Want speakers for 700 but none sound good.

Hello all,

I apologize for asking a question which might have been asked many times before, but I have a small problem at hand. I need speakers around <$700 and I have auditioned quite a few incl B&W 602.5 S3, Triangle Titus 202, JBL S38II, Paradigm Studio 20 v2 etc. These are all good speakers I am sure but somehow don't do it for me. I am probably like the other guy who said he had 'audiophile tastes but a poor man's budget' or something.

The speakers above were auditioned at home. I have a NAD c350 amp, Cambridge audio CD player with Straightwire Maestro interconnects and apature speaker cables. The (small) listening room measures about 10'x12'x8' (LxWxH) w/ hardwood floors (I know bad!). The speakers are going to be replacing the excellent Boston Acoustics A70 speakers from the late 80s. Very very good for it's time but, sadly, dead with torn woofers and distorting tweeters. I may not get good replacements knowing the only mid-fi quality of current BA drivers (some may beg to differ).

Sorry for the longish post but I need help getting room filling sound with tight bass and good detail/imaging from speakers that you recommend. Not much concerned with playing too loud. New age electronic/ acoustic and some rock music.

Thanks a lot!
You could always have your woofers re-foamed. I assume that is $700 new? You could give the Epos M12 a listen. Epos is owned and designed by Mike Creek and his team at Creek Audio
buy good used speakers on audiogon
If you really want good sound for you dollars, DIY isn't that hard for speakers with a good design. Alot of people could recommend some good kits for that money. However, I can understand the attraction to a finished product.
The Epos M12 mentioned by Sugarbrie is a good bet. I havent heard it but someone (or two) I trust sells it and says it is very good.
I used to have the same sized room your in (10.5 X 12.5 X 8), and can tell you that you'll probably get no better sound for around $800-$1000 used from a set of Thiel 1.5's!!! You'll need to rig some stands, or buy later, for height adjustment however(floorstander/two way that needs more height), as the soundstage will be too low otherwise! TDhey actually make stands for these excellent speakers, that bring up the height about 11" I think. Yes, they are more than the $700 you mentioned, but way way worth, it, and you can get away with good sonics in that room with carful set-up! Don't go any more full rang however, as you'll have problems with boom in that room, and thumpy bass. You'll be ok with that wood floor however, if you can diffuse some sound in the room elsewhere on the walls somehow. Actually, you will be supprised at the sound with great speakers/set-up in there, wood floor and all.
another good bet in the $700 price range however would be some "sealed box/acoustic suspension design", or one with limited bass extension (two way monitor). It's REAL hard to get proper balance in very small rooms with speakers that play too deep, and that are set-up high on stands with your 8" ceiling/small room acoustics. Stay with limited extension floor standers, prefereably speakers that play no lower than 45hz or so. Unless your room is open to hallway's and unmentioned openings, you'll have very very strong bass modes in your lower bass region in most of the room. I know those Thiels will work, and sound world class if done right. They will do well with alot of music, and are an audiophile classic favorit(reviewed like 3 or 4 times in Stereophile over the years, and only class B due to limited extension/output.
There are other speakers in your price range that come to mind, but you'll be hard pressed to make a lot of em sound as good in YOUR small room, with world class sound potential like the Thiels. They actually sound best with tube gear/integrateds for best results though. Infact, I worked in a store that had Wilson, Thiel, Audophysic, Martin Logan, Magnapan, Celestion, Vienna Acoustics, etc, and the little Thiel 1.5's was about our best sounding set-up for quite a while!...no kidding!
Anyway, I like em when matched up right...they're very accurate sounding, ultra clear and detailed, and refined.
You could also find some smaller Spenders, B&W Matrix 805's used (soft plug the ports to limit extesion a tick) for about $600-$700 range, used Dunlavy SCI's for the same or less that you might find accomodating on some 24" stands or shorter in that room. Hummmmmm...other choices are tough.
Anyway, speakers is personal, and set-up is important. You may have been less than pleased with some of your choices i that room because of POOR SETUP!! yes, it's tough to set-up speakers well in smaller domestic rooms, especiallly that small! You have to spend time getting them in the right spot in the room, especially since your probably sitting next to the back wall!...right? good luck...I think you'll win with the Thiels or even B&W 805's if you do it right, and if you can spend a tad more if applicable. Good luck

I would recommend EPOS ES-14. They are no longer made and you hardly see them in the used market. If you get the chance to hear these speakers, you will know why owners don't sell them. Good luck.
Used Meadowlark Kestrels !!!
If you're able to audition a set of Rega speakers I think you'll be impressed. I was recently at a dealers & was just playing with some of the equipment & was surprised at how good these little speakers sounded.
Here is a company for you, HALES! Remember them?
Great speakers, and when they are available, very cheap.
A heavy speaker, so shipping (and risk with them OOB) could take you out of the $700 range. I have seen a few 3's for $800! Not to mention, my favorite monitor for less that $450, the Rev 1's!


you probably do have audiophile taste becasue all those speakers you mentioned are genuine high-end quality speakers. I have owned Kharma Cermaique 2s (11,500), Mini Utopia (8200) and Sonus Faber Guaneri (10,000) as well as auditioned quite a few others in this same range and I now own the Triangle Titus 202 and am satisfied.

Some of what you are struggling with may be expectations. This can change your feeling quite a bit.

With that said...I agree with others to consider used so you can move up another level or two. If you can come up with a few more bucks and get your budget to 1k you will open a quite a lot of choices.

I also agree with the Theil 1.5s...I have had two different pairs in my home (bought for friends) and they were hard to let go of. Friends were VERY satisfied as a matter of fact the Thiels went beyond their expectations (which were addmittedly low).

You should be able to pick up a used pair for $850 to $950. I didn't think they needed stands but maybe I would have if I kept them for a long time. Many people will tell you this has been Thiel's best speaker, a real jewel, highly recommended.

Thanks guys. I now have a new list that I hope I can audition. I dont mind used at all, as long it is about a couple years old and depending on condition. If you have any more suggestions that you want to add, please do so.

I really appreciate the help. So, among the speakers that I already auditioned, you dont think I can make them sound better with proper setup etc? especially the Paradigm Studio 20s? Just curious.

I too, am in a small room of almost the exact same dimensions as yours (11X12x8). I've tried a number of speakers with varying results.

I should emphasize what Lthkeepr mentioned regarding bass ouput. Full-range speakers may be tempting and may sound terrific at the dealer's showroom but could result in boomy, annoying, one-note bass in your room.

You didn't mention whether you're looking to only buy new or if you're open to used as well. For new, I would STRONGLY recommend the Magnepan MMGs. $550 shipped to your door directly from Magnepan. Your NAD will have no problem driving them (unless you like to listen at headbanging volumes - in such case the MMG is not a good choice anyway). For the money they cannot be touched.

There are a fair number of monitors that would work well also (Like the Epos M12 that were mentioned), but you need to be prepared to spend another $200 for some quality stands. Monitors are great, but the issue of stands brings your budget down to $500 ($450 if you're having them shipped) and there's not much to choose from at that price point.

The Thiel 1.5 is a nice speaker too, but I wouldn't recommend it with your equipment. They can be very revealing of upstream components and are probably not a good match for your NAD.

Based on your post, I get the impression that you're not one to buy/sell/trade equipment regularly and want to find something that you can be happy with for a long time? If that's the case then I really can't recommend highly enough that you give Magnepan a call. For your $550 you're getting a brand new speaker with a warranty that includes shipping from a VERY reputable manufacturer that's not gonna' close its' doors tomorrow. What's more is that there's a 60 day in-home trial period, so if you don't like them (I highly doubt it), you can simply return them for a full refund! Or, if you love them and want to move up the Magnepan food chain, you get full trade-in credit during the first year. You really can't lose.

I've been in your situation. Several years ago, I was looking to replace a pair of Boston Acoustics T-1020s. They were not the last word in refinement, but when I set out looking to replace them with a budget of about $1,000, I was shocked and discouraged. I didn't hear anything that was worth getting excited about. Some of the older BA stuff is really quite good. I finally decided that the only way to make my $$ stretch was to buy used. If you're willing to take the risk, it's hard to beat some of the deals you'll find on this site. If you want new...call Magnepan and order your MMGs today!

Best wishes to you,

make that two votes for rega speakers. they'll surprise you.
I put the Thiel's together with NAD (integrated and cd player) for one of the friends and it was great. This was a couple of years ago and one that lives close is still happy as a pig in mud.

The maggies may be just the thing I can't say because I haven't heard them but I have to believe that you would get better bottom end out of the Thiels.

I wish you could hear my Titus set up right now (also have a Cambridge 500se) and my 30w Blue note...if you didn't like this I would have to explore further what you are hoping to get out of your system.

Again I mention expectation because the speakers you mentioned (not just the Titus) are all good. Have you heard something else that is your standard? Do you have a friend or something that has a "better" set up? Just a thought. It is always hard to adjust when I come back from my friends place (a dealer) who has such great set ups and better rooms than I have.

Well, good luck.

Pran did you try researching the previous threads here on Audiogon. There are ton's of great suggestions, and you can draw your own conclusions.
If you will buy used, then also look at the B&W CDM-1 I mentioned on the "poor man's" post. The original CDM-1 is still the best for music in my opinion; the CDM-1NT next, then the CDM-1SE which I would only consider for movies.
thanks Bbtuna, danheather and others. I will also explore the B&W CDM1. Yes, used is probably the way to go for my budget. I have bought used and not had any problem so far with the equipment.

I think the basic "problem" according to my wife at least, is that my mind is burned in with the BA A70 sound from all these years that I cannot get away from that. And so I am unconsciously rejecting every speaker. If that's true it's frightening and not a good sign although I doubt that theory. But anyway, she is not too happy with me bringing speakers in almost every week and leaving all these boxes lying around the house + obesessing about speakers. Yes, there is some pressure to make a quick decision here.......but that's another story.

I will look into all the speakers mentioned and also look at other threads. Most seem to know what they're (you're) talking about.

I owned a pair of BA A70-II (series 2) for 11 years. You will be fine.
What do you think about ACI Emeralds or Sapphires in kit form? How about Mission M73s, if I may be so bold.
Just put together a system for a friend which included a NAD C-370 and Maggie MMG's. The MMG's are incredibly good and there is a nice synergy between them and the NAD. I agree with Danheather,the MMG's are outstanding speakers, particularly for $550 shipped.
No one has mentioned Spica TC-60's. At times I feel they just disappear in my room that is approximately 12 X 16 and also has a hard floor. Since they are only available used, they will be hard to audition. I haven't heard most of the speakers above but I have always liked the sound of Magnapans.

TC-60 is another great alternative, however, I didn't want to recommend it because I had gotten the impression that Panagas was trying to avoid the used market.

I actually just received my pair of TC-60s yesterday and had a great time listening to them last night. I'm still working on placement, but they're very impressive. People talk about their "holographic" imaging, but it's really true. The soundstage extends much wider than the physical placement of the speakers and the layering and depth are tremendous.

I've never had any SUPER expensive speakers, but I've had some in the $3,000 range and none of them sounded 6X better than the MMGs or the TC-60s. You could spend a WHOLE lot more money and do MUCH worse than either of these two choices. TC-60s in good shape will run you about $400-450 plus another $150-200 for stands and you're in business and under budget!!
I've tried all kinds of speakers in a similar set up; the list included B&W 302, B&W 303, B&W 601, YBA, Celestion 600's, ProAc Tablette 2000's. The clear winner: Totem Rokk.
Well no one has bothered to mention Vandersteen Audio, I used a ton of them and found they were good with everything I threw at them. In fact I found them quite good with SS gear. Meadowlark Kestrels are also quite good, I have a pair right now that disappear in my room quite nicely. In fact now I stay up too late because I enjoy listening so much. But the Vandersteens are a bit more forgiving, which is what I would recommend with SS. You can find a pair of used Vandersteen 2ce's on Audiogon for about $700.

But I understand what your wife is saying about being so familiar with your old speakers. After listening to Vandersteens for years I turned my nose up to speakers that were 3 times as good. I think we can have some sort of thermostat in our ears that doesn't like a different sound. It reminds me of a church I used to go too. There was a woman who absolutely threw a fit if she didn't get to sit in the same pew every Sunday. Maybe your ears need to look for a different seat.
I will also mention the Meadowlark Kestrals. These spkrs are the sleepers of the hi end market imo. They are built well and placement is easy. I have mine in a loft and have had tube and ss on them. Great sound!
Jean-Marie Reynaud Twinn Mk II betters the speakers you have mentioned by a large margin in my opinion. I have heard them at length in my home with B&W 805's and there was no comparison, we returned the 805's the next week. Price comparison is substantially different with the JMR's retailing for just under a grand.

Not that this is the last word but check out Audioreview.com for some input from owners of the Twinn MKII.

Good Luck,
I ask you: what kind of music do you like to listen to most often?
Part of home theatre, or dedicated music room?
How important is bass?

For all around speakers in this range BTW, I second the suggestion of a pair of small REGAS. They really impressed me. (they even have bass)
New Age electronic and other acoustic music. Some rock as well ocassionally.

What is the name of the Rega speaker that you and other people have mentioned?
Meadowlark Kestrel
Magnepan MMG
Wharfedale Diamond 8.3
Mission FS2A
right at the top of your budget. You might be able to get some other used or demo models in your price range but I would still try & audition them.
I would add my vote for Epos, Rega and Spica TC50/60. Of these I think the Spicas are by far the best, but perhaps not for loud rock. Their strengths are imaging and detail, but not SPLs.
Pranagas, The Regas are the ELAS or ELYAS?? Small t-lines.
Very effective with little power behind them.
Used, they are available for a song :>)
Of course....if you wanted to go a bit higher on the budget, I strongly suggest a set of Pro-Ac response twos with good Target stands. (About 1500.00 used)
Good luck!