Smooth/Musical Bookshelves upto $1500 - $2000

Hi members,

Greetings, I'm so glad to have found this forum. This is my first post and i'm taking my first step into real/proper Hi-Fi. Some details.

Room Size = 12ft x 10ft
Music Source = Desktop PC
Music Type = Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop, Dance, House, Techno.
Budget for speakers = $1500 - $2000 ( Bookshelves )

I like a Smooth and Musical sound which is easy on the ears, a kind of sound which is comfortable to listen for long hours. Basically fatigue free listening.

Unfortunately i have very sensitive ears. A Bright/Analytical/Forward sound gives me a headache within minutes and High Treble pierces my ears and they start hurting rather quickly.

At the same time i'd like the sound to be involving & exciting with a melodious character with a bit of detail. Taught bass with excellent vocals is preferred. I'm willing to add a Subwoofer. ( separate budget )

I'd like to invite suggestions for Bookshelves which fit the above description. I hope such a Speaker exists which is involving & exciting but at the same time smooth and musical.


Nice pair of Harbeth 7 ES-2 ( with stands ) on this site for $2K..Should work nicely for you.......
proac 1sc, used.
totem model one, psb synchrony or dynaudio focus might fit your bill
Shelby+Kroll Nano monitors - new. Great sounding, great looking and easy to drive
Spendor SA1's will fulfill all your requirements and then some . . .

Sonus faber
where do you live and what opportunity do you have to audition speakers before you buy?
If your speaker must actually be on a bookshelf, back to the wall, you should look for a speaker especially designed for that placement. Otherwise you will risk nonlinear bass and a messed-up image.

The North Creek Kitty Kat is one such speaker.
2nd the rec for Sonus Faber!
Could you clue us in as to what kind of amplification you will be using? A good suggestion can not be made without knowing...
We need a lot more information, like your whole system listed. If you are just running straight from a PC with no DAC then that is a big problem and you should use some of your budget towards a DAC.
guys, thanks for suggestions. i'll be making a shortlist from the same which i shall then demo.

Some information requested by members...

- i travel between usa and europe so will have a chance to demo most of the speakers that will be recommended to me.

- the speakers won't be on a bookshelf but actually on my desktop besides my PC Screen. It'll be somewhat a near-field listening experience but i'm not keen on Active monitors as i've already demoed most of them and i prefer the more traditional Speaker+Amp+Dac+Source combo. Also i won't always be sitting at the desk to listen to music and it'll play on regardless of where i am in my room.

- I'll decide the amplification after the Speaker is decided. My assumption is that i'll have to spend upto 75% to almost equal amount spent on speakers on Amplification to get the best out of the speakers. I'm also assuming that most dealers of the speakers will have a matching amplifier for demo which will match/synergise well with the speaker they sell.

- Yes i have a few DACs in mind too. I'm keen on...

1. Arcam rDAC - as it seems to have a smooth sound signature which i'm after.

2. Musical Fidelity M1 - as it seems to be detailed yet not bright and may be ideal if the Speakers/Amp combo ends up being too dull.

3. Rega DAC - This one seems to have a very musical sound.

I hope above information is sufficient to get more speaker recommendations. If there is any more specific info i can provide to make this easier then kindly do ask.



P.S : Budget for Amp/Dac/Cables is separate.
i use audioengine2 speakers on my desktop and can't imagine using anything much bigger than them or john blue jb3's, but my desk may not be as large as yours. still, i would think listening at that nearfield a position will necessitate some compromise in terms of cabinet size. i recall a system sold on headroom that used the smallest harbeth speakers. and gallo reference stradas may work. i'm sorry to say i have not heard either speaker in that nearfield a position to say whether they would work for you and your listening requirements, but they might be worth looking into.

12-12-11: Metman
Shelby+Kroll Nano monitors - new. Great sounding, great looking and easy to drive
+1 on the Shelby-Kroll Monitors.
Detail, huge soundstage, no fatigue, and sound way cool in the near field.
They will perform well with your choice of electronics as well.
Good Luck
I have a pair of Air Tight MSM-1 Bonsais that would fit well on a desk. ( No I'm not selling them! ) They are single-driver so they work well nearfield, but they can also fill a room. To get much sound below 100Hz you'd need a sub, but that's true of any small box unless the designer has skewed the natural response curve.

The Bonsais have amazing resolution and 'live' quality. For my 2 cents, look into single-driver designs generally for your application.
The Vapor Audio Breeze is amazing at $1249/pair. I've owned a pair of Vapor Audio Cirrus for about 6 months, and they're easily the best speakers I've ever owned (and I've owned many at 2-3x the cost). So I decided to order a pair of Breeze for a situation very much like yours, a 2nd system in my computer office.

I use my computer as the source in that room into an Arcam rDac, amplification is Cairn K02. For a simple and inexpensive system it sounds simply awesome! I've heard $50K systems that don't sound this good. The Breeze is very much like the Cirrus in being a blend of detail AND musicality. Put a sub with the Breeze and I can see being happy with it in your primary room for a long time.

BTW, there's close to $1000 in parts cost alone in the Breeze, which sells for $1249. Crazy I know, but true.
I can recommend both the Audioengine 2 and 5s, Paradigm mini monitor 6s, ATC 7s, and the new Dali speakers.
Sounds like your discribing Fritz carbon 7's to me.
Nice full sound with good bass. Top end could be more open, but very musical speakers.
You want smooth/musical bookshelfs for hip hop?
Well mostly i listen to pop/rock with a bit of all other genres of music. I'm looking for an all-rounder kind of speaker which is easy on the ears.

I'm not saying I want dull/bland/boring speakers. Just something which has the treble recessed/rolled off a bit as I'm very sensitive to higher frequencies.
ATC 7s would probably meet your expectations. Pro studio. Play all genres well.
i would heed bongofury. he has the best username of anyone who has replied to your query and a history of sound responses to questions. apropos of atc, any suggestions as to where one would go to hear them in southern california? i'd like to hear a pair but the only CA dealer seems to be in santa cruz.
I have had a very positive experience with NOLA Boxers, and indeed wrung then out initially with a pile of favorites that included Raekwon and Wu-Tang. Very smooth AND musical, with that elusive hip-hop "thump" that so many audiophile bookshelves can't manage. Worth an audition.
Nola Boxers are great, but seem pretty substantial for a desktop at almost a foot deep. (15.5 inches H x 8 inches W x 11.5 inches D) I can imagine Incarcerated Scarfaces sounding fantastic on them, though. :)
used dynaudio contour s1.4 will play those music styles very well and will sound smooth,highs are very smooth and rythmic
Will these speakers be actually placed on bookshelves?
I think you would be very happy with a used pair of Merlin TSM's. VERY musical, but they are also VERY revealing.
+1 for Merlins! Superb.
While I don't wish come across like some crass chest-thumping douche, I feel like I may able to help you out here. I've owned literally dozens of monitors throughout the years. I also actively listen to pop / rock / dance / electronic, and so on and so forth. My (main) listening room is nearly the same size as yours. And I use the PC on one of my systems.

So having said all that... the BIG question is... will these speakers be used in a desktop application? IE: Located on your computer desk and situated only a couple feet from your ears? Or is this setup going to be more traditional? IE: Sitting in a chair that's at least 6ft away from the speakers?

Either way, my suggestion would be the following:

For the traditional application: Go with a set of Fritz Rev 5's. They are everything that you're looking for. Smooth (yet articulate and free of spikey treble). Sport a warm and articulate midrange. They sport the punchy kind of bass that compliments the kind of music that you listen to. And they have the kinda sound you can just sit back and vibe to... I honestly cannot think of a better match for your situation.

Now if your considering something for desktop use: I'd suggest looking at either a set of Sonus Faber TOY's (with a REL T5 sub), or a set of Harbeth P3ESR's. The little Sonus Fabers work well against walls and sound great in desktop applications. The only problem is that they are bass shy, so you'll likely want a sub to fill out the bottom end.

The next recommendation, the Harbeth's, may surprise a few people - as it's pretty well documented how limited these speakers are in terms of bass extension and dynamics. And while it's true that they wouldn't make you happy in a traditional setup, I find that their limitations become HIGHLY mitigated when employed in a desktop environment. Seriously.... I run a set of P3ESR's on my desktop setup, and they sound great with every kind of music that I throw their way. From Kanye West to Cradle of Filth to Lady Gaga and just about everything in between - they deliver the musical goods.

Anyways, that's my take on things. Hope this helps. Good luck in the search!
The perfect speaker in this type of set up is the Harbeth P3ESR. Their bass response is excellent - near field listening cannot be beat. They're broadcast monitors, so they're designed for detailed, musical, fatigue free listening, all day long.
I think the Harbeths won't have the bass response to accurately portray Hip Hop or Electronica. They are geared to vocals and piano and guitar. Bass and drums hardly ever shines with them. If you want a true English sound with bass, I again recommend ATC 7 and 11s or B & W 685s. Both are near field and offer excellent value to performance. One caveat, make sure you have 50 to 100 watts of amp power behind them.
I thought ATC's were more precise and analytical, not warm.
Just asking?...
I listen to a lot of rock and hip hop, and I think the P3's bass is very good - especially near field. I find ATC's only sound good at louder volumes - plus Harbeths are easier to drive...

Please don't take this the wrong way, but what you suggested is pretty much the opposite of what the Rana_Kirti is looking for.

Don't get me wrong. ATC makes fine transducers. But their well documented tendency towards being rather unforgiving of poor recordings is at odds with Rana's goals. And the B&W 685's you mentioned are simply outgunned in this company. A more suitable B&W entry would be the CM5 - which too falls short of Rana's criteria as it is a bit tilted up along the treble.

As for the bass on the P3ESR's.. I have zero problem's with how they portray hip hop, electronica, rock, metal, or any other kind of music when set up in the near field. What they lack of laser-like speed they more than make up for in terms of tone and, (within their physical limitations), density..
i've been getting some pretty solid advice on my query and i appreciate each member who is trying their best to help me. I'd like to answer some of the questions asked to me by members above...

- no the speakers won't be on bookshelves.
- they will be in a near-field scenario on my work desktop placed on either side of my PC Screen.
- i prefer a smooth/musical sound with the treble rolled off/recessed as i have very sensitive ears and a bright/forward/clinical/analytical kind of sound gives me an instant headaches within 2-3 minutes and my ears start hurting quickly. it's almost like they start ringing. it's a very unpleasant feeling.
- so i'm looking for something which is easy on the ears for long fatigue free hours of listening.
- i'm open to a 2.1 setup.
- budget is $ 1500 - $ 2000.
- music genre is Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop/Techno. So an all-rounder kind of speaker will be preferred.

Please do feel free to ask me any other questions which can help you help me.

Regards and Happy Holidays,


ATC handles almost all genres well. They would not be used in over 1000 studios otherwise. They reproduce the source in an accurate fashion, warts and all. The sound amazing loud, especially with rock, hip hop and electronica, with excellent seperation of the layers that go with these genres. I use them professional to mix live tracks and have been a big fan of the brand for over 20 years. B & W made great strides since 2006 with their new studio line. The 685 is the Chinese version of their noted 805, and offers top to bottom range rarely offered at this price point. The are roughly 35% the price of the Harbeths. As stated above, I also highly recommend the Audioengine 5s (excellent value) and Paradigm (a steal: what I gave to my own daughter.

Since I feel like this discussion could easily slide into knit-picking territory, I'll bypass all that fodder and simply leave things as this; I hope that Rana will be able to receive a good demo of the suggestions made in this thread - to include your own. :)
I'll second the Fritz Carbon 7s. Great bass and you can listen for hours. Fritz is a great guy and I believe still offers an in home trial period. Nice write up in TAS this month also. Highly Recommended.
Rana, in the life of an Audiogon thread, this is the part where I start praying for the original poster to go audition the most reasonable offerings and report his/her findings and experiences. Please. Make my prayers come true. :) Good luck! There are a lot of great suggestions here, and depending on personal preferences, I doubt you'll be left wanting by the time you choose a favorite.
While in your quest...see if you can listen to a pair of Gallo A'Divas (non-Ti). They roll off at 18khz, and are lovely on the desktop...very involving. I also run a tube buffer to warm them up a bit. They definitely need a subwoofer though.

Another thought would be some active monitors like the ADM9T from ADI. Amp/DAC/speaker all in one. Just a thought.

Possibly consider the Amphion Helium. It's big brother the Argon is a stunning speaker so I'd expect a lot from the Helium as well.
guys thanks for the amazing support and suggestions provided to me. I've shortlisted the speakers and now will be spending the next couple of weeks auditioning.

I'll come back and update my findings.

Happy Holidays to all :)
so friends,

i spent the last few months auditioning many speakers. Although were great in their own ways, the 3 combinations that really struck a chord in my heart are....

1. PSB Synchrony 2B + Nad 375BEE

for it's effortless smooth sound. a very musical combination which i found to be so very easy on the ears with a pleasant approach to music while still delivering lots of detail. beautiful

2. Nola Boxers + McIntosh MA6300

for it's wonderful sound full of detail/texture yet having a wonderful three dimensional sound stage. It had a breathtaking sound which captivated me.

3. PSB Image B6 + Nad 326BEE

for being less than half the price of the above combinations and still sounding absolutely brilliant. A part of my heart says to save a lot of money by buying this combo but another part says buy one of the above combinations.

I'm looking for the long haul. I will keep this purchase for many years to come and although i get to hear music only for an hour or 2 a day i want to hear the best sound that i can afford.

What say guys...?
Not to throw a wrench into the mix but the Revel M106 speakers are supposed to be special based on the early hype from CES....release in April. It would be interesting to listen to the Nola and Harbeth offerings.
"I'm looking for the long haul. I will keep this purchase for many years to come"

Then forget the Image B6 and go for one of the other two... or even check out PSB's Imagine B.

Fritz Rev 5, Nola boxer, Harbeth 3, Fritz Carbon 7, Audience 1, Spendor SA1
forgot the Reference 3A Dulcet and the Sjofn Clue
from your description, rana, it sounds like the nola/mcintosh combo had the most emotional impact. you might consider trying the nola's with a less powerful and less expensive integrated tube amp and see if it still provides you with the breathtaking sound you described.

there's always the option to get the lower priced PSB/NAD alternative, live with it for a couple of years, and upgrade after than, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're looking to do, so it might make sense to get what appeals to you most, despite the relative costs.

in any event, i'm glad you took the time to go out there and check out those offerings, and hope you find something you can enjoy for the long haul.
yes i liked both the PSB Synchrony 2B and Nola Boxers very much. I tried the Nola Boxers with the Moon 250i and it also sounded excellent.

I would say the advantages of Nola Boxer to be a bit livelier sound and also more expression. But it might be a bit to large for my needs as this will be a desktop setup.

The advantages for the PSB Synchrony 2B is that i felt it was more smoother of the two and i feel it will be easier on the ears for long listening hours. Also the PSB dealer is located in my city whereas the Nola i'll have to get shipped. Which is cool too because ultimately i care about the sound quality and i don;t think speakers need to be sent in for repairs too often unlike other electronic components.

I also feel that the PSB Synchrony 2B will be a safer choice for me since i already own a PSB Image based 5.1 setup which consists of B6,C5,S5 + SVS PC12NSD.

There is no doubt though that the Nola Boxers are absolutely magical and sound breath taking. They are just simply awesome. And i feel the Syncrhrony 2B are smoother and just relax me and let me be lost in the music. They are both special in their own way and i would pick either one of them on different days.

PSB is a sound i know i love and i'd picked up the Image HT setup after similarly listening to may HT speaker setups last year. Hence i just feel a bit more confident towards the PSB Synchrony 2B because i know i love that PSB sound.
Given that these are for a desktop and that you like the Image B6, how about stepping up in product line and down in size with the PSB Imagine Mini? It has a ~8"x9" footprint and its front profile is smaller than a 6"x9" paperback book. Smaller drivers give better point source driver integration and dispersion, and with the money you save you could always add a little sub to fill out the 30-60 Hz region.

It also has the neodymium magged titanium dome tweeter from the Synchrony line. Better tweeters make things better.