What is a really good sounding low volume system??

I'm trying to gear up for when I get married this september and move in with my fiance into her place. Living quarters will be cramped and we will share a wall and floor (thier ceiling) with the home owners. Headphones don't sound like fun but perhaps I'll have to bite the bullet and buy some hd 800's or something. I suppose my other option is to build a "second" system that really excels and sounds good at low low volumes. Nearfield listening? I've thought about just adding a nice pair of bookshelf speakers to my current front end, something that lacks bass but excels in micro detail and imaging at low volumes. I guess I could set up a secondary nearfield listening station but don't know where to start. There is a prima luna pl2 integrated amp for sale locally and I'm wondering if this int. paired with a bookshelf speaker that has great detail and imaging might work for me.
What do you guys think??
I think you definitely are going to have to look to bookshelf designs with smaller drivers and less bass to minimize any sound intrusions upon the neighbors. Something I've learned is that the less air that is being pushed correlates to less potential to irritate the neighbors and this may or may not be consistent with specified low frequency bass response.

One thing I've noticed is that with a good quality tube amp and high efficiency speakers, you can really get away with listening with less volume than traditional setups. Hard to explain but you just get so much detail at lower levels that you won't have a need to turn it up.

Last suggestion, two speakers that I have that work well at lower volumes are the Silverline Minuets and then at a higher price range, the little Harbeth P3ESR but I'm sure there are many others out there that folks will recommend.

Good luck!
First, congratulations and second, sorry you have to make these adjustments. I think you will have to have headphones. I have an apartment that I use frequently which is close to work and volume is restricted. Only headphones will give you the dynamics you need. And, you will keep the system for a long time no matter where you live. For temporary near field listening, I saygo cheap. Bookshelf monitors with wide dispersion and tube amplification. Buy used so you can sell it back and break even. Sennheiser HD 800s are fantastic but so are the 600s. Tube headphone amplifier from Woo or Schiit. Upgrade Cardas or Moon cable. Active powered speakers from Emotiva or Dynaudio with a tube preamplifier. Cables from mono price or Bluejeans. Good luck.

It was nice knowing you. Good luck with your marriage. I will do some research for you on power cords for your new Bose radio.
My advice on audio and newly married is just say no. No to audio, that is. From your comments it is suggested that you have not had a heart to heart audio talk with your bride to be. Does she know you have this addiction? Apparently not, given all the work arounds you describe. If this addiction is not fully disclosed before your marriage, it will create serious problems. Failure to involve her from the outset in your need for audio will be a big mistake. You must tell this women that she will be required to live in an 'audio world', for better or worst. Do it quickly before the expense of a wedding takes hold.
I use a PL2 with Ascend Acoustic Sierra Monitors. Sounds very good at low volumes. Rega RS1 are good speakers at low volumes, as well. You will get quality sound, just not all the audio niceties.

I am president of my coop with a spouse who can hear mice peeing on wool, so I do not play my music at anything more than low volumes, with the occasional foray to mid level volumes on a weekday afternoon when no one is at home.

Save your cash for a bigger place. Don't place your electronics on the common wall, that is common courtesy.

I'll use headphones and some cheap PC sound system. You can also get Samson active studio monitors specifically designed for the low-volume music. My headphone choice is Beyerdynamic T70 will have no compromise to HD800 for a fraction of price.
Unfortunately, the best sounding systems at low volume are horn systems that are also physically big in size so they create other placement problems. There are other somewhat bass restricted higher efficiency systems that also sound pretty good at lower volume.

Dipole speakers are also great for keeping sound levels down outside of the primary listening area. Such speakers, like quad electorstatics, tend to focus sound within the listening area they are aimed at, so that there is MUCH less sound spilling outside of the listening area (the out of phase front and back signal cancel at the sides, large panels tend to have less fall off of soundlevel with distance than speakers that are closer to being point sources).

I have owned large panel electrostatics (Martin Logan) so I can personally say that they are much better than conventional dynamics in reducing the amount of sound outside of the listening area.
Once you spend some time listening at lower volumes, you'll be surprised at how soon you adjust to it. I've had (and still do) some time off due to an injury and I now listen at lower levels than I thought possible and still get the satisfaction.

You won't be able to tell what is missing or lacking until your hearing adjusts so do the waiting and critical listening before you change out anything. It should only take a couple of weeks before you narrow down your search for that "right" component.

My first take on what would be necessary is to seek out (if you don't have one already) a high efficiency speaker that doesn't take much to "come on strong". That would lead to a smaller (less powerful) amp which generally sound better than the big brutes out there.

You have a long, quiet road ahead of you. Enjoy,

All the best,
Panel speakers is a good suggestion, and yes there are incredible headphones out there. I love my HiFiMan HE-5LEs (though they need some power-they actually sell an adaptor so you can hook them or the HE-6s up to your speaker amp).

I might also suggest going with a full range driver model, or something high efficiency. Their less complicated crossovers and lack of need for loads of power, translates into good detail at low volumes IME.
Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge!

Rrog, I seriously laughed out loud to you response. I'll probably cry later this afternoon because your statement might hold some truth :-)

Rar1, thanks for the input on the pl2. Your statement about your wife hearing mice pee on wool was pretty funny too. Thankfully my future to be is a total sweetheart and very giving; she'll either a. Not be bothered by my music, or b. wear ear plugs if need be.

Marakanetz, thanks for the input on the headphones; I'll research the components that you suggested. I'm wondering though if I move to a headphone set-up though, if some of the appeal of listening to music will be lost. I really like my music to pass through the room vs. humping my ears, lol, if that makes any sense.

So, this leads me to possibly consider some panel speakers? I know most don't have large amounts of bass and the ones I heard had good amounts of detail...
feeling of air from speakers will be the only thing lost. the rest of music such as detail, clarity imaging will be at it's best with good headphones. I took T70 for demo and despite reviews stating that they lack the bass, I'd say that they're one of the most accurate and balanced headphones that i've ever heard so far. it's a big step up from AKG K/Q/701/2. you can also listen to them long long hours with no fatigue at all.
A high quality, small size system would be the Magnepan Maggie Mini system with a Wadia 151 DAC/amplifier. Magnepan sells then as a bundled pair and they are designed for near field listening.
The Magnepan Maggie Mini system looks like a great option for a small apartment...

I play at low levels to not disturbe anyone else in my 'over 55' retirement apts.
I do have big 3.6 Magnepans, but play music only around 60dB (Radio Shack meter from seated position)
I may go uo to 70dB at times.
The nicest part of Magnepan is the bass (which is usually what the vast majority of compalints are about) does not travel through walls, or floors.
With the design, the bass is heard direct, but cancels at the sides.
And does not go through walls at all.
Unlike cone speakers bass.
So I would say try some MMG or any small Magnepans.

With rugs on floor under speakers, you should be able to play music at reasonable levels and be happy.
Okay, so these are some speakers that are for sale locally: magnepan 2.7qr for $600, magnepan mg-1 for $550, or some martin logan aerius i for $800,
I like what Elizabeth was saying about the bass not traveling through walls as much with maggies vs conventional speakers, that might have sold me on the idea of the maggies. So now the question is, buy a more expensive pld used pair and gamble with reliability or get a new pair of inexpensive ones like the mmg's??
Pick up a set of quad 63's. It is usually available for $1500-2000. Use with a tube integrated and you have a great low volume system for not a lot of money.
2.7qr for $600 and they have no rattling sounds (from glue coming loose?) yes buy them.
You will like them
Wow, that's some great advice from Buconero117.

And as for the 2.7qr for $600, only buy them if your GF knows ahead of time about 2 monoliths in her home.
Six months ago my wife suffered a serious injury which made me shut down my system for months. The answer for me was headphones. I ended up with a Nuforce Icon Ido, ipod touch with lossless files and everal different pairs of IEMs. The music sounds fantastic and no one is disturbed.
Also, the advice about discussing your addiction with your future spouse is good advice if she's not aware of it.
the marriage isn't the problem, even if she's not really into hifi. The problem, for now, is the environment you will be living in. Headphones would be perfect, if you can do it. I've got a nice pair of stax, and even though I like them, I just don't use them. To be honest, they aren't even hooked up at the moment. I always feel isolated/trapped, when I use them. I would go the high efficiency speaker route and adjust to the volume issue, you will adjust. (funny I say that with Paul Simon pounding in my living room lol) when I was first married, I had to listen at low levels too. I'm lucky now to live just outside of town, with cool neighbors. Quite often they hear my outdoor speakers and come over for a beer in the summer. Do what you have to for now, your day will come. Good luck, and congrats on the marriage! BTW, that was a good one rog!
"You're not the man I married!"



All the best,
Well two monoliths is rather an exaggeration.
My Maggies are widespaced, and near the picture window. With tweeter 'in' the sound great. they look like screens. And the hid the shelving with piles off DVDs. Great.
Think positive about them. Not 'they are door size...' Well they are also only two inches thick...
Elizabeth, yes the Maggie's would fit well in a room, but I'm assuming that the woman is the decorator of the home and audio equipment would be secondary to her design. We'll have to hear what B_limo thinks.
Honestly, it's not my fiance that I'm worried so much about. She isn't going to care about where I place my audio gear, or what it looks like, I just don't want to bother the homeowners who are the neighbors also. We will be living in a small apartment (13x20 foot room that doubles as a living room / bedroom, a kitchen area that is 9x20 that is seperated by a wall and door from the bedroom / living space). I though about setting up my rig in the kitchen space because I can close the door and not bother my soon to be wife, but the bedroom / living room is just a way better size. Who knows, maybe I'll have two systems, one small set-up more for nearfield in the kitchen, and another set-up in the bedroom / living room. The kitchen area is also further from the homeowners bedroom and the sound would probably be less intrusive there.

Maybe maggies in the bedroom / living room with my current front end and a possibly a tube set-up with either my kef qx-5's or (? Tekton lores or zu's or whatever might be super tube friendly?) in the kitchen area, oh snd a nice headphone set-up too. Now I'm starting to sound like a true audiophile.

I spend alot of time in the bathroom too...inwalls perhaps?

P.s. wife to be does know about my audio addiction, but I learned a long time ago not to tell her how much it costs.
Make sure that the sound is full and emitting all frequencies . You ask about a good system for playing at lower volunes and my answer is one that has a loudness or "contour" switch or button like what used to be seen om the integrateds of the Golden Era of Hi-Fi. Those amps used EL84s and tubes very similar to it e.g.7868.
The reason they put the loudness switch on them was that at low volumes bass is not as well represented as the other frequencies. Today we have eliminated the loudness contour but have added subwoofers so in many people set ups the loudness contour lives on. You may just want to buy a really well refurbished vintage piece. Many had headphone jacks.
In truth modern headphone amps are a lot better than the ones on the vintage pieces. So you just want to buy o a separate headphone amp anyway and not use the vintage headphone jack.
I would use smallish box speakers or highly efficient smaller floorstanders. I can't think of any beside Totem and the Klipsch Heresys I bought in Highschool and still have and don't use very often. They need better crossovers and need the drivers to be modded to sound really good but you might luck into a worked on upgraded pair, or you can always have it done for you. There are prolly better choices the Klipsch sound is not for everyone.
If you listen at or arround 70db any speaker of your choice and not too late including typical dynamic full range, you'll be OK. I live in the apartment and none complained yet of my Aerial 10's powered by sunfire amp.
On weekends I sometimes crank it to 90dB and on weekdays music is only heard till 8:30pm. After that I don't want to disturb my macaw at his sleeping time otherwise 60dB is still good till 10...10:30pm. After 9pm I use headphones only.
Think, try and maybe you don't need to go through the struggle especially if it's all wife-acceptible...
A set of High Emotion Audio Bella Twins are much more transparent than Maggies or ESLs, are very compact and can be placed about 12-18" from the rear wall.

They are available in 16 ohms which makes them an ideal load for a small tube amp (like our S-30, which is 45 watts/channel into 16 ohms). The speaker is honest to 36 Hz, so you get some idea of the bass. Efficiency is about 92 db 1 watt/1 meter.

That would be a small system with good dynamic range that would have resolution equal to the best high end systems made.
Atmasphere, Can you think of any other amplifiers that would work with the High Emotion Audio Bella Twins?
Here's my 2 cents...also living in apartments...and love to listen loud. but now i listen to softer volumes than ever before and am perfectly happy.

1. The quieter your noise floor and better your resolution (maggies are great for this)...the more you hear at lower volumes without feeling the need to turn it up.

2. If you are a bass freak (i am)...2 things. if you get an Auralex subwoofer platform under any sub (speaker?), it damps for the guy below you. It also cleans up the bass if you have wood floorboards that 'sing' with the bass. So you get cleaner bass and less room-structural vibration. Also neighbor friendly.

the other thing about my system now as i've honed it...is as its noise floor has dropped and i've optimized the bass, is that i can get a great little gut-punch at low volume in the bass. Which at 1am is a great feeling, and i am talking about volume 1 on my cj preamp.

Once i've ended up with loads of detail and a very clean gut punch at low levels...i pretty much have stopped cranking, and the neighbors have stopped knocking! ;) good luck.
Nice! Thanks for the input lloydelee21! Sounds like I should think about some maggies.

Ralph, I couldn'g find the bella twins for sale from thier website. Is that an older model? I'm suprised I've never heard that brand come up before. I fo like the looks of that tweeter. Kind of reminds me of mbl's that I love so much. Are the tweets similar in design?
B_limo, Be aware of these brands you never heard of. Obviously they have poor distribution and there is a good chance that when you need assistance or parts they will no longer be in business. More brands of stereo equipment have come and gone than you can possibly imagine. Giving Magnepan a second thought is a good idea and a good recommendation. Owners of original Maggies from several decades ago can still get their speakers serviced. It's a name you can trust.
I disagree re Magnepans for this situation. While the comments about their bass propagation characteristics are true, they are NOT good low-level speakers; they like to played at medium-high levels to sound fully fleshed out and to not sound very dynamically polite. This characteristic is well documented and after living with them for many years I agree. I like the Quad suggestion although they are physically largish, or I would heed Atmasphere's advice.
I agree with Frogman: Maggies need lots of juice to sound their best and their best is at higher than normal listening levels, IMO. I had some original Tympani 3-panel models a long time ago and they didn't wake up at lower volumes. Yes, they could reproduce sound but it was anemic at lower levels.

I second the opinion for a widebander or full ranger with a tweeter to get the best coherence as they generally need less power to come onto full song which is what you're after. I haven't heard it but the Tekton M-Lore might float your boat. It's gotten great press and is relatively inexpensive. As you go up the model ladder, they are still a bargain.

All the best,
"I would heed Atmasphere's advice."

What advice? To buy his amplifiers?

"they like to played at medium-high levels to sound fully fleshed out and to not sound very dynamically polite."

You just described all speakers to some degree. However, it depends a lot on how you tune your system.

Quads are good at low level listening, but if you ever want to play them loud it is likely they will be damaged and very expensive to repair.
Don't worry Rrog, I don't like to buy well made products built here in the usa, backed by thier builder who contributes to these threads on a consistant basis. I prefer to support companies over seas with the worst possible customer service ever. Oh, by the way, anyone want to buy a mf v-dac II?
B_limo, Are you serious?
B_limo, yes, for some reason the speaker is not on their website. I don't know why. As far as I know, they still make it. BTW this is the company that made the Pipedream speakers years ago. They still make them from what I understand.

Rrog, any tube amp that makes about 15 watts or more will be OK on the High Emotion stuff. They seem to be very easy to drive. I use a different model at the recording studio for near-field listening. They are nice because I can trust what I hear from them (meaning I can do mixes without using the headphones and not get in trouble). At the studio, we play them with a Dynaco ST-70 and a 50-watt Hafler transistor amp.
****"I would heed Atmasphere's advice." What advice, to buy his amps.****

I believe his primary advice was about speakers, no?

****You just described all speakers to some degree. However, it depends a lot on how you tune your system. ****

Uhh, maybe. Some speakers decidedly sound inferior at low volumes, regardless of tuning, Maggie's are one of them. You can tune for tonal balance (tonal/tune), minimally for speed/ dynamic get-up-and-go.

****Quads are good at low level listening, but if you ever want to play them loud it is likely they will be damaged and very expensive to repair. ****

Perhaps, depending on what one considers loud. But, so what? The OP is not concerned about loud, he needs to play music softly.
"Perhaps, depending on what one considers loud. But, so what? The OP is not concerned about loud, he needs to play music softly."

Listening at low levels over long periods of time will only make the average audiophile anxious for the opportunity when nobody is around so he can turn it up.

Even though the NEW Quads claim to have a better protection circuit many have been damaged from too much power. Most of the earlier Quads are due for rebuild simply because the adhesive used has lived its useful life.
Atmasphere, I was just looking at High Emotion Audio's website. It looks like the speakers and subwoofer will typically cost $10,000. Is this correct?
Anyone seen High Emotion at any of the shows? I'd love to hear them some time.
Rrog, if you get their subwoofers, yes. We don't run their subs here, just the Bella Twins, as they have proven adequate on their own.

FWIW I'm not a big fan of subwoofers- getting them to blend is a real challenge. One of the best I have seen is made by Audiokinesis, called the Swarm. Its a set of small subs that you set up in various places to allow you to get uniform bass throughout the room.

That tweeter on the HEI speakers is very fast and detailed, but also relaxed. ESLs have a tough time keeping up, plus the speaker is fairly small. They are the best monitor-sized speaker I have seen so far and great if you don't have a lot of room.