Speakers: $3,000-$4,000 on Audiogon

I am moving to a larger listening room (21 x 14) and am looking into new speakers - to pressurize the room, as I tell my wife ;). My current speakers, B&W CDM 9NT, have always sounded to bright in my previous listening room and are currently not at the same level as the rest of my system (click on the system link to see the components and cabling). Cardas cables and a McIntosh have somewhat tamed to extra energy in treble region.
I am looking for a well rounded speaker that excels in all the important areas (dynamics, frequency extension, detail, musicality). If I had a preference, I would lean towards a warmer/less analytical sound but not to the point of sacrificing detail.

Some speakers which I've had my eye on off the top of my head:
Dynaudio Contour S 3.4
Magenpan 3.6
Von Schweikert VR-4jr
Focal JM-Lab 946 Electra

Open to other suggestions,

Thanks in advance
My VR4JRs mate beautifully with my McIntosh equipment. Add JPS Labs cables and they really sing.
Thanks Jgiacalo.

I need to apologize for posting this thread in the amps/pre-amps forum rather than the speakers forum.
Hello Adam,

Why don't you add the Thiel 2.4 to that list?
Running Klipsch Cornwall's and upgraded Thiel 2.3's with McIntosh. Both are worth a demo. Can also check out the McIntosh forum at Audiokarma.org.
For around 2200 used you can't go wrong with the VR4jrs. They are a fabulous speaker for that money. For a little more than you are wanting to spend you could get the SR version. You get more substantial bass and a smoother more sophisticated sound overall. I'd have to say the JRs are a super deal and you've got a good powerful amp that is what they like. I also owned the Maggies. Way different sound, much more rounded off and smoother than the JRs and they are huge speakers that will have to be way out in the room and you won't get as much bass as the tiny by comparison JRs. It's just a totally different sound. I could see one guy loving the Maggies and one loving the JRs. All the other speakers you are thinking of are dynamics so they are along the line of the sound of the JRs. The one great thing I think about the JRs is that they sound great off axis, you don't have to sit right in the sweet spot to enjoy them. The Maggies are fun, but a way bigger pain in the butt compared to any of the other speakers you are thinking of, plus if you have to deal with WAF then that might kill them right there. I enjoy the Maggies but they just don't have the snap and pop of dynamic speakers to my ear. Sorry I'm rambling but you get the idea. Oh and I would think you would love any of the Dynaudio speakers that use the esotar tweeter, you can't go wrong with that.
Adam, IMO you are wise not to take much stock in any of our recommendations. Why, because you don't know any of our bias and preferences for audio reproduction. Ejilf points out the diverse opinions about these matters. Personally, I think Von Schweikert speakers are hyped beyond their performance at their price points. I've heard them in different systems, different rooms, VR4 jrs, VR4 srs, same impression, blah. I much prefer Maggies house sound, but that's just me and my biases. You must listen to these brands to see what YOUR tastes are. I'd also be interested in Zu, Zen Adagios, Nola Vipers, Vandersteen, & Coincident Partial Eclipses given your stated preferences.
If I had a preference, I would lean towards a warmer/less analytical sound but not to the point of sacrificing detail.

A British polite speaker perhaps? There are many but Harbeth's come quickest to mind - they might be "Goldilocks" to your tastes. Detailed but warm and pleasant.
I agree with Curio, I'd add the Thiel 2.4 and also the Meadowlark Osprey (if you can find a pair, they're out of business). These two, along with the Maggie 3.6R, were my three speakers of choice during my last speaker upgrade, but I didn't have a big enough room for them.
I've heard the Mcintosh with JMLabs and it sounded very good. I have an Mc402 as well. If I were to make a change from my current speakers (Aerials), I would put the Focal/JMLabs at or near the top of my list.
Theil are wonderful speakers, but warm? The Harbeth line (the bigger ones for frequency extension) would fit the bill, or ProAc perhaps.
Well i'm biased of course. But a good friend, before he moved, had your amp (MC402) and the S3.4s. The preamp was Cary SLP05 and the source was a Marantz SA8001. I've heard the system many times and it had everything you are looking for. I also lugged his MC402 over to my pad to try on my S3.4s (at that time I had a pass x250.5 and we swapped amps). It still sounded excellent and very captivating. I do not have any actual experience with the others listed. I did have Thiel CS2.2s which were the warmest of the 2.x lineup. Still though, the Dyns are much more of what you are looking for. All the detail one could hope for yet forgiving and musical at the same time.
Like I said, I was biased :)
Along the lines of the Harbeth suggestions Spendor (1/2e or SP100) might also fit the bill.
I disagree with the Thiel CS2.3/2.4 recs. I would go with the Thiel CS6 with your desires, equipment, and room size. They would be an enjoyable step up, especially in terms of lower frequency reproduction.
I'd also recommend Totem Mani-2 Sigs. Try to get them with the Totem stands. If you can score a really nice pair used.....I sure wouldn't turn'em down......
How about a pair of speakers from Castle? There are 3 pair of floorstanding Castles for sale on A-goN right now and they are a bargain at the asking price. Here's the most recent listing (BTW, I don't know the seller).



Thanks for all the replies thus far. I included the Magnepans to add some diversity to my list but its very unlikely that I will go down that route due to the difficulty with placement and the risk of purchasing a type of speaker that I'm completely unfamiliar with. The Theils are something I haven't considered at this point. My one concern is that they tend to be difficult to drive. Although the MC402 is very powerful amp, it doesn't sound quite as powerful as its rating would suggest nor does it double its power into difficult loads. Thiel is also described as having an analytical character according to what I've read. Based on my personal research and what has been discussed so far, Von Schweikert, Focal and Dynaudio continue to be the most appealing speakers based on my preferences. The front runner at this point is Dynaudio with the Esotec tweeter. Having only experienced older B&Ws with their 'hot' aluminum dome tweeters, it would be nice to hear a speaker with a world class tweeter.
I know that many will criticize the use of a web forum as a means to determine which speakers to purchase. However, auditioning a wide range of speakers at home is not a realistic possibility. I used these forums and press reviews to narrow down my choices for power amps for auditioning (X250.5, MC402) and was extremely pleased with the results. I will not be taking the plunge on the speakers within the next month so please keep the suggestions and comments coming.
You might also wnnt to consider Merlin VSMs which use the Esotar tweeter. The best speaker I have heard, though it is down 2dbs or so at 32Hz - not bad for a two-way.
I believe high efficiency horns are the speakers to build around personally.
As a former B&W owner (N805s) I have for several years owned the JMLabs be series. I have no desire to use anything else. You can find some of the Be 927/937 on occasion in the used market. I can't recommend them enough as I sought what you describe and they fit the bill perfectly.
Proac D-25/D-28
The CDM's use B&W's metal tweeter and is their lowest grade tweeter retailing for about $100 each. The next step up is their aluminum tweeter and it sounds much better than the metal one.

Given you McIntosh amp and BAT and if you like the B&W sound but the tweeters are too bright, I would suggest their 803S speakers. With the right speaker cable (i.e. Audioquest CV-8) they will sound great. The CV-8 dbs is slightly on the warm side and will tame the brightness of the B&W's even more without loosing any detail.

Of couse their diamond series tweeters are fantastic, imo, but that is out of your price range (ie 803D).
Personally, I wouldn't Buy a speaker that requires a large amount of watts. Maybe in the SPL= 92db 1watt 1meter range or so being the lowest. That way if you ever want to try different amps you can check out ones that are not so powerful but are very high quality in the sound department.Everybody looks at this hobby from a different point of view, and that is mine. What caused me to have this opinion was a pair of Alon 4's that needed at least 200 watts per channel to sound their best, and great 200 watt amps are expensive! Have since sold those and bought a pair of speakers with a SPL rating of 95db 1watt@1meter and the choice of amps is very many. Just a thought.
Maybe I have not heard these speakers in too long a time, but I'm suprised to see Thiel and B&W mentioned in this context; fine speakers no doubt, but compared to something like a Harbeth, Spendor, or Proac they don't seem to answer the call for warmth - they both always sounded to portray the "detail" side of the spectrum. I would not call the Merlin VSMs, that I own and recommended, warm either, but they do have a great, smooth highend with that Dynaudio Esotar tweeter.
Second what Racamuti says. You really start limiting your amp choices with speakers in the 80s spl range. Sure if you've got the wallet for the amp these low efficiency speakers sound great. Not to mention powerful amps are heavy! I still can't believe how much my Mcintosh weighs having just moved it upstairs yesterday.
3rd what Racamuti & Wireless2 say. it took me a long, expensive, back breaking time to figure that one out. imo the best sounding amps are lower powered anyway
I would stretch your budget and consider one of the pairs of Aerial 9s available on audiogon right now. Build quality and finish to die for, outstanding dynamic, full-range sound, smooth treble, and will have no trouble pressuring your medium-sized room. Aerials are not often mentioned on these threads, perhaps because they have a falsely perceived emphasis on home theater or because they don't come out with new models every year, but if you get it right the first time...
Personally and professionally speaking. I love the Dynaudio Contour S3.4. Another great contender is the new PSB Synchrony One or Two towers. Both mate extremely well with Mac's in most cases.

In my own experience, I wouldn't have put Dynaudio, JMLabs, Revel or some of the Thiels (e.g. 3.6) as leaning in the direction you indicate in the original post.

So here's another vote for Acoustic Zen, Vienna Acoustics, Sonus Faber, Harbeth and ProAc.
For full range musical sound, Vandersteen 3a Sigs and Quattro's would fit the bill nicely. Used, you can get the 3A's for around $2200 and the Q's at ~$4500. Spendor Sp 1/2's and 100's are also great but you might miss the bottom octave. I would avoid Thiel (from a former Thiel owner).
Do you think, given my system, the S5.4s would be much better than the S3.4s?
I am slightly concerned that the move to the 3 way s5.4 (from 2 way s3.4) while it does offer more extension, might lose that excellent midrange coherence, immediacy, and natural sound of the simpler 2 way...
This is something i'm considering in a speaker upgrade next year. I am all in on the Dynaudio approach and sonic/aesthetic results, but feel like, at this point if I were to toss about $2.5k into my system the most bang for the buck would be from the S3.4 to the S5.4 (assuming everything is a gain).
All apologies to the OP for mis-directing this thread a tad.
Vandersteen's are among my favourite speakers, but I don't think they would be described as detailed - which I don't think too much of is such a great thing anyway - they are certainly full range, especially the Quattro. I'm not sure Cardas cabling would be best though - they don't need the relative filtering that "bright" speakers would need. As much as I loved my Vandersteens, the Merlins in my view are significantly more resolved, coherent, detailed, musical, and dynamic. The only area where they may fall short, is in ultimate deep bass slam (32Hz-22Khz +/- 2db) - never a problem for me however in my 12x19 room listening to acoustic music. Oh, and they are practically designed for and with Cardas cabling. While Merlins are typically a tube amp speaker, they are known to work well with Mac, especially with the units with autoformers or whatever ever that MAC transformer is called.
I tried to ignore this thread untill now.
Some very good recommendations....however statements in regards to Vandersteen Quatro locking detail and lower bass extention need to be clarify.....Owning Quatros for some time now doesn't make me an expert but I have to disagree with that statement. Besides, I have not seen Quatros on sell for less then $4500. Actualy - I have not seen any in the past few months. Would I recommend them if they were in your budget?........maybe. I would only recommended them to someone who is serious about building system around them.
Otherwise why batter.

The S5.4's are a huge step up over the S3.4 in terms of extension and detail. Plus, you get the Confidence tweeter in the S5.4.

Personally, I feel the S5.4 and maybe the Aerial Model 9 are the best speakers under $10K for full-range floorstanders. The S3.4 is also very special, but it's no match for the S5.4.
We all love what we sell Tony.

You're no different.
I know Tony sells Dynaudio. I was asking for his professional opinion. No big deal.
Nothing wrong with a manufacturer or dealer giving their opinion (I welcome them), but it needs to be disclosed - it helps to know how much salt to apply. Which is not to say that Dynaudio's are not fine speakers, or that the 5s are not better than the 3s.
I try not to be a fanboy all the time, but of course there will always be some bias as I sell what I like. However, I do enjoy this as a hobby as well and own and like lots of different speakers and components.

I do try and let it be known that I'm a dealer in my responses, but there are times I forget. ;-)
No problem, and I agree about the Dynaudio 5 versus the 3, worth the step up IMHO.
I think you should at least listen to a pair of 3.6 Maggies. I know it changed my way of thinking when I did. FYI, I am running MC-501s with a C220 and the sound is delightful. The amp and preamp are the end of the journey, but the constant has been the 3.6s since I first heard them. It costs little to listen...

Happy hunting for your new speakers!
I am also looking at a speaker upgrade from B&W N803. I have basically narrowed it down to Dynaudio S5.4, Wilson Sophia and possibly Aerial Model 9. I haven't heard the Aerial 9s, but like the way they look and intend to listen to them if there is an opportunity.

Adam, so have you made your choice?
For your Mcintosh...........Jm Labs Electra 946 will get a huge dynamic range at low level and a deep bass.I never heard the 946 but i do have the 936 driven by a mc-2100 and a pair of mc-225 run as mono....but be carefull you have a very powerfull amp.
Thanks again for the helpful replies. Based partly on the information from this thread, I'm going to have a pair of Dyns this weekend.

I was intending on waiting until December to purchase the new speakers but I decided to click on the "Wanted To Buy" link here on Agon. There was somebody who wanted to purchase a pair of CDM 9NTs in a red cherry finish - and the buyer lived in the same city! :0. We all know that buying and selling used audio equipment can at times be a minor hassle, but when it comes to speakers, it can be much more than that due to the weight and cost of shipping etc. Coincidently, there is also a local seller offering a pair of the Dynaudio Contour S3.4's. It isn't the maple finish I would prefer but the opportunity to buy and sell large floorstanding speakers locally cannot be turned down. Given the size of my room, a small part of me believes that the S5.4's would fill out my room to a greater extent that the 3.4's. However, I'm sure the 3.4s will be superior to B&Ws in every conceivable way.