Road trip to demo $10,000 speakers

I'm going to take a several hour road trip to the Washington DC/Baltimore area to demo some speakers in the $10,000 range for a once in a lifetime purchase. I plan on listening to some Magico A3's, Aerial Acoustic 7T's, and Spendor D-9's. One of the dealers also has Paradigm Persona 3F's on the floor, so I'll take a listen to them too. While I'm up there are there any other speakers in that price range you'd recommend I try to locate and take a listen to. I'm open to and welcome your suggestions and will take the time to research each one as well.

I'm not in the market for used equipment. Thanks for any and all suggestions.


Are you looking for just the brand names ?
Well, yes, you might as well take a listen to Revel F228Be, Focal Kanta N2, and Legacy Audio Focus SE.  Legacy has some dealers in VA.
I am in the process of doing something similar. Not that you asked, but here is my advice. Call ahead to these dealers. Tell them what you’d like to hear. Ask them what source they use for demos and/or ask them if they can have your preferred source ready. If possible, burn a CD (or two) with your demo tracks. Make appointments.

What I’ve learned is that a great demo of some pretty average equipment can sound amazing while a bad demo of some otherwise well regarded and reviewed equipment can sound poor. This can and will make whole this process a bit confusing. 

Of your choices, I’ve only heard the Magico A3s, and they were not yet broken in. However, I liked them. I agree with the suggestion to here Revel F228be and the Legacy Focus SE. 
Legacy Audio Signature SE, Dynaudio Contour 60, Endeavor Audio E3, Focal Sopra 2.
Bache, yes I'm looking for the brand names and models of speakers in  the aforementioned price range. Thanks.

Mtrot, I'll track down the models you suggest and find the Virginia Legacy dealers you mentioned. Thanks

Kcpellethead, appreciate the advice. I'd only considered bringing along my own CD's and records.

Nitewulf, I'll look into your suggestions as well. Thank you.

Anybody else out there, your suggestions are welcome as well. I'm only going to be able to do this once so I'd like to be thorough and not overlook any good possibilities. 

Just FYI, Capital Audiofest is coming up in DC on November 2,3, and 4.
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You should add Harbeth to your list!
You should really give us an idea of what sound characteristics (i.e. tone, micro/macro dynamics, imaging, soundstage, bass, etc.) are most important to you, otherwise you're just going to get recommendations for what other people like. 
  Look also for a Vanderstein dealer
Mtrot, thanks for the tip on Capital Audiofest. I'll check into what manufacturers will be represented there. Maybe I can listen a variety of the above recommended speakers there, if I can't find them elsewhere..

Dwelle,r I'll check out the B&&W's you suggest. I would like to if possible find  a speaker with enough bass to not need a subwoofer.  I will be checking out the Revels, Paradigms and Magico.

Yogiboy, Do you know off hand which Harbeth falls into the $10,000 price range?

Soix, I'll only know the answer to your questions once I listen to a few speakers, which is why I am looking for a variety to audition.  Right now I'm used to the sound of my late '70's vintage Dahlquist DQ10's, but have no idea what I might like at the $10,000 price range.

I think I'd like an uncolored, clean accurate sound. I know that sounds vague. About 1975, when I purchased my DQ10's the dealer invited me to a meeting of the New York Audio Society. I thought from the sounds of it, this would be a high class affair. As it turned out we met at some guys seedy two room apartment in Queens. This audiophile had expensive equipment piled on boxes next to his bed and laying around on the floor. Well, he turned on an Vanguard recording of Joan Baez live and she sounded like she was performing right there in the room with us. It was unexpectedly beautiful and unforgettable, and I'm not even a fan of Joan Baez. As close as $10,000 can get me to that experience is the sound I'd like.  

Scorpio, I was looking for a Vanderstein dealer in Virginia last night as a matter of fact with no luck, maybe because it was getting late and I was getting tired. . I'll try again today to find one. Thanks for reminding me. 


Gifted Listener for Vandersteen, Magnepan, and my favorite there, Vienna Acoustics Liszt.

Evolution Audio for Aerial.

Command Performance for Dynaudio, Focal, Devore.

But you must get yourself to Deja Vu, for Harbeth.

The nearest store to DC with Spendors is in Philadelphia.

Capital AudioFest.  Check the list of exhibitors.  It may or may not be worth the investment (time and money).

Mike, FYI and IMO, just be aware that some of why that 1975 demo sounded so good could be related to the electronics used and not just the speakers.  If the dude was driving the speakers with quality tube electronics, that could account for how great the sound was.  An audio society guy in NYC likely knew what he was doing and was using some great electronics.  The audio source and amplification can make a significant difference. 
Call John Rutan at Audioconection. He is in NJ, but can recommend a place where you can listen to Vandersteen.
And, considering you owned DQ-10's, I think Vandersteen should be very high on your list.
If you like planar speakers, I believe Magnepan offers a trial period on speakers ordered from the factory.
If the salesman is blabbing away constantly, just be brave and tell him to shut up! Jabbering salesman is the WORST! When i audition locally my dealer knows, and just leaves me alone. I bring music I KNOW WELL and love totally. I usually watch for 'surprises. Little stuff I never really heard before. Means it is doing more than I ever heard before.
(Make SURE you take all of your music home. I can't tell you how many items I have left behind and lost)Demand plenty of time. I expect at least an hour.
Three more I'd highly recommend hearing if you can:

Joseph Audio Perspective
ProAc D48r
Nola KO

David Lewis Audio in Philly in theory carries all three brands (along with lots of other great ones) if you can detour there, but I have no experience with them so as usual call before to see what they have to demo. 


Baltimore- Soundscape -ask for Ed.
                 The Listening Room - ask for Don.

there are a few more in the DC, VA area as well. Have a fun trip and keep me posted on the dealers & retailers visited.

Happy Listening!
Golden Ear Reference and save a couple thousand for wire  
Hopefully the demo will be with similar equipment that you currently own, for example, if you like tubes, demo the speakers with tube electronics. You will need to match speaker specs to your amp specs.
If you are in the DC area, go demo Totem loudspeakers, I would rate them better than some you stated. 
Too bad you don’t want used. If you like the revel “f” series, for < $10k, you can get a pair of revel ultimate salon 2 or studio 2’s depending on room size and amp power you have. Thes speakers would trounce anything you stated IMO, even over the Magico’s.
1 suggestion, I would attend the RMAF audio show next month so you can hear 100 different speakers. The last time I went, I heard the revel ultimate 2’s and the Usher x-towers, and bought the usher’s.
A good suggestion to check out CAF in November. I would also recommend calling Mark at Linear Tube Audio in Takoma Park (MD) just outside DC. LTA is producing some of the best value for money tube electronics based on David Berning designs. He has been showing with Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio recently (they will be together at CAF) and I believe Lou has shipped Mark a pair of Muse speakers which are in your price range. Pair them with an LTA Ultralinear and LTA Microzotal preamp and you will have a system that will keep you smiling for years to come. 
Try Revel Performa F 228 Be. Also see if you can find Sonus Faber. Olympica III are over your budget, but they can be found (new!) on sale for about $10000 from time to time. They are definitely worth a listen.

As an earlier poster suggested, call in advance and make sure you can bring your own CD. Many, if not most, of the places try to demo with Tidal. Anything I tried was not actually there.
I would suggest Martin Logan’s. I run them with my McIntosch amp and preamp and am very pleased !
We all we all wish you GREAT luck on what is to be an enlightening road trip. We all have our own opinions in the end you will make your best decision.

For my 2cents worth, having owned many brands over many years including Revels, Kefs, Legacy, Harbeth, B&W N802’s and most recently this year Paradigm Persona 7F’s,  I hope you do get to hear the Persons 3F’s. “Happy Trails”! You are doing the correct thing by listening to several or more brands.
Vandersteen is a "must hear".
If you let this thread go long enough you will have every 10k or so speaker listed.

What do YOU like in a speaker.  Anything in particular?  How much power do you have?  You like a lot of thump?  Planning on using a subwoofer?  Want the ultimate in detail?  Listen loud  (if so... what do you consider loud).  soundstage size or imaging most important?


As you can discern, your lifetime is too short to have enough time to A/B all the great speakers in production. Your initial list of 3 all seem excellent.
The Spendor SP100 may be worth a listen if you are with a Spendor dealer. Not sure if still under the $10k max though. Another brand at 1/2 your price max, the PSB T3 has been strongly recommended to me. I too and enjoying the chase for a similar speaker. Perhaps you may wish to extend your timeline by adding a trip to London. So many options over there. Proac, ATC, Stirling, Harbeth plus others.  Enjoy the hunt!!
For the same price range $9,999 the Focal Kanta II is also a great candidate.
Thank you all for so many responses. I might have to make this a two-three day road trip you all have offered so many fine suggestions.

Twoleftears, Thanks for the recommend for Gifted Listener. That should be right on the way driving up from Roanoke. Evolution Audio and Command Performance are on my agenda and I’ll add Deja Vu for the Harbeths.

Mtrot, I’m sure your right about the electronics. They’re next on my upgrade list. My old well loved Phase Linear amp and preamp are going to be retired at long last.

Gdnrbob, I will look at the Vandersteens amd Will check out the Magnepans. I remember auditioning Magneplanars at the time I purchased my DQ10’s years ago. Interesting that technology is still around..
Elizabeth, excellent tip on remembering to bring my source material back home from each dealer. In my excitement, leaving my source material sitting at the dealer is just the thing I’d likely do. I’ll shut down any blabbermouth salesman too. Thanks.

Soix, I’ll listen to the three brands you recommend if I run across them, although I’ll Philadelphia is a little too far north for this trip to go see them there. Honestly never heard of any of them before. I am so out of touch.

Jafant, I’ll look up the Listening Room and Soundscape in Baltimore and see what they carry.

Marsrecords, I would like to track down and listen too the Goldenear References as well as they are on the low end of my price range and have gotten some good revews.

Rbstehno, I will check out the Totems. If I remember correctly one of the dealers, I called in DC mentioned he carried them, at the same time as he badmouthed the Goldenears which he didn’t carry. I didn’t care for that approach

Dodgealum, Tacoma Park, Maryland shouldn’t be too far out of the way to check out the Muse speakers you mention if he has them at Linear Tube Audio. I’ll keep them in mind when I get to look at the preamp/amps in the futre too.

Glupson, I’ll try to listen to some Revel and the models you suggested.What is the "Tidal" you said dealers like to demo with?

Rwscott1, I’ll have to add Martin Logans to my ever expanding list to audition.

Dave1980, I will definitely be listening to the Personas.

Stringreen, I agree with you on the Vandersteens. I have read several people recommending them.

Dep14, you’re right, this list is getting long. I would like to hear speakers (along with the electronics) that provide a more detailed, less muddy sound than my current setup at the least. I’ll know better after some listens. And I’d like to avoid having to use a sub-woofer. Also my loud listening days are relegated to my youth. On the other hand my late wife often told me to "turn that volume down!".

Firstnot, I’d love to see Londo again, but probably not on this road trip. The Spendor speakers D9’s are hard to find for demo’s. I emailed the American Spendor distributors who suggested I see them in Florida on a trip I mentioned I’ll be taking there soon to visit family.

MikeTuason, I will check out the Focals you suggest. Thanks. I hadn't heard of that particular Focal model.

Thanks again all for taking the time to offer your advice.

The dealer will hook the speakers up with their own cables and amps - so you will only be able to judge specific aspects of the speakers - and NOT how they would sound in your home or system. So many aspects are system dependent so I know it sound heavy going ... but as you are presumably going by car it would be not to much trouble to take your own amps and cables to insert in their system for comparison. It may also help you in understanding your own cables and amp better so you can plan for upgrade later on those other things .. or indeed not!

How about waiting and going Nov 2-4 so you can hit Capital Audiofest also and really listen to many different speakers.
Mike;  I am late to this forum and see that you have already been overloaded with advice and, a lot of it seems pretty good too.  However, let me suggest to you one important aspect of critical listening that no one has mentioned, and that is your own state of mind. Your interpretation of what you hear is highly subjective and WILL change when nervous. So ( i am smiling when i write this ): "take a mild sedative, enjoy yourself and go with your gut.  Your judgement really is better when calm.  Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
Gifted Listener, Command and Deja Vu are all great places to stop and listen--very friendly and attentive, no high pressure sales tactics.  Of these, Command probably has the widest array of gear. 

But, it is Deja Vu that is the utterly unique experience.  Much of the gear they have that is really interesting is made in-house or made in Italy by a designer/builder that works exclusively for them.  They make gear to order.  Of the regular commercial brands of speakers, they probably sell more Audio Note speakers than any other brand, next would be Harbeth and then probably ProAc.  There have been quite a few buyers that have come in to audition the "regular" commercial gear that they sell, and after hearing their unique house gear, have gone crazy upgrading to these unique products.  The custom speakers are mostly built around vintage drivers and parts (crossovers are built using very old vintage parts), although recently, drivers from G.I.P. Laboratories have been used in their most expensive and exotic designs.  Many of their custom speakers are below $20 k.  

The demo would be Joan Baez Diamonds and Rust - it was a demo favourite back then. 

Bring your own music. 

You may may be challenged if your reference is Dalquist DQ-10.

The best speaker will sound good with everything. Listen carefully for driver integration. If you are aware there is a tweeter or a bass woofer then simply move on. A good speaker won’t draw attention to any frequency range - it should just sound like a musical instrument playing in front of you. 

Be wary of coloration and resonances even if subjectively pleasing.

Sheffield Labs drum track is an excellent work out. If it sounds like a real drum set in the room then the speaker has passed the test. Any speaker you buy should convincingly pass this test.


Tidal is a music streaming service via Internet. Many people here (Audiogon) use it and seem to be satisfied with music quality. It does contain fairly large collection of music, but most of what I wanted was not there.

I mention this as, a few months ago, I went through a few shops in Washington, DC area bringing my two CDs. Wherever I went, they brought an iPad (that is how you interact with Tidal) and asked what I wanted to hear. At first, I asked for a CD player, but it happened that nobody had it already hooked up. They did offer me to come at some later time when they would set it up. You are going for a shorter trip so you may not have that much time to waste. Call ahead, that is all I can say.
I would smoke a doob for the mild sedative--music always sounds better with a little bit of cannabis...providing it's legal of course--which it is on the "left coast" and Colorado.  Might try TAD ME-1's.
Here’s a little video about the Focal Kanta 2, it’s pretty impressive for the price they’re asking for.
At Command Performance, they have three main rooms.  Heard the Dynaudio Contour 60, Devore 0/93, and Kanta 2, in each of the rooms.  I liked the Kanta best of the three, though it didn't make my shortlist.  YMMV.
Tatyana69, That’s a good suggestion about bringing my equipment along for demo. However, I will be upgrading my vintage Phase Linear 400 amp and Phase Linear 400 preamp so I really don’t have the equipment to aid in a demo. I thought I’d get the speakers first and then find a well matched integrated amp (or separates) for them. Same deal for the cables. I’v only zip cord and cheapo RCA stuff now, which was all most of us used in the 70’s. I’ve got to learn about them too along the way.

Sixsigmaguy, That might be a good idea to wait until until Nov 2 and take in the Capitol Audiofest. I’ll check out their site today and see who might be there. Maybe a two day trip to see some dealers too.

Assetmgrsc, I will endeavor to stay calm, as you suggest, in spite of the excitement. That’s good advice.

Larryi, Deja Vu sounds like it would be interesting to check out.

Shadorne, thank you for the showroom demo listening advice. I’ve already printed it out and will carry it with me on my trip. I’ll track down the Sheffied Labs drum track and bring it along. Are there any other materials like that you or anyone might suggest take along for listening to at demos? You’re right about my DQ10’s being a unsatisfactory reference point. A visit to an audio store here in Roanoke is what convinced me to upgrade them, when I heard their single demo room setup with speakers that sounded much better than my vintage DQ10’s and were not all that high end either. I forget their make.This will be a learning experience for sure which is what I’ve intended.

Glupson. thanks for your excellent advice. I will definitely as you advise. call ahead and make sure the dealers have a suitable turntable and/or cd player set up. I would like to enter the 21st century audio wise but prefer to avoid any music not on a vinyl record or CD. I love records honestly. They are like old friends. You have probably saved me a wasted trip.

Jdub071, thanks for the advice, but my smoking days were of short duration and many, many years ago. If I recall, Dark Side of the Moon sounded great even on mediocre equipment under those circumstances. I’ll look into the TAD ME-1’s.

Miketuason, I’ll listen to the Upscale Audio on the Focal. I bought my VPI Classic 2 and Ortofon 2M Black cartridge from Upscale only two weeks ago and the woman I dealt with there recommended I check out the Focal line among two or three others Thanks.

Twoleftears, I’m looking forward to checking out the Command listening rooms. Thanks again.

Thank you all again,


I am doing a similar trip on Sept 29th in Los Angeles. I will hear the Magico A3 and the Vivid Kaya 45 (or 90). I was hoping to go to Upscale Audio to hear the Focal Kanta but they are closed on Sat. I will likely do a second trip to hear those speakers.
You should contact Dr Vinyl
audition the Gamut M5
also the Larsen 8
yysantabarbara, good luck on your road trip. I’ve never heard of the Vivid Kaya. There are just so many new audio gear manufacturers out there. I am familiar with Upscale Audio though, since I ordered my VPI Classic 2 turntable and Ortofon 2M black cartridge from them just a few weeks ago. It’s still sitting on a table waiting to be put together. They recommended the Focal line of speakers as well. Have fun.

Bigman, I looked up Dr. Vinyl and its on the way to Baltimore, so I could stop there too. I’ll have to look up the Gamut M5 and the Larsen 8. Not familiar with them either. I’m going to have to make a spreadsheet of all these speakers and where to go to take a listen. Never imagined there be so many choices at the $10,000 price point.

One more question for you all. Can anyone suggest any recordings that you have found revealing to bring to a speaker demo in addition to the Sheffield Labs drum track suggested? I’ve well over a thousand jazz, rock, R&B, and blues records and CD’s, plus a smattering of classical and other stuff. With any luck maybe you’ll hit on something I have already. Thanks.

Mike, if you happen to pass by any McIntosh authorize dealer, check out their McIntosh  XR100 Speakers, I think they sounded pretty good as well. I almost bought a used pair but someone beat me to it, and they are also retail at $10k/pair, this Speakers are capable of handling up to 600 watts.
I will do that Mike. And its good to hear a familiar name like McIntosh. They've been around forever it seems. 

Regarding recording choices to audition, generally it would be good if you could listen to recordings that you are familiar with but that aside, I find early Steely Dan recordings very dynamic and quite well done. "Speed of Jack" track in particular is a great choice and has an expansive soundstage if/when rendered properly. I'm sure everyone has a favorite selection.  
Kalali, I do have that one, so can bring it along. Thanks.


I will echo others. Bring with you what you will be listening to once you take speakers home. If it is Sheffield drums, so be it. Otherwise, you seem to have quite a large collection so pick your favorites and just go with them. Who cares if speakers can pull all the obscure Japanese percussionists just right when you really like Hotel California and Barry Manilow? I will second the opinion about Steely Dan, especially on SACD. They are a nice challenge for the system. I use it to feel good about how it sounds but, I admit, it is not what I ever listen to otherwise. Nothing wrong with the music, just not my favorites.

It is probably anathema to mention Barry Manilow on an audiophile forum and he was just an example, nothing personal I promise. On the other hand, someone has bought all those records he put out.
so.......the list is ten listening days long...IF you want to get past obvious listener fatigue and louder is better speakers.....
I spent 7 hours at one dealer weeding out 4 power amps....and one was DOA after 3 minutes.. ARC class D...

IMO split this up or pare the list a bit.....
Here are a some CDs I’ve found to be good for demos. Maybe you already have a couple, but they’re all good music (at least IMHO) in addition to being very well recorded. Of course they’re only good for demo purposes if you’re already pretty familiar with them before going to audition.

Keb Mo - Slow Down. Good for dynamics, bass, guitar, and male vocals

Patricia Barber - Companion. Live recording, soundstage/imaging, and female vocals

Sera Una Noche (from MA Recordings). incredible soundstaging, percussion, woodwinds

Tony Falanga- Soul of the Bass. Acoustic bass, strings, tone, incredible imaging and soundstage

Joe Sample - Old Places, Old Faces. Piano, sax, imaging

Oscar Peterson meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore. Intimate jazz, piano, trumpet

Tons of others, but hope this gives you some additional fun and useful stuff.