tube friendly monitors...unfortunately on a bookshelf. suggestions to narrow search?


Hello.  I didn't see a recent discussion that covered both tube-friendly and bookshelf friendly speakers.  I am looking for any friendly advice or suggestions for a starting point to limit the search.  Unfortunately, office space demands that the speakers be placed on bookshelf, about 4-5 feet apart.  I suppose rear-ported should be avoided, so that is limiting.  Here goes:

--budget is variable.  it's an office with necessarily poor placement, so probably don't want to go nuts.  maybe 500-2000.  used in good condition is fine, and they don't have to be particularly "pretty."

--25"x25" openings with 12" shelves, but the bottom is 22."  So, can extend slightly beyond the sides and top, but will have several inches at the bottom--can't bring them to the edge.  10x12 room.

--driven by Cary CAD120Smkii.

--mostly listening within five feet at low to moderate volume.

--can add a sub and active crossover.

--would prefer decent detail, with some warmth. 

--avoiding metal drivers, this time around.

--for the space, mostly classic rock, classical, and jazz.


Have Polk Lsim703s there, now, on auralex pads, with 24x24x4 acoustic panel behind them.  I like them, but not sure how tube and bookshelf friendly they are.

Thinking something along the lines of VA Haydn Grand SE.

Any suggestions for the search?

Thank you.
stfoth
The Spendor 3/5R2 would fit the bill!
Guru QM10-2. Perfect for your situation. The specs don't really scream tubes but I'll tell ya they are the s**** with tubes especially in a situation like yours where you will probably not be playing at ear bleeding levels. Look like something apple would make. Reluctantly just sold a pair because I did not have a place for them in a second system where the toddler would not get her hands on them. 
Not really a "bookshelf" speaker but Klipsch Heresy(I, II, III) might be a good option.  How much weight can the 12" shelf handle?

Bill
Bill:  That is probably going to be overkill for my situation.  Interesting, though, particularly if I ever go lower power tubes.  I've had an unwarranted bias against horns, since I stupidly bought some Klipsch Reference somethings (with the copper colored woofers) 12-14 years ago for dual-purpose, but after only "auditioning" with movies...Those were awesome for action movies/surround, but I could never make friends with them for extended music.  They were freaking loud, though.  Happy neighbors.

I guess I didn't describe the bookshelves very well--it's more of a wood hutch-type thingy over wood lateral file cabinet.  The speakers would go on top of the lateral file cabinet, but would have the 12" hutch-thing side walls and shelf above.  They could handle the weight of the Heresy, though.
I would highly recommend the Omega Super 3i monitors.  Tube friendly and sound wonderful.
Harbeth P3-esr should be fit nicely!


Any LS3/5A type of speaker (sealed two way) will work. Spendor, Harbeth, Stirling, etc,etc !
Post removed 
Thanks, all.  It's amazing--the variation of folks' opinions and suggestions even for a fairly narrow question and even with just within a few responses.  Hadn't considered single drivers, for instance.


Any thoughts on ATC SCM11v2 for this application?  Or, if one decides to blow the budget, SCM19v2?  Which probably opens the door to a bunch of other options with the higher budget....

Thanks.
Look into the smallest Omega speakers.  For near field listening and tube amps, I can't recommend single driver speakers enough. They have this amazing quality.
The two constraints:

1) Tube amp implies a speaker with a smooth impedance curve. None of the LS3/5a type speakers fit that profile; nor does the Harbeth P3ESR. This is a tough constraint in today's market.
The above is false for two reasons.

The first is that the LS3/5A speakers tend to be 16 ohms and so are very tube friendly. Almost any tube amp can drive them- our smallest OTL can do it with ease...

The second reason is that you don't have to have a flat impedance curve to be tube friendly!  The impedance curve simply needs to be high enough. Flat helps but is by no means essential.

Given the parameters laid out in the OP, the LS3/5A speakers are an excellent choice if also a 16 ohm version like the original BBC Rogers.
Thanks, everyone, from a person who asked for advice, but ultimately opted not to take it.  Ordered a used pair of Sophia Electric Princess Model 2, without audition.  Described to be flat 8 ohm and easy to drive, with solid bass.  Front ported, but, hopefully, won't be an issue.

If they don't work out for the spot, they might end up listed, here, after awhile!

The Omega/single driver suggestions did get me thinking about doing something different with a bedroom setup and possibly trying an SET.

This never ends....
The Hsu bookshelves are much better than their price point, and the horn loaded tweeter makes them especially friendly to tight spaces while maintaining clarity and imaging.
I am actually in a similar quandary, (u can search for my situation specifics in this form as a previous post), so I am very very interested in why u decided on the Sophia speakers, and how you feel about them after listening to them. If they are great, even though they are a little taller than I wanted, I would take your recommendation and buy!!

so please please let me know
thanks alot
Btw my post,  https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/the-eternal-quandary-size-versus-sensitivity-versus-quality-h... 
Sonist Recital 2s…I recently bought the floor standing version of these (Recital 3s) and they’re amazing. The 2s are likely to be real good also…front slotted.
Another vote for Omega. I love my Super 3i’s .. they need very little power to come alive and sound fantastic at low and medium volume. Their Super 3 Desktop version may be more appropriate for your needs however. Louis is wonderful to chat with about his designs and very generous with his time so don't hesitate to call him if you have an interest.
wharfdale diamond 225. heard these recently and really liked the sound. detailed and slightly warm / smooth at the same time. sound better than the ELACs IMHO.
Thanks, all, for the continuing recommendations.  Folks seem to really love their Omegas.  Regardless of how this project shakes out, will probably try a pair.

Wolf--those Sonists sure are pretty.  Some of the review comments have an interesting flavor, for whatever their worth.  I think someone described them as "woody," like a fine acoustic instrument.

Northern--will do.  I should be picking the SET Princesses up, today.  I don't really know why I pulled the trigger on them.  Front ported and maybe they won't be great in near field.  A bit larger than I was initially thinking of.  They are supposed to be very tube friendly and use decent Scanspeaks with good quality parts for the crossover.  I guess a bit of an impulse buy and thought I might be able to avoid a sub with them.  I think our situations are a little different...I have this hutch thing, so the speaker will be a few inches from back "wall" and will have 12" walls on the side and over the top.  Might be that just about anything will sound like the microphone was in a bucket when recorded.  I'll be running a 60-120 watt amp and don't plan to rock out very much in my office, so efficiency isn't a huge concern for me, but might be for you--although seems 12-18 EL84 watts at five feet probably should not limit you all that much.  I'll let you know what I think of the SET Princesses, particularly within the limitations of the goofy placement, but, seriously, you probably don't want to drop that much dough on my recommendation.  I'd feel really bad if you did that and hated them!  :)  There are some solid and interesting recommendations above that would probably work out for you, too.


Omega is really making some great monitors these days that would work well in your situation, Check out the Omega website and forum on the Audio Circle.
Guppy
i am intrinsically chicken...while I love the looks design,craftsmanship...all of those and more in the Omegas, the thought of a single speaker, absent standard crossover just kinda scares me. Anyone else feel like that?
@Northern.  FWIW.  With only about 10 hours of playtime on the Princess Model 2, initial impressions, as promised.  I wouldn't consider it a review.  Ok build quality, but just don't seem to have a very solid feel.  Knuckle rap sounds quite hollow and probably wouldn't withstand a good fall.  Satisfied at the used price, but would be disappointed at the $3500 retail.  Good bass-level for a monitor.  Some muddiness/boominess, but too early to tell and not enough experimentation to blame them.  Good detail without sounding clinical/etched/shallow.  They also sound very natural or maybe organic, if that makes sense.  I never got an icepick in the eardrum feeling.  To me, they need a little bit of volume to open up.  Don't have to wake the dead, but sound somewhat thin/shallow at low/conversational volume.  They are better than the Polks in the location, but, where I have to put them and at 4-5 feet from usual listening position, probably not the best that close.  The soundstage and, if it's the right word, coherency come together if I roll my chair back to about 7 feet away.  Some more tweaking of the angle may help a little.  With metal-ish music or more complex classical, to my ears, sound a tick smeared and congested.  I do think the placement contributes to that.

I think they are good sounding speakers, are an improvement in the location over the Polks, but not necessarily what I truly needed.  Some of that is likely colored by having tried them in a more optimal location with some space around them, a little bit larger room, and about 8 feet to listening position.  They really opened up there, immediately.  But, not enough to displace the resident towers.

So, good speakers at the used price, but I couldn't yet recommend them to you on a desk and at 4 feet.  They'll probably live in their holes for a little while, though.  If I got them for a small room in a more standard-type location, probably would love them.


I agree with you on the gut reaction to a single 4.5" paper cone.  Just, perhaps sub-consciously conscious, reminds me of garbage stock car stereo speakers from back in the day.  It is wholly unfair, I know.  I am going to try to get a listen to some Omegas at some point, though.

Eh.  Curiosity got the best of me.  Have Omega 3 HO on order. 
I am also using the Omega 3 HO monitors. They sound pretty bad out of the box but just wait until you get about 30-40 hours on them and prepare to be amazed. I have about 70 hours on mine as of this post and they just keep getting better by the day. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
@simon. Can I ask why you went with the 3 HO, rather than the 7 or alnico? 
@guppy 

Guppy, I was with you a number of years ago.  I just couldn't believe that a single driver speaker could do anything well.  I've been living with Omegas now for almost 5 years and have no interest in going back to multi driver designs.  Like any speakers, Omegas have strengths and weaknesses.  If their weaknesses aren't priorities in your music/listening preferences, they do things that multi driver speakers only hint at.

@sfoth  Let us know how you like the Omegas once you get them.
seikosha--are you using a Decware?
@stfoth .. nice choice! I look forward to your impressions after you've had them a bit. 
stfoth, mostly due to space constraints. Also because I felt they would be a better match for my Decware SE84UFO at 2 watts. I am thinking about going with the Super Alnico HO monitors. I just picked up an Audion Super Sterling 120 which should be an ideal match with the Alnicos at 24 watts.
simon, i take it you like the Omega/Decware pairing?
stfoth, it's an amazing combo. Vocals are the best I've ever heard. I have a Decware ZROCK Bass EQ unit coming in a week or two to give them a tad more bottom end at lower listening levels. Otherwise the only change I've made was switching to an SED winged C black plate rectifier which gave it more air.  The Audion has more punch and will play louder but the little Decware amp still drives me out of the room at 3/4 volume and the mids are simply far superior.
@stfoth 

My favorite amp these days on my Omegas is the Quicksilver Horn Mono.  I also have a Decware Mini Torii and a SE 84 Zen with the UFO transformers.  Of the two Decware amps, I prefer the Zen.
SIMON AND SEIKOSHA,

Are you using your Omegas in a near field configuration like stfoth and I have described as our situations? Simon, the switch to the alnico speakers would be based only on your increase in watts, and not a need for better sonics? As you noted the HO units would fit my situation better as to size.

stfoth, thank you so much for the mini review. I think that for near field the Princess model 2 might not be the best. If I could just get over my phobias of single speaker I would be glad to get the Omegas. 

With a real wood, which I would need, they are only 1495 for the HO, and that was far less than I had planned. Wish they offered a trial period as many of the other companies (SVS, Zu, WorstBuy, etc) offer. The Zu Cube or Omen, the SVS Ultra, and multiple others (Harbeth, Dali Zensor, Elac, etc.) have been variously recommended.

I really am paralyzed. I just got a primaluna 5 to up my  wattage, but do like my 12-16 watt Audio Space. After  Now, after mutiple, multiple NOS rolls(more $ than the amp and Dac :) ), I have NOS EL84s, Amprex 12AU7s and Mullard 12AX7s, and it sounds great, even with mediocre speakers. I just need the best match in great near field monitors  for audio nirvana, sigh.
I use my Omegas near field.  I sit about 5.5 feet away from the drivers in a small room.
north, I'm not using mine in the near field. I will keep the 3 HOs for the living room. The Alnicos would be overkill plus I don't have the space. The 3 HOs are amazingly fast which I like. Definitely no need for improved Sonics. I will probably buy a pair of the Alnicos to mate with the Audion once I get my man cave back. Lost it temporarily to an in-law. My living room set-up is anything but ideal as you can see in Virtual Systems if you search for Omega.
northern:  The Princess Model 2 sound is growing on me a bit more, but I still don't think they are great for the spot.  If I don't sell them, they will probably go in another system.  The Omega 3 HOs should arrive today.  I'll post initial impressions after a bit.  With two drivers and rear ported, still might not be the best for my specific situation, but may be good for you since you won't have to have them boxed in.

Simon:  Thanks.  I went with the 3 HOs mostly from trying to think through the descriptions for my first go-round with them.  Maybe a bit of a hedge against the subconscious aversion to a "single" driver.  :)  Seemed they'd retain the speed and high-end that folks are raving about, but also fill in some lower mid/upper bass.  While the Alnico probably would have sweeter mids and fuller bass, but maybe lose some speed and air in the highs.  Not sure if that's true and hadn't heard either, but seemed like a  logical middle ground.  Although apples to oranges, I LOVE an alnico speaker in my Fender DRRI.

Plus, if I like them, might help me pull the trigger on an SET or SEP.  Another posting steered me away from cheap "bling" and toward a few smallish-budget amps.

Harbeth P3-ESR 
timo 
You are suggesting the Harbeth p3-esr? Why?
Omega Super 3 HO.  Early/initial impression.  Ok, maybe these still need some time to break in, and certainly need to tweak the setup a bit, but here goes with about maybe 10-12 hours of actual listening.  Out of the box, they were a little lighter than I was expecting from some of the descriptions/reviews of the solid build.  Fit/finish is well-done, though--got the exo laminate, since, if these stay in the office, they don't have to be particularly pretty.

--Still moving stuff around, but, for this weekend, Emotiva XSP-1, Emotiva XDA-2, Sonos/Tidal Hifi, and Cary CAD120smkii (stock tubes back in).  Omegas in their cubby holes on top of the lateral files and surrounded by this annoying, but necessary, hutch/bookshelf thing.  Started with the amp in triode, but, oddly, everything improved when clicking to ultralinear.  Everything.  That is dead opposite from most of the gear and music I've run through the Cary.

First, for fun, ran them with an Emotiva solid state amp.  That lasted about 15 minutes, and no further discussion is necessary.  And I actually like that amp for its price and in the surround setup.

Although rear-ported, I didn't get nearly as much of the sloppy, microphone-in-a-wine-barrel sound as with some other speakers I've tried in the spot.  The bass is limited, so maybe that has a bit to do with it.  Although the bass is limited, what's there sounds pretty good.  "Sounds" more like a steady roll-off than a cliff--maybe more like a sealed box than some boomier ported designs.

The best parts are, even in the awful placement, the soundstage and imaging---at 4-5 feet away!  Toed-in a tick, even at three feet.  Ridiculously good.  With absurdly good depth...Where's Bo to tell us that it's impossible with such gear?  Maybe not Pass Labs/Monitor good, but very, very good.  I didn't get any real sense that the low-frequency driver got in the way of that, even at such short distance.  Fast, fast, and immediate.

Vocals have a "real"ness, but with some thinness to my ears.  What is very entertaining is the sense of intelligibility of the vocals and lyrics.  Suppose one listened to very crappy gear for a long time and never could make out certain words to a song or thought the words were different from what they really were.  The Omegas would be well-positioned to help cure that.

But, with some music, the Omegas very much had a sound not entirely unlike a boombox and/or cheap PA speakers.  This was most prevalent with a few 80s hard rock/hair band type songs and a couple Rolling Stones songs.

While early and perhaps not fully broken-in, with complex music, they seem like they can get overwhelmed, and crashing cymbals and such run together without as much separation as some other more expensive traditional speakers.  Probably a meaningless word, but hashy comes to mind.

I don't think I'll ever be an Omega fanboy, but these may very well grow on me, particularly for the office.  I understand, now, where the Omega-love can come from.  There's some tweaking to do, and I haven't heard the combo of the other gear very much.  So, my $.02 and my ears/gear/room.  If anyone is interested, I'll report back on these when I swap out the Emotiva gear, roll the tubes back out, and finish breaking the Omegas in.  Pretty amazing for a "single" 4.5" paper cone.

Sorry for the rambling post.

Northern--these have a very unique sound, and they do some things as well as I've heard.  I think there are some tradeoffs and you might still want to run your sub, but, for the $, you might want to try a set of Omegas for your desk.  Seriously.  I think they're worth a listen, even if you end up hating them and lose a few bucks to re-sell them later.






stfoth, I had a pair of Omega 3XRS for ten years, always with the best drivers as they came out .
There were great with vocals and small jazz groups , I finally gave them to a neighbor because of two things .
The "sweet spot" was too small and more important , they just could not handle the complexity of symphonic music , as you said , "hashy".

Not to say they are not good speakers , they are, but not for everything .
stfoth, I'd like to make a suggestion. I also stream Tidal/HiFi but from my laptop. I changed my driver settings for Tidal by selecting the "Bass Boost" option under the Enhancements tab. I'm using this option until my Decware tube EQ unit arrives. Switch back to Triode mode and see how it sounds.
Simon, I generally use a MacBook Pro streaming via either optical or USB 2 to a cos h1 dac, in the Mac there is a bass boost, but I assume it only works with the Mac internal dac. Does anyone know that answer? I like that idea as a cheap eq solution if I get the Omegas.
Btw Simon, are you referring to the Decware z-rock when you say eq unit?
north, yes, I have a Decware  ZROCK on order which should be arriving within the next week or two.
Thanks, Simon.  May try that.  The bass is starting to loosen up a bit.  A lot of moving parts...swapped in a Schitt Freya for the Emotiva XSP.  The Omegas may be destined to go with a SET/SEP, elsewhere, whenever I pull the trigger.


Any thoughts on Spendor D1?  A bit above the "budget," but perhaps not all that much more used.  Seems like it would also be a potential good fit for the spot, in line with some of the other suggestions.  Not sure if I can find a pair to audition, and can't make heads or tails of the reviews.
stfoth, I've had over 20 different monitors over the years but I've never owned a Spendor. All of the monitors I've owned needed a generous amount of power to sound their best. The Omegas are the first monitor I've owned anywhere near their efficiency.  The whole flea watt system is a new experience for me.
I am beginning to think I should just buy B&N 805 D3s. Good resale, 88 db sensitivity..maybe?...I have had their big brothers and liked them, so not Dverse to that B$W sound. However their near field effects are probably circumspect.

 As I noted over in the other thread similar to this..." 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...."

The 805D3s kinda fulfill menu left side ordering. Now how far out of line am I? Let me have it before I buy them.
Northern: That looks a fine, fine speaker. Beautiful. Never heard that particular one. Not sure about near field compared to others. But, while I recently posted about a wonderful experience with older near-entry-level B&Ws (602s3), at least those did NOT work in the space in my office in near field. Most (albeit few) of the models I’ve heard or that were owned by friends/acquaintances seemed to need some space to shine.

B&W is often discouraged with tubes, particularly low power. Others around here are much, much more knowledgeable, but take a look at the Stereophile measurements.

That’s a lot of dough, particularly in comparison to a lot of the speakers that have been recommended....


"The nominal impedance is 8 ohms; the solid trace in fig.1 reveals that the magnitude drops below 8 ohms between 100 and 750Hz and above 8kHz, with minima of 4.6 ohms at 180Hz and 22kHz. The electrical phase angle (fig.1, dotted trace) is occasionally extreme, with combinations of 6 ohms and –35° at 118Hz and 8.2kHz. Tube amplifiers will probably work best with this speaker when used from their 4 ohm output-transformer taps.
Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/bowers-wilkins-805-d3-loudspeaker-measurements#DgcyewW4O1g5h26P...."

Seems like a less-than-glowing recommendation for tubes.

That’s way over the budget I was thinking for my space, so hadn’t really considered them. Personally, though, for $6k (not sure how much discount/negotiation is typical), I’d look elsewhere.  But, if you have a chance, give ’em an ear! Been pleasantly surprised with a few items, lately.

Northern--Just a quick update on the Omegas after a few more hours and after swapping in better gear.  Now with Sonos/Tidal to Cary DMC600 to Schiit Freya to CAD120smkii.  Placed the Omegas on Auralex pads and pulled them out as close to edge of the "shelf" as I can.

Most of what I previously noted is still accurate, but:

--the bass has deepened and opened up a bit.  still on the "lighter" side of similarly sized bookshelf/monitors I've heard.

--very revealing of any upstream change.

--speakers "disappearing" is an over-used description, but the Omegas, even in their holes, "disappear" completely.  better than any I've heard in my home.  wide and deep soundstage, several feet beyond the sides of the speakers and well behind the back of the hutch and wall behind it.

--now prefer the CAD120 in triode.

--they are still pretty awful with complex music, and I agree with Schubert on their handling of symphonic music.  this applies to hard rock/metally stuff, too.

--they are ridiculously good with male vocals.  Johnny Cash, even on some mono recordings, stands about 8 feet behind the speakers on a short stage.  hair-standing on arms good.  really.

--they are ridiculously good at what they do well and are addicting for that purpose.  Make me want to listen to stuff that hasn't been listened to in awhile.

But, imo, they are really bad at handling complexity at medium to high volume.  Tend to smash it all up and sound like a PA speaker.

Anyway, another $.02.  I think they are definitely keepers, if not for the original purpose.


stfoth,

I'm an Omega fan and I found your evaluation to be pretty accurate of Omegas.  If you have a small room and if you listen at 70 to low 80db max spl's, then they might work for you.  If not, then you may be unhappy.

The only thing I'd add is that if you spend a little more time with the Omegas, you may start to appreciate the bass a bit more.  Almost all small (even big too) speakers have a bass hump and as listeners, we have all become accustomed to it.  The Omegas don't have this hump and when you are used to it, you'll hear a thin sound.  I've found that after living with Omegas, my brain has stopped filtering this bass hump that I'd become accustomed to.  Now when I listen to my conventional speakers I think, my god, that midbass and upper bass is way too thick, it's obscuring all sorts of detail.  After time, my brain will become accustomed to it again, and the hump doesn't bother me too much.

Single drivers aren't for everyone.  Bob Brines, a speaker manufacturer has a great discourse on Single Drivers.  Anyone interested in them should read it first.  I've quoted it below:

"Single-driver speakers are not for everyone. Single-driver speakers are about finesse, not power. Any speaker, single-driver, 2-way, 3-way, whatever, is a compromise. Each will have sonic advantages and failings. Therefore, you will wind up choosing speakers that work well with the bulk of your library and OK with the rest. There just isn't a speaker out there that plays everything well.

Again, single-driver speakers are about finesse. They provide a special purity of tone without the phasing problems inherent with multi-way cross-overs. The human ear is particularly sensitive to phase in the 300-3000Hz band. This is how we locate sounds in space. While the combined phase of a multi-way speaker may sum flat, we can still hear the phase rotation of each driver as it enters the cross-over range. This phase rotation confuses the ear, causing a lack of definition to the sound. A single-driver speaker obviously doesn't have this problem and the mid-range of a single-driver speaker is unexcelled.

But, of course, there is a trade-off. The nemesis of single-driver speakers is frequency modulation (FM) of the upper ranges by the bass. (Doppler distortion is a type of FM distortion, not the other way around.) A higher frequency becomes a warble tone, the frequency and depth of the warble depending on the frequency and driver displacement of the bass tone. The result is when there are many bass frequencies in the music, as the music becomes loud (more driver excursion) the upper ranges become harsh and tonally indistinct. The driver "falls apart".

How bad is the FM distortion on a single-driver speaker? It depends! Music with simple bass lines never sound better than on a single-driver speaker. Jazz trio, girl-and-a guitar, classical chamber music. If you listen to your music a moderate levels -- ~70dB and the listening chair 6-8feet from the speakers, you can play almost anything. Music to avoid: Hard rock, most anything mastered this century for radio and ear-buds, romantic symphonies at concert levels.

So you have been warned. If you are into polite genre and moderate levels, my speakers are for you. If you are into heavy, loud music, you need to look elsewhere."