Requesting Advice on Speaker Upgrade


Hello,

I am in the market for a new speaker upgrade. I am hoping to receive recommendations on brands and models to look at. I have already demoed some Kef and Totem speakers, which I really enjoy. I really have my eye on the Totem Rainmakers. Not sure if they will be a good fit for my room or amp though.

I’d also like something that will be flexible with integrated amp upgrade possibilities down the road.

I’d say it’s a small to medium room size at approximately 15’ x 20’. There is a large picture window to the left of the listening position that has curtains covering it. To the right of the listening position is a half wall that goes into an open kitchen. Behind the seat is a floor to ceiling stone hearth and fireplace wall.

My budget tops at $600-$900, but $1100 will be the absolute max. Looking for bookshelf monitors and I’d like to be able to include stands within that budget.

I enjoy a balanced sound profile. I don’t necessarily crave super clarity or very bright sounding speakers, but enjoy a neutral sound. Sharp, clear bass is great, but I’m not super into hard, thumping bass. I’m still new to audio so pardon if these descriptors aren’t exactly clear.

My current setup is a Rotel RA-12, Project Debut Carbon w/ Ortogon 2M Blue cartridge, and a DTS Play-Fi streamer (for Tidal Hifi and Spotify streaming). Current speakers are stand mounted Polk RTi-A1s.

I have a toddler that wanders around this space. So grille covers are a must. I am also welcome to floorstanding recommendations, but thinking stand mounted ones will be ideal since it’s less he can mess with on the floor.

Sorry for the super wordy post... But one last note: We have a lot of mid-century modern furniture in our home. So looking for options with a clean, simple design and aesthetics.


Thanks, and cheers!
Matthew


bomd
This is a bit of a challenge. 
You have 60 wpc, so you are limited to fairly efficient speakers. Perhaps a pair of used Zu speakers might fit the bill.
Your room is nicely sized, so I wouldn't expect super deep bass without subs.
Otherwise, I would suggest a pair of used Vandersteen 2's, non signature models are well in your budget.
B
Have you listened to the ELAC UB-5? Nice balanced sound with excellent imaging, detail, and bass for the size/price. Throw in Dayton Audio 24" metal stands for a little over $60 shipped, (Parts Express). Use some black Goriila tape to fill wire holes on center column and fill all three with sand. Blue Tack the speakers- I'm using a NAD D3020 amp & sounds great to my ear. Music Direct gives you 60 days to check them out with your room & system, if you can't get a local shop to give a home trial.
Totem Model 1 signatures are amazing!! IF you can give them the required high quality electronics and power! (100w per channel) If you really want Totems, then you need to upgrade your amp or they will sound very pedestrian. So, you might want to look at speakers that are way more sensitive to get the best out of the Rotel. Gdnrbob is correct...BUT Im not sure the Rotel is musical or sweet sounding enough for that option. I say upgrade the amp first, then speakers will be easier to find that will work for you. 

Matt M 
A new pair of Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus can be had for 700 bucks. They are attractive and great all-around speakers that are easy to drive and should be no problem for your Rotel. I’m a big fan of buying speakers first and then buying an amp that can drive them properly and mate well sonically, which you're kind of seeing why now since Totems that you like aren't a good fit for your amp.  In any event, the Minuets are plenty good enough that they’ll reward you for upgrading amplification down the road while sounding great with your current amp. Best of luck.

Proac Tablets or just about anything from them can find used in your price range.

Example of something that would fit your room.


Canadian pricing so save 30%

http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649335758-proac-studio-125-speakers/



Dynaudio Emit 10-$799 list, Emit 20 -$999 list, Excite X14 $999- (Demo) online at Dedicated Audio. Like the Excite 14s a lot, haven't heard the Emits, but generally like Dynaudio. Nice blend with midcentury aesthetic.  

@soix 

The Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus look gorgeous!  Appreciate your suggestion.
BUT Im not sure the Rotel is musical or sweet sounding enough for that option. I say upgrade the amp first, then speakers will be easier to find that will work for you.

@mattmiller

Hi Matt,

I’m curious if you have any thoughts regarding the Marantz PM8005 or PM7005.

Last week I posted a thread in the Amp forum asking for Marantz recommendations. A lot of folks suggested to keep my Rotel and replace my Polks first. Now I am having second thoughts regarding that choice.

A local shop of mine had the Totem Dreamcatchers powered by the 30 W per channel NAD D 3020. I thought they sounded very musical powered by that NAD (which I also own). Do you think the Dreamcatchers will work well with the RA-12?


Thanks for your input!

Cheers,Matthew

Post removed 
Dynaudio Emit 10-$799 list, Emit 20 -$999 list, Excite X14 $999- (Demo) online at Dedicated Audio. Like the Excite 14s a lot, haven't heard the Emits, but generally like Dynaudio. Nice blend with midcentury aesthetic.

@returntomusic -- Thank you! I have a local dealer I can demo Dynaudio at.
@returntomusic 
Have you listened to the ELAC UB-5? Nice balanced sound with excellent imaging, detail, and bass for the size/price. Throw in Dayton Audio 24" metal stands for a little over $60 shipped, (Parts Express). Use some black Goriila tape to fill wire holes on center column and fill all three with sand. Blue Tack the speakers- I'm using a NAD D3020 amp & sounds great to my ear. Music Direct gives you 60 days to check them out with your room & system, if you can't get a local shop to give a home trial.


I haven't listened to Elacs.  I understand they are pretty incredible for the money.  Thanks for the tip regarding a budget stand option.

Cheers!
Matthew

@glennewdick 
Proac Tablets or just about anything from them can find used in your price range.
_____________
Example of something that would fit your room.



Canadian pricing so save 30%

http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649335758-proac-studio-125-speakers/


Thank you!  Loving your suggestions and really like those ProAcs!!
I have been following your other post. I believe, given that you currently own and enjoy a system, that you explore the speaker market prior to changing out your amp.  In your price range there are many moderately sensitive speakers that can be driven by your Rotel.  The Marantz amps you are considering are very good products in there price range, however don't provide a great deal more power than does the Rotel, should the need for power arise (do to speaker choice). If you find you need more power to drive your new speakers without strain at high volumes you then can search out another that not only provided the needed power but is a sonic match to your speakers and tastes as well.

Many excellent speakers have been recommended. It seem that you can audition many of them. Do so. Good luck in your search.






Music Direct currently has ELAC UB-5 in black or walnut at $399 pair. My local guy will match authorized dealer mail order prices- might be worth checking out.
@gdnrbob 

Thanks!  I really like the look of those Zu's.  Not sure if there is a local dealer for them or not.  I'll do more research on Zu.

I have seen Vandersteens recommended often, and looks like there are a few decent deals on eBay too. 

Here are some Vandy 2 CEs that would go with your mid-century look. Under budget too. :D


http://www.tmraudio.com/product/tj-791

Another nod to the Elac speakers.  Incredible value IMO.
Thanks Bomd,
Zu sells direct, but you can find them used here on Agon and Ebay.
If you buy new, they do give a trial period, but I have to say they do require break in to sound their best.
One of the reasons I recommend Zu and Vandersteen is that they stand by their products. I own Vandersteen Treo's (3a sigs beforehand). If I needed help, I could call Vandersteen and would receive a call back, often from Mr. Vandersteen himself. Zu, also is very accommodating. They repaired a defective binding post at no charge even though I was not the original owner(-I also had some other work done, which I paid for).
I own a pair of Zu Union (Omen predecessors), and compared to my new Treo's, I have to say they were remarkably close in reproduction. Though the Vandies are much more refined, I was impressed by the fact that the Zu were doing it with a single driver.
B
I'm a big Vandersteen lover. I don't know why more people aren't. But that can be good since you can buy 2C's between $400 - 650, depending on condition, and where you are in the country (local market). I can tell you that I have owned the 2C's and now the 3A. When I got my 2C's, I was in a 10x10 room with wood floors and slanted roof. Easy to dial in and easily the best speakers I have owned up to that time. I kicked out some JBL Jubals (L65), Dahlquist DQ-8, and a few others. Vandersteens are fairly efficient, and are designed to be forgiving towards the source power. Case in point, my brother in law just picked up some 2C's for $400 in 8.5/10 condition and running with a Pioneer SX-850 ... they sound great. His mind is blown.

I loved mine so much, I jumped on a mint set of 3A's from the original owner. I was in a 15x20' room, but now in a 9x10. I have them positioned so they still sound great. Of course, I can tell they would bloom more with more space, but that will be next year in the new place. But I'll tell you that if you do buy Vandersteen, make sure you get some good quad cable (Canare) and bi-wire. I know the idea doesn't seem to make sense, but I've done testing in my own system, and found it does make a slight difference. Enough to be worth it.

If you like mid century modern look and want something off the ground, I would take a serious look at ADS. They have butyl rubber surrounds on the woofers, and I have never seen a bad one. Some models are better than others, and some have metal grills, and walnut veneer. 

Dahlquist makes some good shelf speakers like the M-905 and M-907. Build quality is good, they use good drivers, and they are under most people's radar, so you can usually find a good price.

As you can see, I'm not a big fan of new speakers, for your price range. You can buy so much more speaker for that kind of money, that are built like furniture, and hold their value better. Just buy smart.
Matt, email me  at  abruder1@mail.com and I will help you out.  Al
Haven't listen to a/d/s for a while, but sold them throughout the 80s and owned the floorstanding, mirror imaged L-1230 model, (dynamic full range speaker but room dominating). My favorite "bookshelf" was the L-710. I say "bookshelf" as they are 21 5/8" X 12 1/4" X 10 1/2" and weigh 35 pounds. They would fit in a mid-century inspired room very well, especially on their factory metal stands. Some preferred the larger L-810 or later L-780 or 880. All are beautifully built, unique aesthetically and well engineered, but time marches on- I suspect today's class leaders would sound more open and accurate, (also not sure how well the a/d/s doped dome midrange & tweeters age).

<ELAC dealer disclaimer>
The UB5s are an amazingly balanced, detailed, satisfying, full-range, 3-way, bookshelf speaker system...and they are only $499/pair!  Awesome.
Hey folks,


Demoed some Elac Uni-Fi 5s today. I little above my price range and floorstanding, but they were impressive! Hopefully some of that trickles down to their other speakers. Looking forward to hearing more from Elac.
@kenwood61 Thanks for sharing! Nice to read about your experience with Vandersteens.
Post removed 
Many excellent speakers have been recommended. It seem that you can audition many of them. Do so. Good luck in your search.

@mesch Thanks!  I have visited a couple dealers this weekend.  The search is on!!
If you consider floorstanders then JBL (especially in bi-wire configuration) have excellent sound signature and tremendous valus (price/quality)

Also would like to recommend spatial audio
Zu is kind of unique sound. Very high efficiency. If you say not after clarity, brightness more leaning neutral Zu is not that. Your budget is kinda limiting.
Maybe the best neutral speaker for the price are some used Revel F36s I see on Agon. They are white though. And they are towers so junior might be a problem. But SQ/$ Revel F36 for $850 is gonna kick anything IMO.
Anyone has a better SQ/$ example lemme know. Would like to check it out.
Tekton Lore Reference
@leotis Thank you!  I like the Zus, but a little hesitant since I cannot audition them locally. I'll check out those Revels.


I am actually starting to lean towards towers.  Especially if I am going used market.
I’ve had the Tekton Lore, I’ve had Zu Druid, I’ve had multiple Martin Logans electrostats, and multiple Revels, not to mention multiple B&Ws. The Revel is the best "all around" speaker IMO. But all depends what kind of presentation you prefer. The Tekton was fine but the midrange was nothing to write home about. The Zu have a fantastic "live" quality to them. Super fun but the frequency response curve is atrocious. Some recordings sound awesome and some recordings sound terrible. The Martin Logan are exquisite but the presentation can lack body. The B&W CM9 was OK but can’t touch Revel F52 or F206 for accuracy. Sounded relatively muddled (like some other cheaper B&W I’ve had). The Revel has no particular weakness that I can identify. And for the price you can’t touch F36 for $899 used. Spoke with Revel today about a couple things and they cautioned to make sure used F36 don’t have a defect the guy is trying to unload. Find out where purchased (5 yr warranty only from authorized dealer, is transferable I think) , if serial # intact, get original invoice etc. Maybe all moot cause local pick up only. :/
Finding local Zu to audition is a problem but they have a return policy if you don't like you are only out return shipping.
Problem is they take a lot of break in. Hard to evaluate fresh from the box.
I agree, leotis, it took my Omen Bookshelf more than 2 weeks to break in, but, when they did, I was very happy.
@leotis,
Thanks for the comparison between brands. I never heard the Tekton's, so I always wanted to know how they compared with the Zu's.
I will be putting Revel on my list to hear, too.
B
I'm curious if anyone has any thoughts regarding the Focal Chorus 714 S or the Wharfedale Diamond 230 towers.  There are a couple decent deals on Music Direct for those.  And their return policy is flexible enough in case they do not work out in my space.


Thanks!
Matthew

I have tried to like Wharfedale Diamonds in a few models, but couldn't. I personally wouldn't buy anything I couldn't hear, unless I knew I could get a full refund or could sell and get my money out. I will say that the best smaller speakers I have enjoyed were Quad 12L's, not the powered version. Nice looking speaker that I felt had a nice range and some punch to it. I compared with a B&W 685 S2 and thought the upper range had too edgy of sound from the metal dome tweeter, and they frankly weren't exciting for me. There was something about the Quad's I liked better. Maybe a little more musical with jazz, acoustic, and the reason I bought the Quad's was I wanted something that would sound good playing Muse. In the end, they left as well, because my Vandersteen 2C's were more convincing. Just be careful to not assume that most modern speakers are better than the best of yesteryear. I agree there are many vintage speakers that aren't that great. But ones that were cutting edge and actually sounded great, are worth considering. There is also better resale value if you buy right, that won't necessarily be the case with new stuff. I may sound biased, but I don't have thousands to spend on gear so for me, I have found quality vintage is the way to go for now.
@kenwood61 

Thanks!  I have been eyeing Quads too, but am also unable to audition since I do not have a local dealer for them.  I listen to mostly jazz music, so based on your description they may fit the bill though.

May I ask what it was about the Wharfedales you didn't like?
Hi bomd, it's been about 4 years since I heard the Diamond's and it took me about 30 seconds to know they weren't for me. There was nothing interesting about them. Granted, most of my experience is with vintage speakers. But I have heard modern speakers I liked better.

The Wharfedale's also seemed one dimensional and somewhat lifeless. A few days before listening to the Wharfedales, I auditioned some the Epos Epic 1 speakers. The Epos had a more natural, crisp presentation, that was nice with simple acoustic material, but as soon as it needed some guts for rock, or anything with solid bass, forget it. Right after listening to the Wharfedale's, I went into a different audition room and heard the Harbeth's they had. Don't remember the model, but boy, those were amazing! I didn't ask how much, because I knew I couldn't afford them. They brought the Quad's in to the room and it took me about 10 seconds to know they were for me. I brought Muse "Second Law" (CD) with me because of a few songs I think really test a speaker. The songs are "Madness", "Survival", and "Panic Station". I'm sure you have music you know well that will help you find the right speaker, if you decide to only buy what you can audition first.

I owned the Quad's for awhile, but I also had the Vandersteen 2C's and JBL L65 Jubal's ... I listen to a lot of rock, and some jazz, and blues. While the Quad's were really nice, I had to sell something, and they couldn't compete with the Vandersteen's on most material, and I knew at the time I would be selling the L65's.

I think the Quad's are the kind of speaker you can easily sell and get your money back out. They are more exciting in what they can do for the price, and their size. I know there are powered versions, but there is something about that I don't like ... I assume they are de
I should add that I really liked the KEF LS50's I heard with a tube amp and jazz. Can't imagine I would love with rock, but for it's size, I thought it was a good buy ... and I say that because at the time, I had found someone selling a pair for a grand. I wouldn't pay retail.
@kenwood61  Thanks for explaining.  Helps me understand a little more about the Wharfedales.  I really like Quad's aesthetics and there are good deals out there for the 11Ls and 12Ls.  Really wish I could demo them locally though.  But oh well!

Kef LS50s are great too!  I demoed them at a local shop listening to jazz.  They were very musical.  Without a grille, and the high gloss finish, I am hesitant to have those with my 18 month old around.  That said, I have read that the Kef R100s share similar specs as the LS50s, but offer a wood cabinet and grille. 

Thanks again for all your input!


Speakers... speakers... I've owned JBL's [many, including Professional], Altec's [James Lansing's brother] and Professional, Wharfedales, ESS, Thonet & Vander's [German], Monsoon's, home made speaker's often with JBL parts, and much more.. then bluetooth's like more JBL's and Benq's.. [Benq's are electrostatic's with woofer's]..  floor electrostatics like Acoustat ESL's which were airy..  As several other's here like JBL's and Vandersteen's, I agree, though they're boxed..  

Magnepan's, starting at 600$ for entry level or maybe $250 up used, are very good, and have that airy sound, but lack some bass..[they are dipole speakers, like Eminent Technology's and Monsoon's, sounding superb]. These speakers, sound a bit like electrostatic's, and some like Eminent Technology's use woofers.. You may also look at expensive Apogee's, but their impedance often goes down to 1 ohm, and few amps can drive them. Apogee's and Martin Logan's are a cross, using woofers and often electrostatic mid's and high's, like Monsoon's and Eminent Technology planars or panels..

Recently, in the last few day's.. I journeyed back to Quad ESL's, much like my former Acoustat's.. Without ever hearing a Quad, and with a lot of experience reading about them in forum's [there are whole Quad forum's, discussing 57's, 63's, 988's, 989's and later, often with the comment of "Quad XX is the best speaker ever made"], I ordered Quad ESL's. Much more expensive, even used, because they retain value, and older 57's are several time's more than retail when first made. A large part of Quad's sound, is that they're already powered by in-the-wall chargers, and hence the amp, doesn't take that much to drive them.. around 15 to 25 watts, on up..

My Quad's will be driven by AR tube gear. So when they arrive, I'll get the best sound, Quad's driven by AR's preamp and amp, with sources of FM by Dynalab, CD and computer, using a DAC for analogue listening.. Later I'll add a turntable, but have to research which are best, in these forums..

If you've not purchase yet, Quads, even used, may be best, and retain value.. The rest of your system, can then "catch up" to the Quads.. Later, you can discuss what amps, tubed or SS, drive Quad's best.. No matter what you do, electrostatics, planars, panels or dipoles, will keep calling you back..
You've gotten lots of great info. 
@bomd, are there any Vandy dealers near you? It would behoove you to give them a listen. 
Quad's and Maggie's are both fine speakers. If I weren't a Vandy fanboy, I would have them in my listening room, but since I have limited space, they will have to wait.
I will say that I had a pair of Zu Union (Omen predecessors), and when run with a pair of Atma MA-1's and MP-3, the sound was pretty darned close to my Vandy Treo's (I did have them hooked up to the Vandy 2w subs at the time). The Vandy's had a better dispersion and presentation, but they also cost a lot more.
Bob
Post removed 
@gdnrbob // @willowbends 

 
Hey guys,

Thanks again for all the feedback and suggestions.  Long term I might be thinking Quads will be my speaker of choice.  

Money-wise, I ended up shifting things around to account for bigger summer/house project expenses, and decided to hold off on my main speaker upgrade.  To help satisfied the itch I did score a pair of Kirksaeter Silverline 60s for only $100.  And they are in perfect condition.

They're easy to drive, and really musical for my taste.  Plus the grilles aren't the easiest to move; ideal for my (now) 20 month year old who is very curious.  The wood trim offers some style, but I'm not too concerned about the MDF cabinets with the toddler playing around them.  

I know some of you may be scratching your head.  Wondering why I would prioritize my speaker choice with a toddler in mind, but the stereo is in a shared family space, and don't want to invest up to $1000 when I'll mostly be worrying about a hyperactive little boy playing around them.  So figure I'll keep saving, keep listening, and one day will start building a next level system.  

Thanks again.  And always be open to more input as I grow my system.

Cheers!
Matthew

Wow, $100 bucks for a near $2k speaker? You really did score.
The Stereophile review gave them a pretty good rec. Perhaps you should think about getting some subs in the future? They would be useful if you ever got the Quads, Maggies or Vandy's down the line.
B
I'd say Golden Ear Aons are a pretty good deal. 
@gdnrbob 

I believe those retailed for around $700.  
A local dealer to me has a used pair for $400: https://echohifi.com/details/11209/


Gosh, I wish I could score a $2k speaker for $100.  That would be amazing!

bornd

Best luck with your toddler.. soon he'll be a big boy.. Family comes first.. All children deserve the best life their parent's can give.. An innocent childhood..

The Quad's, took me a long time to save, and I gave up a lot of other belongings for them. They are within reach, now. These Quad's are a lifetime investment from here on out, and I'll use them a long long time..

While your saving for Quads, you can decide which parts of your sound system you may replace, trade or sale, Often I think, would I rather have Quad's or the motorcycle [the fictitious motorcycle isn't used much by the family, but everyone will hear the Quad's each day]. Also on non-speaker audio components, before you upgrade a piece of gear, or replace an amp with a different sounding amp..  ask yourself: "Is this upgrade or replacement amp, better than Quad's?"  It's your choice, but world class speakers like Quad's, are not easy to replace with more common fare...

Life is often priorities, and having to decide what you want, over time.. A tough choice, but over time, you can make it..
@Bomd, you still did great. I have never heard Kirksaeter, but knowing how serious German's take technology, I can only assume that they sound pretty good, probably very good.
And, indoctrinating children with well reproduced music is a great way for them to learn what instruments should sound like.
Bob
@willowbends 

Totally.  It's not so much a money thing right now, but a timing one.  With these summer months ahead it definitely makes more sense for us to prioritize the budget towards exterior house projects, small weekend trips, and so on. 

It also gives more time to really think about a system I want to put together.  I'm still learning a lot, and have always piecemeal-ed components.  But if I wait it couple be plausible that I'd be able to afford speakers and matching amp at the same time.