Salk HT3, SF Cremona M, Magnepan 3.7 or ML Ethos?

Help! :) I have been getting by with old Panasonic SB6's which are said to have an electrostatic sound for a piston type speaker design. Obviously they are pretty old monitors, but one thing they do well is (pinpoint) image with good width and moderate depth. But alas, I am finally ready to get some real (or at least modern) speakers.

I have heard the HT3's and liked the sound and look of them. They threw up a huge soundstage, but perhaps at the expense of the "pinpoint" imaging I am used to, and seemed exaggerated (e.g. silhouette of singers too large). However, I am not sure if I heard them in the best setup as they were very far from the rear wall (like 15ft) and in a huge room (maybe 35' square or even bigger). This may also have made the image seem entirely behind the plane of the speakers whereas I think a little closer is nicer (to me).

I have also heard the 3.7's in a dealer showroom, presumably properly setup. I felt like the big panels were "blocking" some of the sound and the soundstage was entirely between the panels, which made it compressed without much space between instruments, etc. Highly resolving and detailed, but lacked "air" (which the HT3s did very well). That room was probably 13'x18' or maybe slightly larger. I was somewhat disappointed given the stellar reviews. In fact, I felt the 1.7's (in a different room) in some respects sounded better.

I have not heard the Cremona M but did hear Olympica Monitors briefly at a different dealer. The room was probably 17' square, the Olympica's were maybe 2 feet off the rear wall. Since I only got 5-10mins with them, I barely got a sense but there was something nice about the SF sound that has me curious to hear a used model I might actually afford, hence the Cremona M.

Finally, I have not heard the Ethos but will hopefully get a chance to hear the Summit X in the next few days.

I am after speed, extension, holographic 3D soundstage with pinpoint placement of sounds/instruments/voices, refinement, low-level detail and resolution. Budget is 5K used. Does anyone have some advice? With the HT3's so far from the wall would that have distorted my impression of their imaging and image size? Are the Cremona M's in the same league as these other speakers or no? I am finding this very difficult.
"I am after speed, extension, holographic 3D soundstage with pinpoint placement of sounds/instruments/voices, refinement, low-level detail and resolution. Budget is 5K used. Does anyone have some advice?"

If that's what you're looking for, I think you should consider a pair of Vandersteen 2 or 3's. But keep in mind the speakers are only half of the equation. The electronics are the other half. They need to work together for best results.
I wonder if you need to listen more; that's a pretty diverse group of speakers! For example, I think the HT3 tends much more to the cool and the Cremona more to the warm; I don't see them as celebrating the same sonic virtues, though from your description of your tastes, I'd not think the Cremona runs your way as much as the HT3 (also, IMHO, SF is not great bang-fer-buck).

You don't tell us anything about *your* room, which limits the efficacy of our advice. But:

If you are after holography, the Gallo 3.6s are remarkable. The want juice (you also don't mention your electronics), and for some reason they seem to be talked about less these days, but they are very good.

I'd also try to hear Selah and Vapor, at your pricepoint. If you hear the Cremons's, and like them, Montana is worth a thought. But again, recommendations contingent on other kit and room.

@John thanks, yes I should have gave a bit more info. Electronics are Macbook Pro->Halide Bridge->Metrum Octave->Jeff Rowland Capri->D.A.C. Cherry Jr. Speaker cables are Acoustic Zen Satori, but of course those are easy to change. I use balanced connections where possible. The setup is in a family room of an open floor-plan concept home, dimensions are 17' wide, 23.5' deep to stairwell, ceiling height is 9.5' at front of the room and 18' at the back.

@Zd542 it seems like the Vandy 2's or 3's are pretty old designs, not sure why I should consider them(?) Have you heard some of the speakers I have auditioned by comparison?
The Magnepans lacked air? Sounds like a sub-par setup to me. Even when I was auditioning the 1.7s (which I bought), the sale rep used a tape measure to set them up properly. The panels were also angled toward the listening spot. If you do that, the imaging will be tighter while the overall soundstage extends beyond the speakers.

You can get pinpoint imaging easily with mini-monitors or single drivers. If you want frequency extension at both ends you'll probably need floorstanders. Properly set up, Maggies give a very realistic presentation devoid of boxy colorations and slow transient response.

Plus, were you auditioning 3.7s or 3.7i's? They have entirely different feet, and the "i" version is freer and more open with a fuller bass.
They were the 3.7i's. Did they have the tweeters on the outside or inside when you heard them? I could easily believe the setup was a problem - moreover I get the feeling that the room was way too small for such a large speaker. The 1.7's were better in an area roughly the same width but a bit deeper. However, neither put up the type of sound stage that the HT3's did, not even close, and the HT3's truly disappear whereas it's hard not to notice the big maggies.
I am not a Magnepan lover but from what you describe as being important to you I would think they fit your bill. I agree that there had to be a problem with the set up. The Sonus Faber tilt towards warm and full. Your description of the Salk's sound made it sound like they are good for your wants. I don't think the Vandersteens would work for you.
You are doing the right thing by trying to audition these choices,in the end the best speaker is the one that sounds best to you. Sorry if that seems cliché and overused, but what I ended up liking (Focal Electras now old) doesn't make everyone happy, but I like them.
Salk has awhole network of owners listed on audiogon where you coulshear them in a more appropriate space. See their huge Audiocircle for comments and a sub circle for used speakers for sale

Jim is a great master craftsman, incredible customer relations and all around nice guy. I feel he really does a great job at proviiding steallar sound at reasonable prices.

I have Ht3s which do have pinpoint imaging and nice tonal balance. I also have Soundscape 10s which are their flagship model.

Good luck in your search and bring lots of different music to demo

My dealer placed the tweeters to the inside for both audiitons of the 1.7s. At
home I've switched them back and forth a couple of times and always ended
up preferring the tweeters to the inside. HOWEVER, I just took another look
at the manual and I notice that you *always* have to have the tweeter side pointing directly at the center sweet spot. This means if you put the tweeters to the outside, the panels will be pointed inward more. I'm thinking of trying it that way tomorrow mostly for kicks, because I'm really liking the sound I'm getting now.

3.7i's probably need to be 4 to 5 feet out from the wall behind them and at
least 3 feet from the side walls. And you *must* angle them inward.

You don't have to spend a fortune on the amplification, but it has to be a
good match.

You may want to consider the 1.7i's and use the money you save to augment
the low end with one or two JL Audio Dominion subs.
Thanks guys, these are helpful comments and information.. keep it coming :)

@Audiotomb, your experience with the HT3's sounds promising to me, can you say a bit about the placement in your room, where the image is and what kind of music you listen to? I did hear a pair of SongTowers locally in a more typical setup (through the owners club) but they are much less performant than the HT3s so I'm not sure how much I could take from them. When I heard the HT3s I also heard the ST's and for me there is still a large difference between the two models (in the HT3's favor).

@Johnnyb53, your placement/room size info would be helpful as well. Maybe I will ask the dealer if I can audition one of the models at home..
Zynec. I own the Maggies (1.7) and just bought a pair of used Salk HT3s. I loved my Maggies but it is well known that they are extremely sensitive to room and placement. They didn't work in my new abode (no room, too close to walls etc.) so I am trying something different. Will let you know my thoughts when the HT3s get here in a week or so. I have to place them pretty close to the walls and close to seating. I expect they will fare better than the Maggies in this less than ideal setting but who knows. Will find out soon enough.
(((@Zd542 it seems like the Vandy 2's or 3's are pretty old designs, not sure why I should consider them(?) Have you heard some of the speakers I have auditioned by comparison?)))

The Vandersteen Model Two series has been redesigned 10 times in 38 years including 2 exterior changes. Every designation change indicated a major internal redesign. I have been selling this speaker for 26 years and noted significant sonic improvements every time especially the last one when the Model 2Ce Signature II was upgraded with the 5A woven cone mid range without any designation change at all. The science and basic development with live vs recorded research over the years has evolved the Model Two and is the basis of the Model Seven today, but with no cost restraint. For one to say the speaker has not changed could only happen if they looked at them only and not given then a serious listen.
Vandersteen dealer
Wardl, that would be awesome! Looking forward to your feedback.

JohnnyR, I was not aware of the history so thanks. I'm thinking they won't be under consideration for WAF reasons though.

What about Ohm's? Should I be considering them as well?
Zenec, received the HT3s today. They are fantastic speakers. You need a ton of power for them (think 500 wats minimum into 4 ohm load). I am using a Sanders Magtech. If you don't have the power and don't plan on going with a big solid state horse, I wouldn't buy them. I had to pull them 3 feet out from the wall in a small room to get them to sound right. They did not sound right near the walls. But wow. They are really nice for the money used. Very tight, low base. Detail, sound stage, etc. If you buy a pair make sure it has the latest RAAL ribbon tweeter, cross over and woofer. They have been updated in the last few years. I paid 3500 plus shipping for a recent production pair and think it was a steal. The Maggies are a steal too. I have a pair of 1.7s and love them. But they are different as I'm sure you know. Haven't hear the others. Good luck.
Given the imaging and resolution you're looking for, in your price range used I'd try to listen to Joseph Audio Pulsars, Vandersteen Treos, and Reference 3A Grand Veenas. Best of luck.
Thanks Wardl. Can you comment more directly on the differences between the 1.7 and HT3's? Are the HT3's in a "different league" compared to the 1.7's? In your room/setup, does the bass have impact when the music calls for it? The used pair I'm looking at is closer to 5K, I probably wouldn't hesitate at 3.5K, that is quite the find! :)
Thanks Soix, will keep those in mind. I'm also wondering if I should check out Ohm Walshes, but I'm not sure if a single driver design will have the speed and resolutions that I crave (my "belief" is no). But they do have a nice try-out policy...
I have owned two Ohm models in my time in this hobby, the Micro Walsh Tall and the old Ohm 100. They throw an enormous soundstage, but if pinpoint imaging is your thing, I don't know if they'd do that for you. As a pseudo-omni design, their presentation is quite different than forward radiating or bi-pole speakers. You have to hear it and decide if it floats your boat or not. In my experience, they don't provide pinpoint imaging in the same way that mini-monitors or more conventional, forward firing designs do.
Having performed in and attended many live concerts, the stable soundstage of omnis such as the Ohms and omniguide-based Mirages, plus dipoles such as the Magnepans, throw a much more realistic "live" soundstage than the pinpoint imaging of minimonitors. I'm not out to convert you, my take is that pinpoint imaging is a parlor trick of extreme point-source transducers. Fascinating, but not realistic. Some people pursue "pinpoint imaging" at the expense of overall tonal balance, soundstage, and in-room power response, which (IMO and IME) are more important and satisfying in the long run.
I paid 3.5k plus shipping for the Salk HT3s which came out to around 3.8k. It was a good deal but I think 5k is a little steep for a used pair. There are a lot of options at 5k used. Note that Salk Sound has a used pair of HT3s at their factory for 4.7k that have been for sale for quite some time. I expect he would give them to you for cheaper since they have been on the market for so long. Might be worth a call to ask them. It would be less risk to you if dealing directly with Salk. The Maggies do some things better than the HT3s. The details are better. The soundstage has more "air". But the Salks put up a good soundstage too, offer great detail as well and image better. The Salks are very neutral to to bottom. They sound far more controlled on the low end. Huge tight bass with good control. I can't imagine using a sub with them for music. In fact you will likely need some room treatment if you are in a smaller room to neutralize the low frequencies from bouncing all over the place. In comparison the Maggies struggle with low end control. They just are not very good at that (even though some Maggie owners would say differently, I find they just don't have a very good low end at all). It's about trade offs in design. The Maggies are great in a larger room, far away from the walls, with decent acoustics that minimize their flaws. They really shine if you are listening to jazz or blues, etc. They are great with vocals and details in the mid range, and are very coherent in the mid and upper frequencies. But if you listen to rock, hip hop, classical and also really like the low end control on other recordings (even jazz and blues, etc), the HT3s are far, far better on those issues. The Maggies are brighter on the upper end to my ears. Far too bright for my taste. The ribbon tweeter on the Salks is smoother and more laid back in comparison. although it sacrifices some detail retrieval to the Maggies as noted above. The Salks look quite a bit better in a room also. The Maggies are well... kind of ugly. But for the price of around 1K used, the Maggie 1.7s are a great deal for what they do well and can keep improving with high end electronics many times the price. I would put the Salks up against most speakers under 6-7K new and in the right room they would hold their own. If you can get a pair for around 4K, I think it is a good deal. I wouldn't pay much more than that.
Also, Zynec, check out the used Thiel 2.7 for 3.6-4.0K on Audiogon. I have never heard this particular Thiel but some people love this brand for soundstage and imaging characteristics. If you have a local dealer it might be worth a trip for a comparison point. You might like them and looks like a good price.
@Wardl Thanks, that is very helpful! The Thiels were on my radar originally but then I didn't pursue it any further and I have no idea why - maybe I read something discouraging. However, there is a dealer within an hour from me so hopefully I will get a chance to hear the 2.7's.

@Johhnyb53 I suppose my thinking is with electronica it seems the artist/producer can exactly place sound sources anywhere within the overall stage so for such music I don't see how pinpoint imaging can be "wrong", but maybe the Ohm's do that justice if the source warrants it?
Zynec, I am on my 7th pair of Salks and can comment on just about all the models. You might be a candidate for a new pair of HT2TL's or Veracity HT's if you prefer new.

I have owned electrostats in the past and they are a different animal as others have pointed out. Panel speakers just perform differently than box speakers at this price range. No getting around it. For the money you cannot beat Salk. Call Jim and talk with him. He will not upsell you and will guide you to what fits your budget, gear, and tastes. Plus you might be able to chose the finish you want for a good price. Veneers, paints, dyes, etc.
Pinpoint imaging can be fun. What I'm saying is that 1) Pinpoint is sort of a recording contrivance that seldom occurs in live performance and 2) Pursuing pinpoint imaging as the *first* priority often compromises other parameters that are more important to long term satisfaction, things like tonal balance (the most important), soundstage (important for recreating the live experience and having a stable image throughout the room), and power response (energizing the listening area properly and having a listening area devoid of hot spots and suckouts).

I don't know if you've considered just how big your listening area is, and what a challenge it would be to energize it for a good soundstage and tonal balance. Your listening area is nearly 5500 cubic feet, The floor plan occupies 400 sq. ft, but the high ceiling increases the total volume considerably compared to having a standard 8' ceiling. Fortunately, your sloped ceiling is probably an advantage by weakening the effect of standing waves.

For Magneplanars, the 3.7i or 20.7 would probably be the right size for your room. The 3.7is might well need a sub or two well for good tonal balance. The 1.7i's *might* work out, but you'd probably need a pair of JL e110 subs to fill out the bottom and energize that big room. This panel/sub combo would satisfy your $5-5.K budget.

Some recommended the Ohms. Specifically, the Ohm 4000s would be the ideal size for your room and have the dispersion and bass performance to fill it. The price is also right. You would get a room-filling soundstage that would have good tonal balance. You'd get decent imaging, but to get the pinpoint variety you'd probably have to sit closer, almost in a nearfield mode to get it.

Another good candidate that has not been mentioned is the GoldenEar Triton One. These go for $5K/pair and have several things in their favor. For one, the front-facing speaker array is a D'Appolito/MTM array, which creates a very tight point source, excellent both for dispersion and imaging. The front baffle is very narrow (5-3/4") and curved, also great for imaging and dispersion. For providing good tonal balance in that big room, the Triton 1's bass is provided by three built-in powered subwoofers augmented by four passive radiators. Power is provided by a 1600 watt internal amp.

The Absolute Sound
@Johnnyb53 Great info, appreciate it - if I see the Triton's at a nearby store I will check them out as well. For the Ohm's and sound staging, is the idea that the soundstage is huge but the exact location of instruments, singer, etc, is "fuzzy" for lack of a better word? I'm trying to make sure I understand what you're saying. I get that you're saying it doesn't make sense to sacrifice all other parameters at the expense of a single parameter, which makes sense to me. If a speaker has good tonal balance, extension, realistic soundstage depth/width/height, I think very "clear" location of instruments/singers is a good thing... this is what I am thinking by pinpoint imaging, hopefully that is the correct interpretation.

@Bugredmachine Jim is a nice guy, absolutely. Don't see that as a reason why I should not do my own research though. I have heard the ST's in the same room and same equipment, and it was quite obvious (to me) that the HT3's are at another level. Anything below the HT3's level of performance is really not interesting to me.
I was not clear - there are many models to chose from and a Soundscape 8 is "better" but a Veracity ST or HT2TL are just slightly under the HT3 performance with higher efficiencies. The HT3 will suck up any and all power you give it and want more and more. If you are okay with that, then finding a used pair would be great. The newer designs are more efficient and still very good performers.
My first pair were HT3's, now I have Exoticas. AFAIK HT3's are no longer offered new.
Best of luck in your search.
Thanks BugredMachine... power should not be a big issue for me hence my interest in HT3's as opposed to SS8 or newer models that are more efficient but also more expensive. For me the difference between the HT3 and ST was not "slight" but maybe in the right room the differences I noticed would be diminished(?)

07-08-15: Zynec
...If I see the Tritons at a nearby store I will check them out as well.
Founder Sandy Gross was previously co-founder of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, so he has a great track record of creating extensive dealer networkds. Here's the GoldenEar Dealer Locator. You'll find that there are dealers in 46 states plus District of Columbia.

For the Ohm's and sound staging, is the idea that the soundstage is huge but the exact location of instruments, singer, etc, is "fuzzy" for lack of a better word? I'm trying to make sure I understand what you're saying
A really good stereo speaker setup throws a soundstage commensurate with the source. This is sometimes called scaling up or scaling down. For example, for fullscale orchestra and chorus, the soundstage *should* be big, but if it's solo voice and acoustic guitar, or solo cello, the soundstage should be smaller unless the rest of the soundstage is honestly presenting the reverberation and ambience of the recording venue.

As for imaging, in live performance you seldom get "pinpoint imaging." In concert halls, the reverberation and ambience creates a large soundstage, but it also makes the location of specific instruments and singers a bit approximate.

OTOH, a recording can be created that provides pinpoint imaging because the studio is more damped than a concert venue and from careful microphone placement and mixing to make each musician's location sound particularly finite.

I have a pair of Maggies (dipole), a pair of bipolar speakers (Mirage M5si) and have had two pairs of omnidirectional speakers using the late Mirage's Omniguide waveguide. They all create realistic soundstages and ensembles and soloists scale up and down depending on size. I also find the imaging to sound realistic, and I can sense accurate placement of instruments, stctions, soloists, choruses, etc.

Yet I read reviews that single out these speakers as "not being the ultimate in pinpoint imaging." Since I find the imaging of these speakers to be *at least* as definitive as a live concert, I am completely satisfied with their ability to image. In fact, you can get just about any speaker pair to image well if you listen to them in the near field. Even with completely omnidirectional speakers, I can get a very holographic soundstage--and therefore specific images--by scooting forward a couple of feet to widen and deepen the soundstage.

Of all the speakers I've had though, I get the most holographic and specific soundstage *and* imaging from the Magnepans. If you're not getting that from Maggies, the setup or room is off, and possibly the upstream cables or electronics.
@Johnnyb53 Thanks, that all makes perfect sense. It also makes me want to hear the Maggies again though, as what I heard doesn't correlate to your experience.

I do have some more datapoint now: today I had the pleasure of hearing the SF Olympica III, Magico S1, B&W 803, Focal Electra 1038BE and Focal Sopra (No2). The S1 was missing a lot on the lower end and the Olympica's were colored in the mid bass to me, despite all the news of the new SF's being more balanced. The Sopra was not broken in, so the bass was not there but it had extended and airy highs that were nice. Would like to hear these when they are broken in. The Electra was pretty nice, not quite as airy as the Sopra from what I could tell but extended in both directions with nice tonality and imaging. The sound stage was more forward and I found it an exciting speaker to listen to, although I worry if it may become too much of a good thing for extended listening sessions. The 803's were much more laid back in comparison while having similar levels of detail as the Electra's and good imaging again, but not nearly as exciting of a listen.

Overall I really liked the Electra's and probably would like the Sopra's when they are broken in as well, although I cannot say for sure. The B&W's are also good but didn't feel like I would fall in love with them.
Zenec: How did the Focals sound compared to the Salk HT3s? The new Focals look pretty nice! Although expensive.
@Wardl I think both setups were too compromised to make a definitive statement. The HT3s were in a huge room way out from the wall while the 1038BE's were in a room too small for them in my opinion. The HT3's seemed to have more air and a bigger soundstage, but unrealistic image size (room/placement effect?), the 1038BE's were superior in the bass and had more depth. The HT3's were more laid back, closer to the B&W type of presentation that I heard while the 1038BE's were more forward, but these differences might (at least partially) be down to room characteristics and electronics which were obviously different. The 1038BE's were being driven by a Plinius amp (no idea which one) while the HT3's were driven by AVA (no idea which one here either!). The 1038BE's had more impact in bass transients when it was called for while the HT3's didn't do that very well, but again that may be due to their placement far away from the back wall and in a very large room.

There was a tonality difference between the two, both have very nice tonality it is just a different interpretation I suppose... or perhaps a function of the 1038BE's being more extended in the bass region compared to the HT3's.
But I liked both in this regard. The image of the 1038BE's was more definitive, HT3's more diffuse (I keep saying this, but I am assuming much of what I heard of the HT3's is due to room/placement). I feel the 1038BE's were more detailed but it is hard to recall this aspect of the HT3's performance so take that with a grain of salt.

It is too bad that I heard the HT3's over a month ago now, but I would have to say I really liked the 1038BE's. To put it another way, after hearing the HT3's I left thinking 'yeah, those are pretty nice'. When I left after hearing the 1038BE's, I was thinking 'holy sheets, that was awesome'

If anyone else has heard these two, it would be great to hear their opinions as well! I expect I will also have some more datapoints to add to this conversation very soon... :)
Yeah with very different rooms and electronics it is hard to tell much. I expect the large room had a big negative impact on the HT3 bass. They really slam with a big amp. Both the Focal 1038s and HT3s are flat down to 33/34 per their mfg specs. But I expect the Focals sound better given how good they are at making drivers etc. and the evolution of the technology. Of course they should - the price is twice as much retail and there aren't many used Focal 1038s out there. I want to hear them sometime. I figure the best case price for admission for the Focals will be around 10k.
Did you change your budget considerations? This last round of speakers you auditioned (Magico, SF Olympica, Focal 1038be and Sopra, etc.) are at least two to three times as much as your originally stated budget of "5K used," and since some of these models are new or recent releases (e.g., Sopra and 1038be) you're not likely to find used ones at half retail for some time.

Your experience with the Maggie 3.7i's, and how they had no imaging to speak of reminds me of something when I was selling audio in the mid-'70s. We had a large mid-fi front room (receivers, integrated amps, bookshelf speakers, cassette decks) and a small high end room in the back (Accuphase, Crown, USA-made Marantz Pro separates, Dahlquist, Ohm, ESS AMT floorstanderrs, and floorstanding JBLs). We were an Advent dealer. When I suggested we set up an "Advent Stack" in the high end room (2 pairs of Larger Advents in stacked pairs) to the manager, he said "No, because if we set those up we won't sell anything else." An Advent Stack would cost half or less than a pair of anything else in the back room.

Given my experience with my Magneplanar 1.7s, vs. Wilsons, Sonus Fabers, Focal, Wharfedale, GoldenEar, and Gallo as recent auditions, I can't help wondering if your local dealer sets up the Magneplanars in a way that keeps the "you get what you pay for" hierarchy intact.

I remember absolutely *melting* a few years ago when I heard some Cremona M's, and I had nowhere near the money to buy them. Not quite 2 yrs ago--after extensive auditioning--I brought home my 1.7s. After letting them settle in and tweaking placement, angle, and subwoofer integration, I am absolutely astounded at how these things make music and I have no desire or temptation to want anything "better."

And I listen to a lot of challenging material on them--fullscale orchestra, opera, oratorios, big band, a capella vocal, baroque brass ensemble with pipe organ, vocals w/big band such as Sinatra and Tony Bennett w/Count Basie, Quincy Jones, etc. It doesn't matter if it features vocal harmony, acoustic instruments, drum solos, brass, vocal solo, 9' grand piano--whatever--it delivers on everything I throw at them, and always with a realistic sized-soundstage that stays put, even when I'm to the left of the left speaker.
+1 on the 1.7's, Johnnyb53. They are an incredible bargain. They are very room sensitive, however. I have a pair that are in perfect condition that I will be selling for around 1.2K because they just won't work in my new small house. In the right room with good clean power, the used 1.7's have to be up there with the very best in price/performance.
Wardl: How big's your new listening room? Any chance you could put the 1.7s up against the wall and then bring them out for listening? If your new listening room is significantly smaller, maybe you could replace the 1.7s with some MMGs. At 20 lbs. per panel, they'd be easy to move to the wall and back for storage vs. listening periods.
@Wardl Yes, I agree the HT3's are surely better than the setup I heard but probably the 1038BE's are nonetheless ahead, that is my feeling. How big (small) is your room that the 1.7's won't work?

@Johnnyb53 I'm still looking for 5K used which is typically 10k new, so it doesn't hurt to hear what I like so when the right used deal comes along I can jump on it. I would not be surprised if my budget increases a bit though, the Focals are tempting but I can't do 10k. However with the new line out they have already dropped in price (I believe they used to be >10k?) and maybe they will come down more as its not much of a gap between the 1038BE's and the Sopra's (it's a bit odd how they've positioned the Sopra's...).

I don't think the Maggie dealer was compromising the setup, but I suppose I can't be sure. However, I can say the fellow was a huge Maggie fan, has had them in his system at home for 20+ years and swears they are the best thing since sliced bread. The 3.7i's were being driven by Classe mono blocks and a Classe dac/pre. I've never heard Classe products before, but I was not under the impression that they are bad. IMO the room was too small for the 3.7i's but I've read other positive reviews of them where the room size was similar. So it could have been the room size or it could have been positioning of the panels themselves. I will go back and take another listen.

Do you both not see the sound being "blocked" by the panels and the sound stage being confined entirely between the panels? This is what annoyed me the most about both the 3.7i's and 1.7's when I heard them the first time.

Johhny, what made you melt when you heard the Cremona M's? I was hoping to like the Olympica III's with the idea that the Cremona M's may be a similar speaker that I could afford, but I was really disappointed. I liked the Olympica I (monitors) but I don't like the way they've implemented the bass in the floor stander. Perhaps it is also the type of music I listen to, I am not very much into classical/band/orchestra. I do love piano (eg. Rachmaninoff) and sax, but otherwise I typically listen to electronica of some variety, with the odd pop and alt/rock thrown in. They are, of course, drop dead gorgeous to look at with impeccable build quality, exactly what one expects of quality made-in-Italy products.

Wardl, if you're in the midwest you should bring your 1.7's out to my place for a jam session.. I'll buy you many beers :) ... and who knows what else ;)
I also heard the GoldenEar Triton 1's today, not as long or extensive an audition as the dealer didn't have a USB hookup or an MP3 library (CD only, really?). But I did hear them for a good 20 minutes. They strike me as really nice mid-fi. They didn't have the air of the other speakers I've heard, and feel they are rolled off in the highs, but I didn't know the songs being played very well. The room was, again, far from ideal -- way too narrow (what are these dealers thinking?) They also didn't completely disappear and they definitely didn't seem as detailed as the other speakers I've heard. But they do everything to a reasonably good level and of course have no qualms producing bass and are as dynamic as need be. They were not as forward as the 1038BE's nor as laid back as the B&W's, but closer the latter. The tonality was good but not at the level of the 1038BE's or HT3's. I am not sure what they were being driven by, the electronics were in a rack and hard to see, but looked to be Parasound.

Johhnyb53, what were your thoughts when you heard them?
Well, it seems that the demo room is getting in the way one way or another. I mentioned the Triton 1's because they are one of the few speakers that 1) fit your budget and 2) have the frequency extension, dispersion pattern, and bass power to energize a room the size of your listening area.

One of the problems auditioning GoldenEars is that because they're less money and distributed along the lines of Polk and DefTech, they often get paired with mid-fi receivers instead of high end separates that they deserve. Because the Triton 1's have a self-powered bass section, they can get by with a lower powered main amp, but it needs to be a good one. Maybe your demo was powered by Parasound, but I guess we don't know for sure.

Also, on a short listen, the Tritons (or any of the GoldenEars) can sound "polite" because of the folded ribbon tweeter. More extended listening will reveal that all the treble, overtones, and air are there, but minus the overshoot, ringing, and harshness that often accompanies pistonic tweeters. The Motion Transformer tweeter has several square inches of radiating area, so it requires very little movement to make lots of sound. I think we're so used to hearing treble harshness that truly smooth tweeters sound sort of dull until you sort through the sound. Just MHO and may not apply to your audition.

The Cremona Ms rang my bell Iistening to some Diana Krall backed by Christian McBride on bass and Russell Malone on guitar. It gave me everything--clear in-room midrange, articulate and linear bass on McBride's bass lines, and seductive hall ambience. The biggest surprise, however, is that it was being powered by a $999 Marantz integrated amp, the PM8004, since superseded by the PM8005 at $1199. That 80 wpc amp was fast, clean, organic, and maintained an iron grip on the bass.

From what I've heard, the Cremona M is strong down to 40Hz, which covers most music, but drops off from there, and some like to add a sub to cover that last octave. with the Krall trio, they didn't need anything. The Cremona Ms also satisfy your desire for soundstage *and* imaging. A very fine speaker. Although they're not panels, they have big outriggers and are deep, so they need a bit of space too.

In my experience, the Maggies' panels don't block the sound, they're *making* the sound, and properly set up they throw a seamless soundstage with lots of 3D imaging. 3D imaging depends in part on everything being in phase, and it helps that all a Magneplanar's sound is emanating from a flat panel made of one material, so all the primary sound hits you at the same time and of a piece. You don't have woofers, mids, and tweets made of different materials, of different depths, and different risetimes trying to make cohesive music. The Maggies have that advantage.
Johnnyb53 (((can sound "polite" because of the folded ribbon tweeter. More extended listening will reveal that all the treble, overtones, and air are there, but minus the overshoot, ringing, and harshness that often accompanies *pistonic* tweeters.)))

Dear Johnnyb53 I am not busting your balls with your wording but just wanted to clear up your mis use of the word.
*Pistonic* is an achievement of a perfect piston movement with drivers or grouping of drivers.
For example with pistonic behavior throughout the audible frequency range the speaker will be just the opposite of what you are referring to above.

I've done some searching and apparently "pistonic" is a made-up word in the audio world, and the original use was when multiple coils and magnets are used to drive the diaphragm more evenly, like those rectangular and odd-shaped speaker drivers of the '70s (many by Yamaha).

What I really meant was what we're used to hearing from some metal domed tweeters, which invariably have a resonant frequency spike (just about the range of hearing) and what's called "oil canning" which is also a distortion characteristic of overdriven metal domes.

My main point is that the accordion pleat compression drive of the Heil-type motion transformer, with its larger radiating surface and minimal motion, doesn't exhibit the harshness characteristic of many metal domes, and therefore might sound rolled off when it is actually delivering accurate treble without accompanying mechanical distortions we're used to hearing.
@Johnnyb53 The RAAL ribbon in the HT3 showed plenty of air without calling attention to itself, the ribbon in the Triton1 didn't give me anywhere near the same effect. But who knows if I was hearing the Triton's at their best or not...
I don't know if this was a factor in your audition, but the GoldenEar tweeter has very limited vertical dispersion and needs to be at ear level to show its stuff. Here are the measurements from Stereophile's Triton 1 review. You'll see that the tweeter response is very flat up to around 9Khz, and then actually rises a few dB for the next octave. However, However, the dispersion graphs show a sharp dropoff above and below the tweeter level.
Thanks Johnny, it is not possible that I was above axis but recalling the setup it is likely I was below axis and so that could explain at least part of the lack of tweeter response that I experienced. Irregardless, I have little doubt that they are not what I am looking for.

I had the chance to hear the Aerial Acoustics 6T and 7T and Vandy 2ceSig2 today. I heard the 6T with a PrimaLuna tube amp, the 7T with McIntosh SS gear and the Vandy also with a Prima Luna tube amp. The 6T was not so impressive to me so I won't say much more. The 7T is very good, refined, smooth, detailed, wonderful sound staging, delicate, proper image placement in height as well as width and depth, I was impressed. The tonality is very good but ultimately a bit on the dry or "boring" side for me, so while I could appreciate all the excellent things this speaker does it somehow did not excite me in the way that the 1038BE did (which had a more vibrant tonality and also seemed better with dynamics). I have to add some disclaimers. First, I heard the 7T in a properly set up room just for those speakers, whereas I heard the 1038BE on the left side of a room where the right side was storing ~20 pairs of speakers, i.e. not a well dialed in room. So, while I would say the imaging/soundstaging of the 7T was better than the 1038BE, this may have been due to the room. Both of these speakers are 10K/pair, if I was going consider one I would definitely want to hear the 1038BE's as well setup as the 7T's. Second, the music selection where I heard the 7T was not as vast as where I heard the 1038BE's and in particular I wasn't able to play songs I know very well, so my ability to completely interpret the differences between these two speakers is limited.

So, what about the Vandy? Wow, what a surprise that was. Thank you, zd542, for the suggestion even if I was quick to initially pass on it. The tonality of the Vandy was more beautiful (for me - i.e. closer to the 1038BE's tonality) than the 7T's to me, they soundstaged and imaged very well, not as well as the 7T's of course (especially in height) but still very well, and they were detailed (nearly at the same level as these other models but not at the same level of refinement) and were dynamic, and overall just a fun and easy speaker to listen to and like. The Vandy's are good at pretty much everything, they are just not at the level of these 10K speakers, but good enough that I would not be too disappointed pocketing the 7.5K difference for other things :)

Tomorrow I will hear a used pair of 3A signatures and be able to play my music, so hopefully I will be able to confirm this unexpected surprise (although I do not know what version of the 3A sigs these are - the 2ceSigs I heard were the latest edition).
I thought I should update this thread. I ended up buying demo 3A signatures. They are the previous version of midrange/tweeter drivers, but nonetheless I'm loving these speakers and the paring with my system is great!

I will post more details after some weeks, but one thing I would say I learned from my journey is that a properly setup room makes such a big difference that I absolutely cannot believe some of these dealers trying to sell 10K speakers without a properly setup demo room. That's inexcusable. I realize it's a hard business, but why make it harder on yourself?

Now back to enjoying some sweet sounds... :-)