Starting from scratch, passion for "steals"

For those who don’t like reading long posts:
I want recommendations on equipment, especially speakers, to keep on the lookout for that are SOLID performers for a dedicated 2channel system, that can be found for song (pennies on the dollar for performance equivalents). This opens up to vintage equipment, or more common equipment that can be found for cheap. I’ve got room for floor standing speakers and am not placement restricted, but I am limited with what I can do for sound treatments (baffles/foam etc) so keep that in mind. Jazz, Blues, Alternative, Folk, and some classical, is what will be mainly on this system.. (any of the harder stuff, trance, techno etc, will likely be handled by the HT system downstairs)

Now for those that like to read a stranger’s dribble and blather:

Ok, So as you can tell, I'm new here, and honestly I can’t claim to be an audiophile, as my technical knowledge is enough to know that I don’t really know enough, nor do I have the experience to make that claim. (as in my opinion, one has to be "familiar" with excellent equipment and music to reference what is good.)

Fortunately or rather, unfortunately, for me, though I dont have the technical knowledge and experience of an audiophile, my hearing is, well, as friends and family say, freakish to "unnatural". Now that doesn’t compare with a "trained" ear, but it does mean that I am typically disappointed in my or anyone else’s system, and forced to just make due.

Now, I sold a/v and HT for years in the mid 90s, went through all the training even getting what was the original THX certification for sales and design (useless btw) etc. etc. but the equipment we sold topped out at high consumer/very low high end.. goodguys btw so adcom/denon/polk/klipsch/energy were about as high as our stuff went. Good consumer stuff, but still a "box-store" so to speak. I'll admit that I was one of the more knowledgeable in the whole company when it came to home theater of that age, as I had just finished film school, but audio,.. pure audio,.. is a different beast altogether.

I finally have a home with room to set up a real system (actually more room/rooms than I know what to do with) and am ready to set something up that I can truly enjoy.

Unfortunately, in acquiring this home, and being in the process of almost completely remodeling it, now isnt the time for me to spend 10-40k for audio equipment. In fact many would say now isnt the time to buy anything.

Also I am afflicted with a condition where I just dont feel good about my purchases unless I'm getting something excellent for the price of something average or even less. This leaves me desiring those "hidden gems" and "crazy deals". But to get them in this arena,... I need patience, vigilance, and commitment, which I have, and expertise,.. which I dont have.

So I'm asking here for advice with regards especially to speakers... (as most of you will agree are possibly the most varying factor in a soundsystem)

I want advice on what speakers, vintage or modern, to be on the lookout for, that might fit someone like me. ( I know I’m not going to get Wilson Audio sound,.. or top of the line Martin Logans etc. as I have heard those setups, even though now I wish I hadn’t.. But, my current polk/denon (not either’s top of the line) never really satisfied, even though it was better than many. I’m looking for ideas, and advice from long timers with experience on the performers that don’t necessarily get the attention of the “price is no object” crowd.. Price is a big object right now. Maybe later I can upgrade a piece at a time, but starting from scratch.. It’s a bit overwhelming.. I think most of you have an idea where I’m coming from.

I will also throw in that I am leaning toward a tube amp setup as I, to this day, regret getting rid of my first hand-me-down system that my dad brought back from overseas when he was in the military before I was born. It was an old sansui 1000A which was supposedly a Japan only version, or so I remember that being the excuse for the cost of repair parts, with a TEAC real to real, cant remember phone, but the speakers had custom fabric for the grills so I never knew what they were, but I do remember that they weighed like 40-50lbs each.. Anyway, as taken for granted as that “old junk” was by me, I still yearn for the sound that came from it. Warmth just doesn’t seem to capture what I remember of it.. Although it did heat up quite a bit, and have a smell all its own.. Yeah, I miss that. (especially after just looking it up and seeing that people still like this guy.. I actually think I gave it away) Regardless, I doubt that even the exact thing would live up to the memory, but,. I do like the idea of a tube amp again, though I’m not stuck on it.

Anyway, thanks for reading and any advice you can throw my way.. If none, that’s fine too, I will just continue to scour the rest of the board.
Too much info is not provided, budget, size of room, music you like, Floor standing towers or Monitors w/stands are just a few important things to add before any real help can be offered, that and the fact the with speakers in particular you need to actually listen or else it is a crap shoot.........welcome to Audiogon!
Well you may have sold this stuff but you may not know THX was the first usefull set of specs the industry had, for the consumer. This applies to THX ultra2, of today; as well. Before this we had the wildest set of MFG. claims,as our guide.
Sure thx never 'tells' one how the equipment sounds but it is a valuable guide for getting the basics.---Some of these older pieces might not pass ultra2's muster.--(such and such a db level w/o clipping,being one such spec.)
I'm sure one could put a nice system together using vintage gear---much like, one could do likewise using budget gear from today.---Much like a '64 Mustang will get you there-- just like an '08; brand X car, will do likewise.--Your choice. ---Just don't expect to find a tie-rod in Omaha on short notice.--This is my way of saying parts for vintage gear may diminish your enjoyment--I have had to throw away pieces that were to costly to repair.
Well I sold all that stuff too.. 10 years ago.. Some goods and some bads.. Stay away from technology as being a driving force behind what you buy is exactly my first recommendation, because it means nothing in terms of excellent fullfilling music sound.

I like that you would be accepting vintage offers, however vintage as you speak is probably in most cases not gonna get you where you want to go.. in otherwords a 1965' amp or speaker is definitely not necessary.. However Vintage SOUND can be alluring but without the headaches of some vintage gear.

Tube I totally agree with, mainly you are basically tired of the Denon / Adcom / B&W lineups sitting in every store window.

Gems to look at, well depends on your sources.. If you plan to do good old' CD, than many members here will start you off with some good solid and Cheap recommendations, Digital is holding less and less value everyday, so used these days you can do some definite damage in that department..

If you plan on going all the way with Analog and a turntable setup, that is the other options to really pay attention too if your looking to have this as a lifetime hobby of really digging into formats, including the very hands on, sonic payoff versions.

Matching your amps and preamps, and speakers will be more of the challenge than which brands are "Good" or the best steals on the hi end market.. It means nothing, and honestly money really means nothing, so many good options now exist that you don't need to do anything as extreme as you may initially think..

If I were you, and you want some vintage, with some power, with some damn good resale value if you wish to move around later.. Well Klipsch speakers on the used market will save you some money, and Mcintosh solid state gear most likely and integrated will get you started with way better sound than any 7.1system you are accoustomed to.

Size of sytem you want, Money you want to spend, Room size, Music types, will all tell the story much more than what you listed above. Also think about if this will become a multi media system, Not surround sound, its not necessary but what formats you would like to have access too, and whether you will incorporate video or not..      
Thank to all who have replied already..
As requested here is a room description:

the room is 14'x21' and has 6'openings on two walls (passthroughs to other rooms) and a 7'x5'window on another. Hardwood floor and mild cathedral ceiling ( so it is about 8.5' at the low points on each side and about 15-18' in the middle.

As for the music I listen to, as stated, I guess rather poorly, I can honestly say that my tastes just about cover the spectrum.. for example this past month, my goto music has ranged from "Explosions in the Sky"(mostly instrumental alternative/experimental, very musical adn full of intriguing nuances,and well worth checking out if you havent heard them ) to a bunch of old Nina Simone recordings (a fave), as well as George Winston, Townes Van Zandt, the pixies, twilight singers, Yo Yo Ma, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Buddha Bar collections, Bloc Party, Decemberists ...

So really I cant say I have a particular type of music I listen to... I can say that Hard and Heavy rock (though I do still listen to some), isnt what I will be judging this system on.

I think since there seem to be (while reading through the forum)tons of preferences, perhaps it would be best for me to start by process of elimination. For example, speaker too big for my room, or ones that have real problems without lots of baffles and room controls. What spearker/amp/component combos DONT go well together.

I really appreciate and take to heart the advice to stay away from expensive repair vintage gear.. Solid advice, and honestly advice I would likely give to others even though I had forgotten to really factor it in to my own quest..

I would love more advise on what to look out for and avoid.

As well as any of those great bargains to look for that have really blown you away in their value. (Im getting pretty familiar with what is popular and what people and stores push, but those arent really bargains. I mean, I am sure if I went and picked up a set of B&W 805s and a JLAudio sub, with Rotel amp and front end etc (what a local hi-fi place reccomeded).. That I would like the setup.. but while arguably a solid "value" (get what you pay for) in many peoples opinion,.. it is FAR from a BARGAIN as it is relatively current, popular and with plenty of profit in the deal for everyone. No one is going to be suprised at the quality of sound they got for the amount they paid.

Oh and I'm in WA state, Eastside for those that know the area.

I hope that helps..
If you like the sound of Vandersteen speakers, I find them to be very natural and non-fatiguing, they perform WAY above their price point. If you only want to spend a few hundred get a pair of 1c's, if you can spend more, it's hard to beat 2ce Signatures for anywhere near their used price. I use solid state amps with them, but many prefer them with tubes.

Good Luck!
Again, pls tell us your budget and preference for used or new.
I completely understand your focus on quality for the money. I don’t ever expect to be able to spend thousands for a piece of gear, so have always looked for pieces that were generally conceded to perform as well as competing components that were many multiples of the price.

The option I went with for speakers just last week was Magnepan MMGs at $599. I haven’t had them a week and have nearly talked myself into .7s for $1300.

My CD player is an Onix XCD-88 that I paid $300 for in 2005. It is said to be another of those "best values for the money".

My amplifier is an Adcom GFA-555 that I have had forever. I am replacing the GTP-500 preamplifier with a $49 passive preamp. I would like to try tubes at some point with the Maggies, but like you, I will keep searching for that great value.

Good luck with your adventure.
have you visited any audio dealers in Spokane?

what is your price point - or did I miss that?
The OP wants good bang for buck, and listens to many different styles and ages of music.  That presents a problem, because speakers that excel with Yo yo Ma( highly detailed) will sound plain with old recordings, generally speaking.  To get a speaker that does everything well is a challenge.  The electronics and cables used will help though.

For good dollar value, buying from internet direct companies can be a good option, because the traditional business model is much more expensive.  So for speakers, I'd suggest Ascend Acoustics, and their tower models for the short list.  Very good detail, and probably 35%+ cheaper than what you'd have to pay for the same level of performance in the retail store.  You may or may not want a sub, it might be worth getting used to your new system and then deciding if you want more bass.

Electronics is a little more tricky.  Emotiva is an ID company, but they are not really high end, though they claim to be.  They might be on par with Adcom's lesser stuff or at least I think so after owning 3 of their components(sold it off).  You may have to pay more here, or buy used.  Rotel might be a good option, but I do not know the tube end of the spectrum that well.  I like Parasound Halo gear, they sound on the slightly warm side, and give excellent resolution/detail of the music without being harsh.

Cables are a witches brew.  You can literally spend over 10k, which is ridiculous,  but again with the ID companies some good deals can be had.  Clear Day makes solid silver wire speaker cables that are highly reviewed by owners, as are Stager Silver Solids, interconnect cables to hook everything up.  Both of these companies are small, have small overhead, and therefore offer excellent value over an Audioquest or Kimber cables.  

I bought a pair of the Stagers, and right off the bat it was clearly superior to my $300 cables, so I'm a fan!  Just a few ideas to get you started, take your time and enjoy the ride!
Vintage if you like bipolar sound and a deep soundstage but can accept a less defined pinpoint image:  Shop Ebay @ Craigslist for a pair of Mirage M5si speakers.  Make sure the tweeters are not pushed-in and all 4 drivers in each speaker are firing.  Bring a flashlight to see through the sock or remove the tops and slide the socks down.  M5si have butyl rubber surrounds on the mids so no Roy to worry about.  You'll need a sub; I'd recommend a used Martin-Logan descent or depth, a new Goldenear sub or a used SVS or Hsu research.  

If you wish to avoid a sub, Mirage M3si or M1si are better - but you WILL need to re-foam the midrange drivers as they will be rotten if not already re-foamed.

Mirages require big power, so a tube pre and solid-state main amps are best...used Emotiva XPA-1's will be fine or older vintage good stuff like Bryston, Krell, Pass, etc.

If you need pinpoint imaging, for a new gear  "deal", find some used Goldenear Tritons.  The ones with powered subs are very efficient and run on low output tube gear just fine.


Like you I started out with the Maggie MMG's which absolutely impressed me with their sonics.  Almost immediately I added the MMG bass panel which, IMHO, added little to the performance and was something of a PITA with the additional wiring.  (A REL is a far better choice to complement them.)

I sold those, auditioned the 1.7i's and the .7's together and bought *gasp!* the .7's. No sub added. 

You get a LOT more moving from the MMG to the .7 than you could from the .7 to the 1.7i in my opinion.  For one, size. The 1.7i's are large, and secondly I found the 1.7i's to sound somewhat less articulate. 

Then I picked up a pair of Thiel CS3.5's from a fellow member  Maggies with bass!
I remain a fan of Magnepan and Thiel but for now I'm digging my Thiels like a shovel. Both brands possess some notoriety for being "power hungry" which I've not found to be an issue at the levels I listen at - and I've driven both with high power and moderate power amps, 50 watts, 150 watts, and 300 watts. On the pre-owned market either brand can be true bargains, especially since their owners tend to be rather fussy and take caution and care with them. Maggies do require a tad more inspection when considering them, but finding previously owned pairs from sources such as A'gon is a pretty safe method. 

Good luck!
I think the $600/pr Magnepan MMG is probably the best value (new) product out there.  Add a pair of good subs (SVS or similar)  at $1k and a DSpeaker sub EQ at $1k and you have a full-range, $2600 speaker that IMO competes with anything at any price.  That's not to say it beats every alternative in every way, but that you could make a reasonable case for its overall performance,
I wholeheartedly agree with martykl's point that the MMG's are the best "deal" out there for new speakers. Their build quality, their sonics are pretty much unbeatable at that price. Box speakers fetching the same dollars will no doubt strike you as cheaply made. You already possess truly excellent speakers that leave you with a lot more wiggle room in terms of power equipment. I've never had a twin subwoofer setup, but his suggestion of doing so is another considerable route building upon something that's good to begin with.  I found one to be sufficient. 

anything made by Magneplanar, Cambridge Audio, most nad or Rotel stuff

if really old: AR, Advent, apt, DCM

be on the lookout for Vandersteen or Thiel speakers

ARC is always a decent investment (to the extent that any hifi gear could qualify)
dimora wrote:
Vintage if you like bipolar sound and a deep soundstage but can accept a less defined pinpoint image: Shop Ebay @ Craigslist for a pair of Mirage M5si speakers. Make sure the tweeters are not pushed-in and all 4 drivers in each speaker are firing. Bring a flashlight to see through the sock or remove the tops and slide the socks down. M5si have butyl rubber surrounds on the mids so no Roy to worry about. You'll need a sub; I'd recommend a used Martin-Logan descent or depth, a new Goldenear sub or a used SVS or Hsu research.
+10 on the Mxsi series. I have had a pair of M5si's for 20 years, and they *still* anchor my 7.1 ch surround system. I think the need for a sub may be both room- and amp-dependent. When I was using them for 2-channel in my media room (which sits on a concrete slab, therefore no bass lost through suspended wood floor), the Stereophile test CD revealed that these things are linear down to 29 Hz and still audible at 26. 

Many things I love about the M5si's, one of which is the purity and simplicity of the sound and another is the way it energizes a room. In-room power response is *great*. Another thing is that it has the purity of a 6-1/2" 2-way, but is capable of a really big sound. As old as mine are, I'm still astounded by how transparent and engaging they are.

Disclaimer: For home theater, I *do* use a pair of subs with them, but the subs are mostly for crashes and explosions and are generally not needed for music.

KEF LS50 Wireless, all in one.
The problem with those Magnepans are the lack of bass.  Couple that with a sensitivity rating of 86 and the impedance of 4 ohms, and you get a difficult load as well as little bass response.  

True 213runnin, and the Maggie low sensitivity and missing bottom octave makes necessary a beefy power amp and perhaps sub or two, thereby negating the economy pricing of the speakers themselves. However, the older Maggies that allow bi-amping makes it possible to use a cheap but powerful amp for the bass drivers and a great medium-powered amp for the midrange and tweeter drivers. And going back even further, the 3-panel Tympani model Maggies actually went pretty low (as low as many dynamic woofers), and with excellent quality bass. Some fanatics actually use the two Tympani bass panels (the third panel containing the mid and tweeter drivers) as woofers for their main speakers. All it takes is a big (though not necessarily expensive) power amp and the required floor space (five feet between the panels and the wall behind them if at all possible).

"randy-11283 posts11-26-2016 1:23pmhave you visited any audio dealers in Spokane?

what is your price point - or did I miss that?"

Did you miss that the OP is over 8 years old? Do you think he is still following his post?

  High value brands I currently enjoy are Croft, Dayens & Belden 8402 ICs.  Wireworld power cords are inexpensive & made a difference for me. 
   Monitor Audio Silver & NAD are also generally safe choices.