Hi, first you are going to need some fairly effecient speakers since you are using 80 watts. Not bad by any means, just means speaker choice needs to be important. I was just going suggest B&W N803, but they need lots of power. You might want to look into the Paradigm line. The studio 100 is capable of some serious bass. Someone else may have a better suggestion, off the top of my head I can't think of any super effecient speakers except for maybe Coincident.
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JMlab Electra 926's. They have gotten great reviews by all the magazines. I have heard them on several different setups with varying electronics and have come away extremely impressed everytime. They retail for $4195, and I promise you'll be hard pressed to find anything that can beat them. Here is the JMlab website.
Some to many will disagree with my approach below.
But with what you are saying, I think perhaps the best speaker upgrade you can do for yourself is to consider purchasing a new amp first. Using your words, a super nice amp.
Face it, if you know such super nice amps exist and if you think you can at all afford one, you know you'll probably buy one someday soon anyway so why not focus on that now?
I mention that because I am in the camp of those few who the amplifier is the key to any system. Whether good or bad. I also believe in the addage:
"An excellent amplifier can make mediocre speakers sound almost excellent. But an excellent pair of speakers with a mediocre amplifier will never sound better than mediocre."
If that is true, and I believe it is, I would therefore recommned looking at the amp first, see what sonic improvements it provides your current system. Then focus on new/used speakers to match that new amp.
I believe with this approach, you may also save yourself from a few unnecessary upgrades along the way. And that hopefully translates to better sonics, a faster path to getting where you envision being with your system, and hopefully spending less money getting there.
You gotta find speakers you like first before you get an amp you like. See my above post for the reasons.
Not all amps can drive all speakers. Even some of the amps I would claim are 'world class' are not designed to drive all speakers.
Find speakers you really like then match an amp with them.
Yes, I partially agree with Tok20000. And that is one reason why you should focus on the amp first.
Unless of course he is disagreeing with the addage:
"An excellent amplifier can make mediocre speakers sound almost excellent. But an excellent pair of speakers with a mediocre amplifier will never sound better than mediocre."
If Tok20000 disagrees with this addage, then I must disagree with his assessment.
I'm a dealer,Beware! I may intend to sell you something God forbid. But If I didn't believe in what I sell would you want to buy from me? Anyway look into Soliloquy 6.3s. they will rock, they will work well later on when you decide to SET amp, and they are made well. Plus they have a good resale if you do get tired of them.
I do not necessarily agree with that addage.
Let's take the world class amp the LAMM ML2 for example. The ML2 is quite frankly one of the finest SET amps made, period. But is someone were to buy this amp thinking that such an excellent amp could be matched with their favorite speaker (their favorite speaker still being an unknown variable), they would be taking a huge risk. The ML2 at 18 wpc or so at 3% THD needs to be matched with speakers that are at least 94db+ efficient.
The preceeding example might seem like an obvious one, so I will give you a little less than obvious one.
The Sim Moon W-5 amp has been reviewed rather well by critics. I have had a W-5 myself. I would say it could be a very good amp. I would not say it is world class (although Stereophile did stick it in Class A). Anyway, the amp is a powerful amp at 200wpc into 8 ohms and 400wpc into 4 ohms. One might think based on the current specifications and press that this is the amp to drive Maggie 3.6 speakers with (Stereophile certainly thought so). All I can say is that this amp did NOT do anything for my Maggie 3.6's when I had both in my system. This is not the amp to drive Maggies with. A Plinius SA-250mk4 on the other hand.... drives the Maggies big time.
Another example of needing to mate an Amp with speakers (and not to mention your front end) has to do with system gain. System gain can be a serious issue if you have one or more of the following circumstances:
1 - Speaker are not sensative at all.
2 - Speakers are really sensative.
3 - Preamp is passive or just does not have much gain at all.
4 - Preamp volume is stepped and does not have many steps.
5 - Source has a lot of gain.
6 - Source has very little gain.
Anyone one or more of these above circumstances can wreak havok with a systems ability to amplify music or control the amplification of music.
You do not necessarily want to drive any set of speakers with ANY great 100+wpc amp. Especially if your speakers you like are Hornes that are 103db or so, and the amp you are thinking about using is very sensative to input voltage. AND ESPECIALLY if your preamp is stepped, and your source has a very high output. This is a combo that can get you into serious gain trouble. Basically, you will find that at the first step on your volume could way too lound, and your second step is extremely loud. In an instance like this, I would recommend something like a Cary Rocket 88 tube amp which is pretty low powered and not very sensative. Yes, I have had a Rocket 88 amp as well.
The preceeding 3 examples goes to show that one should fall in love with speakers first and buy them first. Then get the amplification to best mate with your speakers. If for some reason your current amplification cannot drive the speakers that you desire, you will need to wait, or buy amplification with your new speakers that matches your new speakers well.
BTW I can give many examples similiar to the above ones as to why a world class amp will not necessarily make mediocre speakers sound good at all. It is all in the mating. If the mediocre speakers are not matched properly with the amplification, you just are not going to get good sound.
Saying world class amplification can drive any speaker well is far too simplistic. This is contrary to many experiences I have been through/
One more real world example. If I had not been able to change the internal sensativity of my GamuT D-200 amp, I would not have been able to use the D-200 in my system when I had the Cary 306/200 CDP. I had to adjust the D-200 to the lowest sensativity due to gain issues. The Cary puts out a whopping 6v through XLR. This massive output combined with the Ayre K-3x stepped volume control combined with a very sensative GamuT D-200 amp (at factory default setting) and 90db speaker (glad my speakers are not MORE sensative), this let to minimal low level volume control. At 4-5 notches on the Ayre preamp, my volume was full blast for my ears. This is not good, and the problem was solved by getting a source with a lower output, and switching the GamuT to a lower sensativity setting.
I agree completely with Tok2000. Not just because of the compatibility issue, but because speakers vary much more in "personality" than other components (notice that I didn't say quality). There is also the issue of matching with your room - you don't mention the size - which will rule out a lot of speakers.
You mention home theater, does that mean that you want speakers where center and rear speakers are available as well? Does it mean that you will be using a subwoofer which will offload your main speakers in the bass? I have - in the absence of information - assumed that you want a 2-channel system with full range speakers.
I don't know whether you would consider DIY in which case you should look at the following non-conventional speakers
- GR Research Alpha LS (www.gr-research.com)
- Rick Craig Excelarray (www.se;ahaudio.com)
You can buy completed cabinets for the Alpha (total expense will be about 4000) and the Excelarray can be bought complete at around 5000. These speakers are both fairly efficient and should work with a wide range of amps, but they do require a big size room.
I haven't heard the VMPS RM-40, but they may well match your requirements from the reviews and owner comments. Note that there is a new ribbon option which is supposed to be a big upgrade. There may be some good offers coming for second hand speakers as owners upgrade to the RM/X that is to be announced at the CES.
Look at Revel Studios. You may be able to get a pair on Audiogon for around 5k. These have a fantastic soundstage and wonderful bass. You may consider as an alternative the Revel F30s with the Revel B-15 sub. Revel makes great speakers that are musical and robust. I agree you should get speakers you like and then work on pairing the amp. I have tried a number of combinations with varying results.
Tok2000 has some excellent insights! I'd pay attention to his advice. Synergy is not necessarily going to be proportional to the $ you spend, but rather how carefully you research and audtition the components you spend them on. In addition to what Tok2000 advises, you will also want to consider your own personal listening preferences, as well as the room you are setting all of this up in. For instance, some folks, like myself, LOVE the sound of good horn speakers, while others think they are too bright and harsh. As a broad, sweeping generalization, horns combined with SS may sound not at their best, while the same horns paired up with a good tube amp could sound delicate and airy (which goes to the same point Tok2000 is making I think). If you are into listening to vocals, and strings horns might be a great choice paired up with the right amp. If you are into rock and roll there are probably better choices. I don't know if I agree with the addage proposed by Stehno, though I would say that your source material is more critical in that same regard. If you put garbage in, the best you can hope for is garbage out the other end. Perhaps the garbage may smell a bit sweeter, but it's still garbage. Just .02 cents more for your consideration!
Tok20000, as I indicated earlier, I realize not many agree with the position I take. But, in my opinion, your argument does not necessarily do more to substantiate your position than it does to substantiate my position.
Why? Because in the course of outlining your argument and subsequent illustrations you are presupposing that the owner will simply roll the dice or crapshoot at selecting the correct speaker for that 'world class amp'.
And it simply doesn't make sense for one to so diligently seek out that 'world class amp' and then not do likewise for the right speaker to match that right amp. Or perhaps you were implying that I was suggesting such a crapshoot for speakers. Which I was not.
We simply have different approaches toward accomplishing some goal here of which may or may not be too dissimilar.
But would you at least agree that there are fewer 'world class amps' available than there are 'world class speakers'? Or, at the very least, would you agree that there are less amplifier manufacturers and models that there are speaker manufacturers and models?
I believe the answer to both questions is absolutely.
But for the sake of this thread and my position, I believe it better to settle on the amp first even if for no other reason than for availability alone.
If there are fewer 'world class' amps worth owning than there are 'world class' speakers worth owning, then finding the 'right' amp is already just little more like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Because fewer exist and also because of the compatibility issues you mentioned previously.
Acquiring the right 'world class' speakers first limits the probability of finding the right 'world class' amplifier has just potentially been brought down to the point where looking for a needle in a haystack is no longer proverbial. It may entirely be factual and actual. Again, because fewer exist and also because of the compatibility issues you mentioned previously.
That is only one reason why, as I stated earlier that, I believe purchasing the right speakers first can possibly lead to:
o greater compromises in sonics now and in the future.
o more upgrades due to greater likelihood of incompatibilities and subsequent compromises.
o if more upgrades, then potentially more money and frustration.
o lesser probability of acquiring what could otherwise be a 'world class' sounding system.
In summary, I would think my approach to be the more stream-lined approach toward reaching the mark. If for no other reason, the law of probabilities would most likely weigh in on my side.
But then again, I could be wrong.
Nice chatting with you, and
As always, -IMO
Split the difference. Why blow your wad on speakers that will make you dissatisfied with your system? It would drive me crazy knowing how great my new speakers -could- sound.
Consider $2k on amp, $3k on speakers. You can find some excellent speaker for that much, especially used. And have a good start in the amp department too.
Speakers are #1. I enjoy the combo of Harbeth Compact 7ES-II and an M&K MX700 subwoofer. If you have "pre out" capability, you can get this for less than your stated budget. This combo allows you to place the sub for best room bass loading, and the monitors are free for your preferred soundstaging.
First I would like to state that amplification is important and spending $5k on speakers and driving them with a $500 amplifier (any $500 amp) does not make a whole lot of sense.
If you can afford $5k for speakers now, and will be able to afford to spend $2k+ on an amp in the very near future, that is fine. But if you want to spend $5k on speakers now (using a $500 or so amp), and in a year or so spend $2k+ on an amp, you would MOST LIKELY BE BETTER OFF GETTING $3K SPEAKERS NOW AND SPENDING AORUND $2K ON AN AMP TO MATCH THEM NOW.
Besides component matching, there is such thing as component balance. Nice transparent $5k speakers are going to force you to hear the limits of the upstream components driving them (especially when one has so-so components upstream). Just as mating a world class amp with a middle of the road speaker that the amp can easily drive, you will seriously start hearing the limits of that speaker. This is another reason it is not always good to start with getting a great amp first with middle of the road speakers. Some speakers do not really show their limits or serious flaws until they have an amp driving them that can totally dominate them. These speakers can potentially have resonances that appear, their bass can sound well... not-so-good (trying to reach frequencies that the amp is completely solid to but the speaker was never intened to read), the trebble can start sounding harsh... Whatever minor problems the speaker had in a middle of the road system are amplified many fold when being driven by a great amp (that can drive the speaker well).
Now I am not going to say that all middle of the road speakers will demonstrate fatal flaws when hooked up to nice amplification, but they can, and I have experienced these situations first hand with several older speakers I have owned.
A person is far better off selecting a speaker they love (soundwise), and matching an amp to it (maybe the amp that they heard the speaker on?). Then a person who goes out and buys a great amp and then makes a speaker decision.
Personally, IMHO, there are many more great amps in the world than great preamps. I think most sound in the upstream components gets negatively impacted by the preamplification. If your amp is capable of driving your speakers, besides your speakers, I think the preamp makes the biggest impact on a system. This may seem difficult to understand for the relatively new audiophile, and it has taken me nearly 16 years to come to this conclusion. The preamps should be the ONLY device that regulates/filters sound in a music system. This regulation/filtration is of the absolute utmost importance because what signal gets through the preamp is the ONLY signal that an amplifier can amplify. Bad preamplification can screw up world class sources. Bad preamplification can make a world class amp sound veiled. Bad preamplification can make world class speakers sound anything but world class.
Most people do not put enough emphisis on a preamp because nearly any preamp can seemingly work in any system (this is absolutely not true, but some people passively believe it). As opposed to amps... not every amp can drive any speakers well (most people know this).
Anyway, this and $2 will get you a cofee at Starbucks.
I'm very new to this hobby. I just replaced my Marantz 4130 with a Marantz SR7200 starting out HT. I was blown away with how open and airy my little $200 Paradigm Atoms, in 2 channel, all the sudden sounded just with this change. My wife was shocked too. I can't wait to received my Ascend 170's to find out how they sound.
So, I think the suggestion to spend your budget on both is right on target. If you list your present equipment the many experienced folks around here can guide you better.
I think I've became addicted to this hobby.
Stick with dynaudio if you like the sound. No sense in making a 5k speaker decision based on an 80watt amp you plan on replacing. I use a 100 watt amp (which I will also upgrade one day) with my 1.8's and it works fine. I've even hooked them up to a 50watt nad integraded. The impedence of all current model dynaudio speakers is matched so that it will not stray far below its rating. The 1.8's for example, are rated at 4ohms yet the minimum impedence is 3.6ohms. A nice linear impedence is actually easier to drive then a higher average impedence thats all over the place. It's their lower sensitivity (86db) that gives them their thirst for power. All that really means is that you'll use a bit more of the volume dial to reach desired listening levels, but 80 quality watts should be fine in most rooms, plus you'll have a speaker that can take advantage of a bigger amp when you do decide to upgrade. I don't know why people are so afraid of dyno's and smaller amps, it's not like they are planars or electrostats where you might actually do damage. -just my 2cents