Speakers with fullness and weight?

I've always made a concerted effort to hear as many speakers as I can, but I've only found a few lines that have some of the qualities I particularly value. Quite a bit of my music collection includes modern alternative rock/electronic that is a lot less enjoyable when played back on speakers that are too honest (read: thin sounding). My current speakers (Vienna Acoustics Mozart SEs) really give the music a weight and solidity that is often hard for me to find in hifi. I love how the drums give a really hefty thunk, and guitars seem full and rich rather than nasally. This probably just correlates to an increased midbass and relaxed treble, but all the same, any suggestions of other brands would be appreciated. Older Monitor Audio speakers also seem to have this characteristic.
You really need to look at your whole system. Every component will contribute to the sound you are looking for. For example, your amp needs to do a good job controlling your speakers. If they are not up to the task, you won't get the bass you are looking for. The other components are just as important as the speakers.
What Zd542 said is absolutely correct. Everything matters!
Zd is right. The entire system contributes to the punch and weight of the sound. You need to match your amp to your speakers, obviously, and also consider your source.

I have Reference 3A de Capo I's powered by a YBA 201 integrated. It's good for now, but I know I can get a punchier, more weighty sound from a better amp - probably something along the lines of an ARC or a Rogue or a PrimaLuna.

It sounds as if you're looking for a warm sound in your speakers. You might try contacting Mapman (his Audiogon name) who knows quite a lot about which components add to the warmest sound.
Why is thin sound considered to be honest? Your description of the drums and guitar are how they sound live (full and rich). Thin and lean aren't accurate or natural in my experience. In the audiophile vernacular lean seems to =neutral and bright=detail, not in reality if one is listening to real instruments live.
I also like the sound of Vienna Acoustic speakers. I owned a pair of their Beethoven's and then upgraded to the Strauss. I moved on to a pair of Verity Audio Parsifal Encore's after that, which have the purest midrange of any speaker I've ever heard.
I've also heard some nice Sonus Faber, Dynaudio and ProAc speakers that fall into the full, rich sonic department.
I agree with Charles1dad, Thin sound is not honest sound.
second dynaudio-contour and confidence lines gives this punchy and weighty sound .I remember listened Monitor audio pl300,B&W803D and then after while may be one hour Dynaudio Contour S5.4 and C4.Weighty sound of dynaudio win me over
I agree with the post that recommends looking at your entire system, especially the power quality. I added a PS Audio P3 AC regenerator and am amazed at the power, dynamics, and bass I am now getting. Before this I was considering new speakers because I thought my system sounded a bit slow and lifeless. The P3 transformed my system more than any other single component I have experienced. It was as if I got a whole new system. Of course this is my only experience but before looking to make an expensive upgrade a modest investment or tweak could give you what you are looking for.
A lot regarding fullness and weight has to do with properly targeting room size and acoustics and making sure you use an amp that is capable of maximizing speaker performance, nit just " driving" them. Do these two things right and most any well made speaker can deliver fullness and weight.
Speakers play the biggest role in what you are looking for. Not the only role, but the biggest. I also own your current speaker in a second system and love VA speakers. Easy to listen to and full bodied.

Here are some other good speakers in terms of what you want..

Go up the line in VA!

Silverline Bolero, Sonata II and III
Soundlab M1 - be warned you need big power to drive these
Vandersteen line

I like my current Coincident Total Victory III speaker and this whole line of speakers are not thin and bright, but deliver nice body and tone.

Changing electronics can indeed change the character of a speaker somewhat, but the speaker still is what it is in the end. Ya, a tube amp can fill out the bass in a thinner sounding speaker etc..., but in the end you really need to start with the speaker and the overall sound personality you want. This is the best way to get at your goal. Then be sure you have an amp that matches the needs of your speaker.....
I listen to lots of indie and electronica and am very happy with my ATCs. Have also heard the massive active SCM50ASLs and they do dynamics in a breathtaking way.
Chario, Sonus Faber, or even stacked modded Original Large Advents
use Cardas Golden Cross cables
+1 on Loftarasa's comment regarding active ATC loudspeakers.
A lot of loudspeakers, like most components, of today do sound excessively thin, lean, forward, etc.

Three (Fried A/6, Fried Studio V, and Quad ESL57) of my loudspeakers get this right, and have the fullness and weight you mention. I find these speakers quite musically satisfying.
The "super detail" quest has indeed resulted in many "thinner than life" speakers as companies try to catch the ear of the audiophiles and reviewers. The number one easiest thing for folks to notice is increased detail. However, the ear of the audiophile can be easily fooled into the perception (we are really talking brain, not ear) of increased detail through offering up a sound with thinner body, increasing the PERCEIVED detail. So many reviewers and audiophiles get sucked into this.

Fort hose into analog, the same thing has happened with moving coil cartridges, most of them having elevated response in the treble which is easily measurable.

Note I use the word "audiophile" instead of music lover. Most have been taught by the magazines to proclaim the virtues of "real, live, unamplified music" so they talk the talk but don't walk the walk. My experience is the the owners of the most expensive systems don't listen to live concerts much, if at all. You can sell lots of product that does not sound more like live music as many (most?) buyers don't know the sound of live music.

Folks love showing off their systems (including to themselves) and nothing is as easy to show off as "more detail".

In the end, for most participants the hobby is indeed a hobby of equipment, not an endeavor of satisfying the love of, and addiction to, music. All those thin speakers speak to the former, not the latter. This thread has attracted several folks who are in it for the music, and some natural sounding equipment has been mentioned. Bravo.
You nailed it!
I've attended 3 jazz performances in the last two weeks. Last night a friend invited me to a recording studio and while there he played his trumpet and also a trumpet(Bach Stradivarius model) I'd brought along for comparison of their sound/tone.
All I can confirm is this, if acoustic instruments sound lean, thin, dry, flat etc. in your audio system something is wrong. Instruments heard live are remarkably full, vibrant and display a warmth and richness to their tone, it is quite beautiful to hear and appreciate. The OP's statement that thin sound equals honesty just isn't correct.
Very well said Omsed! I too have noticed the abundance of "detail freaks" in this "hobby". On the other hand, I have also heard systems that are so warm and syrupy that they will put you to sleep. These are much rarer nowadays, as the industry seems to be pushing the tilted up treble sound of enhanced detail.

Many are buying this sound, and it's not limited to speakers, or even transducers. Many pieces of electronics, and even cables, are designed to promote the high frequencies above the mid's and bass.

I find it amusing that many will refer to this tilted up high frequency sound as "neutral". In my mind, the term neutral means a sound which is neither tilted up, nor rolled off. I am constantly amazed by how many folks refer to bright equipment as "neutral".
Thank you, guys, for your endorsement of my post. Hearing many, many live events and playing for myself in my own soundroom, the differences between what musters for "accurate" audio equipment and the sound of real music show a marked contrast! The words Charles used, "remarkably full, vibrant and display a warmth and richness to their tone" are perfect and I have used some of them myself. But as a 3 decade veteran I have observed, hundreds of times, audiophiles smiling and raving about hearing the action of a a sax or clarinet, chairs creak, and fingers sliding on strings. "Wow!!!!!!!! Never heard that!!!!!" But very rarely have I heard folks "ooohhh and aaahhh" over full, rich, natural, "real music" type of sound. Show that type of sound at a show and you don't get the attention of show attendees.

The bulk of the hobbyists are gear-heads, not music addicts. I think in the beginning many of them must have started for the music, but at some point a large percentage fell more in love with the system and impressing themselves and others. The equipment reflects this, the bright, highly distorted cables that sell so well reflect this, the ringing drivers in the upper mids and highs reflect this.

I love the sanity of this thread, it shows there are some guys who want to just listen to something that has the tonality of music. I've actually been criticized by industry folk for focusing on tonality! Sure, there are other very important things to pay attention to (dynamics being very high on my list), but if you can't get tonality / tonal balance right, what good is the product?

Finally, addressing the gear-head nature of the bulk of consumers and magazines, when was the last time you saw an audio magazine focusing on a particular artist, doing an article on them, talking about their vision for their own sound, or talking about the sound of different branded but same style instruments compared to each other? Sure, the magazines are about gear, but if everyone is supposedly so fixated on the sound of real music in real space, wouldn't they be interested in such articles? Fact is, we don't see them because they would mostly go unread as readers flip right to the latest speaker that supposedly reinvents the laws of physics (by using a 50 year old aluminum alloy for its "high tech" construction).

As music lovers we are in the minority of this hobby and we therefore need to be very leery of what folks we don't know say about the sound of the equipment they are reviewing or endorsing on forums. Remember, their priorities are likely very different than yours. I listen for myself, and "buy to try" instead of going by hearsay. Starting with things studios use and have used is likely a higher percentage shot if you are after something that sounds like real music. ATC, mentioned above, is an example.
I'm not so sure that speakers that are known for detail are necessarily bad at fullness and weight. I do think that in many case, inefficient speakers that require a lot of power and current for good balance top to bottom and that are also often accordingly smaller than desirable for fullness and weightin a particular size room are chosen in that smaller is often more practical. Fullness and weight suffer accordingly, but its more because of the gear selected together not being up to the task of delivering fullness and weight more so than an inherent deficiency in the speakers. Magazines do little to educate about what might work best in what ways together or in different size rooms, so the buyer finds out the hard way, if they even really care. If they don't, so what? As long as they enjoy listening to the music. No reason why it cannot still be enjoyable, even if not up to the audiophile standards of truly sounding "lifelike" in terms of fullness and weight.
Thank you Omsed, that's exactly what I wanted to hear. The reason I claimed thin speakers were neutral was because of the shear number of hifi speakers out there that sound thin. My mistaken assumption was that the majority of them would be accurate from a tonal standpoint, and I was thinking that I needed something a little colored, or "inaccurate". I absolutely know that real music is supposed to have the power and richness that I'm searching for.
The irony is that the thin and lean sound(analytical) touted as accuracy and neutral is as you discovered, inaccurate. Your ears/ brain were not fooled. When components sound natural and realistic you'll immediately recognize it based on your description earlier of the sound of drums and guitar.
Midflder, this is really the trap in high end audio, the reviewers and loud posters can convince many that something which is not exactly right is indeed right and that you are just not "refined" or "educated" or "experienced" enough to recognize it! Don't let anyone convince you of that....you know what it is about live music that turns you on. And if a speaker does not remind you of that, but instead grates on you and tires you, don't let anyone tell you that it is right. Charles is dead on: you brain won't be fooled!

This could be an extremely long discussion with many related points. For instance, how did audio evolve this way? I offered up one answer, "apparent" detail is easy to hear. So it is an easy yardstick to use, to show off with, to impress others with.

Here's another partial answer to how this evolved. Most speakers do not have dynamics that in any way come even partly close to the dynamics of live music. So the brain and spirit are not satisfied. Dynamics is one of the most emotional traits of music. So,what is tempting to do when the dynamics of cymbals and high hats don't jump out like in real life? The answer for many has been to turn up the tweeter. Problem is, this solution does not satisfy what the brain is looking for as it is only louder, not more dynamic.

I don't know what your price range is, or if you are looking for used or new. So, it's hard to make suggestions. But for power and dynamics, I could suggest hearing some of the Tannoys. New or used. Even some 80's Tannoys. There's a reason why folks keep them for decades. It would also be fun to get your impression of the really great JBL 1400 array, an extremely natural speaker that has jump, satisfying dynamics, and that richness you are looking for.

This richness thing is itself a bit complex. Part of it is tonal balance for sure. But when I play my instrument here and then my stereo with various speakers I realize that part of the impression of richness of the real instrument is not just tonal balance. The richness, for speakers that portray it, also comes from the ability to convey more of the harmonic structure. The sound of an instrument is not just the exact note....instruments would all sound the same in that case, and they would be boring. The sound of the actual instrument is made up of a huge number of harmonics. Speakers that can portray more of those harmonics sound "richer", and this is not just richness in terms of lower midrange and upper bass. It is a feeling of richness that is from delivering more of the instruments harmonics.

This line of thought comes from many, many instances of observation in listening to systems after listening to live music, and going back and forth between live music here and then my system, only seconds apart. Moreover, playing along with the system really shows this clearly....the stark difference between the instrument and the speakers really stands out.

So, all in all a complex subject delved into by a simple, but very observant original post. I loved the original post because it is a very accurate observation that is talked about very little in this industry.

One more quick observation: this trait of so many high end speakers which cannot portray richness and power is why so few end up in studios. There, the contrast between live and playback would be glaring. High end audio folk often show so much elitism here, saying that the home speakers are so much better than what studios use, as if high end studios are dumb or do not know the sound of music. Wrong, many are very aware of high end audio and they shake their heads in awe as to what passes for great sound. It's certainly not about price, just look up the price of the big ATC speakers that so many studios are using. Actually, I should add ATC to the list along with JBL and Tannoy for you to go listen to but they won't be so easy to find.

You are on the right track: you know what you are looking for in sound.

"One more quick observation: this trait of so many high end speakers which cannot portray richness and power is why so few end up in studios."

Not sure I agree. I think the reason is that speakers used in studios are designed specifically for studio use. Asthetics/finishes play a much lesser role and litening is more often done nearfield there, so room acoustics play a lesser role as well compared to most home setups.

Larger speakers are typically more needed in a typical home setup in a moderate to larger sized room to deliver richness and power largely due to the acoustics of the room. Take that out of the equation and many smaller monitor speakers, both for home and studio use, can deliver in a more nearfield listening scenario.

Headphones are the extreme example that fullness and weight can be delivered out of a very small package but typically only when room acoustics and size are taken out of the equation. I think one has to realize this before passing any generalized judgements on ability of any particular speaker design to deliver fullness and weight.

My <$100 Klipsch earbuds, fitted properly in the ear can do it in spades, for example!!! Fitted loosely or without a good seal, less so, starting to sound more thin and weightless. The tight seal is the key to getting the acoustic results desired, not the speaker (or earbud in this case).

OHM Acoustics is a good example of a speaker maker that realizes this and does thins right. THe entire current line is designed and sounds essentially the same from the smallest (<$1000) to largest (>$6000) models. You are simply buying the ability to perform and sound a certain way in a particular room, not a "better design for better sound" as prices go up. If you like "that sound" this makes speaker selection fairly straightforward. The speaker they recommend will largely depend on room size along the lines of the chart on their website. If the largest model alone cannot fit the bill, then they now start to build powered subs into teh largest model in order to be able to scale up further if needed, for additional cost. Most will probably never have such a need though. Its a pretty unique and scalable approach to speaker design based on very practical considerations, not hype!
I appreciate your thoughts and ontributions to this interesting topic.
Its a very interesting and relevant topic of discussion, but I would find it more beneficial if some specific examples of speakers not delivering up to snuff and why were cited to support some the generalized arguments presented that I have trouble buying into as stated.

I would agree that many "high end" audio products including speakers may not offer good value for the money, but some clearly do as well.

I think we tend to know what we like, but may not always be as well informed about the things we do not like as much.

In general, I find it hard to justify paying top dollar for smaller speakers. "Build quality" is often cited as the justifying factor.

Build quality is certainly important but the laws of physics limit what small drivers in a small box can do in regards to weight and fullness in many rooms. Weight and fullness alone is not such a challenge in a smaller room. WHat is more of challenge is getting that along with all teh rest of what is considered positive atributes in good sound. THe bigger the room, generally the bigger the challenge, and probably the more cost is justified to achieve best results. Its mainly a scalability issue, how to achieve optimal sound in a larger room when needed. The solution is always some combination of larger or more drivers in a larger box along with build quality.

I will say that I have heard some smaller speakers with top notch build quality perform surprisingly well in some larger rooms these days. Speakers from Dynaudio, PSB, Focal,Magico and YG are some that come to mind, though there are others. Speaker driver technology seems to have definitely improved over the years, allowing smaller drivers and designs to do better than in the past. I expect that trend to continue into the future still as well. But are the price tags always justified? That where things become greyer for me. WHat is the true value of a smaller speaker that can compete well with larger ones? I think the used market is in practice the only valid indicator.

That's pretty much how I think about it. Most any good speaker under $10000 should be a top notch performer in most rooms I think, as long as the right design for the specific room to meet the listeners needs is selected.

As the room gets larger, the designs up to the task become fewer and larger, and this is where higher costs may justifiably come into play.

Of course, the other factor that comes into play is listener expectations. This site attracts those whose expectations are the greatest in general I would say. So that ups the ante in terms of what is good or acceptable sound and deep pockets certainly affect the market as well, but its clearly not representative of music lovers as a whole
Amps + speakers + room form a "system within a system", of sorts. Boundary reinforcement can warm up otherwise thin-sounding speakers. Likewise a (low damping factor) tube amp can warm up otherwise thin-sounding speakers.

Most speakers exhibit a phenomenon called the "baffle step" that can contribute to thinness of sound. Briefly, as the wavelengths get long in relation to the front baffle width, the energy is not so much concentrated out in front of the speakers, but starts to wrap around more and more, until in the bass region the speaker is essentialy omnidirectional.

Let's walk through an example. Suppose we have a mini-monitor on a stand with a baffle width of 8.5 inches. This corresponds to 1/2 wavelength at 800 Hz. So beginning at 800 Hz, the on-axis SPL gradually shelves down, to approximately -5 dB at 200 Hz or so (in theory we'd be -6 dB at 100 Hz, but in practice we start getting some boundary reinforcement from the floor by then).

Now the baffle step is not as bad as this appears at first glance, because the energy that wraps around is still present in the reverberant sound field. So we end up with a thin spectral balance in the on-axis sound, which is compensated to some degree by the overly warm spectral balance of the off-axis sound (which in turn is what dominates the reverberant sound within the room). How much effect on the percieved tonal balance the direct vs reverberant sound has at the listening position depends on a number of factors, not least of which is listening distance: The on-axis sound falls off with distance much more rapidly than the reverberant sound does (assuming a semi-normal listening room).

What can be done to deal with the baffle step? We can make the baffle wider, pushing the wrap-around frequency lower, so that its effect is reduced. We can move the speakers closer to the room boundaries (close to the wall and/or put them on shorter stands) so that boundary reinforcement kicks in higher up than it otherwise would have. We can compensate by equalizing the output of the speaker to be the approximate inverse of the baffle step, at the risk of ending up with too much in-room low-end energy (so we don't want to overdo it). We can use an enclosure type that is inherently less susceptible to the baffle step (like a bipolar, wherein the output of the rear woofer wraps around and helps out the front woofer).

So if you like your present speakers aside from a bit of thinness, but you don't want to lose soundstage depth by moving them back against the wall, consider using a significantly lower stand so that they get more boundary reinforcement from the floor. Some people don't like the perception that the sound is coming from lower than seated ear level, but try closing your eyes and pretending you're in a balcony seat.

Duke's thinking along the same way I was. Speaker builders can't anticipate the room, placement and "loudness" you listen at and we generally don't live in anechoic chambers. There is a transition from 2Pi space to 4Pi space.

Baffle step compensation or diffraction loss can be handled in many ways, including a L-R network, which reduces efficiency to some degree, or a X.5-way crossover/driver configuration, where the .5 drivers provide some bass reinforcemnt.

The next set of speakers I'm building won't have the full 6 dB of BSC because I know they'll be hugging the wall.
Knowledge is 80% of the battle.

Posts like Duke's help build the knowledge needed to get good results in cases that otherwise might seem lost.

Haven't heard his speakers but would love to someday. I suspect he is another vendor out there that really knows how to do things right and follows that path as well.
Thanks for that post Audiokinesis. I'm always learning from you and for that I'm very appreciative.
Duke's comments about placing the speakers closer to the floor reminded me of the picture of the Super Elf monitors on the Shahinian website, placed just a few inches off the floor. Apparently this is their suggested placement. I assume this has quite an effect on the Allison effect (floor cancelations).


Thanks for your kind words, Ngjockey and Mapman and Seikosha and Hesson11.

Bob mentioned the Allison effect, which has to do with the impact of nearby room boundaries on the frequency response curve at lower frequencies, focusing on eliminating the dips that normally occur.

If we consider the wall behind the speaker, there will be a frequency at which the energy that bounces off that wall arrives 1/2 wavelength behind the direct on-axis sound, and we'll have a dip at that frequency. Along the same lines, we can expect a floor-bounce dip at the frequency the bounce off the floor (between speaker and listener) arrives 1/2 wavelength behind the direct sound. The longer the path length difference between the direct sound and the reflection, the lower in frequency the dip.

Roy Allison's ingenious approach was to:

1) Use fairly shallow speakers and place them flush up against the wall. This moves the wall-bounce dip up high enough in frequency that the inherent directionality of the speaker minimizes it.

2). Place the woofer down near the floor, and the midrange/tweeter up much higher, and choose the crossover point such that the floor-bounce dip for the woofer occurs above the range where the woofer is active, but below the range where the midrange is active, so that the output of neither gets floor-bounce-notched. This is so elegant it almost hurts.

3) Because the woofer is very close to the intersection of floor and wall, it gets the benefit of a lot of boundary reinforcement, so we can get either significantly deeper bass or significantly higher efficiency that we'd otherwise get from an enclosure that size.

One of my absolute favorite speakers of yesteryear is the Snell Acoustics Type A, Peter Snell's masterful adaptation of Roy Allison's concepts.

Another favorite speaker of yesteryear was the little Meridian M2, a small active "D'Appolito configuration" MTM that predated Joseph D'Appolito's landmark article. Placed on a short stand, the floor bounce distance for the top woofer was significantly different from the floor bounce distance for the bottom woofer, such that each one filled in the other's dip. I haven't seen anyone do a low-altitude MTM since then, but imo it makes a lot of sense.

All of that being said, the floor-bounce dip in particular is one of those things that looks worse on paper than it sounds to the ears. Our ear/brain systems are quite accustomed to it, as it's present every time you talk to someone in person outside of an anechoic chamber (part of the energy of your voice bounces off the floor or table or whatever is in between you and the other person, arriving at his ears later in time, and causing a dip in the frequency response of your voice).

The hard part for the speaker designer is figuring out which of all the many problems speakers have are the ones that most need addressing, and there are probably as many well thought-out opinions about that as there are speaker designers + audiophiles combined!

Thanks for a very interesting read, Duke. While I did mention the Allison effect, I've never really had a good technical grasp of its full implications. All this makes me respect the many decisions that go into designing speakers. Thanks.
I have what you looking for i t is not famous brand but you
have to listen if you live in NY area
Great thread, posts, contributions and experiences. This describes my journey and arrival at what I presently have. More threads should be like this.

All the best,
Von Schweikert speakers are full and also have too my ears especially excellent percussion. Every time I hear VSRs I comment to myself how satisfying the percussion is to me. They are sweet and natural too from the mids to the highest highs.
(Sorry I wrote "too" rather than "to" above.
Tone is everything in a home audio system, If you do not have this first, nothing else matters, Its not music!, take for instance, a mesa-boggie tube guitar amp and a Marshall tube amp to me has the real tonality compaired to a solid state guitar amp!, A gibson Les paul with a mesa-boggie are marshall amp as far as rock-n-roll goes, Is the shitt!, real music!, same thing can be said in the comparison with home audio that has been stated in the above threads!, the rich, full, mid-range to die for, tonality is like the guitar amp differences!, This is what I designed my system to sound like!, I am a musician, I care less whats suppose to be accurate, analitical detail, thin, no body, no bass, no mids on vocals to bring you to tears, that is not music!
Sound is probably the most important part in audio. Because it needs to be good to listen for many hours to your set. Wenn a system goes deeper in the low freq. the influence on your emotion will be bigger. The respons of a speaker is important for the control, how low it goes and how easy you can hear all the different layers. Monitor Audio is maybe in all there price tags they operate one of the best in respons. So you get a very tight, deep bass with all the layers which should be there. Since I use Audyssey Pro ( my way) for the first time I have stealth integration with a subwoofer. I even use it from 16hz till 140 hz. Even at very low volume I have a deep and detailed low freq. In the past I only bought big speakers like the B&W 800S, because I hated the low speed and lack in stealth integration of most sub's. Times have changed and without my sub I would have less fun and a less big smile on my face.
If no-one has mentioned Duke's (Audiokinesis) loudspeakers in the context of this thread- they are certainly deserving!
Great thread!
Bo1972 Wrote:
Sound is probably the most important part in audio...

No Kidding... :-)

Reminded me of the old Carlin tv commercial sketch: "Madam, which pile of laundry is whiter?" "Um... the Blue pile?"

The only way I could top the initial statement would be to recommend that you audition the Tannoy Westminster Royal SE if you desire a speaker with "weight."
how much weight you want and need......
My Vandersteen's are very heavy.
Does playing heavy metal add more weight to your speakers? ;)
wenn you put some stones on top of your speakers you will get more weight.....I guess!!
@ Zd542, Hi, What model do you have?