Speaker advice for listening to Blues music

Hi, new to the forum, and hoping I can get some help finding the right speakers... I'm a Blues guitar player and have a dedicated music room for my guitars/amps. I usually spend time playing my guitars and recently decided to setup a decent system for listening to my Blues music. I first started with a Marantz integrated (PM8005) and some Kef R300, source is a Marantz ND8006 and I mostly play FLAC files from a NAS, but also started streaming from Spotify and now trying Tidal. This setup was great at first, very revealing, but found the R300 were not the right speakers for the kind of music I listen to, but they were great for some Jazz and did well with good recordings, which most of my Blues recordings weren't, specially live albums. I also found them to be a little boomy in that small room (12' X 12'), so I moved them to the living room instead and added a matching center, they're perfect there.

Next came the LS50, read so much about them I had to get a pair to try. Wow! I still can't believe what these small speakers can do, the details I hear, soundstage, imaging, it's all there. But, just like the R300, since they're so revealing they're horrible with my favorite Blues recordings. It's great to listen to excellent recordings and enjoy the music these speakers are making but I want to enjoy MY music, the Blues greats I've been listening to for over 30 years. If it sounds great in the car then I should be able to find the right gear to duplicate at home, right? On some good Blues recordings it sounds excellent, but most of my favorites aren't good recordings.

Since I only play my guitars through old Fender amps I figured I should replace the Marantz integrated with a tube amp, so next came the PrimaLuna integrated. I wanted to get a "warmer" sound and hope it'll fix the issues I was having with most crappy recordings... I want to hear BB's beautiful guitar tone and crank it up, without hurting my ears. Both Kefs were too fatiguing to listen to. And on most live recordings guitars sound way too thin and bright, not what I'm used to hearing. A good example is Albert King's Wednesday Night in San Francisco, that Flying V can be painful to listen to after a couple of minutes! Not so in the car or even just using headphones and my laptop. I understand that it's because the system is more revealing, but is it possible to have both, revealing and musical so that one can enjoy the music they love? The PrimaLuna did help and it's staying, I like what I'm hearing so far, and I get to play with tubes, something I enjoy doing already :)

Right now I'm breaking in some Wharfedale Denton 80th, I wanted to try something with a soft dome tweeter, something less fatiguing than the LS50. I'm at 70+ hours so far and they're sounding much better, not as fatiguing, but something is missing... I prefer the LS50's soundstage and details, but they're both not that great for electric guitar. The Dentons are more forgiving but I don't find them musical and they don't disappear like the LS50s do.

So what are my choices? Do I stick with bookshelf, try some floor standing? What about single driver speakers (Omega, Zu...)? Are those the answer to what I'm looking for? I need something more forgiving, musical, efficient so I can crank it up when I feel like playing along some times... I want the guitar to sound full and not thin and bright. It's a small room and not a lot of space due to my guitar gear. My budget is also limited, would like to keep it under $2k, I already have a hobby and don't want this to get out of control :)

Forgot to mention, I also have a Rel sub, so not too worried about the low end. Sorry for the long post and thanks for any help!

Showing 11 responses by paulcreed

Sorry didn't read all your post now seeing your looking at single driver. I'm putting together a second system for blues and jazz now. I'm voicing it a little dark and slow. It's very enjoyable and plays blues well. Soft dome would work nice. If tubes are electro hamonix maybe change to JJ's if on a budget. If you can find some NOS or used for cheaper price Winged C's or better Mullards pBlackburn plant. Some smooth Preamp tubes. Power cords can give you tone. There can be over priced but make a difference. It may be a hassle but build some using some 6 gauge wire for $50, if you want to add vibration control, use tubing and sandblasting material and palm sanderand to pack it closing it with hot glue and clamps. You can make decent interconnects with magnet wire and packing tape. Change some caps in your amp.Everything adds up and helps to play music. Now this one will send you down a rabbit hole get a turntable.

I'm a drummer but i play, I've got an old Fender champ that sounds great though a PA. It's sometimes hard to get a true dirty/clean blues sound with hifi gear. I grew up on live blues and jazz born in New Orleans.Maybe you should look at and listen to high efficient single driver speaker, with a simple crossover, you can always mod the crossover to your liking. An el84 amp would work nice, some of them can have a magical sound certainly with point to point wiring. You can only get maybe 25 watts out of a el84. Or a lush el34 amp could work. Omega makes nice budget single driver think it's called the super 3 and retails for $700 but used much cheaper. If you can find a used Exemplar Audio single driver speaker, I've seen them go for around $1200 they retail for $4000. There's  not a lot of bass but single driver have a special sound to me for blues and simple music. If you could find some altec 604's build a crossover andbox.I started a post a couple days ago on removing spike from my speakers. I found blues sounds much better now. If it doesnt  have sustain or tone and can't get dirty it ain't right for blues.

Open baffle suggestion is interesting you don't hear the box. Power conditioner was a good suggestion. If you can find a Tara Lab AD 2 or 6 grab it. It's passive and better than the Shuyata hydra 8 but not as good as the Running Springs Hayley I've owned. There cheap, I see them sell for $250, I paid $250 shipped for the AD 6. You would have to spend almost $2000 new today to match it. I think there are great speakers out there for way under $2000 used and maybe spread you budget around. 

Cedarblues where your amps and speakers bought new and if so how many hours of running time do you have on them. If it's under 4 or 500 hours what your describing could be traits of break in. 
I wouldn't judge anything till 4 or 500. I would run speakers on a solid state receiver 24/7, run amp while you can keep an eye on it, prima may need other speakers hooked up if you breaking in speakers in another room. Check with prima luna. 2 to 300 you may start to hear improvement it's just a waiting game. Your gear is not broken in.

If you use a passive conditioner your amp can go into it with good results most of the time. If not passive, power conditioner kill the sound with amp going into them, it limits current. Most of time it's best for amp to go in wall. A $10 to $25 pass seymore or hubbell wall outlet from Home Depot can help.

I don think your hearing a revealing system. Your hearing speakers with 100 hours you may not like anyway once there cooked. An amp with 200 hours, stock tubes, thats the first thing I would rip out since you said your keeping amp. Transformers and caps need time. Your hearing crap break in noise on what you call a revealing system with your bad recordings on top and expect to i joy it. To me a revealing system is neutral with very very low noise floor so highs, details can be exposed just sitting there in front of you not treble pushed at you. I can play my system loud and be able to talk to friend next to me in my normal tone of voice. Your hearing noise.

If you can find synergy between your source, amp, speakers you will enjoy any type of music on your system. If not it will never sound right. You can't just throw a great pick up in a great guitar body and expect it to sound great, ( buddy of mine love to mod his pick ups he about drove himself crazy) same with "revealing " 2 channel gear. 
Read some reviews on LSA Statements monitors, they go to 39hz, 6ohm 87db, have a ribbon tweeter with auicaps. Maybe the tone your missing is the monitors your looking at don't go low enough, used there $800 to $1000, I enjoyed them with a 25 watt el84 tube amp. Usher 718 tiny dancer is another nice speaker, a little brighter than lsa but very nice.

Call Danny (can't hurt) at GR Research, he is a real nice guy and knows what he is doing, he has designed crossovers for many of big name speaker company's. I have a pair of his monitors I bought  on a whim with upgraded crossovers to bring to work,they sounded so good they never left the house. The tone you say is lacking in your speakers these $500 ( alpha core inductors, mills resistors, sonicaps or any cap you want,point to point wiring) speakers have it for all music including blues. He can tell you a speaker to buy or you pick one. Send him your crossover and upgrade it for your taste or he will tell you what needs to be done at no charge after going over your crossover and you do it yourself. He has open baffle kits, monitor kits , maybe single driver, one of the best bang for the money out there. Or call Madisound they have single driver kits. That would leave you money for cables, conditioners or what ever else you may need. 
Another good bang for buck by cutting out middle man is Fritz speakers.