Soliciting Upgrade Advice


I’ve been reading numerous threads on this forum in an attempt to isolate what would generally be regarded as the “best” pair of speakers in the 5K range. I understand that “best” in this context can be both subjective and objective. I listen to two channel only. While my primary musical preference is Grateful Dead, on occasion I’ve been known to throw on Mozart.

I currently have JBL S412P speakers and recently bought an M6si amp. Now before you guys trash the speakers (because I realize it may be a stretch to even consider them audiophile grade), I can tell you I’ve listened to quite a few speakers in my day, including the relatively new to market Golden Ear Triton One’s, and I still feel the 412s hold their own (if not sound even better). And yes, I know that there are Von Schweikerts to be had at 50K and even JBL makes an Everest model at a 50K price point, unfortunately that’s out of my reach.

Also, I’m told the JBL Array 1400 can annihilate the 412s. While that may be true, spec wise it doesn’t appear that way. I’m not simply looking for speakers to handle more wattage. The Array 1400’s appear to me at face value to be more-of-the-same (with respect to the 412s).

So, my dilemma – although it’s not a bad one to have – is because I’m budget constrained to 5K, do I stay with my JBL S412Ps or should I “upgrade” and if so, to what?
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There is no best or perfect speaker. It is all a compromise. Different speakers have certain strengths and weaknesses. Also speakers can be system dependent. There needs to be a synergy. You don't say what the rest of your system is so it is hard to make suggestions. The Dead loved McIntosh tube equipment. They were even a McIntosh dealer at one point.

I would listen to every speaker you can to get a feel for which ones you like. Try to listen with equipment similar to what you have. Use the same music, music you are very familiar with. Make a list and then whittle it down. I am also a dead fan. I want the illusion that the band is right there in the room. The tone of the instruments and voices needs to sound natural and not artificial. Most dead is very well recorded. Even the soundboard recordings of concerts sound really good.
"Also, I’m told the JBL Array 1400 can annihilate the 412s. While that may be true, spec wise it doesn’t appear that way."

I can't recommend a speaker because I have no idea what you would be happy with, but I can say this. Specs do have their uses, but they can't tell you anything about sound quality.
The used Dunlavy speakers continue to be the 'greatest bargains in all of high-end audio'. For 5K the SC-V(s) are well within reach which can truly compete with the super-speakers you mentioned.
Lostbears - I have a music fidelity m6si if that helps in your response at all. GD used JBL as well as McIntosh. In fact McIntosh still prominently mentions Bobby and I believe shows a photo of him in the studio with McIntosh equipment. McIntosh was a bit beyond what I wanted to spend though.

Zd542, I agree with you, however, certainly you would agree that specs are certainly part of the equation. In this case both JBLs are rated to go to 32Hz. One has a sensitivity of 91db the other 89db. One has three the other four drivers. I grant you the quality of the components, cabinetry, etc and just plain realism of the sound is not necessarily known by specs.

Brauser, in googling the Dunlavy's there are many sites selling the brand and/or reviewing them. I couldn't readily find a company web site. Do you know the URL?

Thanks to everyone. I truly appreciate your candid feedback.

By the way, has anyone here heard the JBL S412Ps first hand?
"Zd542, I agree with you, however, certainly you would agree that specs are certainly part of the equation."

"Specs do have their uses, but they can't tell you anything about sound quality."

I believe I said just that.

"In this case both JBLs are rated to go to 32Hz. One has a sensitivity of 91db the other 89db. One has three the other four drivers."

If you're going to rely on specs, you need to make sure all of them are taken into consideration. And just not some. For example, the 89db speaker may be much easier to drive than the 91db speaker. Other factors like impedance, xover design, how bass is handled, etc.., all play a huge part. But even if you have all the specs, you still can't predict how the speaker will sound. There's no way to measure things like timbre, imaging, sibilance, pacing....
Okay. Thanks Zd542. I'll concede you are correct. I'd appreciate it if chime in on the thread I'm starting regarding Triton 1 vs Mythos ST-L Supertowers.
John Dunlavy passed away a few years ago and his company, which he had sold a couple of years before, regrettably went out of business. He left behind, however, a legacy of amazing speaker designs which have held up against the mega-$$$ speakers surprisingly well. If you are at all interested, look at the many posts and reviews. What you'll find is a substantial number of audiophiles who will not part with their speakers on any basis.
Gdhal:

Since you are a JBL guy I'll contribute to your quandary as I myself was a JBL user for many years.

In the late 70's I purchased some L212s, and modded them by time aligning the drivers. While not the most "timbre" accurate they imaged like crazy and had dynamics to die for. But time and smog took their toll and the surrounds disintegrated, forcing me to look for an alternative.

Zd won't like this but I ended up with B&W 804S which retained many of the things I like about the JBLs. They do not image quite as well, but dynamic range is great, and I began hearing things in program material I did not hear with the JBLs. For the money you are talking about, used B&W s might be an option.

And regarding specs, they are basically meaningless. I time aligned the drivers in my L212s and that did not alter the specs 1 dB, but the difference is sound stage depth and imaging was incomparable.
Well $5k these days would just about buy a 2nd hand pair of Infinity IRS Betas. Certainly the classic Infinity IRS Gamma would be within reach. Some other options in that price range would include Legacy Audio Signature SE & Revel Ultima Studio 2. I've even seen original Apogee Diva's in good shape <$5k.
Are there any opinions about the Golden Ear Triton One's or Mythos ST-L SuperTower? Either of those could be had new for 5K a pair. In the case of Golden Ear, certain reviewers claim they are comparable to speakers costing 5 times as much.
Gdhal-

best advice- get out there and listen, listen, listen to the many "flavors" of loudspeakers. It is one thing to read reviews/opinions and it is quite another to demo these speakers in the moment.

Over the years, I have crossed off my short-list from the speakers that I thought I wanted to own. Keep me posted and Happy Listening!
I’ve been reading numerous threads on this forum in an attempt to isolate what would generally be regarded as the “best” pair of speakers in the 5K range. I understand that “best” in this context can be both subjective and objective.
As you know there is no "best" of anything. In the case of speakers, it is strictly subjective. I can list ten current models at your budget and it would be difficult to arrive at a consensus. I would probably get replies adding even more. There is no objectivity in this.
The best speaker is only the one that sounds best to you!

I can tell you I’ve listened to quite a few speakers in my day, including the relatively new to market Golden Ear Triton One’s, and I still feel the 412s hold their own (if not sound even better).
You may be answering your own question. To your ears, you already prefer what you have vs. a new offering at your budget. I suggest you go out and listen to several others, using music that you know very well, and that can be driven by an amp of comparable quality and power output to what you already have.
Specs do have their uses, but they can't tell you anything about sound quality.
Zd is absolutely right. Specs are good to tell your amp will match up well with the speakers you intend on auditioning but will tell you nothing about how they actually sound. And in your case you have a very good amp and I am pretty sure that it will properly drive just about any speaker you will encounter in your auditions.

This is just another reason why to go out and hear as many speakers possible so you can find the speaker that is best for you. Or find out that you may already have it.


What I've found after decades into this hobby is... speakers are THE one component that require the end-user only, to be the sole buyer,judge,jury...
Looking in the $5K range used these certainly caught my eye:

https://app.audiogon.com/listings/full-range-tannoy-dc10a-2015-11-21-speakers-04401-bangor-me

And I don't think anyone here looks down on JBL, a classic brand that's made some amazing speakers. And if you think they sound good and maybe better than other speakers you've listened to then perhaps you can pocket that $5K or put it to upgrading other parts of your system? You list an MF M6i amp but how about your source? Cables? Etc?
"Zd won't like this but I ended up with B&W 804S which retained many of the things I like about the JBLs. They do not image quite as well, but dynamic range is great, and I began hearing things in program material I did not hear with the JBLs. For the money you are talking about, used B&W s might be an option."

Once again, you're wrong. What I like or dislike is not the issue. I know you mean well, but its all about you. Yes, I don't like B&W speakers, but that's my honest opinion. Its just as valid as yours. Also note that I don't try and sell my favorite speakers in every thread. As with any speaker, opinions vary.

"And regarding specs, they are basically meaningless."

I agree with you on that one. Gdhal, one thing I forgot to mention in my last post, is that specs aren't always accurate. They can be way off.
I think the B&W 804's would be worth a listen. They were one of the speakers that caught my ear during a recent speaker upgrade and I listened to the B&W line from the 805's to the 802's as well as 12 other manufactures.
Sonus Faber Cremona M. You should be able to get a pair for clost to 5k.
Ofher than the fact that you own JBL speakers and a MF amp and that you listen to the Greatful Dead and Mozart, there is really no indication of what aspects of sound reproduction as it pertains to speakers or anything else is most important to you. How in the world are any of us going to give you a meaningful or even semi-informed opinion unless you tell us more about what specifically you're looking to improve upon? Details like imaging, soundstaging, tonality, timber, PRaT, micro or macro dynamics, disappearing, bass, treble, mids, etc. etc. Until you specify what's important to you and what you're looking to improve upon this is just an inefficient crapshoot littered with individual preferences that may or may not have anything to do with what you're looking for. And it's a shame because there are loads of great options in your price range. Not trying to be an ass here, but garbage in garbage out. More info would be most helpful. And we're all trying to help here.
Soix, without knowing anything else (i.e. disregard all of things I'm looking to improve, etc.), would you consider any of these models an "upgrade":

http://www.whathifi.com/news/10-worlds-most-expensive-loudspeakers
Gdhal,

Answers to your last post won't get you any closer to answering your original question.

You've got basically two approaches. In both cases explain what aspects of sound you are looking to prioritize & build a list from replies of "contenders". Then

A) Visit dealers & demo as many of the contenders as possible and go from there: (home demo w/your amp & room >> buy from dealer)

B) Research online a wide variety of opinions characterizing the contenders and narrowing to probable winners then monitor ads to buy one used at a fair price and consider your used purchase an extended home demo. If you aren't happy, you can resell and try another contender.

Speakers have more variety than other types of components and personal taste will definitely come into play. Synergy with your amp is critical to musical satisfaction. Until you hear any speakers w/your amp you won't know whether or not the pairing will make you happy in the long run. Cheers,
Spencer
...got it. great suggestions... thanks to all who have responded... I have plenty of info to go on...