Recommendation about speakers with limited space behind
Hello all, this is my first post. I see that there is real expertise here, so I hope some of you don't mind spending some time helping a noob.
(This paragraph is background story, you can skip it to go to the actual question). When I was little, my parents had a great hi-fi system and I used to enjoy the great sound. It really made a difference. Unfortunately, in more recent stages of my life, I have never had good quality systems for several reasons (the proliferation of mp3, economic factors, lack of space, etc.) But now I would like to build a decent system. Probably not as good as that one (I don't have the space for it), but as good as I can. For that purpose I'm looking at amps, etc., but the part of the setup where I have the most doubts is the speakers.
In principle, I would really like the speakers to be Monitor Audio, mainly because my parents' speakers were that brand and I loved the sound. Probably this doesn't make much sense because those speakers were from the 80s and whatever I buy now won't have much to do with that, but I have a soft spot for them.
The great problem is space. The speakers would need to be placed on a bookshelf. I know bookshelf speakers are misnamed and a bookshelf is not optimal, but that's what I have for now (I don't think I can negotiate a better space with the partner - I prefer to not spend too much negotiation points in this and save them for the inevitable future subwoofer instead). The bookshelf space is about 32 cm deep and 33 cm high.
In this space, in principle I could fit the Monitor Audio Bronze 1 or the Silver 50 (unfortunately the Bronze 2, which would seem ideal as they are front-ported, don't fit). Both of these speakers are back-ported. The Bronze 1 is 20.5 cm deep, which would leave around 11 cm of clearance to the back of the shelf, which I guess is not much (from what I have read, people seem to recommend more). The Silver 50 is higher range but it's 27 cm deep, leaving 5 cm, even worse.
So my questions are: (1) placing any of these speakers in such a space would just be somewhat suboptimal but they would still sound good if it's the place I have, or it would be sacrilege comparable to mixing champagne with water and drinking it to the plastic glass? Does it make sense at all or would I be wasting my money by placing them in such a place? (2) can the port bungs mentioned in both speakers' manual help?, and (3) provided I buy one of these models, which should I go for? I'm OK with paying the extra money for the Silver 50 over the Bronze 1, but obviously if they're actually going to sound worse (due to having less room behind, 5 cm vs. 11 cm, and also less room on top if that matters) it wouldn't be worth it.
My first suggestion would be to try to audition as many speakers as you can, so that you can find one that gives you what you like/remember. Like you said, the speakers you remembered were from the '80's, tech has advanced considerably since then. It would behoove you to spend some time and get something you will love. That being said, I would ask that you consider Vandersteen VLR bookshelf speakers. They are made for placing in bookshelves or places with limited space. I own them and find them quite impressive for their size and price. If you can add a sub or two, I think you would have more than what the Monitor's could offer. Just my 2 cents... Bob
The bookshelf space is about 32 cm deep and 33 cm high. Not a lot of room, that is only 12" x 12"
I have lived with speakers on shelves, inside bookcases, on their sides and there are compromises involved. I would aim on sounding good, anything else would be gravy. I ultimately did much better with speakers on top of the bookcases.
There were some speakers that did well in this set-up, but they are all an inch or so bigger than your height restrictions, which disqualifies them. Sealed and/or acoustic suspension designs would be your best bet. Front ported are second best.
I owned the Zu Omen Bookshelves. They are good speakers, but the Vandy VLR's replaced them... No comparison. Looking at them, you wouldn't think they would be as good as they are. Smaller, lighter, but they are much better. I like and respect Zu, but I have found them to be close, but still not as refined as Vandy's. My 3 cents... B
@gdnrbob I will see if I can audition some speakers but unfortunately, my possibilities in this are very limited. I live in a small city with only small audio shops. Anything a bit outside the mainstream has to be ordered online.
@mental The models I am thinking about also have the foam rubber option, it ships with the speakers. For example, from the Silver 50 manual:
"If the sound is too bass heavy or there is bass boom from the room when playing music (without a
subwoofer), try moving the loudspeakers slightly further away from the wall(s). If this is not possible, then
try the supplied port bungs (...)
If the positioning of the loudspeaker is predetermined by room aesthetics or layout, you find you have
accentuated bass or in the case speakers are to be sited in close proximity (less than the minimum
suggested distances of page 3) to a rear wall (such as on a bookshelf, positioned in a cabinet or on a stand
close to a wall), we recommend fitting port bungs to the ports. (...)".
But is this a reasonable compromise that would only somewhat affect quality, or something that will turn my €800 speakers into €100 speakers? Does anyone have experience with covering the port with solutions like this?
@all Thanks a lot for the suggestions, I'll have a good look at them and probably go for one of those. Anyway, I would still like to know, in case I don't go for any of them, if my original choices (with or without port bungs) would be terrible options or not.
Port bungs will work to a degree as you are essentially making your speaker a sealed one by plugging the ports.
It will sound ok, just not great. Not quite in the 800 euro to 100 euro drop league, but 800 euro to 500 euro wold be closer to what you would get. Unless you go for a speaker that was specifically designed for the placement situation that you are describing, you will compromise some on the sound. It is not the end of the world.
You didn’t say what would be your source player? Are you streaming music or using a conventional CD or Record player.
I am going to go on a limb here and make a recommendation based on your limited space.
When I first heard them I was blown away by their ability to fill the room. The bass was deep enough for me to inquire where is the sub, only to find out that there was no sub in the room. The SQ quality was pretty amazing using Tidal app in my iPhone.
Since I stream music, this one will be my number one choice if I am ever shopping for bookshelf speakers. Find a place to listen them or order online and you can thank me later.
@lalitk I will mainly be streaming music, and also playing music that I have in digital format (not with a CD player, but I will play CDs that I have converted to flac). My idea is to use the newly-released Sonos Amp. This can stream music wirelessly, and has the advantage that it fits the physical depth constraint of my furniture (most AV receivers don't, they are very deep) while providing HDMI ARC connection from the TV, and possibility of adding wireless rear speakers in the future to get surround sound. My top priority is stereo music, not TV, but if I can kill two birds with one stone and also improve my TV’s crappy sound getting the flexibility to add surround in the future if I feel like it, then why not? Unless you tell me that a similarly small-sized conventional music amp would sound better, in which case I could go for something else as the source.
SONOS is a great alternative to conventional stereo system. We are now talking lifestyle audio and there is none better than SONOS.
I own SONOS playbar with a sub in my two TV rooms. Never felt the need to add rear speakers cause playbar is more than adequate of relaying the 2 ch stereo and movie soundtracks in 3.1 surround mode. Nevertheless, with playbar you have the ability to add rear speakers for a true 5.1 surround system.
I also own a pair of Play: 3 with a Sub in my study for pure 2 ch listening. I love the simplicity and great sound of SONOS for everyday casual listening.
If you want to build your system around SONOS AMP using your own bookshelf speakers then that’s the way to go.
I ran KEF LS50s on a small media credenza. I used some Herbie's saucers to decouple them a bit without stands. This was not an ideal setup but it worked great for television, which was the sole purpose. I did, however, listen to music occasionally and it was very good but not great. I also have Wharfedale Dentons (I actually kept them over the LS50s) on a mid century credenza in my second system. They do just fine on a shelf. Again, this is not ideal and it won't allow the speaker to do its best job. But I wanted to just drop a note to say that it can be done.
Any chance you can try a small floorstander? Or put a bookshelf on a stand that works the best for you? Once you hear it you may move your room around just to keep them.
BTW, I love Monitor Audio. They make great products. Some of their tweeters are really smooth sounding.
+1 on the sealed case (no rear ports) in this situation. I use Harbeth in a cabinet for both my home entertainment rig and also my workstation. M30.1 in the big rig, and P3ESR in the workstation. They both sound terrific. Check the dimensions for your bookshelves.