Linn Tukans are designed to be placed a few inches from the wall. They are fairly decent sounding speakers with a big soundstage. They won't bother the neighbours too much, since they don't have much bass.
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Used to own a pair of Tukans-- great speaker-- fast and involving. Nice upfront presentation.
As far as LS3/5 family goes-- if they were decent at lowish levels-- I might be so inclined. However, the inefficiency of say, a Harbeth HLP3 ES might not bode well for low level dynamics etc.
The new Sonus Faber ellipsa bookshelves are designed for near wall placement as well and are quite beautiful.
First-- I need to seek out an appropriate room and it seems like many rooms would not lend themselves to any type of audio pursuit whatsoever! Hence my question as to how much/what kinds of a concessions my fellow audiophiles have made in this regard.
I've recently read some reviews of the Magnapan "wings" on-wall planars that were very favorable. Of course, they would require a small sub to work at all. I also saw a small pair of Maggies at the AKFest and they were pretty good. I don't know if they were MMG-Ws on small stands or if they were MC-1s. Regardless, they were very good sounding, only about 18" off of the wall behind them and took up very little floorspace. They also used a very small sub which you may be able to place discretely in your room.
Don't know if you have the room for them, but I recently heard a pair of JMLabs Micro Utopia BE speakers at a friends house. They were outstanding! They only lacked a bit of bottom end, but my friend had them place 1/2 way out into the room. They may have the required bottom end if placed closer to the wall. In my friends's room, they were one of the best speakers I've ever heard.
Went through room size reduction a while back with quite a few speakers making an appearance. You don't specify price so here's my take.
We moved into an apartment while waiting for the house to be completed and I was lucky enough to have a dedicated room albeit extremely small. I had been using Meadowlark Audio Shearwater Hot Rods prior to moving and they were way too big for the room. I bought a pair of Totem Model Ones with great expectations. Sorry to say they just didn't suit me or maybe the Portal Panache I was using wasn't a good match.
Out they went and in went my trust Kestrel Hot Rods (kept in the closet in reserve). They were perfect for the situation. They are the best speaker I have owned at low listening levels in small rooms. They just sound right no matter what amp I've used with them. Another plus for the Kestrels is ease of placement. It's more difficult to make them sound bad than vice a versa.
My second choice for small space is the Silverline Audio SR-11. You need to find the correct stand height, but once you nail this down, they do sing sweetly. Also good at low level listening.
Lastly, the Proac Response 1.5. That's what I'm listening to currently. The build quality of these small floor standers is exceptional. Sound is wonderful once proper placement is achieved. Not sure where they rank in the small room department but so far it's pretty high.
One more thing since I've gone this far. I find that even in small spaces a pair of floor stand speakers is preferable to monitors. Either the Proacs or Kestrels take up less less real estate than the tiny SR-11s on good stands.
Good luck with your apartment hunting.
BTW, here is a partial list of speakers I have tried in my above mentioned room with good results:
Joseph Audio RM7si
Audio Note Kspe
Dveore Fidelity Gibbon 3
Devore Fidelity Gibbon 8
So you see, small rooms may be difficult, but not impossible.
I was once in your shoes, moving to NYC and wondering how this is going to affect my system. I have moved around quite a bit, but NYC is home now, so I've been able to stabilize my system and I think it is 'there'. In the past I have always been happy with 2 way monitor type speakers because they were easy to pack/ship and easy to integrate into any type of room. Do not feel bad about your 'listening room neurosis', you just understand what your priorities are, and your real estate agent should be made aware of it. Any good agent adapts to their customer's requirements, and believe me, here in NYC, they're grown ups and can handle most requirements of any kind (they see them all). If your current agent cannot handle your requirements, then get a new one?
But to get back to speaker recommendations, you are in the sweet spot because you have so much to choose from. I have settled in with the Wilson Duette speakers. I like these because of their resolution and frequency range. Their lower end is very very nicely rolled off just at the point where you would get yourself into trouble with your neighbors if they went any lower. They come 2 sets of jumper cables/resistors based upon how you want to set them up. Basically one set of wire is for an open room configuration where you have lots of space and your speakers are in the ideal configuration out from walls. The other set of wire is for non optimal setup, where your speakers are closer to boundaries - this is how I have mine setup. Basically the difference is sound is the 'close boundary' setup brings the presentation closer into the monitor, as if the entire stage has been pulled in closer to the speaker. Which really suits me because I am setup in the 'nearfield' listening mode due to a small listening room.
The Wilson Duette does demand a lot of your upstream gear however, so you have to be very cautious of equipment matching. The speaker will reveal any shortfalls in your wire, components, and setup.
The speaker is really quite flexible too, it has an outboard crossover so if you wanted to go with an active 2 way system, that is an option.
Properly setup, this speaker is very very good with small spaces. I think after living with the speaker for a while now, I have them optimally setup, and I'm very happy with the results.
I appreciate your replies so far. Good speaker recs plus--I feel somewhat less neurotic thanks to James. Normalization of my feelings-- a classic Dr. Phil move.
James, the Wilson audio speakers are out of my price range (heard great things though!) but it is not solely the bass I am worried about-- it's ALL of the frequencies!
I saw this beautiful condo the other day for example, with neighbors on either side of the living room (it's a middle unit). Good sized living room (bigger than my present room) and people who live there say they never hear their neighbors at all (it's a pricey place!).
Buuuut... once I start playing Aida one fine sunday morning-- all bets are off!?? And that goes for mini-monitors or maxi-monitors.
So even if the room is a good size and I use mini-monitors- I guess it's a crap shoot as to whether you are moving into a relatively noise-isolated environment. That worries me more than room size or speaker size right now. Is there any good way to know other than rapping on walls or being in the construction biz?
I can always change my speaker selection-- cant modify a rental condo/house's construction, though.
I think what you are concerned with will be a common theme in a densely populated area. In the city, I have people above, below, and on both sides of me so I have 4 sets of neighbors. I have a Radio Shack SPL meter I keep handy when I want to keep myself in check. But I have to say that I do listen to music at lower levels, on my SPL meter if I break 80db from where I am sitting, that is getting loud for my tastes. I have had no complaints from anyone the 7 years I've been here.
I live in a pre-war building, so you have to realize that my high rise building is made of concrete blocks and plaster, so it's very dense. You will find modern construction is pretty lousy as they always are cutting costs to maximize profits.
The issues I have is keeping the sound out from the street 6 floors below. I am fortunate that I live on a quiet street and not an busy avenue. But my building is plagued with a subway that runs under the building, which I can hear subtly. It is a very low frequency but it doesn't affect my sound too much in terms of component feedback. I keep my components very well isolated with vibration control devices.
Just some different points of view from my experiences.
The key to getting good sound within a small room is 1) recognizing the issues with the room, 2) addressing those issues with the room, and 3) designing a system that is synergistic with the realities of that room. My system / setup is a prime example (IMHO). You are asking about speakers, and that is only one part of the equation.
Nrenter-- I am not really asking about speakers I guess. I have been at this hobby for over 20 years and have pretty much owned everything from quads to totems to proacs to reynauds to maggies to dynaudios to B&Ws to Living voices to Alons to Soundlabs to Martin Logan's to...man-- it's depressing me to continue-- I really gotta settle down.
In any case, speaker recs are welcome (havent heard your Callistos for example)-- but my question I guess is really more about what other audiogoners have done in terms of moving and compromising in terms of a listening room size and the 'neighbor noise factor.'
Come to think of it-- maybe out of courtesy, I should have posted in another forum?!
I second the any LS35A reccomendation-and add that a vintage pair easily obtainable is also very neat. OFf the top of my head, not knowing your budget here are some. Note I have not heard all of them
Omega super 3 narrows (my current NYC fave)
Audio Note-they are corner placement
Good luck, it aint easy obtaining "reference quality" sound in nyc-unless youve got enough to buy a huge apt.
Find the place that feels like home - in every way.
Choice of your new place will be crucial. Start there. Brownstone and other concrete/brick buildings are usually great for minimum sound transmission and will keep you & your neighbors sane. Bass traps and other acoustic treatments will help keep the bass leakage as well as careful setup. Living on the top or bottom floor also makes sense - one less neighbor to worry about.
Speaker wise..........you don't need any advice but I would look into one of the best monitors that you can afford (for most of your listening) and add small, fast subwoofer for those reference sessions( before 10PM ).
We can keep in touch for some audiophile get together, shoot outs and such.
Actually-- I'll be renting on Long Island, as that's where work is taking me. Soooooo.... I wont have to deal with a 4th floor walk-up or what-have-you, nor are there many 'pre-war' buildings. Most I have seen are newish (10-20 years old) and knocking on the walls makes me fear that even at lower levels my neighbors will be enjoying my hobby along with me. (and I theirs-- whatever it may be!)
But yes-- the Dyns and the LS3/5A's are in the running (havent owned either-- I owned the original standmounted countours-- great tone and punch! I also owned the harbeth Compact 7 ES 2's -- too polite/midrangy for my tastes).
MrJstark, your room certinly looks smallish-- smaller than the ones I am looking at and that, my brother, gives me hope! you look happy as a clam in there with those Vandys. What are the dimensions of that finely tuned/treated rectangle of yours?
actually my room is in the "L" shape. I own that house, so there are no problems with grumpy neighbors. There is one tenant in this building but his choices are very limited - stay and accept it or leave.
Overall dimensions of my space are approximately:
19feet long by 15feet wide. However one of the corners is taken by small bathroom which is 6X7 feet. You are right it is on the small side but given a 100% freedom from my other half - I can do whatever I want and not worrying about WAF. Quatros are awesome for two reasons:
1. They sound great
2. Flexibility in setup and room (bass) EQ. (maybe you should give them a shot???)
My second system inclueds:
AAD 2001 monitors
RWA 30 integrated amp-Omega Zebra-wood version
Consonance Droplet 5.0
Very satisfying system - death quiet, great bass, quick and fluid when needed, very articulated and real.
Contrary to the above I wouldn't recommend Ls3/5a's or equivilant for small room low volume listening. They are a great speaker when played at a given volume, but they are not low volume champs. I've had the original's, stirling's and the spendor SE's. Loved them all, but didn't satisfy my low volume requirements. Live in NYC with a wife and son (21 months).
2 speakers I can recommend are the devore gibbon 8's or the omega xrs's. Both will give you much more of the music with better dynamics at low volumes. I have modded my omega's with a fountek ribbon tweeter which improved them further at low volumes but that was a time consuming trial and error process - not for everyone. The devores were designed for smaller room listening and are front ported.
Oh yeah, I don't think maggies are great low volume speakers either.
With respect to "compromising in terms of a listening room size", I stand by my original response.
The key to getting good sound within a small room is 1) recognizing the issues with the room, 2) addressing those issues with the room, and 3) designing a system that is synergistic with the realities of that room.)
Unless you are designing and building a listening space, all rooms are going to suck (or perhaps I should say "are less than ideal") in one way or another. When I first started to design a system for my current listening space (which is far less than ideal) I was told to invest in a headphone system, which, incidentally, is the extreme answer to your second issue - the 'neighbor noise factor'. I wasn't particularly interested in this option.
So, I approached the challenge from the room backwards:
Where would I be sitting?
Where will the system be placed?
Where will the speakers go (approximately)?
Where are the first reflection points?
Where can I put bass traps?
Will there be a rug?
An appropriately-treated room with also help with the 'neighbor noise factor'.
Then I started to evaluate my component options. I chose monitor speaker that are time / phase aligned, and that sound excellent at low volumes, but can also rock. I didn't want floor standing speakers because I wanted to control the level, phase and crossover of the low end due to the nasty nodes in my room).
I chose an integrated that also sounded good at low volumes (and still can rock) and doubled-down into 4 Ohms. The rest of my choices support the design philosophies I desire in my equipment (that may or may not be relevant to you).
Bottom line, you can get satisfying sound in a challenging room (or with neighbors in an adjoining space). You just have to consider the space itself before selecting components. However, I may be misunderstanding the advice you seek.
Pfornt, i use my ls35a's for hours at time in my small office. I have never had an issue and in some way i prefer it to my reference rig.
However, i may understand where you are coming from if you are using a lower powered amp. I found in low volume situations, the weight of 100 wpc is "mo bettter" then the prior 17 watt amp i used
Power may be the key then, as I was using a lower powered tube amp to drive them(15watt shindo montille). Also, I have to admit that it's not my preference, but some of the only listening I can do are at late nite, ultra low volumes which is challenging for most speakers. I know I should be a headphone user but still prefer the speaker experience - can't get around it.
Guys-- I chose a condo and it is essentially one huge room with a cathedral ceiling and one bedroom. I'm thinking..... (drum roll). Quads!!! Always loved 63's and now I'll have the space (finally) to get em out from the front wall 5 feet or so.
Ahhh I can picture it now... me on a sunny saturday in Port Jefferson making myself an espresso with La Boheme on the Quads and my Audio research Classic 60 all aglow in between....
(until my neighbor gets pissed-- god- I hope not!)