The eternal quandary size versus sensitivity versus quality!! Help wanted!!

So I keep going around and around and around on this, so I might as well put it on Audiogon( posted also on Audiokarma), so someone else can also go around and around( big grin)!

I am looking for speakers for my third set up. This is in a bedroom/office, Where the speakers will essentially be in the near midfield, 4 to 5 feet from speaker to seated your level. The speakers will be on a portion of the desk, one area slightly higher than the other and surrounding a 50 in 4K TV, which serves as the computer monitor.

All input will be digital: 1. MacBook Pro(Apple lossless, FLAC, Redbook and better)-using USB to 2. COS H1 (DAC-headphone amp), to 3. PP UL Audio Space 2i(uses EL84s).integrated tube,@ 12-16 Watts, Audioquest/Mogami cabling. First had old old(don't ask!!) Bose acoustimass blocks, then for the hel! Of it on Amazon-super sale (and based on reviews)bought the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones speakers, and now want the best.

The Bose were as expected (😉), the Pioneers are"ok" with music: a relatively clearer and deeper bass than I expected(I am absolutely going to get another compact sub for under the desk anyway), but an imprecise mid and dull muddy highs. All the negatives in sound quality are actually accentuated when moving out of desk chair, back into a seated sweet spot 12 or so feet distance from speakers. SPL at that site is JUST adequate for my ears( with rock, not so much classical) and yet these are "fairly" sensitive speakers(Pioneer 85 db, Stereophile test 86, rated 6 ohms, tested generally greater than 10 ohms), and I would like a bit more loudness headroom.

The other issue is size, as the Pioneers are just about right, although I could fit a bit larger, but the back of speaker is wall/window constrained as to distance away and any rear port function, say max 8 inches, dependent on speaker size.

As their are no real good audio dealers near me, auditioning and store comparison is absent. I have read nearly every forum post, review and manufacturer data concerning the possible lineup of suspects that meet size criteria and trying to get a high sensitivity, generally contradictory terms! Read about (all models within manufacturer that approach criteria), including ELACs, KEFs, B&W 5in, MLs, Polk, Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Focal, Fluance, Klipsch, Dali, Dayton, JBL, Zu, etc.. Price is important, but given size And sensitivity requirements, less so since small size more or less equals small( audiophile relative here 😉) price.

I would really like someone to say, best speaker is the.....but.......

Auditioning in house is a haste, as returns a pain, and I guess amazon is probablythe easiest for this for me(FedEx nearby).

I guess I am leaning towards:

Dali Zensor 3 SPL 87, 8.07 x 11.54 x 13.82 in

KEF Q100. 86 db , 11.8 x 7.1 x 10.7 inches ; note other KEFs too large or too insensitive

ELAC unifi b6. 85 db(Probably not sensitive enough for my needs)   , 7.87 x 10.75 x 12.75 in,;     other ELACs, same as for other KEFs

Zu Omen(4Kand Large 18 in)/cube(1k)(both high effficency!!), but absolutely need sub with cube, 12 in

I really really would value input. I like the amp and just retubed( have used the original Audio Space tubes -probably high grade select Shuguang; had RCA NOS; Psvane select; now for the he!! Of it trying Gold Lion(had good luck w these) and JJs-- please no tube discussion here!!), and do Not want to change the amp(nice size and weight). I do not really want the hassle of used speakers. Would like to stay around $2 k or less. I noted SIZE importance as well as sensitivity explanation. I noted the internet purchase, sound unheard requirement( I am also kinda disabled, sigh). So guys and gals HELP.

Thanks in advance
A suggestion for a desktop near-field speaker setup (Also a 3rd system driven by a PC source) from a hands-on experience .
These were a wild card that was a dealer suggestion, that imoressed me enough to buy them.

i have last year's YU-5,model, the new one is the "6"

they also have Bluetooth capability on top of direct wired capability  so placement issues disappear. 

Highly recommended

What are the dimensions of your bedroom/office? Any room treatments. 

You shouldn't need very sensitive speakers when listening only 5' away.

For around $2K, you could get a pair of Harbeth P3ESRs or Stirling Broadcast LS35a. You shouldn't need anything larger if you're in a typical office/bedroom of something like 10'x12'.

I highly recommend calling Acoustic Sounds for some advice. Their equipment manager really knows his stuff and has a lot of experience setting up great nearfield systems. They carry the best brands for these types of systems IMO.
Thank you for responding. Algebra, I noticed the Kenton appeared to all be powered and I would miss my tubes sound😉. He room is say 12 by 12 , 8.5 ceilings, and essentially very well damped with lots of furniture etc..  I looked at the Sterlings and  Harbeths, but will look again. Thanks for the Acoustic Sounds tip.

Any other ideas from anyone? Does anyone have experience with the Audience ClairAudient 1+1? That looks very intresting!
Add the Spendor 3/5R2 to the list! Any LS3/5a type speaker would work well!
A used pair of Dali Zensor 3s came up today on AG. I think priced somewhat high however offers can be made.
I actually bidbon the Dalis, did not get them. Someone on another thread suggested Omegas...anyone have any experience with them?


80% of the music is made in the first 20 wpc.

I’ve heard a fair amount of monitor speakers and found numbers actually do mean something, ie., sensitivity and impedance. Price too matters a good bit.

Around the $1600 to $2,000 arena there are literally tons of speakers to check out. If you can acquire squeakers whose imp stays fairly level and does not dip harshly, the sensitivity won’t matter as much in a smaller room.

It all comes down to taste and esthetics and as long as the electrical priorities are closely kept, all will be well, depending. Speaker makers like everyone else in the industry have pretty much figured out if you pay me X dollars you will get X level of performance…. Again, provided you match their electronic demands well. Loudness will be dictated by sensitivity and impedance will demonstrate how much of the bandwidth can be reproduced by the loudspeakers. The design of the speakers, driver size, enclosure type, etc. add up to giving you their sound or sonic signature. That is where the Devil lives. In the different sonic autograph of the build.

Nearfiled listening dissolves many inherent room and setup issues so that will help out a lot. Your critical area remains matching things electrically between amp and transducers. Online there is a graph which shows what can be expected in DB by each watt at particular distances, in a supposed ‘perfect’ world or scenario. However, subjective perception once more can tilt that balance.

Trust me, I know full well the drag it is to deal with shipping and handling of gear being quite physically challenged myself. So I get the ‘hassel’ portion of doing the Audiogon shuffle especially with speakers, but it sounds like you are fairly discerning with your sonic preffs, so despite the hassel, to truly optimize your budget, I’d suggest you bring in at least two or three makers models to check out, then once you’ve gained more assurance of what a particular makers perspective is with their designs, value, etc., go off on a pair of new ones from the squeaker maker you feel most confortable with overall.

I’d suggest what ever units you want to check out have steady Imp levels which hover around 8 ohms and whose db are at 90db or above. Less sensitive units will surely perform and yield decent loudness in a room of your size, the part that will be affected most, once all other parameters are maintained will be the bottom end.

In my 12 x 10 office a pr of reportedly 91db + units on Sound Anchor stands develop solid enough bass. But sliding in a Velodyne DD15 sub was a real game changer. Unquestionably.

Before I’d pitch $2K at something based on someone else’ opinion, I’d do a bit more in home interviewing of some pre owned squeakers. Good luck.

Great summary Blindjim and, despite the hassle in getting in several sets, I concur. If I do not like them the kids certainly would value them as a present, birthdays, holidays whatever!!

For many of the manufacturers it is sometimes difficult to obtain freq/I graphs, but I need to look around for reviewed models, and maybe limit choices based on that. Not a bad starting point I guess!

Any other thoughts are welcome!!
I have ls50, p3esr, shl5+, scm7 v3
my preffered is ATC or Harbeth
@murphythecat .  Are you running them with tubes?
yeah. low powered amps actually or 50 WPC gainclone or 100 WPC sony ta 707

audion golden night and a diy dht 6b4g. both around 10 WPC. for nearfield and a preamp with gain input, I find it just fine. but it depends how loud you listen and how close from the speakers you intend to listen
I'm still dealing with a similar issue as OP's, but mine have to go in sort of a bookshelf.  Was thinking possibly ATC SCM11v2.  No issues with your ATC with golden night?
scm7v3 with low powered amp is no go. I think scm11 are more efficient
sorry if I was confusing.
I find the ls50 in nearfield not as good as p3esr. I find ls50 need more distance. for nearfield, scm7 or p3esr would be my choice.
I would recommend at least 20 WPC for scm7v3, same for P3esr but somehow I can get away with 10 WPC. it all depends on how loud you listen and how close you intend to be

Thanks, Murphy.  Despite all the raving reviews, I'm not much of a fan of the ls50--maybe they're fantastic and maybe my listening expectations were just inflated from the hype.

scm11 is just 1db higher than scm7.  I'd be running 60w triode or 35w PSET.

But, you like the ATC, nearfield and with tubes?  on par with P3esr?

Sorry to pester you!

I was all set to order the Omega super 3 ho's tomorrow, but now I guess ATCs need consideration.

SF, agree with you completely regarding the LS 50s-- I just don't like their sound that much. The PIII ESR's I do like, but fear they were going to require more power than my Flea Amp will put out.

Hence, we're still going round and round about which is the absolute best speaker to get for my near Field situation. 

I did acquire a Primaluna Dialogue 5 with KT88s, and have bought a lot of new, old(?) NOS NIB tubes to roll in it. This was initially for the nearfield setup, to get that extra power and enable me to really get the very best speaker, and not have to worry about power. But the more I thought about it 12 clean, good watts SHOULD really be theoretically enough, especially with the tubes =3x ss, rule. So I am going to try that out for kicks in the main set up as a second amp. There I might need to roll KT150s into the PL to get the B&Ws up to speed, will see.

SF, have the Omegas grown on you any more, since your review was my incentive to pull the pin on them? And what about athe Audience 1+1, AudioNotebook ANK, Dynaudio Contour 20, PSB Imagine, Reference Reflector......? I take to heartBlindjims comments, but having issues with getting  real I/F data, no way to trial, and as confused as ever.

i really hate to admit this, but like in a restaurant when someone is(used to be my kids) left side ordering, I often opt for the absolutely most expensive one when there are similar choices. I always figure it has to be expensive for SOME reason!  We all know that does not always really work in audio, but I have to tell you, I really, really am down to that in getting this speaker pair, since even store demos are not nearfield, usually.
How about a big honking pair of Tannoy's,The Chinese seem to like them near field in their little crowded living spaces.

Kenny:  what the heck?

Northern:  I'll update on the Omegas on the other thread.  What music would you be listening to?  I'm finding them to be great on some and ok-to-bad on some.

Stfoth,  mostly everything but metal, i.e. Classic rock , folk, classical, classic jazz, a smattering of opera occasionally, but probably mostly the first four.
Northern--For me, so far, the Omegas are iffy for a lot of rock, awful for anything metal-ish (like Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera), somewhat awful for complex "classical."  I think someone else commented about them on symphonic music--agreeing with my "hashy" description.  But, great for some folky, old-school country, jazz...male vocals and less complex music.  If there is a lot going on, to me, the sounds/notes tend to blend together, especially at volume, and I'll stick with "hashy."

For what they do well, they are ridiculous and addicting. 
Northern:  Just curious whether you pulled the trigger on anything.
Not yet, but bought a Mac 2125 (off here but guy was local, just had to), for the rec room as power for the ht fronts, Or give to son who has been drooling over Mac stuff forever.

stfoth, know or tried and Quads, specifically the ones?
I mean the s1 or s2...I have always loved ribbons...
Btw as to music again, m test of components is usually Joni Mitchell, "A Case of You", but I do love a heavy horn loaded orchestral piece. Would those be muddied by Omegas? I can only guess how good "A case.." would sound!!
Only heard the 12L in any recent memory. Very nice sounding for the money, but wasn’t listening particularly for the office space.

Just throwing this out there, because I missed a pair on that other auction site awhile back. Maybe contact Salk about one of the ribboned monitors. Can customize your box. Beautiful cabinets. Not sure if he still does custom-custom work, but might be able to do a sealed box. Can’t say how well it would work near-field, but they should probably be able to give you a wise opinion. Pretty sure they are using RAAL, now. I was thinking of giving them a call, but keep getting myself distracted.

Mac makes a great gift! :)

I'll give Joni Mitchell a listen on the Omegas...just about the type of music (I think) sounds fantastic on them.  Probably not so much on your big orchestras, especially if there is a lot of bass/drums/horns together.  Add strings...forget it, imho.
An aside: In the 70s a friend built a pair of speakers for his nearfiield studio needs using single JBL D130s (15" full range and famous) in slot loaded boxes…surprisingly small boxes relatively speaking, only slightly larger than the diameter of the speakers…those things sounded amazing and needed very little juice, and sounded full range.
A smaller equivalent that I have considered is on audiogon now, the Zu Cube..... .  Pretty fair starting price, unsure what the wood is and I asked.
northern, I was actually also eyeing that Zu Cube but wasn’t sure about the sound quality in the mid-low bass region. I suspect it’ll sound great for a similar type of content as stfoth mentioned for the Omegas; mid-range vocals and small number of instruments, etc.
You ought to look at Silverline minuets. They fit your requirements and are only $699 new. Well reviewed.
I forgot about the Minuets…they got raves when they arrived, and I bought the Preludes which I really liked until replacing them (recently) with more efficient speaker.
Check out Fritz. He uses some Scanspeak mid-woofers which have exceptional bottom end and end up with really good sensitivity.


The minuet Grand or the Minuet Supreme plus( or even sr17), which would you recommend after hearing? Has anyone heard the Silverlines and the small Salks, and if so, which do you prefer? I like the ribbons on the Salks, but both the Silverlines and Salks get rave reviews. At 699 the minuet supreme is easily the most inexpensive, and if I did not like it, kids here it comes bg .
Northern:  Did you pull the trigger on anything?