Thinking of upgrading speakers, any suggestions?


What I look for is tonal accuracy, open and clear midrange and dynamics, as I feel these are the most important parameters that can give you impression of live sound, in other words a reproduced sound of live unamplified instrument is as real as possible, in all harmonic richness.
You know, kind of thing you hear from a nearby bar while walking down the street, you do not have to walk in to know there is a live band inside playing with no help of electronics.
Presently I own PMC IB2, and I am wondering if there is anything better in a range of up to 10K used / 15K new, if I can take it up a notch?
So far I have not heard anything better that impressed me to the point where I would be willing to make a purchase.
A few examples of sound I do not like at all, what comes out of any Sonus Faber (too dark and dull), any planar/static speakers (no dynamics), and any B&W (that midrange is giving me headaches, not to mention the rest), so anything that sounds like these is not my thing (and to make it clear, I do not want to get into pissing contest about speakers, I am merely expressing my preferences, so no hard feelings please from those that own speakers I mentioned as not likable).
What came close to but overall not better than what I have now is Avalon (up to and including ISIS), lacked a bit of dynamic freedom.
This is all obviously based on my limited exposure to the sound of speakers mentioned, but they simply failed to capture my attention, did not have that ultimate “live” factor.
Has anyone heard IB2s along with something else that may represent clear performance improvement?
sashav
These: (http://www.mbl-germany.de/Reference_html/101_e.html), with the right associated equipment, of course.
The sound from Focal JM Labs with BE tweeters are airy and open. I own 1037BEs and I like them a lot. I've heard Alto Utopias at a dealer and was very impressed as well. Altos are within your price range.
Sasha, first thing first.
Rest of your gear, room, etc.
Speakers are only part of the system.....that is why it is called the system. Room, amplfication.......first.

Cheers

Mariusz
I have not heard the IB2's but I have heard the others you don't care for. I am not sure what size your room is but based on the sonics you are looking for and your price range I would suggest Von Schweikert's VR4SR MK2 (fairly large) or Unifield 3 (smaller). IMHO they sound like live music rather than HIFI. You might want to check them out.

Blessings, Bob
you just described my Audio Note E speakers

very open and dynamic with pure tone
Stick with with PMC and listen to the EB1is.
"What came close to but overall not better than what I have now is Avalon (up to and including ISIS), lacked a bit of dynamic freedom."

Based on the above (ISIS too? - really?), either stick with what you have or plan to spend a lot more, IMHO.
Here is more info and comments on suggestions I am grateful for.
Room is approximately 19X19 ft, with a single corner, think of a fat raindrop shape, that is how my room looks like.
Room measurement with Tact showed pretty much flat curve from 150Hz and up, with no terrible nastiness below 150Hz, to the point where I see very little benefit from either tube traps or Tact.
The rest of system: Bryston 7B SST amps, BP26 pre-amp, Wadia 581i SE player, all interconnects balanced (VDH), speaker cables AZ Satori, IB2s sit on 20” SoundAnchor stands (including spikes).
I have heard MBL on several occasions, did not move me.
Heard only lower models from Von Schweikert, not impressed, will try to audition bigger ones.
Focal JM is also on auditioning list, as well as Wilson Audio (Sophia is in price range).
In regard to EB1, I do not see these as an improvement, in fact I think it would be a step back, as I prefer by a large margin IB2 with PMC’s dome midrange over IB1 (EB1 is kind of IB1 on steroids, more bass what is not what I am after, I have plenty of LF).
In regard to ISIS, yes, I know, hard to believe, but I should mention they were driven by some large VTL monoblocks and I must say that I was never a big fan of VTL, so take it with reservation. I actually heard my speakers with VTL and did not like it.
As mentioned, my comments are based on limited experience.
With present system I do get occasionally that eerie feeling of liveliness, even with less than stellar recordings as well as signal from cable TV when sometimes I am not sure where/who the voice comes from, as if someone in room is talking.
But I do not get fooled all the time. Am I asking too much?
What I look for is tonal accuracy, open and clear midrange and dynamics, as I feel these are the most important parameters that can give you impression of live sound, in other words a reproduced sound of live unamplified instrument is as real as possible, in all harmonic richness.

Given your described tastes, I can only suggest a bigger PMC or ATC - the midrange on the ATC 100's uses ATC's much bigger dome midrange drive motor (PMC mid dome is similar to the smaller ATC 50 in drive motor size, PMC like Proac used ATC drivers in the past).

The ATC 100's might be too forward for your taste and the bass might be too lean and punchy compared to the PMC TL design but you should at least audition them. ATC's also run class A to 2/3 power with three separate amplifiers (one for each driver - true active speakers) unlike the PMC IB2 Active which has a modified 4B-ST single channel amp on each speaker (great amp though - I also own one of these). Anyway the ATC may give you the extra edge you are looking for....however, quite frankly why bother - the current speaker you have is already EXCELLENT! (If you go ATC then definitely go active. With PMC it is not as important)
Oh one thing - if you want that "live factor" then you can pretty much forget everything in dynamic speakers except ATC, PMC and Genelecs. Forget about panels too.

One good option which also might work for you would be large horns - Meyers, Westlakes, Tannoys, Klipsch....etc.

Basically ATC, Quested (uses ATC's midrange) and Genelecs have been replacing studio main monitors since the late 70's. Previously all studio main monitors were horns, as nothing else could emulate live music at realistic levels/dynamics. Most studios still use horns for mains.
Here is a link to an interview with Roger Quested

Sting is a customer of Roger's and so are several other famous musicians and studios. If you read the article you get the impression that he was so frustrated with speaker technology of the 70's that Roger was basically forced to design a new speaker.

Quested might also give you that extra edge.
I am not sure where the idea that maggies and dynamics are not compatable. I recommend you try Maggie 3.6's and you will be surprised by the dynamics if they are coupled with the right amp....Jeff

Sashav
"You know, kind of thing you hear from a nearby bar while walking down the street, you do not have to walk in to know there is a live band inside playing with no help of electronics."

Sam Ash. lol

...or horns.

Do be mindful that speakers set up at a dealership, might not be, and usually aren't, as good as you'll get in your home... and they weren't run by your electronics.

I've never auditioned speakers at a dealership, regardless the setup, that was synonymous with 'live' music... save for some acoustic performances.

Either the SPL was insufficient, or the harmonic fullness were lacking. if the rig made great SPL it wasn't something I could handle for long.

I'd start thinking in terms of compromise... somewhere, to some extent... saving my ears and sanity.
Shadorne,

I would not find more forward sound and leaner bass objectionable.
ATC was on my list at the time I got PMCs, but I never heard them.
From your perspective, how do “hi-fi” manufacturers with some professional monitor pedigree fare in comparison with ATC/PMC, for example Focal and Wilson Audio?
One thing is for sure, you'll never get to that level of live band. :~) and first reason for that is the sorce i.e. have you noticed the difference between live translation from radio studio v. best recorded CD? However, isn't the question should be not what speakers but what speakers/CABLES/amp/pre/dac/transport or player combination? ;~) BTW, Have you heard horns with set 2a3?
Your room shape is realy interesting idea. One day i should try that, in my rental appartment. :~) I'm sure landlord will love the sound. :~)
07-05-08: Shadorne
Oh one thing - if you want that "live factor" then you can pretty much forget everything in dynamic speakers except ATC, PMC and Genelecs. Forget about panels too.

What a lame statement!
if you are looking for speakers that have dynamics like live performance, clean clear midrange, and "you are there" presence with excellent transient response and low intermodulation and harmonic distoration, i would surely recommend a pair of jbl 4430 or 4435 or even a pair of 4425 (if you would prefer smaller) studio monitors. i have listened to these studio monitors for 20 yrs and they also sound excellent at low volume.. with these speakers you can choose any level of from soft to rock concert and the microdynamics are excellent depsite all the untruths the audiomagazines spew.
Seems like there are no such a speakers ......according to some.
There is a pair of SP Tech Revelation MK III with Mundorf crossovers for 10K delivered.

Or

Vandersteen 5A and Emerald Physics with seperate dedicated subs (X2) for dynamics out of this World.

Good luck on your quest

Mariusz
From your perspective, how do “hi-fi” manufacturers with some professional monitor pedigree fare in comparison with ATC/PMC, for example Focal and Wilson Audio?

If you are talking dynamic Hi-Fi speakers and panels They are generally extremely competitive for high quality sound - depending on your tastes a Hi-Fi speaker may sound better or worse than ATC/PMC. So like all speakers it is a matter of choice/taste.

What they generally all cannot do is to handle SPL's much above 100 db SPL at the listening position (2 meters back) - peaks get compressed and transients are tamed - if you push them then most will tend to sound dull, boomy, congested or strained.

As I mentioned - if you want the "live factor" (which I take to mean as you defined it - live sound from a rock band with a drummer from a bar) then you need big horns or you need to be extremely selective in terms of dynamic speakers.

Anyway I don't expect many people get it - it isn't often you hear live kind of sound from home speakers - so most people are used to accepting that you can never achieve this realism at home. Some call this kind of sound "PA sound" to distinguish it from the rich, refined and often warm sound you get from many excellent Hi-Fi speakers. These people positively dislike this kind of sound and will say it is fatiguing and unpleasant and makes their ears bleed. So it is not for everyone.

I would add that it takes a good uncompressed recording and, unfortunately, many modern hypercompressed CD's will be terribly fatiguing at loud levels - this is because of "CD Loudness Wars".

I think you should check out some good horns - it might be the ticket. ATC and PMC are NOT the only option but there are only very limited "dynamic speakers" that will do what you seem to be looking for (live band in a bar levels).

If you can - please check out the first track from Shefield Labs drum track CD with a radioshack meter at your listening position and let me know at what SPL they start to sound strained. As I said before - I'm not really sure that you can really benefit much from a change - only you can decide if need to go a bit louder effortlessly - although it would help me to know what you are getting on drum crescendos and on peak hard hits before your PMC's sound strained. (If you can get 112 to 115 db SPL on the hardest hits and everything sounds fine and clean then for me that would be enough as an acoustic drum set cannot do more than this if you were to stand close to it)

Undoubtedly, some people will take my comments out of context to imply there are no other dynamic speakers that sound good - that was not my intention - perhaps this post will clarify - I mean't what most people would call extremely loud "the live factor" - the reason you can hear the band playing from the other side of the street from inside the bar.
i would think a used pair of wilson sophias would fit all of your parameters. both the series 1 and 2 have impressive dynamics and are very well balanced across the frequency range. with quality electronics you'll get very accurate timbral structure - and they'll play loud!
Check out Vandersteen 5A's . They are very musical, can be adjusted to your room for best interface, and a steal at the price.
Sachav:

Hello I am new to this forum but not to audio.

I have been looking to upgrade my speakers in the $10,000 - $15,000 dollar range for about six months. I also seek the same attributes that you are looking for. I like very dynamic speakers with natural tonal harmonics and a "live" sound. I have listened to several models in this price range and will give you a quick rundown of what I though. In the end I have chose to buy the Thiel 3.7s. Following is a quick over view of how I came to my decision.

I always take the same 3 CDs, Nora Jones "Its not too late" , Dave Matthew's "Under the table and Dreaming", Metallica "Black Album" (along with a number of other) and use a SLM and adjust the volume to 75-80dB.

802D:

I currently own B&W 703s and back when I bought them (in college) I really loved them. They were very clear and clean to me at the time. I now have a house and want something bigger and better. So I went and listened to the 802D.

I really like the highs of these speakers. The bass was big and a little over done but still textured. The problem I had with these speakers was that the vocals were too recessed. While the midrange sounded nice I needed to turn the speakers up too loud because of this. It was a deal breaker for me and I started looking at other speakers. I listened to this speaker 4 different days at two different dealers. They used casse' mono blocks and rotel power amps for the auditions.

The good:
great sound stage:
good clean detailed highs

The bad:
bass was a little over done (still very good)
mids were recessed

Focal 1037:

This was the next speaker I auditioned after the 802Ds. The I heard them at two locations on 3 different days. Every time was on Arcam mono blocks.

The midrange is very open and clear with a natural tone to it. The highs are very detailed and not hyper detailed in anyway. But I had a few problems with this speakers. #1 while I was listening to Nora Jones her voice came straight out of the tweeter on some pieces. This was very distracting and made the highs did not seem very well integrated. Second was the bass. It was very textured when the speakers were pulled out into the room but but was too thin. When we changed room (same dealer different location) and move the speakers closer to the back wall the bass was bigger but lots detail and texture. This was a deal breaker for me and I moved on.

The good:
open clean mids
detailed clean highs

The bad:
tweeter integration was lacking (crossed over too low?)
the bass was hard to work with (concerned with my room)
sound stage was not as wide or high as other speakers

Thiel 3.7:

I was originally looking for an audition of a pair of Wilson Audio Sophias. But my closest dealer (two hours away) only had the duettes on the floor. He also said he had a pair of Thiel 3.7 that I might like. I was not looking at Thiel at the time but I made the trip anyway. The room was 17X20X9 with a Music Fidelity integrated amp. I also did a direct A/B comparison with the Wilson Audio Duettes.

I do not know where to begin. This speaker did it for me in every way. The mids were extremely detailed! The highs were much more detailed then the Duettes. The bass was balanced, it was never boomy or lacking. The sound stage was HUGE and still pinpointed each musician. They were also the only speaker the has disappeared for me. I though other speakers sounded natural in the past but after listening to the 3.7 it has given me a new perspective on what I was missing. I also could not here a crossover in any way. They also looked great IMO.

The good
details, details....
sound stage was huge
bass was tight and clean
seemed to play "as a whole" (one driver)

The bad
might be fatiguing on extended listening? they were not bright but did have a lot of information.

Wilson Audio Duette:
I listened to these right after the Thiel 3.7 (same room, electronics, CDs, songs, dB...) Though the dealer towed these in a little more than the thiels. I really wanted to hear the Sophia but they were not on the floor...

Well I am sure these are good speakers and great for book shelves, but after the Thiel 3.7s they were a big let down. The sound stage was big (though a little smaller than the 3.7). The highs were not very detailed in comparison to the 3.7s. The bass seemed to have a lump around 100hz (could have been the room) and became very distracting. The midrange was very good. It seemed natural and unforced. But the 3.7 were more detailed in the mids too.I think I would have really like this speaker if I had not heard the 3.7s right before it. After the fact they left much to be desired.

The good:
great midrange.
wide sound stage.
"fun" to listen too.

The bad:
Bass was a little lumpy (room?)
highs lacked detail.
easy to drive

Wilson Audio Sophia:

I still need to get out and hear these. Though after my audition of the Duette I have about lost interest in Wilson. I believe I would need to move up to the line to the Watt Puppy and that is too much $$$ for me right now.

Hope this help you out. Just remember use your own ears....

James: