Speakers in 10-15K price range for Classical music

Well I am in the market for speakers. My music choice is primarily classical and then a little bit of everything else such as jazz and soft/alternate rock. I started with a budget of 5-7K and auditioned Maggie 3.6, Quad 989, Spendor S8e and so on, but quickly realized I couldn’t get what I was looking for in these speakers. They all did pretty well on solo or few instruments but could not nearly reproduce a symphony (Mahler’s fifth, or Tchaikovsky’s sixth or Schubert’s ninth) with any authenticity. This was about a year ago. Since then I had stretched my budget and am now looking for speakers in the 10-15K price range.

Now here’s the challenge. I didn’t like the Thiel, B&W or Wilson sound. I had liked Maggie 20.1 in the past, but can’t find any dealer nearby that carries them for an audition. Heard the Vandersteen 5a for about 10 mins and they are pretty convincing, but I need a proper audition and then it’s still beyond my price range. Now my question is what other speakers I can look at for the kind of music I like?

Thanks much in advance, for your help.

Oh, my system is Krell SACD and 400xi Integrated Amp. Will upgrade the amp eventually, but will need to wait for another year at least :)
I've been very impressed with e Marten Design speakers. I can highly recommend the Marten Miles III, in your price range. Very revealing, great PRaT, well worth investigating further.
If you liked the Vandy 5's, you should check out the Vandy Quattros. Right in your price range and it will do acoustic music supremely well. The adjustable low end will allow you to tailor the low end for virtually any room.
ATC SCM 50 Actives will do the trick - there is a used pair for sale in your price range (Gordon Holt's Estate - he also liked classical and Panels). ATC are close to Quad panel midrange clarity yet will still do justice to Mahler or rock.
I second the Vandersteen Wood Quattros. Moving up in price to the top of your price range (actually just a bit above) would be the Devore Fidelity Silverbacks and the Verity Leonores. The latter are quite new and I have not heard them yet, but have a feeling, based on my Verity Fidelio Encores, that the Leonores would very much be worth an audition.

Since you did not rule out used, I would also suggest the Aerial 20T's if your integrated has enough power for them.

Good luck!
If you don't mind used, you could look at the previous Focal Utopia Be's. I bet you could find a used pair of Alto's for that price. Maybe even Novas at the top of the range. The inverted Beryllium tweeter produces a very wide soundstage. Paired with the Krells I suspect they would sound great.
Try Sonus Faber:
A pre-owned pair of Amati's should fit the bill in the middle of your price range.
A pair of Elipsa's will provide more bass @ the top end of your price range.
Other speakers in your price range, (used of course), that I would recommend would be:

The Avalon Eidolons, which are very transparent, and image and soundstage very well. (However, they are just slighty less than full range.) My friend used these for years, and he is mostly into classical music. They are fairly neutral and have a very nice tonal balance. They are very pleasing to the eye as well. Used, they run around $10K. You might even be able to find the Eidolon Diamonds for around $15K.

The EgglestonWorks Andra II speakers, (which I own by the way), are somewhat similar sounding to the Eidolons, in as that they too image and soundstage wonderfully. But they are a full range speaker. (Note: they might even have bit of a mid-bass hump - I can't tell if it was the speaker or my room, to be honest, but I think it worth mentioning. I have done a few minor room treatments, and the mid-bass hump seems to have disappeared almost entirely.) They look pretty good too, but IMHO, not quite as nice as the Eidolons. Used they run around $10K too.

Now, your amp will work for both of these speakers, but to be honest, they both deserve better, as both are very transparent, and will sound as good as the electronics in your system are. (I highly recommend Lamm amps, as that is what both my friend and myself used with both of these speakers.)

My two cents worth anyway.
Good Luck in your search!
Invest in a plane ticket to Denver and go to the RMAF.
Takes a lot of the and ,ifs and buts out of the equation.
Might save you thousands of dollars and you'll get what you really like.
I have previously owned Jmlab and Avalon speakers. I am quite happy with Verity speakers and I am primarily a classical music listener. Give it a listen. In my room, the rear firing woofers benefited greatly with some bass traps. I think they are more demanding to setup but ultimately took me further than the other two speakers I had mentioned. A major benefit is the higher sensitivity, and a very transparent midrange.
Spend $4000 on the used Silverline Borelo speakers here on the Gon and prepare for heaven plus put $$ in the bank.

If you liked the 20.1 Maggies you should try hard to audition Soundlabs; they can create a tremendous soundstage; depending on the model they can produce a significant to a large amount of low end plus outstanding midrange and highs with a ton of air and definition. If you like Jazz, try some Bill Evans live recordings; you will feel like you are in the night club; same with good vocals, and I'm sure your classical preferences will do just fine too. You will definitely need to upgrade to a serious amp and a good preamp, but if you check out Agon you will see various Soundlab/Sound Lab models selling in your price range. If you have enough space in your room and the budget for the system it's hard to do better.
I am biased, being a dealer, but have you tried Dynaudio?

You may be pleasantly surprised by their neutrality, smoothness and dynamics.
At your price point, don't consider anything but active speakers. That alone will clear up a lot of the congestion you hear from most speakers. To maintain the best bass definition look at only sealed or open baffle. Avoid large panels unless you're okay with a very restricted, narrow sweet spot. Do some online research. There are only a few candidates that will meet all the requirements you need.
Shahinian Diapason's or Hawks.
Look for used Tannoy Churchills with 15" DC. Or a pair of Tannoy 215 DMT II's.

Other than those speakers, I've never heard any that do well on large scale orchestral music or opera.
I think if you upgraded your amp first, and tried the Spendor or Maggie 3.6's again you would find them much different. Your integrated does not have the power to really open up either of those speakers.

Also, on the Quads, with your existing gear if you tried the 2905 I think you would be very happy, especailly on large orchestral works.

Good luck.
As an opera and classical music lover whom has been through many a speaker, several stand out for me--
1. Living Voice OBX-RW (newer- more refined version)- perhaps with a sub if you like (a damn good one or two though like a high-end Rel)
2. Daedalus Audio Ulysses (I own the DA-RMa and love them for classical-- a touch warm like spendor and Harbeth but to my ears more balanced overall- though I havent heard the lastest iterations of the Spendors)
3. Big Proacs (treble still a bit tipped up to my ear, though easily tamed with wires - JPS works beautifully with them for example- or amps -- Bel Cantos worked beautifully)
4. Reynauds-- Loved the Trentes and Twins and hear the newer ones punch things up a bit dynamically- could be ideal. For you I think it'd be the Orfeos (big boys).
I love ATC's and dynaudios as well, but in my experience, both require a fair amount of amplifier 'welly' as the Brits say to get up and on with things. Also-- ATC and low level listening-- not a match made in heaven no matter your power. Dyns and ATC's are certainly beautifully balanced tonally though.
I suppose, given my current inklings, I'd go for the Daedalus Audio Ulysses if I were you. Easily driven, beautifully built and likely retains all the spendor/Harbethian traits without being too 'pipe and slippers.' Also great at low levels.


I like your suggestions on speakers. It is a bit hard to guess about what the original poster is seeking and what would also work in his environment because so little information was given. Still, I would guess he is looking for a warmer balance and something that can deliver weight for larger orchestral pieces. Your recommendations seem to fit that bill.

I would add to your suggestions, something like the Gershman GAP 828, Vienna Acoustics Mahler, Vandersteen Quattro, Aerial Model 9, DeVore Silverback, and ESP Bodhran (some of these might be slightly over the price cap).
A lot of good suggestions, though we should know your room size to be sure that it can handle a full range speaker. I'd add to the list Vienna Acoustics (which I heard in the past with a Krell amp and it was a pretty good match) and Dunlavy (used, of course).
I have owned and heard a lot of gears, some that I like and might fit your taste:

Analysis, similar to Apogee. very direct and immediate sound just like other ribbon

Sonus Faber Homage line, but be sure to get the newer generation because new drivers are head and shoulder above the old one, not just in hi-fi effect but also in emotional capture

Aerial 20T, very detail and dynamic, but requires some muscle

Verity Parsifal or higher, very musical and on the easy side for amps

Usher BE10/20, very detail and transparent with great leading edge micro dynamic, requires some muscle too

in general, I am not crazy about speakers using ceramic drivers or hard dome/cone, they wear you out very quickly. I like ribbon in general, but don't like line source because the narrow vertical sweet spot. there are hundreds of good speakers out there and there is no guarantee you can get good sound (or sound to your liking) unless you match them well. define what type of sound you like, buy any speakers in that category that receives mostly positive rating, and work from there.

have fun!
First of all, thanks much for so many great suggestions. I want to personally thank Tsciame, Krisjan, Shadorne, 4musica44107, Nealrm, Paladin, Kurt_tank, Magnumpi205, Glai, Grannyring, Hi_hifi, Nextlevelav, Ojgalli, Dfaulds, Jburidan, Macdadtexas, Abramsmatch, Rcprince, Larryi and Semi. Really appreciate your thoughtful response. I surely need some time and lot of research to absorb all the info.

My room is 20x13x9. Probably not the best room for a full range speaker. Where I live (Charlotte, NC), we got very few dealers. Closest I need to travel to is Atlanta or Raleigh. What I was looking for in a speaker is that can represent the ‘body’ of a full scale orchestra. That can soundstage and image well. And that can isolate different instruments. Can depict the depth of the stage, or can keep up with the increasing pace of say, Saint Saens’ Piano Concerto 2. Not sure if this info is helpful in any way.

My next step would be to look up places where I can audition these.

RMAF was a great suggestion too. I have booked my tickets to get there :), though this will eat into my budget, but I guess it would be worth every penny.
Email me.
Interesting thread...

I have the same size room, same budget, similar tastes, and am also looking. Please let us know what you come up with.
Neal1502...based on my reading of your posts, I think we seem to have similar room dimensions and, perhaps, similar musical preference. I also will be attending RMAF to scope-out speakers at that price range. The ones I will listen to include Horning Hybrid Eufrodite MK3, Ascendo, and Audio Acoustics.

I just might see you at RMAF. If you want a speaker-mate to demo speakers, let me know.

Avoid any speaker with a metal dome tweeter in it...in fact avoid metal drive units period...they ring and shriek and don't sound anything like real instruments.

The Spendors should be good prospects material-wise...I particularly like the sound of scanspeak tweeters (such as those used with some Spendor models) when it comes to accurate instrumental timbre with classical instruments...but based on what I have heard, they (SP 2/3 and SP 3/1P and SP 3/1R) don't quite do it...sounding too dull and too dynamically constrained to be convincing. They sound artificial and shut down and just lack the ability to recreate the drama and timbral qualities of real instruments.

Not to single out Spendor because I was not convinced by models from ATC (too dull and dynamically contrained), Magnepan (colored sounding...not realistic enough...had a tendency to shriek), Martin Logan (just missed the mark...a little synthetic sounding), and Gallo (good tweeter but midrange sounded weird and synthetic) either (just to name a few types that don't use metal drive units).

The Vienna Acoustics models sounded too sucked out in the presence band to convince with a range of instrumental timbres.

Truthfully, there are very few speakers that do classical well enough for me.

I like the sound of Phase Technology tweeters. They sound realistic and natural with classical instruments.

It's hard to get the power band i.e. lower mid-range right and modern speakers seem to mess this up really badly.

If you find a good speaker for classical music, I would like to know about it.
Forgot to mention that the Dynaudios (with the right amp) can be convincing. They have the ability to recreate realistic instrumental timbre but need the finest sources (the best digital or analog sources) to achieve this.

I prefer the newer models with trapezoidal cabinets to the older models with standard cabinets (which sound significantly boxier).

Dynaudio models cannot be bi-amped but I would almost be tempted to do this, as they typically use an 8-ohm tweeter and 4-ohm bass/mid unit. The tweeters sound delicate and refined connected to the 8-ohm taps of a tube amp but the bass-mid unit needs to be connected to the 4-ohm taps to sound balanced (damped and controlled). A very refined solid-state amp will also do the trick (without having to re-do the crossover).

I have found the Devore Fidelity Silverbacks and the Verity Fidelio Encores to be excellent at their respective price points for classical music. I feel the Silverbacks are actually a little better than the FEs for large scale orchestral works, but overall I preferred and purchased the less expensive FEs.

And of course the Verity Sarastros are just incredible for large scale orchestral music but too large and expensive for me. My friend and dealer (Don Better of Don Better Audio) told me that when his Cleveland Orchestra friends come over to listen to classical music, they all prefer to listen to it on the Sarastros. And Don has a lot of great speakers to choose from.
09-17-09: Macdadtexas said:

I think if you upgraded your amp first, and tried the Spendor or Maggie 3.6's again you would find them much different. Your integrated does not have the power to really open up either of those speakers."
I couldn't agree more! In your original post you were looking at speakers in the 5-7 K range Before you double or triple your original budget on speakers I'd consider what a better integrated or separates might do with the Spendors or Quads..

just my 2 cents, but it might save you a lot of money:)

You can get a 10/10 new pair of JM Lab Alto Utopias here on Agon for $11k or $12k. they were running $23k last year before they were updated to the new line. Some are new from large volume dealers as they are getting rid of the old stock to place the new Utopia III line. This speaker does many things well and has a huge dynamic range. I drive mine with 500 watt monos and am not looking to replace any time soon(that is unless I get a fantastic deal on the next level up Nova Utopias!!).
Enjoy the hunt!
Thanks much Layman, 4musica44107, Classical1 and Cajunpepe. Really appreciate the suggestions. Now I have a big list of speakers that I need to check out.

@ Classical1 - I haven't tried the Quad and Spendor at home, rather at the dealers who had much better electronics than mine.

I'll post my experience as I go along.
For classical orchestral and choral music, I would suggest you make a real effort to audition Shahinian Hawks or Diapasons. They are designed by their creator to model as closely as possible the sound of an orchestra playing in a concert hall. They provide an extremely convincing spacial and timbral recreation of that sound. In addition, they boast very dynamic, concussive bass, an enormous sound field, more sense of 3-d ambience than I have ever heard outside reality, and a string sound that is palpably rich, realistic, and velvety.
Very importantly, they will play very loud without strain or tonal variation. I can listen in my 2200 cubic foot room to Mahler's Eighth at close to actual live-concert-level volume (peaks of 108db) and the sound is as good, clean, undistorted, and easy on the ears as at 80 db. This takes a good amount of power and current though (I use 2 Plinius SA-100's).
The Shahinians are polydirectional above 250hz and use a transmission line woofer terminated with a passive radiator.
They do not do pintoipnt imaging. Of course, neither does the Berlin Philharmonic or Miles Davis. If you want razor sharp images, unlike the reality you hear live, these are definitely not for you.
There are no US distributors so these can be purchased only from the factory at about $12,000 for Hawks, $20,000 for Diapasons. A used pair of Hawks just sold for $3200 on Ebay.
If you listen primarily to large force classical music, or any acoustic music recorded well in a live space, Shahinian's top speakers (or even the Obelisk, at $6000) are very, very hard to beat.
I will also add that the speakers I use (Sforzando JL-1s) are similar in their presentation to the Shahinians Rpfef is recommending (which I also think are excellent for classical music). I would have recommended my speaker brand earlier, except that it is not currently produced in any quantity. However, the person who makes them lives in Raleigh, and if you're interested in going there (you're not too far away, from your earlier post) he could probably demonstrate them to you. The large model he can demonstrate might be a little large for your room (mine work fine in an 18x20x10(h) room), but the designer who lives up here in NJ also makes smaller models that give up ultimate bass extension below 30Hz for a bit more speed in the mid and upper bass. The large version needs to be bi-amped (an added expense), and will at this point likely have no real resale value, but it might be useful to hear it if only because it can give you an idea of the Shahinian sound, and you might like it enough to buy it despite the lack of a name brand, dealer support network, etc. If you're interested, you can email me directly through the Audiogon email system.
I'd like to add this to my previous comment:
The reason I went to Shahinian Hawks in the first place (they replaced Alon Circes with a Thunderbolt sub and a factory supplied, custom designed x-over, not a bad system for classical) was that the Shahinians, in addition to displaying all the virtues I mentioned above, also "filled in" the enormous upper-bass/lower-midrange power and presence of live orchestral music which seems so often to be missing in reproduced music.
Admittedly, some hear this as "bloat" or excessive "warmth."
However, in a good hall, a full classical orchestra actually produces much more impactful physical power in just that area wherein which dwell the cellos, the trombones and horns, and much of what makes the violas and even the violins sound so rich and full.
The Hawks capture the force of this power without too much of a compromise in detail and clarity, for which I feel they also compensate with excellent timbral accuracy.
These remarks come from a listener who loves more than anything on earth, except life itself, the Western classical orchestra. Please consider that when trying to apply any of this to your decision.
I recently switch my speaker from B&W N802 to ProAc D38. Overall I am very impressed with sound stage and detail. Mine is still breaking in so I have a little bit of forced tweeter sound but it gets softer every day.
I think this one is very good for classical music and Jazz.

Magnumpi205 says:

"Invest in a plane ticket to Denver and go to the RMAF."

I heartily agree.
for $5,000 consider the harbeth shl5s. Those will not disappoint.
Guys.. I didn't mean to suddenly drop off of the thread, was just having a terrible time with a new ISP. I am off to Denver today for the RMAF and would respond to you all on my return. I have auditioned Sonus Faber Cremona M in the mean time. I'd write about that as well as my experience at the RMAF.

Might want to track down some ART speakers from Scotland. Easy to drive and definitely not dull. Valve friendly also.
Neal - I'm finding this a fascinating thread. Please update it from time to time.

Like you, I'm a big classical music fan. I'd like to suggest a recording that I think will test any system: the Karajan recording of Salome with Hildegard Behrens. Dark, somewhat unusual sonics but with lots of detail and dynamic contrast. I think my system is decent but this HvK recording has been exposing its flaws mercilessly. I suggest you use one of the louder tracks as a test - any speaker that can do pretty well with it is one fine piece of equipment.
Surprised no one has mentioned the Totem Wind's, Jamo Reference R909 or Thiel CS3.7 in this thread. Somebody mentioned Dynaudio - probably have to go with the Confidence C4 to get impact Neal502 is looking for, and that lists for well over range he suggests. I am also a fan of Revel Ultima Salon 2 to get at impact and scale of classical, but again, these are slightly out of suggested price range.
How did the RMAF search go. Heard some very good speakers there.
Have to agree on Shahinian here. Given that Richard Shahinian spent probably half of his life in concert halls and actually conducted orchestras if I'm not mistaken, if these speakers can do one thing it's classical. Altough this is at least 6 years ago, I have heard impressive presentations with both Hawk and Diapason (with Croft and Jadis amps).

One that would have to leap to one's mind, if you can still find it: Bösendorfer, the VC7 may just fit into your budget. The bad news, when Yamaha took over Bösendorfer they decided against continuing the speakers production. The good news: mastermind Hans Deutsch is now building basically the same speakers with piano builders Joseph Brodmann Group (itself headed by former Bösendorfer people). So watch out for the Brodmann brand too!
I must also strongly recommend Shahinian speakers for classical.

Unless you really are a fan of big classical pieces I don't think you can truly appreciate the demands in dynamics, weight, scale etc. such large scale, complex music places on your system, especially your speakers. Macro and micro dynamics are incredibly important, along with other virtues outlined above. Soundstaging is key for a convincing presentation. You also need a more or less "full range" speaker to provide satisfying weight. You need a well balanced speaker with tonal accuracy. Whoever noted above that many modern speakers don't seem to get the lower mi-range right was spot on. Many other wise excellent speakers also seem very slightly tipped up in the treble to my ears.

In my personal experience, many modern designs with their emphasis on detail just are not up to a full symphony orchestra in full cry (the big stuff by Brahms, Mahler, Puccini, Strauss, Vaughn Williams et al).

While the OPs room is not large, it's perfectly big enough for many a full range speaker.

I never had anywhere near this kind of budget to spend. I had Alons for years, and I liked the Circes quite a bit (with Herron electronics) for classical. Shaninian Hawks or Diapasions give a similar free, unfettered and large scale presentation while doing justice to the "presence" and dynamics of classical music.

Another thing the open baffle design Alons (now Nola) have in common with Shahinians is that you don't have to sit with your head in a vise - they have quite large sweet spots, and while they do vocal and chamber exquisitely, they are much more realistic for orchestral than most other speakers. They are designed to do justice to big classical, and that they will do, without stinting other more intimate musics. (and if they're dynamic enough for Bartok Concerto For Orchestra, they're dynamic enough for the Rolling Stones.)

Rpfef delieates the Shahinnian sound well. They make you fell like you are sitting in a concert hall. The Nolas will do the audiophile imaging thing more if you like pin-point imaging for smaller ensembles. But honestly, after 20+ years in high end audio, I don't think that's my most important spekasr attribute - not when listebning to the Brahms Requiem (a test disk I always take on auditions).

I haven't heard the latest Nola models, but I would also check them out, as they're voiced with large scale classical music and have that dynamic, natural and open sound.

To my ears, the best speakers from Nola and Shahinian have many of the virtues of planars and stats to which they add excellent bass and dynamics. They're not quite as fast, but darned near, and they're both very open kinds of speakers.

I'd be wary of any speakers with treble peaks, or midrange dips, I don't care what the tweeters are made from. Fatal for classical. Given the nature of some recordings, it can truly make massed strings painful.

The big Soundlabs are a completely different kind of presentation from the above but are worth checking out - for me they may lack that last inch of weight and dynamics, but they are wonderful speakers, so transparent and immediate, as are the Maggie 20.1s. Again, planars and stats do have their unique charms. Maggies, as much as I love them (and I had a couple pairs for several years) do have a "sound" or very (VERY) faint grain structure that is omnipresent until you get of the to the 20.1s.

I've heard and liked big classical on Audio Physic Avanti IIIs, Vandersteens 5a's, the big Pro-Acs, and moving up in price JM Labs Utopias.

Don't be afraid of used.

Also, and I hate to tell you this, but your amps, preamp and front end are also very important in getting the best from your classical capable speakers and achieveing musical nirvana. But select the speakers FIRST, then match the amplification, cabling et al to your speakers.

You WILL want to upgrade that Krell integrated. But speakers first.

And take your time.
If you are a fan of large scale classical works, IMO nothing quite gets the job done as a good pair of horn speakers, and you can get some very good ones for quite a bit less than your stated budget. Nothing else will give you the timbral realism, the soundstage, the dynamic range (softs as well as louds) and the immediacy that horns do. I've never heard anything else yet that approaches the live event as closely, if that is your aim.
Thinking it would do to audition if possible Merlins.They are made for classical as are most of the above also,good luck,Bob
While you were at RMAF, did you check Tyler speakers?
Tyler D1 or D2 may serve your purpose at half the price you are to spend.
Thanks Rpfef, Rcprince, Hjungmd, Knownothing, Nolitan, Jrmanders, Jult52, Karelfd, Rackon, Learsfool, Usblues and Ihcho. I surely will have to check the Shahinians, perhaps even make a trip to NY, along with the other recommendations (ProAc, Harbeth, ART, Totem, Brodmann (future?), Nola, may be horns, Merlin, Tyler etc.)

@ Rcprince – I’ll email you
@ Jult52 – sorry I didn’t have Strauss’ Salome, but Mahler’s Fifth too has a lot of detail and dynamics and like you said, many speakers are incapable of reproducing that
@ Magnumpi205 (Donald) – the show was good, though many manufacturers didn’t participate this time. I have posted my experience in my other thread:
@ Ihcho – no I didn’t check out the Tylers, but there’s someone that lives in my city, so might be able to check it out there
Hi, likely you will have acquired speakers by now, in that case just for information (and for the benefit of anyone doing a search for speakers/classical).
I just returned from the Munich High End show where there were 2 rooms that "transcended" the rest of everything I heard in that they managed to present music as opposed to the others that showed gear performing music - some of which exceptionally good, in honesty.
Those 2 rooms were Tidal and Brodmann.
As you might have expected, Brodmann mainly played classical music (I also heard Rodrigo y Gabriela though, which was delightful) through their flagship speaker in the brand new "Joseph Brodmann" series, the JB 205. This was with Viola Labs amps and a comparatively humble Electrocompaniet EMC1 as source in a room that was certainly not the best acoustically. In one word: astounding! True, the JB 205 is a EUR 56k affair, but I'm pretty sure, the musical gene will be carried forward in the smaller JB models.
Unfortunately, the English pages of their website don't seem to work, nevertheless, here's the link:
PS: based in Vienna (where else!) they also have s representation in Ferdinand, Indiana.
PPS: this is also a manufacturer to have a serious look at for someone looking for uncompromising AV inwall solutions.
Its what you like that counts!!
Sound Lab


Any of their full electrostatic models (new, or many used in good condition) would likely be great - especially if you are willing to get a new amp (preferrably with tubes)