Upgrading from B&W CM5s
There’s upgrade to my current system on the horizon and I’d like to solicit the input of the knowledgeable and helpful people on this forum. I’ve made a few upgrades recently and the only remaining one is the one I’ve been saving for last. Speakers.
Currently running: Bowers & Wilkins CM5 bookshelf speakers on sand-filled stands, Musical Fidelity M6 PRX dual mono amp, Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ preamp, Mac Mini server, JL Audio Fathom 110 subwoofer, 14AWG 99.9% OFC DIY speaker cables bi-amped, CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD Uninterruptible Power Supply. My primary digital source is Tidal streaming over Roon music server. Room treatments include (6) 16”x47” DIY Rockwool sound absorbing panels on first reflection points and front walls. Listening space is about 11(W) x 10(L), but I have another 10’ of open space behind the listening position where there’s a king-size bed. Good for sound dispersion but 10’ from the front wall is as far back as the listening position will go. The room is a dormered attic with an A-frame ceiling that peaks at about 9’.
Current impressions: The CM5s image very nicely. I point them slightly behind the listening position and they still present a nice, clearly defined central image with very nice depth and width when provided good source material. The JL sub is the standout piece of gear in my system. The automatic room correction enables it to fill the space with tight, well-defined low frequencies. The sub has far more power than the room can handle but the room correction makes it work flawlessly. With the low pass frequency set at 50hz, the sub blends very nicely with the CM5s.
I listen to what I consider a wide range of music: 60’s and 70s rock (Beatles, Dylan, Allmans, Steely Dan, Hendrix, Brian Eno), 50s and 60s jazz (Miles, Coltrane, Grant Green, Chick Corea, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy), Alt rock (My Morning Jacket, Tame Impala, The National, Morphine), singer/songwriters (Ray Lamontagne, Gillian Welch, Bon Iver) and some electronic (Radiohead, James Blake, Sylvan Esso, Beck), and many more but you get the picture.
Why the upgrade: While I enjoy the CM5s very much, and they sound superb, I can’t help but wonder how my setup would sound with some larger cones handling the mid and mid-base frequencies, and a more open tweeter. I’m thinking a moderate-size floorstander that won’t overpower the space and that sit roughly as high as the CM5s on stands, which is 39”.
What I’m considering: My budget is between $5k-$10k and I have a few new and used options that are on my radar. One is a B&W 804D series. New, they’re at the top of my budget but I see used models on audiogon fairly regularly. I’ve heard the 802D at a hi-fi room and was blown away. I’m already familiar with the B&W sound and the 804Ds would simply give me more of what I already know and like.
Another option is the Elac Vela FS 407 with JET ribbon tweeter. I’m very curious about ribbons and plan to demo them soon. Ribbons seem like a good fit for most of the music I listen to. The Elacs are the right size for the room and I like where the crossover frequencies are. Both the B&Ws and Elacs allow me to bi-amp my dual-mono Musical Fidelity amp.
Third option is ProAc Response D20, another ribbon floorstander but only two-way. (The D48, at 47”, seems high for my listening position.)
Thiel CS-series is another speaker that seems to have a lot of fans and I see them often on audiogon. I can’t bi-amp them and they’re dome tweeters but seem to come highly recommended.
Another option I was considering is the Spatial Audio M5 but I don’t think I have enough space to move them out from the front and side walls. I like the idea of dipoles and I’m curious to hear a combination of dipoles with sound diffusion but I don’t think I have the space to play around with.
Sorry for the long post, but what are your thoughts? Am I looking at the right options or should I be considering some other candidates? Revel? Monitor Audio? Audiovector? Should I be thinking a higher end bookshelf perhaps? Very curious to hear impressions of people who have tried any of the speakers on my list.