Speaker and Amp dilemma

My system is probably considered fairly low budget to many of those who post here, but I have a dilemma matching my speakers to my amp. I got a really great price right here on A'gon on a pair of Legacy Focus 20/20s, giants of a pair of speakers! I have them in a 20ft by 16ft listening room, so they have room to breath, but my existing amp is an old Forte Model 3, rated at 200 into 8, and 400 into 4, or there about. And while it does drive these speakers to satisfying volumes, it just lacks the wow factor, the toe tap test, and seems like it is in need of more current. From reading the forum on the Legacy website, most people who love these speakers use more power, a lot using as much as 500 to 600 watts.

So here is my dilemma, should I invest in a larger amp? Or smaller speakers? I had a very life altering experience at the local salon many years back listening to a pair of Martin Logan Sequals, and they are very much in my price range used these days. I could sell the 20/20's and have way more than enough to purchase a nice set of Martin Logan's of their larger models, used of course. So if I keep my amp, and sell my speakers and buy the M-L's, I come out ahead, but if I sell my amp and buy a Classe CA-400, (or the likes) then I need to make a major investment on my fixed retirement income. I hate to make a bad decision here, I wish I could afford to do both, and then judge later which ones to sell, but that may take me a very long time to pull that off. Not to mention a new turntable is also high on my want list.

So I appeal to those more experienced than I, what advice can you offer this man of limited means? Sell my speakers to buy M-L's and use the amp I have for a while longer? Save up and buy a new amp to drive the speakers I have? Or wait until I save up enough to do both? Thank you for taking the time to read my post!
I had that same amp years ago and it puts out 350 watts into four ohms! I have also owned a Classe model 15 and liked the Forte better! That being said I think you should go for the M-L's and enjoy your retirement!
I recommend reading this paper before making any decisions.

loudspeaker sensitivity from Musical Fidelity
Thanks Yogiboy for giving the benefit of your experience! And thank you Nick Sr. For the interesting reading. I remember reading some similar calculations based on current requirements to reach certain SPL's at the seating position. It has been a long time ago, but as I recall it gave similar results. I have always thought watts were a poor measure of an amp, my hair dryer has 1500 watts, but cannot drive a speaker at all! Current on tap and slew rate are much more important numbers. And as far as that goes, neither of my choices of speakers claim a very great SPL rating. So, I could sell my Legacy's and buy the Martin Logan's and still have the same problem of not enough power. Thank you for the insight, it gives me much to think about.
Hair dryer and stereo amps? Apples and oranges!
A hair dryer CONSUMES 1500 watts. Amps output wattage.
Exactly my point, to illustrate how poor a choice wattage is for mesuring an amp's output. Why not BTU's? Just as bad. OK, maybe it's not a great analogy, but best I had on short notice. At least you're paying attention! Thank you for the corrections.
upgrade then amp IMO
I think you would be best to move on from the Legacy Focus 20/20's. There is no guarantee that even more power would make them sound better, or get your toes tapping. I was a fan of Legacy speakers in the early years, I owned 3 pairs between 1987-2000. Then I found that there were better sounding speakers out there.

As others have mentioned, ML's can also be difficult to drive. 200/400 wpc should be plenty to drive most speakers out there, you should have plenty to choose from. Look for a nice pair of Vandersteen, Vienna Acoustics, Dynaudio, Sonus Faber, etc., grab a pair, and move on.

Let's recap, one vote to change amp, one vote to go for M-L's, and one vote to go for a different speaker. Having owned Forte amps, listened to other Legacy speakers, and read the Stereophile review on the 20/20's, I'm not totally convinced amp/speaker is the problem for toe tap. Would you care to list your preamp, source, and speaker cables & interconnects?
Thanks for asking Tls49. My preamp is a Parasound Halo 3 and I acquired a very nice pair of 12 foot Legacy speaker cables when I bought the speakers. I must confess that I have only compared them to plain Monster 12 gauge OFC zip cord style speaker cables. And they were noticeably better than the less expensive Monsters, in an all around way. I guessed they were probably better than most anything else I could afford at that time, best I have ever had anyway. My interconnects are single ended Harmonic Technology Truth cables. After trying a few others including some Van Den Hul and Audioquest I really liked the Truthlinks, and after tying one pair I now own 3 pair, and the pair I have between preamp and amp is the next model up, forgive me for forgetting their name and not looking back there to see.

I have also heard some Vandersteen model 3's at the salon before, and found them to be most impressive. It is easy to speculate on a thousand brands out there that may or not bring me more satisfaction, and so hard to pick one.

I also do wonder what if I were to drop a few grand on a preamp, phono pre, turntable or cartridge, but while the source is of utmost Importance, the amp/speaker is really what controls the character of the system. So while I know a new preamp will make a difference, I want to do what will make the largest difference first. On my fixed retirement income, I am limited to perhaps one new component per year! Or two years, depending on how much I spend. So perhaps high end is not the best hobby for me? Well my previous system was actually far cheaper than my present one, and I loved it! (In a different room in a different house.) And got great satisfaction from it for 20 years! But alas I gave that system to my daughter Christmas before last. Audio is a hobby we are responsible to pass on to the next generation, to keep the market healthy.

I hear from those who say that my amp is fine, should work great, and I hear the same said for my speakers, but obviously they are just not meant for each other. And while cables do make a difference, I am looking for a greater difference than I believe cables can make, I am trying to set the overall character of my whole system here. But just as I knew before I opened this post, there are no easy answers, trial and error is about my only course of action. But it is good to hear what others would do in my place, it does give me a lot to think about.

Alpha_gt, thanks for sharing the rest of your system. Your Legacy speakers do have a high sensitivity, however there is some issue with impedance and phase angle at certain frequencies as noted by the Stereophile review. This would be a problem with a tube amp, but the Forte should have no problem at all, since it is a high current design and stable with a low impedance load. I don't think more power will accomplish anything except a little more ultimate volume.

I am curious that when you say "wow factor", are you refering to dynamics?
Thanks again Tls49, I appreciate your input. Like you, I bought these pieces thinking it should all be a good match, bought used of course. Spec wise, there is nothing really wrong with the system. But when I say it lacks Wow factor, perhaps I am referring to dynamics, or perhaps sound stage too? It's hard to put my finger on, or maybe I lack the language to describe what it lacks. But what I used to feel with my old system, and it was a real budget system that I would not even want to tell you about, but it gave me this long term attraction. One record lead to the next, and next, until I would find myself up at 2am on a work night! Unable to pull myself away, and each record would give me the name of the next one, and while I did like it extra loud on occasion, most times I was probably listening at about 86 to 90db or so. And late at night, not even that loud, maybe 60db max.

And there was another quality to it that I miss, that feeling of being there maybe? To be able to suspend disbelief and close my eyes and see my favorite bands up on the stage? But the emotional response, to be able to put a particular song on and know that if I set the volume up and settled back it would eventually bring a tear to my eye, I was emotionally vested in the performance! And I was not alone, I have seen a few of my friends reach this same nirvana on a few occasions. (You know the type, too cheap to get their own stereo, but do not mind coming to your house with a 6 pack in hand for an evening of good music!).

So, I thought this stereo system being of such higher pedigree, and the numbers that match well, should be blowing that old system away! But this is a new house, a larger room, and entirely different setup. The old stereo had runs of $1 a foot Monster Siamese speaker cable, with no ends on them, and I did have a pair of $75 Van den Hul linear crystal copper interconnects on my old Sony CDP608ES CD player, so again the cables I use now are far better, and to my ears sound great! In fact they made a nice leap forward after I installed them. (The Truthlinks) and I got these Legacy speaker cables with the speakers, one would think a good match, but of course we never really know. They are some very amazing speaker cables that outshine my old cables like magic. Not a great feat perhaps, but I never really had any complaints with the old wires. So, the new stereo can play loud! No problem there! It has serious bass! Amazing bass even, I am a bass guitar player and I am so impressed at how much more I can hear the bass player in my old favorite recordings. The highs are smooth and clear, I can hear deeper into the mix than I ever could with my old stereo. The soundstage is somewhat flatter, I do not get a great sense of who is in front and who is in the rear, as I have heard on other systems, the Martin Logan's excelled at that! I could tell where every piece was! And how tall the singer was! But of course they were being driven by $30K worth of electronics at the time. (At the salon, you may recall).

So, while all of these dimensions would seem to add up to a very nice system, I can hear that it does more, and sounds better on the surface, (deeper and accurate bass, smoother revealing highs), I can actually hear more of my favorite recordings than ever before! But, this stereo has never, not once ever brought a single tear to my cheek, no emotional involvement, and I do not have that feeling that one album will lead to another until I have lost all lack of time. How do I get that feeling back? What is missing from this system that the old bargin system had? OK I will tell you, it was an Adcom 555 & Adcom pre driving Bose 601 mkiii. Not trash by no means, but certainly nothing special. Perhaps this better spells out my dilemma, thanks for listening.


Hi Russell, I believe I understand better now, and the word engaging comes to mind. Sounds like you're looking for the music to pull you in and make you yearn for more.

I'm retired now, but worked in the audio industry for over 20 years, and have had quite a bit of experience with many different products and system set up. For Adcom amps, a 535, 5500, and a 5802. Also, had 2 Forte amps and a Threshold. Currently use a Musical Fidelity integrated, and had 2 others prior to this one. I still have many local friends calling me to "pick my brain", as they say, when they're having problems or thinking about upgrades.

No personal experience with Parasound, but did read a review on your preamp. Looks like a nice preamp, however it did say the phono stage was just OK, and seem to suggest that it could easily be improved with an inexpensive outboard phono stage.

You seem like a super nice guy, and if you would like to talk by phone, I would be happy to do so. You could call me, or I will call you. We could email directly through Audiogon, rather than posting numbers on the forum.

Thanks to all who responded to my original post. This is my follow up to let those interested know how it all worked out.

So, the thought of selling these monster sized Legacy Focus speakers filled me with dread, so I decided to do what I had to do to make sure I had given them every chance. I shopped for larger amps, big Krell's and such, a very expensive option. I did some reading on my Forte' amp and it seems to be a well respected amp for its overall performance. So I kind of hated to part with it as well. In the mean time I refurbished a pair of old '80's Bose 601's. they were laying about and I figured they deserved the attention and I could always use the money. So, once I had them all redone, with improved drivers and new crossover, they sounded great driven by my Forte model 3! I mean, surprisingly good! Oh sure, the highs were not as smooth and the bass not as low as my Legacy's, but pleasing to listen to none the less. I've always held the opinion that the amp is what you are actually listening to, the speaker just allows more or less of it through.

I mix sound for a local rock band in my spare time, and it gave me a great idea! I shopped for, and bought a PA amplifier, a Crown XLS 2000. A modern class D amp that makes 650 watts into 4 ohms. (The Legacy's are a 4 ohm load) and I bi-amped my Legacy speakers. Purchased some beautiful locking banana plugs and and gold plated spade lugs, added them to a few lengths of 10 gauge Monster speaker wire. Something I can live with for a while until which time I buy some nicer wires, and honestly, they turned out so nice that I may never replace them! They are driving the lower half of my Legacy's, so the last minute detail may not be that critical. And I have kept my Forte amp driving the top halves of these behemoth speakers.

So, just about a few hours ago, I threw the switch, put in one of my favorite CD's (Brother Cane, their first album of the same name) and I gotta say, WOW! Of course, with a combined wattage at 4 ohms of 1025 watts per channel, one would expect a bit of difference. It's louder, oh my God it's a lot louder! But that is not what I was going for, I was looking for that zing, that emotional connection to the music, that purity of soul and to let the heart sore, to let the blues jerk a tear, to immerse one's self in music.

So, it's only been a few hours and I've only played a few albums just yet, but overall my initial impressions are success! These speakers really sing! The bass is real! Like being there, every instrument blended into the whole, buy easily discerned from the mix when you want to pick it out. Top end so smooth, and pure, again very realistic. None fatiguing even at incredible volume, and still full range even at minute volumes. It doesn't get louder or softer, it gets bigger and smaller, like moving forward and backward from the stage.

I've never had a great deal of soundstage in this room, that could very well be too much furniture, not being able to pull the speakers far enough into the room, but it's not bad, and better than it was before the bi-amping. Or it could be just the visual impact of these giant speakers, it's hard to not know where the music is coming from with these beasts in the room. But there is a great deal of information swinging between them, as they are 10 feet apart. I may experiment with moving them closer together, and farther from the end walls, that could help snap then into focus. But all of that stuff is academic. We are talking about the finer details here, but there is a limit as to what placement and tweaks can accomplish, you've got to be fairly happy with what you started with in the first place for any of that to matter. And so far, I'm elated! My very first hunch was that these Legacy Focus speakers were under powered, and quite often first impressions are correct. Oh, they did not sound bad driven by the Forte alone, my son in law though they were the greatest thing he'd ever heard! But now I'm very happy with how they sound, and I'll reserve making any more changes for the next three months, to just see if this impression lasts. I have a feeling it will.
well that was one way to solve that. massive power. and here i was ready to suggest hi effeciency full range single driver speakers driven by a small t chip amp for under 70$. or a tiny tube set amp for under$300. now you see the result of low efficiency multi driver and crossover design coupled with s.s. power. it takes huge amounts of energy to work well. a marketers dream!!!