I've heard all the above with the exception of the Whamms. All are very good, and given the subjective nature of what one considers "best", any of them will be considered auditory nectar to any given individual. From my listening experience and IMO, the best I've heard are the Kharma Exquisites and Rockport Antares. I'm told the Rockport Hyperion's are even better, but I've not had the opportunity to hear them, and at $85K they are a touch out of my price range. The Exquisites are exactly that. I personally preferred the Antares, they have everything I could wish for in a transducer, and then some. Although all the speakers you mentioned are superb sounding, these 2 are at the top of my list.
I have heard several Wilson models, and ML Statements and an audiophile buddy had the Wilson Maxxes? delivered (the ones that cost $70K) to his home. We did in home comparisons with a slew of other very pricey speakers and both ended up buying the Legacy Audio Whispers. They flat out destroyed every other speaker we auditioned regardless of price. They are not cheap (my system with 2 LFExtreme sub was about $23K) but they blew the doors off the other speakers. I know that is a strong statement but I am not exagerrating, it is a speaker of true inovation, not just some drivers in a big pretty painted box. If you get a chance you owe it to yourself to audition them. My former speaker was the Talon Audio Khorous (no contest) it is not in the same league as the Whisper so I wont even go into the banter.
I have heard all, and even owned some of the speakers you mentioned and none of them actually do it for me. All the speakers you mention seem to do some things very well, but miss in key areas. I have always been a big fan of Wilson and SoundLab, never liked the JM Labs, or Genesis, but now, I have been spoiled.
The two speakers which blow me away are the Rockport Antares at $37,500 and the Kharma Exquisite 1d's at $70,000. Both speakers sound so close to live music in all areas that everything else I listen to, sounds like hi-fi. The goosebump factor is a constant when I listen to them.
I am driving 3 hours tomorrow to go to a friend's house to hear his system again which includes his 1d's. It is so enjoyable that I make the huge sacrifice to sit in a car for that long. Those who know me, know 45 minutes in a car is my level of maximum tolerance. :)
I've only seen these on the Kharma website, but for $1M USD, they better be good. Has anyone heard these?
Legacy Whispers - no one - no way beats the midrange of these speakers or the balance of the entire presentation they give you in any room.
Not to poke at a hornet's nest, but I couldn't ever answer that question without knowing the room size and accoustic environment and the type of music being listened to. You can ask preferences under certain conditions but to ask for the best (absolute) requires criteria since there is no best under all conditions. Even at $100K a speaker designer makes tradeoffs which might or might not be to your liking.
Maybe I'm just a grump because I have not listened to any of the speakers mentioned.
kirk930: IMO, none on your list are as sonically satisfying as the avalon eidolons, which are under $21k (standard finishes-msrp). the most overpriced speakers in your group are the jm labs utopias. i have it on very good authority that the utopias were priced at the $30k level to attract a demographically-identified group of audio snobs who felt it necessary to raise the highend speaker entry bar to that level; according to my authorities, jm labs would still make a substantial profit were the utopias sold for $15k. FWIW, i have listened to all the speakers on your list. -cfb
I read somewhere that the burl finish on the avalon eidolons sounds the best :)
I would put my actively bi-amped, Krell driven, B&W800's up against any of these speakers. A few years back, Krell used them to introduce their FPB line. Dan D'Agostino chose them over the Wilson X-1's (which he also owned). He had called the bi-amped 800's "the best speaker on the planet."
At the original price of only $15K, it was a steal. On the used marked, it shouldn't be passed up if one can afford the amplification and crossover.
never heard sound lab speakers but I second the eidolons.
I wont make a claim about the worlds best but I will offer food for thought.On a piece of paper draw a cutaway of the drivers in the critical mid and high section of a speaker.Notice the dramatic differences in the way the dispersion occures away from the drive units.Convex from the tweeter,concave from the midrange.One driver mounted above or below the other presenting furthur problems.Now view the new Piega concentric driver from a cutaway.Tweeter contained in the center of the midrange.Time alingnment,dispersion patterns,coherency all in perfect sinc.As these seem to be the most difficult problems to conquer it easy to see why this should be best.Also we are using the same material to generate the most important bands.Just food for thought.
cornfedboy ; i have been trying to think of something to say about your post. first of all avalons are great speakers. it is to bad you chose jm labs to bash. as most people know focal ownes jm lab. the tweeter that goes in the utopia line is 900 a piece. the other drivers are also very expensive.the cabinets whether you like the way they look are not are first rate. avalon uses focal drivers as well , along with wilson and thiel. in 1996 their were over 60 speaker companies around the world useing focal drivers. no major speaker company uses the utopia line of drivers. #1 because of cost#2 because they are not sold to anyone else. so you might want to check with your source of immense infromation, to see were they got that idea. anyway you must know i have utopias, and took a hit at me. thats ok i am a big boy. i always said all high end audio is to high. that is why we have audiogon , so we can all buy great gear at a great price. thanks everyone for your opinions thus far. keep them coming.
I'm with you Kirk930 as I prefer the JMs over the Avalons, but to each his own.....Best I have heard are the Rockports, but these are choices you need to make yourself....I've been running the Rockport Syzygy speakers with modified Entec L2f woofers now for about nine years and find them just wonderful.....The Rockports and the Kharmas sound similar with the Rockports having more "pop" if that is important to you......
Cornfed seems to have a problem with Kirk. Avalon and JM Lab both make World Class speakers. And yes, they both use Focal drivers. Can't we all just get along?
The Soundlab's are a great value, in my opinion they have many of the best capabilities of the group mentioned above, all of which are excellent speakers, and which you would likely be happy owning. They are relatively easy to get good sound out of without taking over your listening area. However in a recent spate of listening done over a two day period to Soundlab’s and the Avantgarde's, the Avantgarde's carried the day clearly, by a significant margin; with a knowledgeable dealer doing the setup, they are amazing..otherwise they can sound pretty mediocre. I have been an Audiophile for 25 years, to date the Avantgarde's are the best I have heard; I am currently saving to buy a pair. Avantgarde Trio's are in the 30k range, and are their best performing model; however the Avantgarde Uno's are amazing for a third of the price, and in my opinion best in many regards, most of the systems you have mentioned...but again, only with expert setup will this be true.
Bioman, considering your posts of the last few months and your Bio, I am totally surprised at your interest in Avantgarde.
Owing to the fact you hail from Central Texas, it would be interesting to know who the dealer was that demonstrated both Soundlab Ultimate ones and Avantgarde.
Albert, you’re assuming it was the same dealer..I never said it was.
Ne Plus Ultra for the Avantgarde's and Sound Mind Audio for the Sound Lab's. As I implied, I could easily live with either as both are great systems...but I felt, for my tastes, that the Avantgarde’s clearly had the edge. As for several of the other speakers mentioned, my job as an engineer takes me to other states where I have had an opportunity to hear several but not all of the above mentioned systems as well as the Utopia's at an old friends home...who has deep pockets. So I admit that circumstances under which I heard the systems entailed differing electronics and room acoustics; no situation is ever optimal. My recent renewed interest in the world of high-end audio has been exciting...I kind of feel like a kid in a candy shop. P.S., I am not in any way affiliated with either Avantgarde or Sound Labs...my business interests lie in the medical field.
Sound Mind has never had a pair of Soundlab U-1 and could not have demonstrated with the best electronics even if they did.
As you state, set up and attention to detail is paramount, as well as room acoustics and associated equipment.
My "problem" is my own, in that I dislike the Avantgarde so intensely. The topic specifically refers to the Soundlab U-1, and I had to clarify that it was not involved in your listening test.
albert: i'm with you on the avantgarde's. i've listened, or tried to listen to them with numerous amps, tube and ss. in each instance, the uno's, duo's or trio's were set up by jim smith or one of his associates. they are the most fatiguing, strident speakers iv'e ever heard in their respective price ranges. -cfb
Albert, your mistaken. Call Brian Kurt, Sound Mind Audio..Austin Texas, there sitting in his home/showroom/ living room, just as big as life; if your interested he is apparently looking to move them at a very reasonable price. Roger West at Sound Lab is the one who put me on to Brian Kurt. As for the quality of the electronics driving them, that is a topic that is open to a whole other discussion that is at best subjective.
I have heard that the Avantgarde's can sound really bad if improperly setup..so I have no doubt as to the validity of your prior experience with them. I have heard them only once at Ne Plus Ultra..also in Austin. I guess I was just lucky enough to hear them properly setup.
To change the topic slightly, several of my recent listening experiences have been in home-based dealerships. I feel that this is by and far a better way to hear a system...as opposed to some of the near anechoic chambers or otherwise drastically altered sonic environments I have heard in several dealerships. In other words. if it can sound good in a living room, with minimal sonic treatments..it can sound good in my house..all other factors being somewhat equal. I have both bought and not bought in the past based upon dealership listening sessions, and have often been disappointed with purchases and likely lost out on good opportunities as well.
I took your advice and telephoned Sound Mind in Austin. What you heard are the (old) gold finish Soundlab U-3, not the U-1. There is no comparison between the two.
I hope you find what you are looking for.
It's possible that I was mistaken. I thought Brian Kurt indicated that they were the U-1 design, as he seemed to be describing all other models as being a step down from what I was listening to; if that is the case, I will need to make a point of hearing the U-1. But this just further confirms my point, as I was actually comparing a model U-3 with an Uno; which for my tastes and the circumstances under which I heard them were clearly better...no brightness or hardness at all; and both, I am assuming, around the same price point.
I am curious, as you seem to be well versed on Soundlab's line. The Sound lab website makes no mention of any model U-3; rather U-1, A-1, A-3, M-1, M-2 and M-3. Is the U-3 a discontinued model, like the A-2??? or is it an upgraded
A-2 or M-2?
The Soundlab U-3 is discontinued. If you want this size speaker, the new M-3 is better.
Sound Mind's web site lists these as new U-3, gold finish, and on sale for $12,888.00. The U-1 retails for $32,000.00, making the lowest dealer cost near 20K. I cannot imagine a dealer selling new stock at a $7,000.00 loss. That is why I doubted they were U-1's, but I guess anything is possible.
If you are ever in the DFW area, your welcome to listen to my U-1 Soundlabs.
I would like that, I am frequently in the DFW area on business and often just for pleasure. What would be the best way to contact you to arrange this when I am ready?
I have only had the extreme pleasure of hearing the Avantgarde Duo's once.(AudioEmporium-Milwaukee)
Absolutely near the top of my Best sounding system list. Driven by all BAT gear and Kimber cables, I remember an unbelievably smooooth sound with plenty of detail. And the very definition of effortless. That's what my ears told me anyway, so its hard to figure out how others would say strident, but thats ok, opinions cant be 'wrong'.
It was interesting to hear a couple of people comment on the Avantgarde's as strident. I heard them in a home set-up with Wavac SET and while I heard many of the attributes people have extolled - certain 'being there, vibrancy, aliveness', my wife and I both left with that exact feeling of having heard an annoying stridency. Just my 2cents
Ljgj I like your taste. Legacy Whispers. I must admit I do not have extended listening experience with most of the speakers talked about here. A shot here and there but that is not enough to fairly judge. Plus, the few times I've heard them the set up was less than could be expected (why is this so often the case?) and so the audition was not fair.. But the Whispers, under 15k a pair, half of the price to get in the discussion here are, I agree, a reference to determine how much $$$ you want to waste, I mean spend.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Boulinder(I hope I spelled his name correctly) of Wisdom Speakers at a home demo of his speakers in Michigan before the holidays. The Adrenalin Rush powered by Jeff Roland amps fed by Accuphase sent my heart to racing and the hairs on the back of my neck are still standing. Oh, by the way, Tom is a down to Earth nice guy. Spent hours with him and Steve the home owner and Mich. dealer with zero sales pressure. Great people and the BEST speakers. Yes 95K is up there but you asked about the best we have heard. Peace and Good Listening.
thanks everyone for responding. yes i said at the beginning their are alot of speakers for even a couple of grand that sound awsome. i just wanted to know what the best macdaddy speakers were.i choose the 30k and up crowd just to bring out the real live deal. i have been to alot of live concerts classical and rock,etc. i just feel to get to the sound of a live performance you need to get to this level. not just sound pressure. thanks again keep them coming.
I think a lot if not all of the speakers here are great choices and picking one to live with a long time is difficult particularly when you look and listen around a lot. It is very easy to get bored with the same great sound no matter what your eventual selection is. This is why if you are in this long enough you will drop and lose a lot of revenue in purchases and trades. Happy listening to all.
Ligi It is a scary thought to me to drop 30K+ on a pair of loudspeakers with the knowledge that eventually I'd become bored with them no matter how good they are. How do you deal with this?
Tubegroover - I deal with it by keeping mine for a long time or trading along the same lines and values with other types who want something different in that price range - it gives you the feeling of having bought more than one pair over a period of years for the major money. Just check the speaker division on Audiogon and you will see there are quite a few people looking for different in hopes of better. Remember I didn't drop 30k - mine were Whispers that have 30k sound at 14K (new now) - but I traded some Wilson's in on mine at the time and didn't even have to pay new price. Eventually you can wind up with 30K speakers at a fraction of their cost in the circle game. Also once you realize that because they are 30K doesn't mean they sound great then you start the downsize on even trades for lesser costing but better sounding speakers from people who want that 30k sound for the 6-15K price they paid for theirs.
Just listened to the Avantgarde's 2 and 3 speaker systems and was left with a very unimpressed fealing. They lacked clarity but the biggest problem with them is their size, not physical, but accoustical. In a normal to large room they have no sound stage at all. I'd call it deep throat. Most of us like a piano live from about 15-20 feet. If you think the best sound field is with your head inside the piano the Avantgarde's are for you.
Next I auditioned the Revel Ultimat Studios. They are the most compelling detailed smooth sound I have ever heard. And that's being driven with a 150 w/c NAIM amp. I can hardly wait to hear them with my Krell's. I've not heard their big brother the Salons but you really don't have to spend $30K and up for the best.
I am not surprised by your response. My knowledge of horns is that they tend to create an in your face sound. They also have peaks in their frequency response. I think some horn speaker manufacturers have managed to minimize the effects of this through various design techniques. As for the Avante line, I think they are way too overpriced and way too room sensitive to enjoy. However, they make a compelling showpiece.
I think you can do better with your money.
The best 'super speaker' is the new EgglestonWorks Andra II. At a cost of under 20K it is incomparable in the range up to 30K in all departments: fine detail, tremendous bass, no distortion, fabulous integration, transparency, imaging. One would have to invest two or three times as their cost to get comparable quality, particularly for classical music and jazz.
"There's a new kid in town" that has the credentials to take the absolute top position in super speakers. It is called the AV Reality "LuxAR".
What makes this speaker better than the rest? :
The tweeter is a brand new designed special professional variant of the Scan Speak ring radiator. It's housing is made from machined aluminum, with the dome driver being built to extremely tight tolerances, with the best materials Scan Speak could implement, with a unique triple rear tetrahedron chamber. The select audiophiles who have heard this tweeter say it's the first dome in the world to have the speed and transparency of a ribbon, with the obvious superior dispersion characteristics of a dome i.e the best of both designs, with the detriments of neither. It also handles and unbelievable 250 watts! Remember, this is a tweeter I am describing. It also has an outrageous price of $1000.00, for a tweeter!
The midrange and bass drivers of the LuxAR are also very special. The are custom made units by Scanning, who just happens to be the "father" of both Dynaudio and Scan Speak divers. These midranges and woofers have amazing impulse responses that make a typical Scan Speak Revelator woofer (which had been considered "state of the art" in terms of impulse response until now) sound compeltely average. With these new Scanning drivers, we are talking about "edge of the art" here performance here, not just state of the art.
The LuxAR's crossover is a brand new design that uses only four components. This crossover was developed by the AV Reality designer himself Peter Thompson. It is truly ingenious, and after you study the design, you wonder why nobody else has used it before!
The cabinets are unique in that they are triangular and have a unique internal bracing system that completely eliminates all resonances. It also looks very modern, has a very high WAF factor, and doesn't have to weigh 600+ lbs, like some other typical resonant free , 4"+ super speaker boxes.
To wrap up this LuxAR speaker design, Peter has implemented four 500 watt digital amplifiers that are taking the audiophile world by storm. Every reviewer in Europe who has heard this new "ICE" amplifier has proclaimed it to be the best sounding amplifier they have ever heard, bar none! This "ICE" amplifier is nothing like the digital amplifiers of the past. It advances what amplification to a new sonic level that should have ALL high end amplifier manufacturers shaking in their knees!
There you have it. A brand new "over the top" super speaker built with "Edge of the Art" drivers, crossovers, amplifiers and cabinets. In my opinion, this speaker is what Tiger Woods is to golf. A complete paradigm to what we can expect in terms of performance and absolute capabilities. With the AV Reality LuxAR speaker, the bar has been raised to a completely new standard!
Bioman, go with what sounds best to you. It appears that audiophiles either love the Avantgardes or hate them. I am going to try to audition them so I can form my own opinion. It is too bad that they and most other speaker manufacturers don't provide frequency and dispersion responses for their speakers. This would help to weed out a lot of the subjective BS IMHOP.
Well, Albert and Bio, FWIW I don't care a whole lot for either of your choices. No matter what is being played on Avantgardes I hear "Winchester Cathedral" in the back of my head. Purely psychological, I'm sure. God knows they're gorgeous beasts.
With the Soundlabs, I swear that I can hear comb filtering effects if I move vertically while a constant tone is being played. I betcha if I had a good mike and a good RTA/scope I could prove it. That membrane is just too big and my ear is too small. That's not to say the sound isn't luscious as long as you sit still.
You know, I just re-read my post and it sounds like I'm really slamming those speakers. Not so...at least that isn't my intention. They are both clearly world class. But both have, in my view, little flaws that keep them from being absolutely on the top of the heap. Very close, tho.
Bishopwill, nothing is on the top of the heap. There are flaws in every speaker ever built. Each listener must decide how many flaws and which type can be tolerated on a consistent basis.
I agree with your comments about Avantgarde, but as for the comb filtering sound you mention concerning Soundlabs, you must have heard an early model.
Soundlabs now utilizes "Distributed Resonance" (their buzz word) , that eliminates membrane resonance and dipole energy cancellation. The diaphragm is sectioned where instead of comb filtering or resonant peaks, different sections of the diaphragm resonate at different frequencies in a graded fashion."
This essentially makes dozens of phase matched micro panels that are combined in the quarter circle radial pattern that Soundlab is famous for. The design is in fact, a giant electronic microphone in reverse. Much like the microphones used to record most of what we discuss in these forums.
If there were a cone speaker built that was phase accurate full bandwidth, and with as low distortion as Soundlabs, I would be interested in them. The (gross) dynamics of cone speakers are superior and that is their strength. The Soundlabs phase accuracy, speed and ultra low distortion is its strength.
Albert, I must admit that it has been a number of years since I heard a Soundlabs system up close and personal. Your point is well taken.
What avantgards and every other good system needs to sound its best is a really good AC power supply. Often in many homes and businesses, several of the outlets are wired to the same one or two 15 or 20 amp breakers. These are used to power the entire system. Then, we try to add expensive power cords and conditioners to make the system sound better. A more effective way to great sound is to build a dedicated AC circuit to your sound room which is way beyond the typical household circuit. Lower resistance in the line by using larger gages, copper conductors, and less splices. Do this, and listen for yourself.