speakers. I just don't have the time on the weekends to drive an hour or two to hear a set of speakers...and then drive an hour or two the following weekend to hear another. I'm doubtful that I would accurately remember what they even sounded like for it to be a meaningful comparison. I'm going to have to gamble a bit and order these unheard.
I was just looking at the Zu website and noticed they have a 60 day approval period. That might be a safer way to buy without hearing first. Spatial M3's also have been on my list, although not sure if they offer a trial period.
Of all the reviews that I have read, it seems like the GoldenEar speakers are universally thought to be pretty great. I've read very few negative comments. They seem like they might be the safest bet to order unheard.
As far as the room, there are no acoustic treatments. It's a living room with a very large, sound absorbing sectional sofa, hardwood floors and a pair of Barcelona chairs. The speakers will sit about 12" from the back wall, at least a couple feet from the side walls.
Yeah, I think that GE and B&W are speakers you really MUST audition for yourself. They are not to my ears, or any measurements, neutral. I’m not saying you should not like them. Especially important to listen to them in space and at the volume you expect to listen. Personally, and this is VERY rough, i'd put their tonal balance close to the Thiels while Thiel was still around.
Consider room treatment first. Reach out to GIK for adivce. This will make the room more speaker friendly. Room treatment will outlast any other purchases and make you happier with a wider variety.
And please, no flames. Buy what you like, and call neutral whatever you want. I'm really just saying I think these speakers should be heard ahead of time.
Erik makes some great points. As I have said before to posters like yourself, you should put in some time going to local dealers and get a sense of what you like/dislike. I understand your trepidation that you won't 'accurately remember what they even sounded like', but trust me, you will get a good indication of the 'sound' you like.
Sjtm also recommended buying used, which is something I agree with too. Especially the amp/pre and peripherals. You will save a bunch of money which can be put to obtaining higher quality gear.
FWIW, I heard the GoldenEar speakers, and have to say I wasn't impressed, despite the fact that they are highly rated. YMMV
Zu is not the only speaker company that offers a 30-60 day approval period. Tekton is another example. However, I suggest that you give Zu a call. Sean, in particular, is very helpful.
There are two integrated amplifiers for sale on A'gon: YBA Integre DT (the "old" design) for $1775 and Audio Refinement Complete for $500. In particular, the Audio Refinement (which was YBAs second line) is a bargain and sounds really great. Here is the link to the Stereophile review: http://www.stereophile.com/integratedamps/499ar/#jBfHwJoWTj6yqwAb.97
I own both Triton Ones and Triton Twos (2 different systems). The Triton speakers are in no way bright or etched. I am a guy who always had speakers with silk dome tweeters as they are less bright and the GE folded ribbon tweeter is one of the best. Just pure sweet highs. B&W, not even close. They sound like the Theils to me, and make me want to put my fingers in my ears to block the highs and headache.
Another consideration is the type of music you listen to. I've owned Tritons and enjoyed them. I currently have Magnepan .7's and really enjoy them, two different flavors. One brand that I have owned and always liked and respected are the PSB's. Many models at every price point. Easy to drive, not very placement finicky and to my ears, a balanced yet exciting sound. There are worthy of consideration.
http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/mpsip_amps.html (Dynamo 34SE MK III)
No affiliation whatsoever. Just some options you might not have considered
derekbyron, like stereo5 and so many many others I too have Triton One’s. If you want more info specific to the Triton’s you could inquire at the goldenear forum. In any case, as you mention you don’t have the adequate time to audition one weekend after another, the Triton Three + would at least be a safe option. Besides the numerous satisfied GET owners, Golden Ear is top notch when it comes to customer service. So in the unlikelihood there is a problem, there is a company behind the product that will quickly do the right thing by you. And don’t let me forget to mention, they sound awesome too. Incredible overall value when you consider price to sound quality ratio; as I’m certain you’ve already read in the dozens of professional reviews.
I just attended RMAF in Denver and heard the new integrated amp from Elac and their floor standers. The amp and speakers only cost $2,250. This leaves plenty of cash for a respectable CD player/turntable or whatever you want for sources. The integrated has DSP room correction with a really cool app to set it up for your specific environment, Blutooth, phono and it sounded amazing, especially for the price. I listed to megabuck systems and this little setup was incredible value in my opinion. In case you don’t know, Andrew Jones is the lead engineer for Elac. He is a very well known and respected designer of TAD and other great stuff. He is taking his vast knowledge and putting it into very affordable entry level gear for Elac.
I understand your time limitations, but ask yourself if it is a good idea to make a final purchase that you may or may not enjoy. $4K is lot of money to me, and to many. See if you can work with your dealer(s) to arrange a brief in-home trial, or establish a return period (watch out for restocking fees).
The first time I bought "real" hi-fi speakers, I went from store to store with my CDs, auditioning about a dozen speakers in my price range. I ended up with a respectable speaker, but I never really enjoyed it in my home with my gear. I upgraded every piece of my system until I realized that the speakers I had so carefully auditioned were just not for me.
The second, and I suspect final, time I bought speakers, I followed a long thread on the brand here on Audiogon, in which users’ descriptions seemed to mirror what I was looking for in a speaker. Since the manufacturer sells direct with a 120-day in home trial, I could listen to them in my home, with my gear, and decide. I would lose only the shipping charges if they did not work out. Well, it was a home run. The speakers did indeed sound as the posters in the thread said they do. I have now had my Ohm Walsh 2000 speakers for seven years, and still enjoy them immensely.
That said, I have heard the G.E. Triton 3, and I was extremely impressed - excellent smooth highs, clean, open sound, with a near-holographic soundstage. I thought the bass was excellent with the powered bass drivers. The speakers dissappeared into the sounstage, which is one reason I love my Ohms. Now, this was at a dealer who knows how to do set up. But, eve so, they were being fed with modest NAD electronics (a surround AVR, IIRC). YMMV, but I really liked the GEs.
As for the Zu speakers, they are not for everyone. I know people who swear by them, but I have yet to really enjoy the sound of any of their speakers, and that includes the Dominators ($40K/pr) run from a top-shelf front end and sources. It's a matter of personal preference. But if you're willing to eat the shipping, it might be worth it to find out.
But, please, see if you can have a Plan B before you make a final purchase.
Thanks for all the suggestions! I'm looking into all of them. Since I can't get to a bunch of dealers in person, I do think that a 60 day in-home trial period is critical which is why I want to buy new, not used. Although this is my first foray into the hi-fi world, I've been in the guitar gear game for years and know the endless tone search all too well...the constant buy/sell cycle pretty much demands that you shop used. But, I don't want to put off getting a system much longer, and buying new is the easiest option for me at the moment.
Has anyone owned a pair of the Spatial M3's? At this point, the GE Triton 3, Magnepan .7, and M3's seem to have my attention. Those M3'slook pretty great.
Since your considering the Spatial M3, I thought the following system may interest you. It seems to have everything you wanted for just abut 4K (new).
Hi Guys...and gsm18439,
"tmh audio" is the new US Distributor of YBA and a few items for clarification:
1. The newish YBA "Genesis" series of Amp, Preamp/DAC, Integrated and CDP is very much in the tradition of the "old" YBA Classic designs...and quite affordable. Certainly the sweet spot in the price range.
2. The Signature & Passion series are reflective of Yves-Bernard’s latest design thinking that builds on the "old" YBA designs while adding even richer & bolder tones and increased resolution and micro-dynamics for an extraordinary "you are there" experience for audiophiles and music lovers.
More info & reviews on our website as well as YBA's.
Check out the new KEF ACTIVE LS50 for $2200 (out in Dec 2016). It will have a built-in DAC, amp, wireless streaming, and sub connectivity. You may find it is all you need. I have the PASSIVE LS50 and it is pretty good in a small room. I will never sell that speaker. I like the LS50 more than my previous REVEL Salon 1 (a $20K speaker), excluding the bass.