speaker suggestions for modest arcam alpha system

hi, I have very recently changed my system with a used arcam alpha 7se cd player and alpha 9 integrated amp...these two pieces and a pair of paradigm monitor 7v2s are my whole main system....i am considering changing my speakers (although i am not unhappy with them, just want to use them with my old amp (NAD T751) in a seperate home theatre setup) and i was wondering if any of the low-end-mid-fi gurus out there could suggest a good match for this modest setup.

the listening/living room is 8'Hx12'Wx16'L. my listening position is about 3.5' from back wall and about 9.5' from speakers which are along the 12' dimension of room (only way to make room work).

I love the look of floorstanding speakers but probably don't need them in my listening enivronment.

I mainly listen to modern rock, acoustic rock, vintage blues and some electronica...periodically i listen to vivalldi's 4 seasons, which is the only piece of classical music that i own

my price point is $600 to $800 (incl. stands if bookshelf variety) and prefer used gear (my cd player and amp costed $650 total after shipping, used)

any suggestions would be great, thanks, Mark
The first speakers that come to mind would be Thiel CS.5's. Granted, you may want to add a nice subwoofer later on, but I love the accuracy and imaging of these little Thiels. With a good sub, they can compete with setups costing much more. If you bought new, I would think that NHT would be strong in that price range. Some other used contenders might include Meadowlark Swifts, the smaller Totem floorstanders, or maybe even ProAc (which would pair up well with your Arcam).

thanks Tom,

i kinda like the idea of stereo being just two speakers (less money, less wires, less knobs, less floorspace)... which puts bookshelf speakers at a serious disavantage (plus the cost of stands) but i will start my research on them all!

i have seen a couple other recomendations for the ProAc speaker saying they are a good setup with Arcam...are they affiliated to each other or simply both british companies?

also seen references to arcam sounding well matched to B&W and mission speakers (i think both british companies?)

also, being satisfied with paradigm, the monitor 7v3 is not out of the question...but would like to try a different company's offerings..thanks Mark
Don't forget Tannoy. Scottish company. I love my Mx series with my Arcam DV-89.
Paradigm makes some great speakers in its price range. So does PSB. But I was trying to throw out some suggestions in a slightly different direction. I happen to be putting together an Arcam/ProAc setup, myself. After falling in love with the ProAc Tablette Reference 8's, I ordered a pair of the Signature series. Shortly thereafter, that same dealer had someone trade in an Arcam FMJ A22, so I snagged it, although I have yet to pick up either unit. So, while I, too, have read that they match up well, I have not heard them togehter yet. I am currently trolling for a CD player to match.

Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 are $328 direct from Ascend. This includes shipping. They would cost $1,000+ if sold at a dealer and in a nice wood veneer. The sound is neither low-end or modest. Worthy competition to the B&W speakers. Their only fault was that they were a bit etched to me and I think the Arcam would be a great match to tame them down a bit.
Check out the Dali bookshelf spks. on www.canadianhifi.com They also list a used pr. of ATC bookshelf spk. for around $650. For floorstanders one dealer is advertising some new Morel's for $849. Personally I haven't heard them, but they seem quite an interesting design w/the dome midrange. (Asking $ seems a little too high, IMO.) Many yrs. ago had an Alpha 10 int. amp w/ some B&W's DM-640's which sounded pretty good. Lots of possibilities! Good Luck!

The Thiel CS.5's are floor standers, and you don't absolutely need a subwoofer with them. My father-in-law has a pair with no sub, and he loves them. But for many of the speakers in your price range, if you want detail, tonal balance, good imaging and soundstage, you probably won't get that AND great low end output without a sub. You can get good low end, but usually at the expense of something else (in that price range, that is). Plus, most of the speakers that are going to fit your room well are going to be on the smaller side.

I'm not sure if the ProAc/Arcam match-up is due to them both being British, but I would think that this is part of why they work so well togehter. For kicks, if not for sonic reasons, I am setting up my office system to be all British, while my home system is all American.

For a while I've been contemplating a mini system. Choosing speakers is confusing /difficult.-- There are so many small book-shelf speakers new and used; it's a chore to separate 'claims' from opinions, from reality. Seems everybody's monitors sound like Wilson X1's for 3/6 hundred ?? (Read GMA Europa;Whorfdale 8.2 VSM--on and on.)
yeah i learned a bit more about Thiel after my second post...one concern I came up with about the Thiel is that its rated at four ohms, which i believe will make my Alpha 9 integrated work pretty hard, and the amp tends to timeout when it gets hot...(am i completly off base?)(would a powered sub alleviate some of this with it's own internal amplification?) (i have read that the Alpha 9 biamped system alleviates this problem)

Tom, could you update this post when you get your ProAc/Arcam system dialed in?....they are the speaker i am kind of leaning towards (but price could be a problem)

the Ascend Acoustics have been recommended to me before and seem to have a loyal following...i was actually considering them for my home theatre...but changing out my Paradigms and using them for home theatre sounded like more fun!

thanks for all the input...right now i am leaning towards the ProAc (if i can find 'em in my price point) followed by Thiel and Meadowlark...but i need to do more research on Totem and Dali...i am still leaning towards floorstanders due to personal preference, but maybe i should buy some bookshelfers just to broaden my horizens a bit...thanks again, mark
Underwood Hifi has some new Soliloquy 5.0's listed here on Audiogon for $500 (originally $1,100) and at that price they're an amazing bargain. They're extremely well built and have a sweet, solid sound that's very satisfying. I'm not affiliated with Underwood, just very impressed with his prices and service.

For Thiels, the CS.5's are pretty easy to drive. Personally, I would think that the Arcam would be able to handle a 4 ohm load just fine, but as of yet, I do not have firsthand experience trying this. If you used a subwoofer with a crossover that you could plug into the "preamp out/power amp in" loop, then, yes, this would make your main speakers easier to drive, though I think that there would be some sonic sacrifice in this approach. I really wouldn't think that the small Thiels would be hard to drive. A pair of SCS3's (bookshelf size, but can be arranged horizontally or vertically) could sound nice, also, and I know that they are not hard to drive.

I am really stoked about getting my system up and running. Those little ProAc's are phenomenal for their size. ProAc makes a couple of nice little subs, but I do not think that I will need them. The regular Tablette Reference 8's that I heard had plenty of bass, and the Signature models that I ordered (the dealer just told me that he has them in his hands) go even lower (38 Hz for the Sig's, versus 40 Hz for the standard Ref 8's). Your shopping list of five brands, ProAc, Thiel, Meadowlark, Totem and Dali is a fine list, and all are top performers in their price range and size, IMHO.

Good luck!

Avguygeorge here's adding to the minisystem speaker confusion:
ELF 1.5
For $125 hard to go wrong. They sound natural.
Mark, I heard some Ruark speakers with Arcam electronics at a dealer a few years ago. They sounded like a good match. I was going to get them until I came across Kinima G1 speakers. They are monitors so you will need stands. There is a new pair for sale on Agon if you need some info and they do fall into your price range.
The guy I bought my Hales T-5's from; said, Arcams are a nice match. You can find the T-5's on the used market for usually a great price. I've seen them sold her on the Gon a number of times. They are amazing speakers. IMO better than anything that has been recommended so far.
so many options...i love it....i am glad to see all the replys and also glad there are so many companies devoted to making great speakers...i am no where close to making a decision :)...

dawgbyte, i love your all encompasing statement that the hales are better than everything else listed (have you heard some of the other speaker's listed?...which ones?....why are they better IYHO?...thanks)...anyone else able to throw a little contradiction into the discussion...the more experience you've had with the aformentioned equipment, the more valuable your opinion will be to me...IMHO :)

Tom, it sounds like you have some experience with the theil's (and i am eager to hear your experience with the ProAcs), I have some concerns with the Thiels that you might be able to shed some light on. Based solely on web reviews, I am afraid that the Thiels may be too revealing for my musical tastes, too fucused on the sweetspot listening position and more than once, i've encountered posts about reliabilty issues, which may be due to neglect/ignorance or truely meritable)...any thoughts?

I've also come to the conclussion that my love of floorstanders is dumb....thanks everyone that has recommended monitor style speakers

the scariest part of all of this for me is that i have no way of touching/smelling/hearing most of the aformentioned speakers....this is not good...(local audio shops offer paradigm, totem, and tannoy)...unfortunately for me, your guy's opinions are going to help steer me to my next speaker choice :0
Thiels are indeed revealing, but when you pair them with good gear, I consider that to be a very good thing. It means that they aren't covering anything up. Not having the new ProAcs in my home yet, from my in store auditioning, I'd say that as a brand, they are warmer than the Thiels, though perhaps not as spot on accurate. With regard to reliability of Thiels, I happen to think that they have some of the best customer support out there. I picked up my 3.6's second hand, and before I did, I contacted Thiel to ask about the warranty. They said that technically, it is non-transferable, and lasts 10 years. However, they said that no matter if you are the original owner or not, and no matter how old they are, if they fail on the account of a manufacturing defect, they will generally repair/replace it for free. On the flip side, even if they are brand new, if they fail due to your own abuse, they don't cover anything. I recently had a chance to put that policy to the test when both of my woofers developed damage from aparently excessive excursion. This, despite the fact that I had never pushed them very loud. We could not find the source of the problem (and my amps were fully checked out, and came back fine), but Thiel fixed them for free, even though it is quite possible that it was something other than speaker failure that caused the problem (my amps were Adcom GFA-555II's run in bridged mono, one for each speaker, and this would have presented a 2 ohm nominal, 1 ohm occassional, load, which may have been the culprit). Thiel was great. The also had my other drivers and crossovers checked out, too.

That said, any of those speakers on your short list are capable of providing very good, very enjoyable music. It is unfortunate that you cannot hear them all, but such is often the case. What sonic traits do you prefer?

Vandersteen 1Cs. Great resolution with a full range sound.
Hi Tom,
my experience is limited (paradigm monitor 7v2 and v3 and a pair of dynaudio floorstanders $4000ish of a good freind of mine that lives 1000 miles away..no way to compare, but i was very impressed with what i heard)

based on what i am hearing with my monitor7v2s, i would say i am most interested in having better definition in the bass/mid-bass frequencies (doesn't have to go as low, just be more accurately defined)...if the rest of the speaker sounded like my paradigms, i'd be pretty satisfied.

i prefer a warm sound...given my affinity towards rock and roll, i have always like the sound of equipment sounding "tube-like" :)...i do suffer some fatigue from overly forward high frequencies, so a little dark and laid back (hence the arcam and NAD gear...i thought NAD was a little too dark and slightly muddy, though)

i want a speaker that does imaging well (but i tend to believe alot of the imaging thing is room/speaker/setup stuff...a whole different part of the fun)...

I am sure my current speakers are overloading my room with bass frequencies and have crossover settings that prohibit details and nuances in the music to come through...i'd like to hear some of those details!...

dead on accuracy is not high on my list and most recordings i listen to are not top notch productions...(thus my fear with thiels).....

i don't want my music tastes to change because certain genres of music sound better on my equipment (i think jazz did that to my buddy with the dynaudios :)...he says it's just maturing musical tastes :) (i will admit that jazz did sound excellent and life-like on his system)...mark

You hit the nail on the head with Paradigm's, especially the Monitor series. A bit muddy in the bass to mid-bass, a bit indistinct in the upper mids, but pretty fair for the money, otherwise. In truth, I much prefer the smaller Paradigm's to the larger. I have not heard Dynaudios in a long time, so they are not too fresh in my mind, but I recall them as being very pleasant speakers.

From what you are describing, with Arcam electronics, I am guessing that ProAc is going to be the way to go. This, of course, is the route that I am taking. I found the ProAc's to be both warm and very detailed, which are usually two characteristics that are somewhat at odds. If you went Thiel, the SCS3's I recall as being a bit more full sounding, and might be your best bet.

I also think that monitors are really going to do a better job for you. In general, monitors will give you a better soundstage and image (not much box vibration to muck things up). I may be able to pick up my ProAc's and Arcam FMJ A22 this weekend. Once I get them set up, I will let you know how they sound.

I use B&W n805's with my Arcam alpha 8 integrated and alpha 7 CD and am very pleased with the match. I loved the Signature 805's in the shop but they were too expensive for my budget and I found I really couldn't appreciate the improvement over the standard n805 with my current setup.
Mark - I usually avoid recommending specific components/speakers in this forum because there are so many variables to consider and people have different tastes, etc. However, I did want to touch on the comments made above regarding the Hales. Keep in mind the T5's (Trancendence 5) floorstanding model by Hales was near the top of their line and retailed for about $6k new. Waaay above the price point you are looking at, even used. Hales' lower-priced line was the Revelation series, the smallest of which was the Revelation One, original retail $995. Hard to find used, but they occasionally come up on the 'gon for around $500/pair. Huge value! Hales are not as well-known as many of the speakers mentioned above due to their minimum of advertising and relatively few dealers (only about 50 nationwide at their peak). Hales Design Group is no longer in business :( but since you are looking at used that should not matter as much.

I own a pair of these bought new four years ago and LOVE them. I have them supported on Sanus's "ultimate foundations" with the fountainhead base. The Rev 1's are a ported 2-way, 8-ohm nominal impedance, 87dB sensitivity, 6.5" woofer, 1" tweeter, Cardas binding posts and internal wiring, proprietary crossover.. these boxes are QUALITY inside and out. (The shipping box states "Handmade in the USA"!, Huntington Beach, CA to be exact!).

They just play whatever you can throw at 'em. Like any speaker, they are not perfect, but they do very little wrong. These little guys will "play large" like very few monitors can, and set up properly on good stands will not require a subwoofer for most music. I am not exaggerating. They can convey a "depth" and "power" on music that exceeds many other manufacturer's small-to-medium floorstanders.

Although Hales have a reputation as requiring a lot of power, the Rev One's should play as loud as you would require in your room using the Arcam. That's a nice little amp. The only drawback I can see in your system is this speaker is not bi-wireable, so you could not bi-amp them down the road with the Arcam. You could, however, put more power behind them by using your Arcam as a preamp and buy a more powerful amp (McCormack DNA series, anyone?) and the Rev Ones would eat it up.

Truth be told, I have not conducted a double-blind face-off with the Pro-Ac, et al, mentioned above and cannot compare the virtues/vices of each. However, I did compare them extensively to other speakers the shop carried where I bought my Hales a few years ago (B&W 805's, Canton Ergos, Snell) at similar and even higher price points and I preferred the Hales' sound by a WIDE margin. They are much more refined than their price would suggest. Professional reviews of the Hales Revelation line routinely had to look to much higher-priced speakers from other brands for comparison. I may be biased towards my Hales but I can't help it. All I can say is I have no desire to upgrade!

I got to hear my ProAc's with the FMJ A22 over the weekend, and let me say, it was big smiles all around! Those ProAcs really image like crazy, and while not in the league of my Thiel CS3.6's, the bass out of those mini's was just unbelievable! I am very, very happy with this combination, but I am not looking for different speaker cables. I was going to use a pair of MIT AVt3's (spade to spade), but after hearing bi-wired MIT AVt1's, the difference was very noticeable. However, seeing as how this system is for my office, I don't want the big MIT boxes hanging off the back of the speaker, so I'm on a bit of a quest for a visually unobtrusive, fairly flexible, bi-wireable speaker cable that performs in the league of the MIT AVt1.

But back to the question at hand, I can confirm that Arcam and ProAc is a very nice combination.

Thanks everyone,

John z, i don't blame you for avoiding specific component speaker recommendations, but in this case, it's been super helpful...before this post, i was thinking about paradigm monitor 7v3's exclusively (which are significantly better then the v2s imho)...

but now i think i am sold on looking for some used proac tablettes or Hales monitors with a distant third place going to the soliloquy 5.0s (from reviews, it sounds like the 5.0s may not cater to my musical likeings as much as my top two choices)...

one other speaker group that kept coming up in negative reviews of both the proac tablettes and hales R1 were dynaudio audiance 50 (monitor) and 60 (small floorstander) (not exactly sure if i can get them in my pricepoint though)...any thoughts?

also any thoughts on how the proac tablette 50s compare with the tablette 2000s would be helpful....Mark
Mark - right on. I'll admit I'm sort of spoiled living in the S.F. Bay Area. I can pretty much go and "kick the tires" on any gear you could reasonably imagine within an hour's drive or less.. I would never have even heard of Hales had I not lived near their only northern Cal dealer here in Oakland (back when Hales was still in business). I'd probably have a pair of B&W's or Paradigms or similar in my system today if I hadn't come across the Hales. In fact, people who live in the midwest or southeast would have had to drive across two or three states in some cases to audition them at a dealer! I think there is a lot of really good yet lesser-known gear out there that people discover just by doing what you are doing - putting time into researching what's available that will work well for your particular needs/wants/budget, etc..

Anyway, I've never read an overall negative professional review of the Revelation series speakers. Some may nitpick here or there, but overall most agree this is very good speaker. I think they can easily hold their own and even surpass many newer speakers on the market today.

If you haven't seen it, check out the review of the Rev One at www.soundstage.com in their archives (reviewed in 1998). Very close to my experience with the speaker - not "the perfect" speaker, but very, very good. I don't detect the "slight mid-bass hump" to the presentation on music that the reviewer heard, however. That could easily be due to a difference in the reviewer's and my point(s) of reference! They do sound a tiny bit darkerer than the Hales Transcendence series (model Transcendance 1), but that probably has more to do with the poly woofer in the Revelation series vs/ the magnesium woofer in T1 (twice the price at $2k new in '98 vs. $995 for the R1). And the T1 is much harder to drive and requires more capable electronics to make them boogie. But hey, unless you play them side-by-side, fuggetaboutit. That's stiff competition, indeed. I think the Rev Ones are terrific. No two rooms sound alike and that may be more of a factor with this speaker at this pricepoint than any design flaw, as it probably is with many well-designed and executed speaker on the market. There is something about the tonality of the Hales that really lets me enjoy the music! I feel fortunate to own a pair...
I ran across your post(I'm new to this list) but if you haven't listened to Totem's speakers I'd surely recommend them. My stereo guru friend and I went to the hi-fi show here in San Francisco a few years ago and we were absolutely blown away by these rather humble and smallish speakers. Perhaps you're already familiar with them. Good luck in your search. BTW, I have an Arcam Alpha 7 SE, as well. I'm very pleased with its sonics.
Martin Roberts
arthurchoice, you are running the N805 with the Arcam Alpha 8 amp and Alpha 7 cd? You'll better get better electronics for your speakers!

My first system was the Arcam Alpha 10 integrated and Alpha 8 cd player with B&W CDM 1SE speakers. That was about 6 years back and the Arcam electronics are all gone now. I've upgraded the Arcam to Classe CAP-100 midway through and it transformed my system to a much higher league. The Classe is definitely much better than the Arcam. Having said that, I've just upgraded to the Audio Research D130 earlier this year.

M_Laken. I suggest you go for brighter-sounding speakers as the Arcam itself is warm and laidback in nature. Although the B&W's are rather bright speakers but the Arcam-B&W combination was indeed too warm for my taste. Thiel and Proac could be good choices.
Ryder, thanks for the suggestion. In fact, just last week I was looking at upgrading to an Alpha 10 amp. What is the weakest part of my system? The CD or amp? Any suggestions on better electronics would be greatly appreciated.
arthurchoice,the Alpha 10 integrated will definitely be a huge improvement over your Alpha 8. It is much more powerful than the Alpha 8. The result will be improved dynamics across the music spectrum with noticeably better bass control and highs. You won't be disappointed if you consider upgrading to this amp.

However do bear in mind that there will be better amps out there that will give a better(or different?) sound. If you like the Alpha 8, you won't go wrong with the 10. Anyway if you have the budget, I would recommend the Classe CAP-151(over the Alpha 10) to partner with your N805.

As for your system, it is obvious that your speakers are the single strongest link and both your amp and source the weakest. I still can't believe you're using them to drive your wonderful speakers! You should really get better electronics to do some justice to the N805.

Whatever your decision, good luck.
Your Paradigm's are not bad speakers. I would add a nice Hsu subwoofer and use the extra money to buy some music. The Hsu sub will make a HUGH difference. You will be amazed. But if you are determined to buy new speakers, go with the Vandersteen 1C's. One of the best values in all of audio.
Also the Hsu sub will correct some of the problems you perceive in the Paradigm's. Cross them over about 80Hz. It will clear up the muddiness. You will have TRUE full range sound. Research proper placement for a sub though. It you place a sub poorly it can cause problems. Done right though and it can be heaven and a hell of alot of fun.