Merlin`s. Love `em. When I got mine five yrs. ago my speaker hunt ended. I believe they`ve won over sixty "best of show" awards.
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Ditto on the Merlins. It is a speaker than ended my auditions and much of the curiosity to hear other speaker systems. I previously owned Magnepan 1.6. My friends run everything from Vandersteen 5a to Maggie 3.6 and we all enjoy the Merlins. I currently have TSM-MXr and may get a used set of VSMs (or possibly new) for a 2nd system.
Sorry to sound like a broken record but "Best" is in the eye/ear of the beholder. There is no definitive "best" anything, it's all subjective. When you ask a question like this, the answers will always be what folks think is "best" to them in their system.Their suggestions may or may not be "best" for you.
Hyperion HPS-938 I bought 6 month old demo for $3000
I'm not sure how stable this company is, but speakers are amazing. They build them in California getting parts from Taiwan. Avoid very early units since just after they started making them in 2004 they improved bracing. Sometimes they have less popular bamboo cabinet versions new for 1/2 price. Check their website www.hyperionsound.com Not too many dealers - I bought mine from "Quest for Sound" in Pennsylvania (Steve Monte).
I read the reviews, which are stellar, but after calling the company in CA and speaking with a nice fellow who spoke limited English, I am not bowled over with their operation. He indicated they have no HPS-938 in stock and they don't build them very often because they are expensive. He said he does have a B-stock set available. But he really wanted me to buy a set of their new HPS-738, which is a scaled down version of the HPS-968. However, I could not get much of a feel for the differences. Also, it appears the nearest dealer where I could actually listen to them is about 260 miles away.
Consider Selah Audio Tempestas. RAAL ribbon tweeter, Accuton ceramic mid, Scanspeak Illuminator woofer in an excellent cabinet. I think you need to go above $10k retail to match them. Tempestas are $3000 in standard cabinets. I own Merlin TSM-MMEs, which I like, but the Tempestas are better in every way, and not by a small amount.
If you can find a good pair of B&W Matrix 800 (assuming you really do mean this speaker: http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/691bw800/index.html ) - JUMP on it!!! Nothing else mentioned will come even close to that experience.
If anyone disagrees and has a pair to sell at that price? Let me know and I will purchase them immediately.
Well...the responses are flooding in and I'm a fan of many of the speakers mentioned, including the Maggies and Selah Audio (still think the latest TSM and VSM's are better)....BUT.....
What type of listening do you plan to do? I only ask because I don't like my Merlins for casual listening. They demand my attention and that's not always a wonderful thing. Someone suggested the Ohm line and I like those speakers a lot. I don't really consider them reference quality, but they make beautiful music and fill a room in a special way. That might be more of what you're looking for. At the end of the day you should consider how you'll listen, what you'll listen to and where you'll be listening. The room is your main speaker of sorts. And some designs may fit one room well and sound terrible in the next. As you can probably tell, I'm no speaker snob. I still miss my Heybrook HB1's!
If you provide a few more details folks can probably home in on some good choices.
Mtrot - I'm sorry to hear that. They had incredible product and screw it up. When they presented HPS-938 at at audio show in 2004 it was sensational - they were sold out for many months ahead. They got Absolute Sound Editor's choice 5 years in a row plus other awards including "Decade Award" from "Enjoy the Music" and Blue Moon Award. It looks like after that everything went south.
Most everyone recommends the speaker they own so you get the broken record on the site.
Buy used and you can get some great deals, up to 60% off on some relatively new speakers in some cases. Be careful with older models of great speaker lines because strides have been made over the years with transparency, midrange and tweeter detail etc.
It would be helpful if you could list some musical priorities. Soundstage, deep bass, non aggressive highs are a few of mine.
I agree with the Merlin recommendations, I owned the TSM's and really liked them but because of a repair issue with them I also had a pair of DeVore Fidelity 8's on hand for a few weeks of direct comparison with the TSM's.
I kept the DeVores and they're one of the best buys I've made in 40-something years of frequent gear changes.
DSchultz....I was actually referring to any 800 series B&W in the price range I specified. Like a nice looking pair of 802 series 2 that I see at $2,300 listed now, or something similar....I'm reasonable.
I've heard great things from this thread about the Merlins, which I WILL make a point of listening too.
I understand that this is subjective so there is no "BEST" which is exactly why I put it in quotes. But I do need a place to start, and I think this community has invaluable experience. Knowledgable people's preferences acquired through actual experience are very helpful to me. Thanks to anyone who posts with your opinion. I am going to buy speakers soon, and I appreciate the help. For instance, I would have never gone out of my way to consider Merlins before, but I'm considering them now.
The Audiokinesis Rhythm Prism would fit your budget. A bit of an unconventional box design, but with a purpose. I own the Jazz Modules and have said on more than one occasion that I'll be buried in them.
Anyone in the vicinity of Las Vegas can contact me if you would like to hear a pair of Audiokinesis speakers. One thing that is consistent with all the models is the reproduction of natural timbre and lack of horn coloration.
Note: no financial interest, just a happy customer.
I understand that many if not most people may recommend speakers that they actually own. I don't neccessarily consider that to be a bad thing. After all, there had to be a reason that people purchased these speakers they love in the first place, so I consider that to be one of the highest possible forms of a sincere recommendation.
I mostly listen to classic rock and newer rock with blues and jazz mixed in. Ideally, I want speakers to be revealing, lively, fast and musical with a large soundstage. I'm willing to give up a smoother more flowing sound that might suit classical or perhaps some types of jazz music better for something deatiled that has some punch and liveliness to it, perhaps over speakers which are more refined but not quite as suited in those areas reflecting my musical taste. Thanks to all.
@ Sloane. I recently purchased a pair of Dynaudio DM 2/8 speakers which do what you're talking about for less than your budget. These speakers have a higher sensitivity than most Dyns, and match well with a range of electronics. Another speaker I was drawn to which were fast and lively, were the JM Lab 716 floorstanders for rock music.
"Have you heard a speaker you loved over $3,000 that has the kind of sound you are looking for under $3,000. "
That's a very good point.
I find it is a better strategy to listen first for the best sound or sounds at any price to establish that as a reference first. Then look to find something in your price range that can come close. You'll be surprised how much satisfaction you can wean out of this approach with a little time and effort invested, especially if you room is not large and smaller designs like monitors, smaller floorstanders, etc. are all that is needed for top notch results.
After all you can't hit the target until you know for sure what the target is!
Is a 20' by 16' room considered small or large?
My room is 20' by 16' and nearly empty, I'm a bachelor :) It's connected to a dining room of the same size through a 10' by 7' opening. It has a VERY nice sound...I think of it as a component. The floors are wood, it's sparse (nothing between the stereo/speakers and couch but a cofee table) and two high circular corner fishtanks on the listening end cut off the sharp corners there.
I only mention the room because a couple people asked...what is the room like. I'll be looking for speakers which have nice reviews, the Merlins by far had the most support. It will be hard to audition used gear, so I may have to take a leap of faith, but at least I have an idea of what's on the other side.
Medium. A great space for the Merlin VSMs. Another wonderful speaker are the Harbeth HL5s. I'm in Baltimore if you want to audition the Merlins. If you look at the Audioreview site, I think you might get the idea that a lot of people really love them - might have the higest rating of any speaker and well over 100 reviews.
For what it's worth, Sloane27, I've owned Ohms (Micro Walsh Talls and then 100's) and currently have the Merlin TSM-mmi.
If your room is very lively (which it sounds like it might be) then I'm not so sure Ohm is your best choice. Much as I loved much of what mine did while I had them (great bass slam, expansive sound field) in my similarly sized room with hardwood floors, the pseudo-omni aspect didn't work all that well for me -- imaging always felt confused and highs were muddled.
I've been very happy with my TSM's, and even more so since having put a thick area rug down on the floor to tame some of the HF bouncing around the room.
YMMV, of course!
Hope this helps.