"Best" bookshelf/monitor for low-power amp?

I'm looking for recommendations to mate to a low-power 30wpc Red Wine 30.2 amp.

I was thinking moderately priced (no more than $5k used) high-efficiency monitors, for probably near-field-like listening. For a home-office application, so space is an issue and big ol' floorstanders will be too much. Digital audio only (via a DAC). Mix of music, jazz, classical, lots of female vocalists. Some rock for good measure. Okay, so, a little bit of everything. :-)

Room is 12x10x9 with glass on 3 sides (windows on 2, french doors on 3rd). Speakers will be able to be 2-3 ft from wall, bracketing french doors, shooting down longest axis at windows (with me and desk directly in front).

Currently on the chart, Zu Tone, GMA Callisto or Eos III. After that, I'm kinda stuck. I'd love to do something like a Harbeth SHL5 or Focal 1007 Be, but I'm worried that they'll just be "okay" with such a low powered amp (they're pretty inefficient).

Suggestions and input welcome. And yes, I know this is similar to other threads, but the caveat here is that I'm looking for "high-efficiency monitors" not just "best ever".

Thanks in advance ....
Triangle Titus or Cometes would be on my list also due to there easy to drive ability. Plus they have a slew of other strengths to. Once you hear Triangle JM Labs especially will sound slow.
The first thing that popped into my head was..Usher Tiny Dancer with the Berillium tweeter..I wouldn't these out.........
You should deffinitely look at the Silverline SR17.5 monitors. I own them and they are awesome. I see a pair for sale now for $1850 obo in rosewood. That is a great price, I am not the seller. You can see mine in my system. They are 26" from the wall and sound fantastic.
of the hi-ef ones that your considering, the green mountain is the great all rounder.....another upside to it...the gma will still sound great, even with a wide variety of amps. always make sure your amp is serving your loudspeakers and room, and don't do it the other way around.....with the gma, who'll get lucky doing it backwards.
So crate, (Bill and Ted pun intneded...)

You could do much worst than the Reference 3A MM DeCapo (or DeCapo-i). These have been very popular for many years and with good reason. They are a pretty well balanced speaker from top to bottom and have very good bass extension and definintion for a monitor. They are also pretty attactive in the piano gloss finish. The are efficient and an easy 8 ohm load.

One other nice thing about the DeCapos is their long running popularity. You can nearly always find a used pair for sale for a good price. If you don't love them, sell them at little/zero loss. Heck, I bought a pair, used them for 4 years and sold them at a small profit! Yes, I had jumped on a good deal, but it just goes to show you that you can't go too far wrong.....


Reimer McCollough
I have had more monitors than I care to mention and have ended with a pair of the Ars Aures F1 monitors and could not be happier. They mate well with my Sophia Electric KT 88 and are easy to drive.
Good Luck,
I second the Reference 3A De Capo:


Looks like Reimer website is having some problems? Are they out of business?

Can anyone compare the Devore Gibbon 7.1 with the below?

Reordering the short list:

Reference 3A: MM De Capo i
Zu Tone

I'm interested in the Reimer's though. Just concerned they've imploded.

I've heard the Silverlines but was unimpressed. Nice speakers, but I was driving them with a SET and they just seemed like they'd be much happier with significantly more power. This was at a Cary dealer, btw, the 300SEI vs the 306 amp -- the latter, widely regarded as a not terribly refined Class D amp, blew away their very highly regarded SET. Personally, I just think the poor amp got sucked dry by those speakers, and I don't want it to happen with my tripath.

Triangles don't seem particularly efficient, nor the Ushers. Not that that's everything, but it's something. Again, my concern from the Silverline experience hits here too.

Anyway, anything else to throw in the hopper?

Thanks to all for the input ....
I have and love the Triangle Cometes. They are coherent from top to bottom and are quite sensitive and seductive and can be had for a song in the older ES model.
Here it is, 4 years later, and I have exactly the same question! It's funny, I guess I forgot all about this thread.

Anyway, since 2008, I bought Merlin speakers and then sold them. I'm in a bigger room now, and am currently running some Magnepan 3.7s.

So, why revisit? Well, I want to build out "System 2". This would be a desktop system, nominally, but one that I could run in the "main rig" if I absolutely need to (for testing, say), but would mostly sit in "free space" (no rear wall anywhere near them.

Here's what I'm looking at (from shortest to tallest, with 15" being the biggest I'm interested in for now):

Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus
Proac Tablette Anniversary
Reference 3a Dulcet
Neat Petite SX
Harbeth P3ESR (no bass)
Totem Element Ember (comes out next week)
Silverline SR 17 Supreme (may be too big)
DeVore Gibbon 3xl

Prices range from $700-$7000, which isn't terribly helpful, but I'm looking for the following, more or less in order:

Great resolution and detail
Dynamics & speed
Tube friendly (6ohms min, higher is better)
As much bass as I can get, given the other criteria

I will be running this with tubes and/or smaller desktop-sized integrateds mostly, and could be a mix of low-power tubes and/or oddball solid state amps.

More suggestions are always welcome!
PSB Synchrony 2b or Sonus Faber Toy. either would suit your needs.
Well, you know Tekton...I have Eric's Tekton 4.5s as my small desktop system speakers, they are fabulous in my 14x16 home office. All the attributes you require, a little more bass would be nice, but it is fast and tuneful in this environment. Eric has a couple of models that get deeper bass. I am using low-powered tube amps. Great sound.
I would suggest adding Joseph Audio Pulsars to your list also. They are easily some of the best bookshelves I've ever heard and fall into your specs perfectly.

And yes, I am a Joseph dealer.
Have you considered Merlins? For the last year, in my living room system, I've been using Merlin TSM Mmi with Master RCs and a Manley Stingray II. The room is 28x16x8, with another room attached in an L-shape. The Manley can be run in triode (18-20 watts) or ultralinear (36-40 watts). In this large room, triode is not quite enough--good at low volumes but loses gas at higher SPLs. Ultralinear powers them with ease. So I think your Redwine at 30 watts would be fine. The Merlins are very coherent, tonally true, great timbre, and outstanding imaging, and full, tight bass as low as they go, to around 50 hz. But with sealed cabinets they drop off gradually and blend easily with a sub. I use a small Von Schweikert with great results. They're a tube-friendly 6 ohm load. For years I was skeptical of the Merlin "cult" but these little monitors really are quite good. They can rock the room or play with exceptional delicacy. Worth considering.

Before the Merlins, I was using Omega Grande 8R, which are 96 db single-drivers, along with the sub. The Omegas are good, too, and more efficient but the Merlins are in a different league. The newer Omegas with the hemp drives are supposed to be better, so they're also worth considering if you want the coherency and efficiency of a single driver, which has a lot going for it.
I believe the Audio Physic Tempo may meet your needs. They don't seem that easy to drive on paper, but my dealer states he sold many to customers with tube amps. Never had a problem.

I have smaller APs - Yara Evolution Bookshelf - and absolutely love them.
Great suggestions -- keep 'em coming!

I think the PSB speakers are very nice, and I'm especially fond of the Synchrony One. But they're harder to drive than their specs suggest. Kinda like Focal 1008Be or Usher Tiny Dancer or B&W 805d -- all excellent brands, all excellent speakers. But all of those designs just do better with more watts than what most tube amps can put out.

Absolutely love the look of Sonus Faber, but thought they were all 4ohm speakers. The Toy Speaker seems to have upped the ante to 8ohms, which certainly makes it a contender. I'm a little concerned about the lack of bass, but I need to find out more about this one.

As for Tekton, Eric is working on something new right now: a compact 2-way that leverages a Fostex for most of the range. High sensitivity in a small footprint -- that should be very interesting. Eric does great work.

But all things being equal, the Joseph Audio Pulsars would have solved this "problem" for me. While they're not necessarily terribly sensitive (mid-80s), they sound so good I really don't even care. They're a bit big, however (17" tall), which makes them unsuitable for near field. I did have them here to try out, but I think their free air (read: not up against a wall or even a wall anywhere near their back) performance sounds best when you're sitting back from them, around 5', when all that bass integrates in. Then, they're pretty much untouchable. But again, I was hoping for something more compact in the 3' listening near field. I think less than 15" tall would do the trick perfectly.

Which precludes the Merlin TSM as too tall (16") for my use case. Full disclosure: I've owned several pairs of Merlin speakers and have sold them all.

Moving on to other bad experiences, single drivers, as a rule, do bad things at frequency extremes. This really can't be helped in that kind of design and those compromises tend to bug me. Love coherence (I have Maggies, so that's very familiar), love the mid range, but bass and treble tend to go to The Bad Place. Not ragging, just saying it's not really my cuppa.

The Yara from Audio Physic are only 4ohms, which makes them unsuitable for most tube amps (not all, just most), and I want something I can drive well with many different amps. The Step 25, however, is 8ohms. Need to check that one out, too.

I have a pair of Vaughn Loudspeaker Pinot Monitors on the way in, too. They're too tall (17") for my desktop, but they're 94dB and 8ohms. Fostex mid/woofer and a ribbon tweeter with a passive cone radiator. They may have all the "criteria" to make me reconsider my current layout. We'll see.

I also have a pair of Sjofn Hifi (the clue) being sent in for review. Those are really neat and are designed to work up against a wall. If they sound as good here as they did at RMAF, they may actually anchor a 3rd system.

As for amps, I love the Manley Stingray, and the Manley aesthetic, generally, but the line feels a bit expensive now. The Stingray is very ballsy, which is fun, but it is a bit large! Haven't ruled it out, but haven't really ruled it in, either.

I have a Red Wine Audio Signature 15 on loan right now (never did pull the trigger on the 30.2), but I'm looking for a tube amp to make the speakers go. Once I settle on the speakers, I'll start sorting out the amp. I have a few thoughts, including the following tube integrateds:

LM Audio 211 EL34
Almarro 318b
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Two
Decware Zen Torii
Luxman SQ-38u
Leben CS600
As a quick FYI, the Joseph Pulsars are only 15" tall per the Joseph website (I also just measured one of the pairs that I have here to double check).

They also do work quite well with moderately powered amps (I use a Manley Stingray or Cary SLI80 with them quite often here for demos)

Too bad they did not work for you in your near field setup. As you have noted, they are quite fantastic.

***Dealer disclaimer***
Triangle Titus or Comete fit the bill and could save you a lot of $$$s in the process. Maybe later add a sub with teh money saved if you feel a need.
The AP Yara is rated at 4 ohms, but it's a very easy 4 ohms, from what I'm told. Phase angle has a lot to do with that, but I'm not a techie, so I defer. And it doesnt go much below 4 ohms, I believe. And you are correct in PSBs are harder to drive than they seem on paper. My Image T55s were higher in impedence and sensitivity than my Yaras, yet the PSBs made my Bruston B60 a lot hotter than my Yaras ever did. It's a moot point anyway, as the current Yara monitor isn't nearly as good as the one it replaced IMO. I'd skip it.

The Step is an excellent speaker. Should definitely be heard if you have a dealer nearby.

One that hadn't been mentioned yet is the PMC TB2i. Don't know about specs, but they seem relatively easy to drive and sound great.
02-13-12: Goldprintaudio
I would suggest adding Joseph Audio Pulsars to your list also. They are easily some of the best bookshelves I've ever heard and fall into your specs perfectly.

And yes, I am a Joseph dealer.


I have had the opportunity once to audition the Pulsars, and was extremely impressed. However, are the Pulsars high enough in efficiency to be driven effectively by a 30wpc amplifier? In the review I read of them in The Absolute sound they made the comment that the lower powered tube amplifiers were less than ideal with them, and that "any decent solid-state amplifier with over 100 watts of RMS power should be fine with the Pulsars.".
I have had very good luck with several lower powered amps driving the Pulsars. The Manley Stingray sounds great, as does the Cary SLI80. I've even tried them with a few Audion amps with high teens and low twenties power ratings, and they sounded pretty good. You do lose some bottom end control as you go lower and lower.

While 100 watts of SS power will certainly make them sing, I would not rule out tube amps as an option.
Maybe the Amphion Helium?

Just an update. It's down to either a Joseph Audio Pulsar (if I can scrape together the cash) or a DeVore Fidelity 3XL (if I can scrape together the cash).

I seem to be having cash flow problems.

Well, not problems per se, but rather, I can't seem to stop buying music. And iPads (mine shows up tomorrow!). And trips to audio shows. Sheesh.

02-13-12: Socrates7
Harbeth P3ESR (no bass)

Where did you get the notion the P3ESR has no bass? Didn't seem at all that way when I heard them.
Omega Speaker Systems makes some excellent sounding high efficiency monitors. I heard the Omega Hoyt Bedford Type 1's and they sounded terrific.
Do look into PSB, Paradigm, Totem and Nola. Auditioning is the best way to find out.
I listened to the Joeseph Audio Pulsar at the recent Axpona Show in Jacksonville, FL and my wife and I really liked them a ton; but I question the price? Otherwise, a no brainier. Better value seems to be the Devore. Good luck in your search, you also write a great blog, look forward to reading it...

The Pulsar is a special speaker. Wish it was cheaper, but pricing discussions are always tough to fight through. In the end, the price is whatever it is, you know?

Still struggling through this ....
Wow! You have been struggling with this for 4 years?? You poor thing! :o)
Get yourself a pair of new Reference DeCapo i's and enjoy!
I really like those speakers. And the Pulsars. Guess I'm indecisive. Or something. ;-)