Wow, that's an enormous space you have there! And your top priority is reproducing large-scale classical, which is probably the most demanding music in terms of getting the tonality, textures and inner nuances right along with very good dynamic scale and extremely deep and natural bottom end extension. The bottom octave is of course the most expensive to reproduce well. And if we throw in the rock music requirement, then that puts still more emphasis on good impact and dynamics.
You are absolutely right to make your loudspeaker selection first. Especially with that big room, your speaker choice will greatly narrow down your amplifier choices.
Something you must be aware of - in a room of that size, the reverberant sound will dominate unless you sit very close to the speakers. If you want the tonal balance to be correct throughout your room, then you must find speakers that generate a tonally correct reverberant field. This means, their total off-axis energy must be reasonably smooth and even across the spectrum. This is a rare commodity, as most speakers' radiation patterns vary significantly up and down the spectrum, so that in a large room they tend to sound colored and artificial.
Now, let me tell you how to audition for this when you go to your local stereo store. Turn the volume level up a bit louder than normal, and step out of the room, leaving the door open. Through the open doorway all you can possibly hear is the reverberant sound (assuming you can't see either speaker from where you're standing). What you are hearing is a pretty close approximation of how those speakers will sound in your big room. If a speaker doesn't sound lively and engaging and realistic from the next room, then I would suggest you take it off your list.
By any chance, do you have two corners available? If so, Klipschorns might be worth investigating. I think they still build 'em, though I don't know the price - I presume it's well above $3500 a pair. But they do not need a powerful amplifier, so you'll save money there. This is a speaker that needs to be auditioned - they are not free from coloration, but the things they do right may well more than make up for it. Only your own ears can decide. But you see, the Klipschorns have an unusually uniform radiation pattern up and down the spectrum, so they may well sound less colored overall in your big room than a speaker that sounds smoother when auditioned in the "sweet spot" in a small room. To start tracking down a dealer with Klipschorns on display, go to www.klipsch.com.
I do not know of a loudspeaker that I think would fill your requirements for anything near $3500 a pair new (even if you get a great deal). To stay within your budget, I'm afraid you'd have to make some hard choices as to what compromises you're willing to make. Your large room creates special requirements, as does your taste in music. I'm afraid something is going to have to give - I don't think that for $3500 you can "have it all". Assuming you can't "have it all", what qualities are essential, and what are you willing to give up to get them?
Go ahead and try that listening-in-another-room (l.i.a.r.) trick I mentioned next time you get a chance - it's quite useful and revealing, especially given your room situation.
Wow, a 36'x39'room with a 20' high ceiling -- that's what I call a BIG listening room; actually more like a theater or auditorium. I think Duke is right about it being hard to accomplish your goals on your budget.
But a few things popped into my head, for what it's worth. 1) Maybe you could partition a corner of the room off with acoustic barriers and make it easier to accommodate a "normal" system. 2) Perhaps multiple speakers would be better than a stereo pair. 3) You might be better off checking this out with pro-sound people who actually install theater-type systems...
How have the speakers you have auditioned so far stacked up against your requirements?
The problem of finding an accurate loudspeaker that will resolve classical music and still play electronically generated music is also quite difficult. The Thiel 2.4 will give you the accuracy for the orchestral pieces, but will basically be a poor choice for electronically generated music. I listen to similar classical music, and have listened to the speakers you mention. The Thiel's are the hands-down best for that specific application.
Also, you may want to also consider used speakers as well. Although Dunlavy is out of business, there are a number of them on the used market. I was fairly impressed with the IV, and recall it being very accurate, warm, and with impressive bass. Another used speaker in that price range would be the Avalon Avatar. This is also a very accurate speaker with a little more warmth than the Thiel's. It may not have the bass extension that you are looking for, though.
I was specifically unimpressed with Snell and Vandersteen for classical music. Although B&W is well-advertised in classical music magazines, I did not care for this one as well.
Tough choices, but I guess that is what makes this hobby so fun.
Try looking at a pair of Revel F30's. These can play into really large rooms quite impressively and a very musical and dynamic. Just remember, if you truely want full bandwidth reproduction your going to have to get a sub or 2(2 subs for stereo reproduction would be best)to fill in the bottom octave no question.
u should take a look at onix ref2's and also aci has some nice speakers as well.
What is your price range for speakers?
Hello Bill. Dejavu! A very tall order to accomplish within your budget,to be sure,however with a little searching, and a lot of homework,It can be done.Your room dimensions are very similiar to mine except your ceiling is 5 ft higher.The Duke's [out of room] analogy is very astute, great advice and definately not to be taken lightly.Many so called high-end speakers that may work very well in the typical sound room found in todays homes... will fall flat on their face and well short of your expectations.Voicing any given speaker to a smaller room is a much easier exercise to accomplish with any success.... Rooms as large as yours are a whole different animal.Within your budget, I would also second the recommendation for the larger Klipshorn[corner horns]...although with a few not so minor reservations.K-horns have some distinct major advantages as well as few potential liabiities that need to be addressed.It is imperative they be placed in the corners of a room.If they do not have a corner placement that is symmetrical with your listening seat,it will be next to impossible to achive a coherent tonal balance and proper stage, and will almost certainly give you that proverbial hole in the middle stereo effect.That said.....Their advantages far outweigh their liabilities in massive rooms, as they are incredibly efficient[107 db at 1 watt]and can assimilate the illusion of a live event at the equivalent sound pressure levels thereof, and with very little[if any] compression.They will "pressurize" the room [even yours] with almost any amplifier, small or large,tube or solid scrape.Most quality high powered amplifiers are typically very expensive- whether tube or solid state.It has been my experience over the years...that the lower powered amplifiers will typically outperform higher powered amps regardless of design [read tube or solid state] and will obviously give you much more lattitude and many more choices when choosing such.There are also many many outstanding 10 to 30 watt tube amps [as well as solid scrape stuff] out there that can knock your socks off for very little money [at least by high end standards] With higher powered amps, the choices become a whole lot smaller proportionately.K-horns will ROCK with the best of them with only 10 watts of power.While I do not use the K-horn in my room.. it was definitively one of only a handful... that would fit the bill.In my room[ read... 36ftx 27ftx 16 1/2ft ceiling]I experimented with the proac response 3's and 4's,avalon eidilons, highly modified acoustat 2+2's, modified Klipsch lascalas,sound lab A-1's,altec a-7's,and the huge Tannoy Westminster.None of the planars could pressurize the room and all of them required huge amplifiers to energize them to simulate a full scale symphony or any straight ahead blues/rock event.The incredible sound lab A-1 came the closest... however- that was with a pair of $27,000[yikes!] otl tube amps! The K-horns were a reasonable facsimile even with a cheap 35 watt/channel tube amp of not so high end pretensions!To Qualify myself: I have never really been much of a horn enthusiast,so it was to my surprise...Discovering that the loaded horn types could[in a musical way] outperform large planars and highly touted coil types in very large rooms.Mind you...I could not get the Altec a-7 to disappear like any of the others and sounded rather honky and hollow with a somewhat coloured upper midrange...not my cup of tea however their dynamic range top to bottom were incredible, never sounded forced and were always clear and effortless sounding,mind you they will not reproduce the bottom octave with any authority.As the Duke correctly stated: the bottom octave is, without doubt the most expensive and difficult area of sound reproduction to get right in any sound system.The K-horn will get you somewhat closer.. but still starts to roll off at around 35 hz and very quickly below that frequency."AND" it will only get you there when placed in a corner! If you do not have a proper corner[per speaker]they should not even be a consideration. Try to get the "tonal balance" as close to ideal as you can, first and formost,and with a little work most of the rest will fall into place . To my surprise,and actually my second choice overall[bang for the buck wise] was the lowly acoustat 2+2 electrostatic.With a high powered amp.. these things do way to many things right to disregard.They are very easy to place in a large room to get the best out of what they do well.They have a very small footprint,can play very loud with decent bass power and slam as well as throw a huge sound stage to boot. However: They do need a high powered and stable amplifier that can drive a low impedence load. They will sound decent with some of the better solid scrape amps however,that said...like most electrostatics designs, they love tubes.Just make sure the tube amp of choice will like to "see" the reactive load these speakers will present to the output of the amp.The old dedicated servo-OTL mono tube amp that was introduced with the original acoustat X speaker system way back in the late 70's and then discontinued for the step up transformer is the "ultimate " amplifier choice for any of the later transformer based acoustat speakers, such as the 2+2's. Caveat-The amps must be highly modded and updated to outperform some of todays better designs.These amps when fully modded and updated with better modern passive parts actually "outperformed" the $27,000 Atma-spere Research mono tube amps in my system! NOTE... This comparison was hardly a fair comparison. Not really a true head to head A+B comparison as the atma-sphere's had to be used with the step up transformer supplied with the speaker, whereby the servo amps do not need this transformer coupling.These original servos x amps were designed to supply the exact 5000volts bias that the acoustat panels require.That said... They certainly must be heard to be believed as they have very little if any of the later acoustat's inherent liabilties and colourations that are so blatantly obvious on the factory stock 2+2's with their stock interface transformer.The 2+2's can be found out there for typically $1000 to 1500 in excellent condition.I have seen the rarer acoustat x with the servo amps for even less.There are a few companies out there that will do various levels of mods to these servo-amps that elevate their performance to some of the world's finest amplifiers regardless of price.I would think if you can be a little patient....You should be able to acquire a pair of 2+2's and a pair of servo amps, AND have them modded for under $4000.Hell- most of today's top shelf amps will cost you the better part of that and then some! Some food for thought.Another speaker well worth consideraion is the older dual concentric horn loaded Tannoy's. These older concentric tannoys are a true "point source" as the tweet is located in the middle of the bass driver.They are "tonally" correct and very coherent top to bottom with none of the phase shift or honk so typical in of most of the older loaded horn types. Set up correctly, they truly dissappear in the room with little or none of the boxy colourations found in the K-horn or the Altec A-7.They are without doubt, the imaging kings of any of the horn types and can float an image comparable to that of a mimi-monitor or planar.As a matter of fact:The resolution of the Westminsters is very stat-like and the closest sounding speaker to a good electrostatic that I have ever heard!Most of the Tannoy Dual concentrics are very efficient and very tube friendly as well.Many older Tannoy owners use low powered single ended tube amps with great success[myself included] I have never heard the Tannoy Victory,however it is probably well over your budget anyway.Tannoy does currently market the D-700 and D-500 in their pro-series line that may be well worth looking into.There are more than a few members here on the GON that are using these.Hopefully...some will chime in.Just some unbiased food for thought. All the best with your endevour! Cheers David
I'd like to thank everyone for their kind responses; this is very helpful since I am new to higher end audio.
When I started looking, I figured right off that my space would be a problem. What I didn't bargain for, is that speakers good with classical might not handle pop/rock/electronic well. I figured nothing would be more difficult to reproduce than classical so any speaker that could do symphony vaguely right would be fantastic with "easier" music. Live and learn...
Back to my accoustic problems, I live in a loft, so the space would better be described as a living/working/listening space. While its seems improbable to me that any set up within my budget would fill the whole space, its my hope that with some good choices, a corner of it could be made to sound right
I don't know for sure if that is indeed possible or if the laws of physics rule even that out. If it is possible, I wonder whether it would necessitate partitioning off a section with acoustic barriers as Plato suggests or if I could possibly get away without it.
In answer to Drubin's question, I have not come to any conclustions yet. I can say that I've enjoyed one thing or another about all the speakers I've auditioned, (except for a pair of planars that I didn't mention in my post and that seemed to really suffer in the bass and excitement departments). I am still very much at a stage where I am educating myself on how to listen and what to listen for- thanks for the l.i.a.r. advice, Duke.
I have auditioned the Vandy 2cesig, and while they seem to have an interesting sound in many ways, they seemed to choke a little when the orchestra goes nuts, as in the last movement of Symphonie Fantastique. Also,they were disapointing to me with pop music. Even something relatively mellow like Tricky's Maximquay lacked the fun and dynamic excietement that I know is in there somewhere. I briefly listened to the 3Asigs, and they seemed to have a bit more of the fun factor, with better bass, but I'm not convinced yet and need to listen again.
I also plan to have a second listen to the Snell XA60's, and just out of curiosity I'd like to listen to the
XA75's, but I have yet to find a dealer that stocks them.
But in both cases, I'm a bit hesitant, in part because of the almost complete radio silence about the Snells.
Has anyone seen a review or heard these? I'm curious to know what specific problems Rtn1 felt they had with classical music.
I'm probably going to have a second listen to the Dynaudios,
(I think the model was Audience S80 or s82 ?).
I have auditioned a pair of Thiels, (the model escapes me and I don't have my notes in front of me), but I remember one of my concerns being that they may have been slightly bright. (I think they were also a little out of my price range at about 4000.00/pair.)
In all of these cases, I'm considering the need for subwoofer(s) to get really full range, but I'm concerned about what kind of complications subs cause in set-up as far as coherence goes.
As for Revel, Onix, and Aci speakers, I have yet to see a dealer that stocks those brands in my area, (Los Angeles), but I'll keep looking- thanks for the suggestions. And one of the reasons that I'd like to steer away from used equipment is that even in the face of an apparant bargain, I dont feel comfortable purchasing something I havn't heard first.
Thanks again for the help everyone, and if anyone has any other thoughts, they would be much appreciated.
If I had half that room I would definatly own Magnapans. But i don't.
ambrosia in bel-air carries Revel...i have some onix speakers...contact me if u're interested in hearing them...