Seeking advice on Speakers that create an intimate 2 channel listening experience


So the past month I started a couple of threads on speaker choice on AVS forum (One asked for Powered/Active floor standing Speaker choices and another one around non-active FS speakers for a tube amp I was looking at).

But I've come to realize this was the wrong tact, got lots of flack much deserved and wanted to try to solicit the advice/opinions on this forum which I just discovered.

Short background...Hunkered down in a suburb just outside NYC now for the past 3-4 months, I started to get the itch for a dedicated 2 channel stereo Turntable setup in our living room in May. After much research and twists and turns and immediate upgraditis, as some know on here from other posts, I've finally settled in and now own a Rega Planar 10 Turntable. I also own a Sutherland phono --20/20 with LPS and that's staying. Right now the phono preamp is hooked up direct to a pair of ELAC ARF51 floorstanding speakers (all drivers powered by built in AB amps) which I like a lot BUT ITS HERE THAT I WANT MORE. Btw, I love the ELAC design of mounting the tweeter concentric in the mid driver -- makes sense to me.  I kinda wish ELAC would take the same design and make a reference speaker but thats for another day.

So to swap out the ELACs, I will obviously need an amp, but I will figure that out later and want to focus on getting the right speakers for me for what I want. So what do I want?

1. Floorstanders. Close to full range as possible. No subs.
2. Looks count since in my main living room.
3. Speakers that prioritize Imaging Imaging Imaging. That disappear in the room creating an intimate but 3D listening experience. Clean (Accurate) warm sound. No distortion. I would easily sacrifice low end for untiring highs and warm mids I don't listen to metal or hiphop anymore so I don't need loudness, more like lounge experience if that makes sense. Apologize if I got the adjectives wrong but its personal description of what I'm seeking.
4. Price Point - -$10k-25k. Room is 22x18 with 25 foot ceiling

I would like to audition/demo before I buy and since I live in the Tri-State area it should be possible. But I'm finding that obviously difficult to do right now. I listened to a pair of Salk speakers but didn't love them. And have an appt with the Audio Doctor in NJ in two weeks.

Thanks in advance.
aj523
@noromance
Yes from Brooklyn. The Gibbon X is on my list actually. Thanks
I heard them and found them involving but a little lacking in inner detail I get from my ESL57.
If I was in your situation, I’d look at Tekton Moab or Ulfberht and high quality SET tube amps. Also Tannoy Kensington and Spendor SP100/200.
so, you are done with active and now want passive? Not all actives are the same. Find a dealer that will let you home demo his open box items.
Spendor SP100. I lived with them for years and would gladly do it again. You will definitely have intimate experiences with them. 
Gershman Acoustics Grand Avant Garde are full range loudspeakers that offer genuinely world class imaging and holographic soundstaging; they create "height" in a way that is unique in my experience. They have real, nuanced bass output into the low 20s. Hand built in Canada in any color you prefer.

The Next Best Thing Studio review (reviewer purchase)
Best of show, Axpona 2019
Best of show, Axpona 2018
DMS review of the smaller Studio II model

Cheers,
Colin

disclaimer: I'm a Gershman Acoustics dealer
https://gestalt.audio
not floorstanders but you shd really consider harbeths - get the right one for your room
Spendor and Gershman.  Got it.  
And, don't forget Tannoy. They are old-school beautiful, WAF shouldn't be a problem.
Post removed 
If you're going to NJ you should contact Johnny R. At the Audio Connection in Verona I'm sure he'd have some great speakers to audition.

Fyne also do concentric tweeters, at a number of price points.  Good reviews but hard to audition.

Along the lines of the Spendor Classic 100 already recommended, I'm going to mention the Harbeth 40.2, which does a lot of what you're looking for very well indeed, but probably stumbles on size/looks.

For a non-opinionated take on audio in NJ, yes, go to Johnny R at Audio Connection.  Listen to the Vandersteen 4's and see what you think.

Hey there I'm out on the us li and and my townhouse living room is a little bigger than yours with a balcony .I had bought  Polk lsim707  for $1,500 for a pair they were returns long story...but they sound great in my living room.They need like 200 wpc.i use a SAE 5002,amp.Argon one preamplifier. NAD 588 TT.Well the place rocks and the speakers  for the price are amazing. 
I have an appt in two weeks to listen to the Spendor D9.2 at Sound by Singer in Manhattan.  They are still closed for demos.    
If you're interested in Spendors, you should really try to seek out an example in their Classic line, which come closer to your desiderata than the D line.  Unfortunately, the Classic line is a bit harder to find in stores, as Spendor have been pushing the D's for some time.
+1 for contacting Johnny R. At the Audio Connection in Verona. You might want to demo the Quatro Wood CT $15,499 / Pair. Internal powered subs and an extremely musical speaker. 

https://www.vandersteen.com/products/quatro-wood-ct
What everybody wants, intimate 2 channel listening experience with deep and wide soundstage and lots of air. 🤗
Speakers that prioritize Imaging Imaging Imaging. That disappear in the room creating an intimate but 3D listening experience. Clean (Accurate) warm sound. No distortion. I would easily sacrifice low end for untiring highs and warm mids I don't listen to metal or hiphop anymore so I don't need loudness, more like lounge experience if that makes sense. Apologize if I got the adjectives wrong but its personal description of what I'm seeking.
I totally "get" that you are being sincere with your priorities but nothing about these priorities equals "intimate". Perhaps the "warm mids"part qualifies. Otherwise your priorities point towards "sterile" and "analytical" vs. "intimate". 
First, all loudspeakers known to mankind not only distort, but distort more than any other competently designed link in the audio chain. That is an unassailable fact of life. Next, if you are sincere in your desire for intimacy, it is largely a matter of selecting a loudspeaker that mates well with a suitable amp that produces even order harmonics. 
And last, imaging is a factor of many things but largely with loudspeakers it means a narrow baffle, careful crossover design, and matching of drivers, left vs right. Standmounts naturally image better than floorstanders. There is no getting around that. My suggestion is TAD standmounts. 
How is your approach here different than it was at the AVS forum?

"Speakers that prioritize Imaging Imaging Imaging. . . . No distortion."
At reasonable listening levels, it’s very rare for decent speakers to create distortion. But, dirty power will cause it all the time.

Audiogon’s discussion archives has a wealth of valuable information. This knowledge has been accumulated from decades of members experimenting and tweaking.

Have you searched?
- sound stage
- speaker placement
- room treatments
- power conditioning
- dedicated circuits
- isolation
- power cords
- linear power supply
- the swarm
- etal.

Imaging is important. But, so is tone and coherency.

Two options:  
 while you are at Singer, listen to the Raidho C2.2 and/or C3.2s.  He used to have almost the entire line there. 
Raidho’s deliver incredible imaging and three dimensional soundstage.  I am a Raidho dealer in Jersey City but am new and don’t have demos.  

Another interesting speaker is the Avantgarde Zero TA XD and the Zero 1 XD.  The TA is passive and pairs beautifully with Tube SET amplifiers.  The Zero 1 XD is fully powered.  There is no NYC dealer but I am considering bringing in a pair largely because I am the importer of a SET line that is brilliant with Avantgardes.  
Please let me know if either line intrigues you.  You can view details of the Raidho line including list prices at my site - artaudio.us.  PM me if you have any questions about pricing, etc...
Not floor standing speakers. But if you heard these under optimal conditions it may not matter. Spica TC-50 or TC-60 
I have an appt in two weeks to listen to the Spendor D9.2 at Sound by Singer in Manhattan. They are still closed for demos.  
As twoleftears mentioned, the D series Spendors are not the same as the SP100 line. The D7 is prety bright and unforgiving. I've not heard the D9 but exercise caution on these.
@twoleftears Thank you. I will ask the dealer (SBS) about the Spendor Classic line.

@joey54  Thx - you are 3rd person to mention that audio shop.  They are only 40 minutes from me so I will email them about the Vandersteens.

@geoffkait Hi thanks for the reply but where did I mention wide soundstage and lots of air. I dont even know what lots of air means.  Ive never heard a wide soundstage in a lounge, have you??  Oh and do you have any recommendations? 

@fsonicsmith  What points to sterile and analytical?  Was it imaging x3? Where speakers disappear -- is that analytical?  I said I wasnt looking for fatiguing treble energy -- you've confused me because I've been told the exact opposite by most others that fatiguing treble energy is analytical and sterile.  And when you ask if I'm sincere, do you really mean I just don't know what I'm talking about or I'm not telling the truth?   Anyway, that being said, any recommendations? 

@steakster Thank you!  I started to do searches but its a bit overwhelming for me and opinions and recommendations change all the time.  But yes my current speakers image really well - blows me away; just looking for that and more.  Do you have any recommendations for imaging, tone and coherency?

@verdantaudio  Thx. I thought Raidho caters to the uber wealthy with $250,000 speakers?  I'll check out Avantgarde.

@marqmike Thx. I will check them out but my fiancee hates stands in her living room but she is amicable to large piano black towers, lol

@noromance Thx again!  Hows the 200 line?  Taking notes....













Raidho has wonderful speakers that start at $5900 and yes, do go up to $240,000 but the two models I suggested could be purchased in your price range new or used.      Like I said, PM me to discuss pricing in more detail.  
They are really worth your time and the soundstage and imaging are...addictive.  They are super flexible in terms of what amps work with them.  
Avantgarde cannot be sold on-line.  Info can be found here but both products are comfortably in your price range.

https://www.avantgarde-acoustic.de/en/products/zero-serie/zero-ta-xd.html




Wilson Yvette's might fill the bill, a nice looking floor stander, 3 way, that with the correct amp and cables will really sing, and sound stage well. I have them in a room a bit bigger than yours, and are in your price point.
Good luck, lots of good suggestions so far.
I was getting ready to say Salk until I read your last line. I really thought your description was describing Salk. I'm curious which line it was. Dynaudio makes great speakers also.
@mribob Thx. List is 25,500, a littl3 over where i want to be. 

@bubba12 I had a long demo on Exotica3.  They look nice, well constructed, just didn't have any connection. I'd really like to hear the SS9.5s but there are no owners near me and I live among 20 million people. 
Horning Eufrodite. Hear them in Manhattan.
I forgot to mention, Imaging is an audiophile trick, has nothing to do with real music.
@psag Definitely would have to audition those speakers, some so-so reviews online. 

I guess it depends how you define imaging. Your definition must be different than mine which is ok. All good. 
I'll throw a bit of a curve ball and suggest something other than a full-range, floor-standing speaker. For me, the Harbeth C7-es3 at medium distance (about 6-7 feet) provide the most intimate and beautiful listening I've ever experienced from audio speakers. And that includes my Tekton Double Impacts, which are excellent full-range, floor-standing speakers. The C7s are only rated down to 35hz, but sitting just six or seven feet away, I don't feel the absence of a subwoofer. Of course, so much depends on other components and the quality of one's hearing (I'm over 60). But if intimacy and beauty are your goals, you don't necessarily have to go the full-range, floor-standing route.
Spend 3k I. A rebuilt pair of kappa 9's
Drop 6k on a high current hybrid bi-amp and buy a used vintage sports car with your savings. 
Goldenear Triton Reference.  $10k, built in power subs black piano finish. Spot on imagine wide soundstage.  Followed manufacturer’s set up instruction.  Had them dialed in in less than an hour....Driving mine with a Carver Crimson 275 and a Prima Luna Dialogue preamp.  Best I’ve heard, but I’m country come to city.  
You sir are the most deserving of a set of Magneplanars. That which you seek, but cannot quite put to words, exists in but a few loudspeaker technologies - large dipole panels to be specific. A conventional loudspeaker looks more than a little Rube Goldberg-ish by comparison. There is simply no way a 5" or 6" or 8" cone can compete with the transients and control of a well designed panel. Not to mention the scale and depth of the image they throw. Are they a bitch to locate in a room? Yes, they take up their space. Resign yourself to that. But you will never forget that first time they click. There some things a box just can't do, regardless of cost. It is bound of their technology and acoustics that panels dance right past. This, from someone whose last speakers purchased were a pair of KEF LS50s that I love. 
I would suggest you check out Magico. The S1MKII is damn good and the new A5 is supposed to be really good. If can stretch some the S3MKII is incredible. Rockport atria 2 is another good option. As are wilson and YG speakers. I suggest you audition anything before buying. 
If you are after "floorstanders" you will have a difficult time finding anything better than the Legacy Audio Aeris, or the Focus SE / XD. Either would do well in the large room you have (by volume).

But... if you want something that sounds very much like your ESL57’s, the Harbeths (30.1, 30.2, 40.1, 40.2) have a very similar sound with a bit more dynamics and bass - but, with that very life-like, rich sound, when driven by well matched electronics.

If you want, accuracy, dynamics, transparency, and detail resolution - you will find it very difficult to better the ATC SCM100’s and above.
If you are interested in being immersed and enveloped in the soundscape on the recording, if you want a warm tonal balance combined with superb inner detail, plus an utterly relaxing and fatigue-free presentation that you can listen to all day long and never tire of, then let me suggest SoundLab fullrange electrostatics. They have models in your price range. And there is a dealer in New York, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Connecticut. Two of the three were customers of mine before they became SoundLab dealers. I have been a SoundLab dealer for over twenty years and what you are describing is what they do well, in my opinion.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about them. I have zero interest in making or participating in a sale as I do not "poach" in other dealers’ territories, but there are few speaker designs that I totally believe in, and the SoundLabs are at the top of my list. I am a speaker manufacturer too, and I aspire to make the second-best loudspeakers. I think mine can do what you want, but SoundLabs can do it better.

Duke
AudioKinesis
Your inquiry describes perfectly my NOLA KOs.  Love them in my smaller room.  I use Wilson Audio in the bigger room, which I can’t say enough good things about.  But your description seems closer to the NOLAs.  For the money you mention, you can get a pretty nice pair, especially if you consider the used pairs they have at SkyFi (your area), and NOLA’s founder/owner is not far from you.  (And when you go amp hunting, you may hear me advocating hard for Audio Research, again based on your description).  And if you’re in MD and want to hear them, give a holler.  No affiliation.  
Take a trip to Brooklyn and check out Bache Audio. I have the latest version of the Tribeca’s with the Eton woofers. They are built around a wide band driver, sans the whizzer cone, and augmented with a horn super tweeter and two eight inch woofers. The crossover is a simple cap on the super tweeter and a coil for the woofers. I have an Emotive Audio tube set up and mostly play vinyl with my Gyrodec/SME 309/Lyra Kleos set up.

Since you mentioned imaging, I do have a pair of Audio Physic Tempo Plus speakers as well as the Tribeca’s. The  Tempos have a warm tone and image like crazy. That said, the Bache’s have more of a holographic sound that is more pleasing. I find that the pinpoint imaging of the Tempos seems to make instruments sound a bit flat and small. With the Bache’s, you get the same sense of placement in a soundstage, the difference is that its more open and bigger sounding.

If you check out Bache and want to listen further, I’m in your area and can play both speakers for you so you understand what I’m talking about. 
Save your money. Get a pair of Audio Nirvana full range drivers and either build your box or pay someone local to do it for you. I have the 15in alinco classics and the 8in neodymiums classics. I prefer the 8s for speed and transients, and the 15s for tone and richness, being super picky though, as both are amazing. About $700 for the 8in pair and about $1200 for the 15s if I’m not mistaken. They are super efficent and I use a 8 watt Set amplifier(300b) to power them. Best imaging and the "fastest" drivers I’ve ever heard.... by a large margin. Sounds exactly what your looking for. Very susceptible to having a good back end though as they are the most transparent drivers I’ve ever heard. Shows all weaknesses in a system. May get some backlash for this due to their price... o well... 
Commonsenseaudio.com 
Dear aj523, I am in the same situation but in Dubai. I have been listening to music via Audirvana, lossless FLAC files, Ideon DAC, Ideon 3R and JBL P708 (active) studio monitors. The level of musicality, dynamics and accuracy is outstanding on a very low budget (approximately $4.5K) comparatively speaking. I own various speakers, several from German Physiks, Harbeth 40.2 and vintage KEF and B&W, but none of them are here.

Thus, yesterday, I took my Mac and the Ideon units and went to YAMAHA. Yes, YAMAHA! I spend 4 hours listening to NS 5000. I was floored. Outstanding speaker with excellent sound reproduction capability, imaging, dynamics and natural sounding. The price I was given was the equivalent of $11K. Excellent finish, and includes its own stands. IMHO, it is very close to 40.2 Anniversary, with better dynamics and looks. Build quality was world class.

I respectfully, urge you to listen to it. Must be one of the best speakers in the market today for  a relatively reasonable price. It checks all your requirements, except being floor standing. It has its own matching stands. Also, if you can put your hands on an Ideon Ayazi DAC, is worth listening. Great sound is not an exclusive privilege of stratospherically priced units.

I have no affiliation, professional or personal, with any of the brands mentioned herein or any other in the audio industry. 

https://europe.yamaha.com/en/products/audio_visual/speaker_systems/ns-5000/index.html
https://ideonaudio.com/product/ayazi-dac/
https://ideonaudio.com/product/3r-usb-renaissance-mk2/
As soon as you said "intimate" I thought "Harbeth" -- it may be the one thing they do best. And there are stands and then there are stands. Some you’ll like more than others.  FYI, I have dozens of floorstanders and none sound as good as my Harbeths, esp at moderate levels and moderate listening distances.

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5177/5563504720_89d1e609da_z.jpg

https://audio-database.com/HARBETH/speaker/hlcompact7es-3.JPG

https://resonantwoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/harbeth-rosewood-stand-200x300.jpg
Have a look at Jern. Cheaper than you are expecting to pay, but very good indeed. Danish, made from one piece of cast Iron. No colouration at all.

I agree about panels. Try some Martin Logans. I looked for years to find speakers that do precisely what you described. Somehow I ended up audtioining some Logans. Within a trice I new I'd found what I was looking for. I cannot recommend them too highly 
Logans ask quite a lot of the amp, Quads might be easier to match, particularly the original model as long as you don’t need loud.

On another tack the Eclipse TD712zMK2 single driver speaker has its own unique style, another that has limited loudness but very communicative and images very well. Don’t be put of by the specs, if the visual aesthetic appeals they’re worth a listen.
I have own Sonus Fabers over the years and suggest you audition the Olympica Nova line.