Speakers for loud listening. really loud...

Hi, I own a nice little McIntosh/Totem system and I absolutely love the sound for most music, especially piano and cello stuff.

As much as I love classical music, I also listen to some heavy rock/metal music. My McIntosh MC7300 amp can output plenty of power, but according to Totem's website, my Totem Hawk loudspeakers can only handle about 120W of power. These speakers are beautiful both aesthetically and sonically, but they have pretty low sensitivity (86dB).

Whenever I want to listen to heavy music such as Tool, Incubus, Metalica, etc, I keep on reminding myself to watch the power amp's watt meter to make sure it doesn't go over 150W, although I sometimes let it go over 200W for a short time. Even at that level, the sound isn't satisfyingly loud enough for me.

I love the Totem sound, and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for a good rock/metal speakers. The price range should be below $2500 used and I'd like them to have a good power handling. Oh and the speakers don't necessarily need to be produced by Totem. One last thing, my listening room's pretty small, if not tiny (10 x 13ish).

If you want to play loud with authorityand keep it clean with speakers of that efficiency level, you would need 1000+ wpc and speakers that could sustain that type of heat dissipation. You obviously need speakers with a much higher sensitivity if you're going to accomplish your goals without buying a new amp. I won't go into specifics here, but "rocking" and "chilling" typically work best on different systems. Then again, my idea of "rocking" is probably MUCH different from that of most folks, so you might be able to combine those traits and be happy. I couldn't and that's why i have several different systems. Sean
Probably too many to list, but here's a few in no order:
Aerial Acoustics 7B, a pair just sold on the Gon for less than your target price. Von Schweikert Vr4 Gen III's, I own Source Technology 8.2DX and these puppies can handle up to 350 watts and they have excellent bass.
I'm sure you'll get quite a few recomendations.
Best of Luck
I would recommend a good horn loudspeaker,i.e Klipsch.
i always like speakers from the klipsch heritage line for extremely loud rock music.

the cornwall # 1 is a good speaker for what your LOUD listening tastes are, i ran mine with a mc300 & a pair of mc300s in mono & in both cases they performed great.

the soundstage out of the cornwall isnt nowhere as good as your totems but at blasting levels is soundstage really important.

i run mcintosh xrt22 speakers for the most part especially when i want great sounding music but when i want to really blast it out i use my klipschorns.

for extremely loud, get the police called, make your neighbors hate you, rattle the house kinda loud music cornwalls are a decent choice, especially with mcintosh amps.

VMPS Speakers! so you get your bass slam too.
PMC (Professional Monitor Company).
Cabasse spks are generally highly efficient, >92db/w and can handle huge amounts of power. I mean really huge, most of them can handle >500w.

Tonally they are accurate, like the Totems, but I think they are faster.
I used to own a pair of Polk SDA SRS's manufacutured in 1987. At the time, I powered them with a pair of Acurus A150's. Pre was also Acurus. Those things seemed to play loud, louder, stupid loud, and beyond with no effort at all and absolutely no distortion. Some folks think there a bit on the large side standing five foot three and 21-22 inches wide and 14 inches deep and weighing in at like 195lb. I often wish I still had them.
I think you'll have trouble with many speakers in a 10x13 room - something big enough to get loud for Tool might be very difficult to place practically in a room that size. My suggestion may be difficult as well - a pair of used NHT 2.9's. They can be had for around $12-1300, you place them right against the wall, and they'll take any amount of power you could reasonably throw at them. Great low end for that style of music as well - I owned a pair for about three years and love letting it rip with those same bands. -Kirk
I have 2 systems for that very purpose. My Loud music speakers are in fact Klipsch La Scalas vintage 1979, powered by an old solid state Acoustic Research power amp. There is a myth that these speakers sound best with low power this is not the case. They are very efficient 104db/W/M but bass resolution from the 15 inch woofers was only achieved with a powerful amp. You will rip your ears off before you reach their capacity. Not any power amp will do however, if the Macs are edgy or hashy when pushed the Klipsch will exagerate this because their is no sweet roll off in the treble. I have the Heresys as well which might be a cheaper alternative to get a taste of the sound. I like it loud enough that some respected contributors to this site call it my jet engine system. Good luck
Search for McIntosh and you'll invariably find recommendations for Tannoy and B&W loudspeakers. You'll also find some recs for Klipsch horn and Thiel too. You also see some low-end recs for Paradigm.
Don't know about that PMC. That might work too. Happy hunting.
Slightly out of your price range but the used Talon Khorus or Ravens handle 1000 watts and really can play loud, do rock and roll like no other speaker I have heard and stay clear as a bell at loud volumes.

Happy Listening.
any classic jbl monitor
Yeah you're going to have to go with much more sensitive speakers, active speakers, or do serious bass management crossed over to powered subwoofer(s)! The last is a good quick try for your. Add a subwoofer, an AV pre/pro, do bass managment, and the dynamic range of your sysetm will go up temendously! It will take the strain off your speakers, and make the active powered sub do all the hard dyanmic work down low, were it counts the most!
I suggest this last as your first step when you are "ROCKIN".
OK Sean, I'll bite! You said, "...my idea of "rocking" is probably MUCH different from that of most folks...". Care to clarify that statement?
Spacekadet, don't forget that as your volume goes up, and your bass response goes lower, you will need to increase acoustic room treatments to enjoy the sound. Also, you must increase the vibration isolation for your audio components! Listening rooms, as well as audio equipment, can have "distortion"!
Fatparrot: How loud is it when you're driving an amp rated at a couple hundred watts per channel into clipping with 104 dB speakers in your living room?

How loud is it when you're driving a 1200+ wpc amp into thermal shutdown in your living room?

I've measured average output levels that were easily hovering at 110 db's at 10'. "Heavy jam sessions" creep up around 114 - 115 dB's average at 10'. I haven't done the math, but Bob Crump just sent me an email as we were discussing this very subject privately. According to what he said in that email, he calculated peaks at somewhere around 126 dB's ( give or take ). Obviously, this would vary with the specific recordings being used and how much thermal & dynamic compression is taking place, but you get the idea : ) Sean

PS... When i spoke to Richard Vandersteen about spl capacities of his Model 5, he told me that they would easily do 110 - 115 dB's peak. When i clarified that i wanted to achieve those peak figures as an average listening level at the seated listening position, you should have heard what he had to say to me. When i asked him about how much drive could be fed into the built-in subwoofer amp on the fives without blowing it up, he went off on a similar tangent : )

this is a job for jbl....party on
Sean, are you using a Rat Shack meter, which only goes down to 50 hz. (I believe), or a more sophisticated meter? I assume that at those levels, you must have done some MONDO room treatments, and extensive equipment isolation! So what are you using for speakers to achieve your SPL?
Nothing is more live and in you face as klipschorns.
FP: When i took those readings, i was running a pair of highly modified 4 ohm AR 9's. These are four way, five driver 150 lb tower with dual 12" woofers, an 8" mid-woofer, a 1.5" upper midrange and a .75" tweeter per cabinet. Since all of the drivers are bandwidth limited due to being a four way design, and there are two "beefy" woofers sharing the load for the extreme bottom end, and the lower mids are fed into an 8" driver, and the dome mid has a sharp crossover slope, and the tweeter is crossed over quite high ( 7 KHz )none of the individual drivers are really stressed, nor do they see nearly as much power on an average basis that most other designs would. As such, they can play phenomenally loud while still retaining their composure. If these speakers were produced today, they would easily retail for well over $10K.

I used to drive these with a Perreaux PMF 2150 ( 200 / 400 wpc ) running the top end and a Perreaux PMF 3150 ( 300 / 500 wpc ) running the bottom end. I was running into amplifier saturation though, so i ended up moving to two PMF 3150's, which was better but still not enough power. I am currently driving these speakers with a Sunfire Signature, which i had shut down due to thermal stress as previously mentioned. I've not had any problems with the amp shutting down now after several modifications were performed. In case you're wondering, we pulled the current limiters out of the circuit, raised the temperature that thermal shut-off occurs at, increased the power supply reserve capacity, changed caps in the feedback network, etc.. This amp now clips at 1480 wpc @ 4 ohms, which is the nominal impedance of the AR 9's. The 3150's used to pound on the Sunfire in terms of bass impact prior to the modifications being done, but now it is so close that i don't know if there is a difference anymore. The two 3150's are now running multiple subwoofers in another system that i have set up.

As a side note, the recent article in Stereophile about loudspeaker dispersion, frequency response and and baffle diffraction mentions the fact that the most prominent work done in loudspeaker research and design in the last 50 years was done by AR. For the record, their findings were published in 1978. All of their findings when performing that research went into the technology used to make the AR 9's, which were released in late 1978 / early 79.

While many people don't realize it, this speaker and the associated research has been extremely influential in the design of other speakers since that time. While many people don't realize it, AR was the company that "invented" Acoustic Suspension ( sealed & stuffed ) designs. They also were the ones responsible for the invention of "domed" drivers. They were also the first to utilize side-firing woofers, which was done for multiple reasons. One should make note that their woofers were mounted very close to the floor though, as this is the only side-firing approach that makes sense acoustically. They were also the first to use acoustic damping material on the baffle to minimize diffraction i.e. AR's famous "Acoustic Blanket". Technically speaking though, Dunlavy holds the patent on this even though AR was the first on the market with such designs. Evidently, Dunlavy's patent and AR's products crossed paths at the same appr time.

How many other speakers that you are familiar with utilize design aspects or technology that AR brought with them to the table in this model??? Quite honestly, i can spout off dozens with one brand in particular coming to mind.

With minds like Edgar Villchur ( owner and founder of AR ), Henry Kloss ( partial owner and one of the original founder's of AR along with KLH and Advent ), Roy Allison ( who later went on to found Allison Acoustics and did tons of studies regarding the loudspeaker / room interphase ), Ken Kantor ( who went onto work with NHT and is currently doing work under the name of Intelligent Audio Systems ), etc... you can see how this type of product came to be. As yet another side note, the NHT 1259, which is considered to be the most widely used woofer in DIY subwoofer designs, is quite similar in electrical characteristics to the original AR 12's. So much for "modern technology" advancing by leaps and bounds.

I've also got a set of AR 90's set up in the same system. These can be seen at the link above and have received the same modifications that i've performed to the 9's. They are nearly identical to the 9's with the only differences being the fact that they use dual 10's instead of 12's and have a slightly smaller cabinet. Both are low Q sealed and stuffed 4 ohm designs. These are fed from a modified Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature with a "measly" 800 wpc. For sake of clarity, i was only running the 9's when i took those readings.

Other than that, i also have a pair of highly modified LaScala's. These are rated at 104 dB's, but quite honestly, would blow up LONG before the AR's would in terms of power handling. Then again, the Klipsch are FAR, FAR more efficient, so you don't need to throttle them near as hard to achieve similiar output levels. The LaScala's are factory rated at a peak SPL level of 128 dB's in stock form using the "standard" Klipsch woofers. I've got their "Pro" series woofers in this specific set of LaScala's, which is good for measurably more bass and higher power handling. The most i've ever dumped into the LaScala's was a few hundred watts and that specific amp was clipping quite noticeably on peaks at that point. Needless to say, it didn't sound all that hot, but it sure was LOUD : )

As far as measuring acoustic output goes, i use a Bruel & Kjaer system. Anybody that is familiar with lab grade test equipment will be familiar with this name and their spl meters. I've also got stock and highly modified RS spl meters for sake of comparisons with other people's RS meters.

Hope this answers some of your questions. Sean
You appear to be an intelligent person, so I know you must realize what those volume levels will eventually do to your hearing. I don't know how old you are, but at forty-three, I have already lost significant hearing in one of my ears. I attribute this mostly to loud music (concerts and home listening).

Man, be careful. Too much of a good thing really can be a VERY bad thing. I must admit, that I too crave LOUD music. But, good-gawd man, talk about thermal-melt-down. Think about your future buddy. Your going to want to be able to hear what your loved ones are saying to you.
With that said, I would love to sit in your listening sit for a few minutes...just a FEW minutes!!!

Take care of your hearing.


What are you listening to at those thermal-melt down sessions ?
Hey, Sean, can I come over? I'll bring some Alice in Chains, AC/DC, Queens of the Stone Age...
Thom: I like listening to inter-station white noise as broadcast over the FM radio at the aforementioned levels. The dynamics, liquidity and harmonic structure are to die for at those volumes. The best part is that it is free and you don't have to worry about what pressing you've got or if it was recorded digitally or analogue. Rock on !!!

Actually, when i'm "jamming" like that, it's usually to something like hard "metal" aka Bathory, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Master, Sepultera, Motorhead, etc... "Anthem Rock" like Manowar and Rammstein are also good at that level : )

There are some classical discs that sound good very loud, but not quite that loud. It just doesn't sound "realistic" if played TOO loud. Something like Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" at about 108 - 110 dB peaks at my seated listening position seem to be "appropriate" for those type of recordings. That's a good level for the Pogues too as i dance around the house. : )

2chnlben: I appreciate your concerns, but you'll have to wait until the song is over and i'm done playing air guitar, air drums and air bass if you want to have a conversation : )

Tvad: I've got all that stuff too : )

For sake of clarification, i don't believe that everything sounds "better" when it is "louder". I tend to find that many recordings sound best at a specific volume. I'm constantly fighting with my Dad about this as he tends to play everything at a certain gain setting on his preamp, which is often times too high. To me, this just doesn't sound right and i tell him "it's too loud for this recording". His response is typically "if it's too loud, you're too old". Needless to say, you guys needn't wonder where both i and my Brother get our "dynamic capabilities" fetish from any longer : ) Sean
There is nothing better than listening to Tool at 122db while they crank out such FM golden oldies as, "Stinkfist", "Hooker With A Penis", "Prison Sex", "Third Eye", "Disgustipated", "Push It" and "Ticks And Leeches". Rock On ya'll!
dawgbyte,after reading your post i had to dig out all the old tool in my collection, thanks for makin me remember that they rock.

i hope the neighbors dont mind my aliminum siding shakin like don knott's.