Searching for the most "accurate" speaker (below 15K)


I’m looking for the most accurate and resolving speakers (budget is <= 15K). Paradigm Persona 3F, Kef Reference 3 or Focal Sopra 2 are some of the options I can think of. Any opinions on how these compare? Should I had other options to this shortlist? The amplifier is the (absolutely extraordinary) Nagra Classic AMP.

Thanks! :)
A136aeca ab9a 459b 9f50 82cacb258450vermeer
My personal favourites would be the Quad electrostats or the top models from Harbeth. Both potentially supported my multiple subwoofers.
Thanks for the reply. I’m pursuing a different sound philosophy, though … There good things (from my perspective) in the best examples of the modern speakers: speed, transparency, tonal accuracy, dynamics (both micro and macro). I find the Magico Q Series as a perfect example of the qualities I’m after … but in a different price point. In fact, I’m looking for a poor man’s Q Series ;)
Thanks yogyboy ... Unfortunately I have no chance of auditioning the harbeths as they're not available where I live. They look old school ... But they may very well sound otherwise :)
Hello Vermeer,
    If accuracy to the source is your goal then get the best ATC's that fit within your budget. ATC drivers are some of the best made, the magnet assembly on their SL midrange weighs about 20 lbs. ATC's are also extremely dynamic and can handle a lot of power. In fact, one caveat would be that they need a lot of power; while ATC's are known to be an easy 8 ohm load throughout the audioband, they are not known for their efficiency. 
   At last years AXPONA, AVM was demoing about $60k worth of gear through a $7,000 pair of ATC SCM 40's. The room sounded great. I asked the rep why he was using such a modest pair of speakers and he indicated was showcasing AVM with its startling clarity and accuracy and needed a speaker that would simply pass this through to the listener. I couldn't imagine a better, if offhand, recommendation for a pair of speakers.

Regards,
Oran 
A lot of great suggestions already herein and I'm sure some others will chime in with even more options to consider. Might as well include Golden Ear Triton Reference as something to think about. 
I have heard amazing things in terms of accuracy and transparency from these: http://www.decware.com/newsite/HDT.html

I have the Decware HR-1's which are absolutely mind blowing.
I would add the Joseph Perspective to your list.

DeVore Gibbon X could be one to check out as well.

(***dealer disclaimer for both of these brands)
:+1: on DeVore, good recommendation
Thank you all! I live in Portugal and brands like Joseph, DeVore or Decware are not available around.

Regarding the GoldenEar Reference, it happens that I own the Triton One and I do respect the brand a lot. But the fact is that, as I've improved the electronics their limitations became evident. Also I need a speakers who interacts less with my smallish room (and the GoldenEars do interact a lot)
Oran, I will check the ATCs ... regarding their active designs, do you have any opinion? 

Cheers
How big is the room?
I’m a fan of Focal. Currently own Diva Utopia Be and had auditioned Supra 2. I’d go for Supra 2 if I were buying. The speakers on your list are all very good speakers. I think the choice will end up with your personal preference.

Happy listening! 
Regarding the GoldenEar Reference, it happens that I own the Triton One and I do respect the brand a lot. But the fact is that, as I've improved the electronics their limitations became evident. Also I need a speakers who interacts less with my smallish room (and the GoldenEars do interact a lot)

This is a very fair statement on your part @vermeer 

I'm curious if you would/could share what exactly you felt the limitations were as you improved electronics.

@vermeer 

Active ATC are slightly better than passive. KEF or TAD is a good choice too. 

I like the Harbeth mid and the Millenium Excel tweeter they use - among the best mid range. Their thin walled cabinets means the bass is somewhat of a matter of taste - great classic FM radio sound but not great cranked up with rock or large orchestral or big band. If you live in a condo you can't play loud anyway which makes a Harbeth a great choice.
Not any of the conventional box speakers I know of though so many do sound very good.

Take a listen to OHM Walsh.  Maybe just maybe.   At least for me.
The Vandersteen Quatro Wood CT is right at your price point. A very, very good sounding speaker. Has active
drivers. That would be my choice...

For your budget, used Raidho may worth your consideration. 
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I always wonder what is meant by accuracy. Accurate to what? I am a recording engineer. Do you want it to sound what it sounds like in the control room. Remember the control room doesn't sound what it sounds like in the studio. Accurate to the sound in the mastering booth? Accurate to the sound on the digital file. Digital file played back on what system? All speakers are colored which means they add there own characteristics to the sound being sent to them. Find a speaker you really like and go with them. Pretend they are accurate
Alan
@2psyop Vandersteen is a very forgiving by amazing speaker. You could save some money and get the Treo, and invest the delta in room treatment. That will most likely be a better route to go.

@ahendler I interpreted "accurate" as flat response. That was why I originally recommended the Decware HDT. That said, potentially time coherency is more important that completely flat response to the OP.

End of the day, I fine that many Hifi speakers tend to be more forgiving, and more enjoyable to listen to but they also bump up the treble quite a bit. I think many mfg. know that as age increases, the ability to hear HF decreases.

That said, I am always blown away when I listening to a pair of Treo's or Quatro's.
Focal Utopia with Nagra should be able to give you what you are looking for. Speaker cables would have to be carefully matched. Many use Utopia with tube electronics, though, it has a tendency to be a little bright.
@ahendler , that is a fair and excellent question. Perception is a very idiosyncratic matter. Las week I got a recommendation for some speakers (I will not mention the brand model). Please note that the recommendation came from a fellow audiophile who is in this hobby for some 30 years and he builds some speakers himself. I found the sound to be a total disgrace. No scale, no speed, dynamically impaired, with box colorations ... I could go on. 
By saying that I'm looking for a poor man's Magico Q series, I'm saying something about my preferences. I look for a speaker which adds or detracts as little as possible from the signal it is being fed. Nylon strings should sound like nylon and steel like steel. The speed of the attack of the notes in the piano should be the same on the right and or in the lowest notes on the left hand... I think you get the picture
The emotion is in the music. A speaker should not sound "happy" or "sad"; "warm" or "cold"; "dark" or "bright". It should be the "messenger". I think neutrality and accuracy are often mistaken with sounding "aloof". Sorry: those speakers are subtracting so much stuff from the music that they are far from accurate ...

@gdhal : the GoldenEars are very well engineered. Think about how much you are getting for the money: a large box, a DSP+Amp and 7 drivers in each speaker. And, of course, they cannot be using top of the range components. And, actually, the whole thing works quite well ... as long as you use electronics from the same league (before I had a ML 383 ... quite decent, but the Nagra is from a different galaxy). When you move forward the you realize that the drivers (and particularly the active/passive sections, although I got a big improvement from using aftermarket powercords) don't share the same speed and resolution. The soundstage grows in size but not in accuracy. The box colorations become evident ... In a nutshell: there is a too strong sonic signature coming claerly from the speaker. 
@willemj : the room is less than 20 sq meters (200 sq ft). Thanks!
@jjue and @inna : I've briefly auditionetd the Sopra 2 and was impressed. And this was with less than stellar electronics ... I'm trying to get an audition at home :)
In a room of that size you do not want too much bass. Something like a Harbeth M30.1 is the maximum of what a room like that can handle before you will suffer from pretty bad room modes. Even so, I would investigate dsp room equalization.
@willemj you're right about too much bass and room modes, however room treatment will be far better than DSP EQ. I prefer the least amount in the signal path as possible.
@vermeer my room is 140 sq ft, or 1375 cu ft. (11 x 12.5 x 10) -- a cube is less than ideal, however, listening near-field is actually sublime. Take a look at the golden ratio on Cardas Audio: http://www.cardas.com/room_setup_near_field.php

Here is the room setup guide: http://www.cardas.com/room_setup_main.php

If you can grab yourself a measurement mic, you can run REW yourself to figure out where you start before you invest a penny in equipment/speakers.

https://www.roomeqwizard.com/

Enjoy!
@willemj : totally agree with the dsp ... I've played a bit and it really seems to be the way to go! and yes: speakers cannot be too big and I'm affraid the Sopra 2 may be a bit too much for the room ...
@vermeer Glad you also like the Focal house sound. I know Sopra 2 is not going to get you to the level of Magico Q, but it should be a good match for your electronics. I went through a different path of upgrade. I upgraded my speakers first and found the deficiency of my amp; then I upgraded my amp. BTW, my room size is 20x14x10 (LWH).
If you really want accuracy/transparency I'd second the large, active studio monitors like ATC.  The really big ones are +/- $20k, so budget accordingly.  They also make a bunch of models at app $10k, $15k and $18k

You could also look at some of the less expensive models from companies like Genelec or Focal.

Just bear in mind that not all source material will be flattered by these speakers.  I use powered  Yamahas and Dynaudios in my home studio, but I listen to an Ohm/Rythmik system for playback.
Accurate speaker is a broad area . To  my taste the new 
Martin Logan Renaissance Loudspeakers from the powered Dual Bass 
 with 24 bit - DSP and room correction  from mid Bass on down 
Is the first time I have heard seamless accurate Bass in a Electrostatic Loudspeaker. Which gives the performance like a live venue very accurately 
And the transparency is spectacular. This new series is by far the Best ML 
Has ever done as far as top to bottom using Quality parts with midbass to low bass fully adjustable 
After the room correction.  Your opinion on accuracy may be in other areas.
plan a trip the the Warsaw show which is in about 3 weeks.

186 rooms worth of stuff  is the current tally. Maybe a few more by show time.
VPI’s Harry Weisfeld recently stated in his blog that he feels the Eminent Technology LFT-8b has the most accurate midrange of any speaker he has ever heard. Unfortunately, it retails for only $2499, but with $15,000 you could always buy six pair ;-) .
Vermeer , I've heard the Persona's,  Kef Reference 5, Revel Ultima and Focal. I've also listened to Dynaudio speakers all in your range. I have Revel Performa with Mark Levinson amp. If I had the money for them  I would get the Kef Reference as the sounded better than anything I've heard, driven by 2 Mark Levinson mono blocks. They played very loud with absolutely no breakup or distortion,  just pure clean and delicate sound, sounded amazing. Dynaudio and Revels both also sound very good and play "flat" with a neutral sound your looking for. It also matters the equipment you use as Revels and Mark Levinson are both owned by Harman and tuned on Levinson amps same as Paradigm and Anthem so they sound best paired with the amps/preamps they are tuned with. 
I think I would chose a speaker that is the most "musical" over the most "accurate" Just my opinion.....
Vermeer:
Another shout out for ATC which make among the purest most natural sounding speakers that I have ever heard. 
Dynaudio.....Would be my choice if I could not afford Magico's. Dynaudio makes a lot of the drivers found in many high end speakers, they are one of the largest OEM suppliers of drivers in the world. Dynaudio makes some of the finest speakers that produce the sweetest, natural, authentic sound I have heard.

Matt M 
Vermeer we are a dealer for many speakers that you mentioned in your post including the Paradigm, KEF, ATC, as well as Dali, Gradient, Cabasse. We don;’t sell the Focals but lets see if this give you some guidance.

If by what you mean accuracy is clarity then the KEF, or Persona’s are really your best choice out of what you mentioned.

We have the KEF Blades, and the Persona 9H in the same room, so we are pretty knowledgable about both brands.

The KEF Reference 3 are very clean, dynamic speakers which throw a big soundstage and have tight clean bass, their drivers are world class and the speaker sounds very coherent.

The Personas have an edge over the KEF’s in their Beryilium drivers are even clearer, and faster with more air then the KEFs.

Another area where the Personas are truly amazing, is image holography.

The Personas throw one of the most realistic images you will ever hear they are spooky. in terms of how much depth and width you can get from them.

ATC’s drivers are world class and they do have a natural midrange, a super tight midbass and great dynamics, and a wide soundstage, however, the Paradigm Personas just offer more resolution and gradiations in low level detail that if you use great components will reward you with some remarkable sound.

As per Quads I owned them, not even close in terms of accuracy, and with all planers you get diapole cancillation effect meaning the front wave is out of phase with the back wave. This creates truncated dynamics and compression when played at realistic volume levels.

Harbeths are way more colored than ATC, if you look at the two companies their philsophies are totally different, ATC uses an inert cabinet, Harbeths are tuned to ring musically to the sonic input, this makes the Harbeths appear very musical but if you look at most of the studios that use ATC you will find that most of the top rock and pop recodings over the last 40 years were all mastered or mixed on ATC.

I am not trying to denegrate Harbeth, they have a lovely sound, but that sound is not as accurate as an ATC.

Some people complain ATC is bright they are hardly bright, extremely neutral and very engaging.

So if you are looking for speed, articulation, 3d imaging, very tight  bass, and the ability to play loud, the Personas will be hard to beat.

Now to the Focals, the new Sopras are way better than most of the Focal speakers The new wave guided tweeter is better integrated with the Focal composite midrange, the speakers for the first time throw a much more focused sound stage.

Where they differ is the magical 7 inch pure Beryilium midrange, and the pure Beryilium tweeter, this means the speaker sounds very coherent, in the case of the Focal’s the composite midrange driver has a warmer more colored sound, with less of that 100% seemless quality of the Personas.

Their blend of clarity and punchiness makes them very fun to listen to speakers and are a bit more forgiving then the Paradigms.

The Paradigms are in our opinion one of the most remarkable speakers to be introduced in the last 10 years, with that being said you must be careful with system matching as the speakers have literally no coloration, and for many listeners that can be too much of a good thing.

I would need to know more about your system to guide you.

Please feel free to PM our store and we will be happy to offer you some additional guidance. I will say honestly you could not go wrong with any of these choices, they are all terrific.

The Personas in our opinion are the most life like but also the trickiest to get right.

Dave onwer,
Audio Doctor NJ
For speed and accuracy single driver horns are a great way to go. Charney Audio builds full range single driver real loaded horns based on the tractrix theory. I have the Maestro and they will sound awesome in a 200sq’ room. Bass is deep and clean with present midrange and sweet highs. Soundstage and imaging are off the charts realistic. Charney horns will emotionally draw you into the music, to feel the artist and get what they are doing. Build quality is off the charts and are a true work of art.
If possible check Charney out at the Capital Audiofest.

Chris
@vermeer 

First of all, congrats on the Nagra Classic Amp. I've heard it once and was amazed by its pure performance and amazing bandwidth. Even at very loud levels with the orange clipping light activating, it never lost its composure, not one bit.

I've never heard the Paradigm Persona 3F or the Kef Reference 3 (would like to) but I have heard the Focal Sopra 2, many times in fact. I've never heard that speaker sound good but for one time. And that was with PrimaLuna and Audio Research tubes. I still find that speaker to be quite clinical and not to my liking.

Back to your Nagra. I heard it about a month ago in stereo mode with the matching Classic Pre. Source was dCS Debussy DAC with Network bridge and AudioQuest cabling. Speakers were the fabulous Wilson Audio Sabrina's. It was really really good. It may be my favorite pairing of the Sabrina's that I've heard. I can tell you first hand that this is a very well matched system and so I know the Sabrina's work very well with Nagra. Dave Wilson indicates that he uses Nagra in a video I saw on the tube. Search Youtube for Wilson and The Audio Salon in Santa Monica for a video of Dave talking on Nagra. The owner of The Audio Salon, Maier Shadi, is a true gentlemen and could help you in your search. I only know Maier in that he demo'd that system for myself and a friend. I have no other connection with him but can highly recommend him.

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Absolutely agree with audiotroy on the Personas.  And no I don’t know him, in fact I have even complained about his posts in the past, (although I don’t really have an issue with them 99% of the time).

It just so happens that if you have heard the 3F’s PROPERLY set up, they are unreal.  
I think here the room really is the elephant in the room. 20 sq m is small, and too small for great dynamics or deep bass. That is just physics. Depending on the precise dimensions, the Schroeder frequency will be somewhere in the range 175-200 Hz. Below that, there is trouble. Put some full range speakers in a room like that, and you will regret it: you will suffer bad room modes at quite high frequencies compared to bigger rooms, and their upper harmonics as well.
So I was thinking that perhaps you should start bottom up: how can I get quite extended but very clean bass? Only when you have sorted that can you move to mid range etc. As others have said, bass traps may help, but in a small room there is little space for them (and perhaps even less tolerance). So you have two options. The first is to avoid much deep bass altogether, using mini monitors like the Harbeth P3ESR. Perhaps you could move up one size with something like the Harbeth M 30.1 that I suggested earlier, but that is about it. But there is an alternative, and it is to use multiple small subwoofers, at least two but for the best result four. See here for some introduction to the relevant research: http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/20101029using-multiple-subwoofers-to-improve-bass-the-welti-devanti...
By themselves mutiple subs already give a much smoother result, but if you then add dsp room eq the benefits will be available over a much larger listening area.
After that, and I think only after that, is it time to think about the main speakers. Avoid getting big ones for that. If money is not tight, the forthcoming DSpeaker X4 pre amplifier/DAC/room eq may be interesting as it gives you the opportunity to also equalize the bottom end of the main speakers. But realize that the higher the frequency that you equalize, the smaller the equalized listening position.
Open, natural, truthful, dynamic, Boenicke W11 or W13.
Classic Audio Speakers with the Field Coil Speaks. 
Thank you all! a lot of good information here, already :) I will ellaborate a bit on some of the answers when I have the time.

@audiotroy : extremely insightful answer and it seems that our understanding of "accurate" is aligned. Thanks!
I have not seen a good set of measurements for Paradigm Persona 3F but they do appear to be well engineered.  The crossover at 2.4KHz is actually close to the right place for this three way design (which has a large 7 inch midrange) which is a miracle these days (most manufacturers like B&W get it all wrong). I would really like to see how the tweeter and mid performs on a waterfall plot to know if it is nice and clean from 400 to 10KHz.

At $5000 this seems like excellent value. It seems to be one of the speakers you are already considering. Why not go for it!
@james_w514

Thanks for the comment. I thought the Nagra/Sabrina was very very good myself.