What speaker – under $10k – has the best timbre and tonal qualities?


Several years ago, a prominent reviewer had this to say as he was praising the natural and life-like tonal qualities of a particular speaker:

It’s [speakers] like these that make me question the priorities of audiophiles who relegate accuracy of timbre to secondary status. How are the richness and color of instruments, voices, ensembles, and textures to be reproduced in all their infinite variety and beauty if a loudspeaker has less than accurate reproduction of timbre? What do dynamics, imaging, detail, transparency, and the like matter if voices and instruments don’t sound like themselves?

I’ve come the same realization, late in the game. I recently made a lateral move from one of the most popular of recent speaker models to a different speaker, because it sounded so much more natural and realistic in timbre. I sacrificed a touch of image precision in doing so, but it has been well worth it. The sound is so much more engaging. It’s like going from a high-resolution black and white photograph – which is very detailed and impressive – to a color version of the same photo, but with slightly less resolution. The color version offers so much more in terms of realism.

So I’m now contemplating the purchase of what I hope will be my last speakers, with the objective of realistic, natural, and rich (but not artificially warm) tone being the primary attribute.  

What speakers, under $10k, would you recommend? (I’m driving them with a PrimaLuna Prologue Premium)


wester17
According to the supplied info, speaker Z has the best attributes of speakers X and Y. For a more useful answer,  supply X And Y.  :)
Gently used Harbeth 40.2's.  Given that they have been "superseded" by the Anniversary and XD iterations, regular 40.2's should be easily managed under 10K.

OR

Gently used Vienna Acoustics Liszt.

I spent a lot of time looking for something very similar to what you describe, and these would be my recommendations.

For something just a tad more muscular, the Spendor Classic 100.  Haven't heard it, but the Spendor SP100 Mk2 might fit your bill more exactly.
I’m not sure which speaker is the "best" when it comes to timbre, but imo it will probably be one which does an excellent job of getting the reverberant field right. Perceived timbre involves both direct and reflected sound, and in general a spectral discrepancy between the two degrades timbre and can even result in listening fatigue.

That delicious rich timbre in a good seat in a recital hall or concert hall is largely a result of a reverberant field done right. Obviously we don’t have playback rooms that size, but we can at least make a serious effort to get the spectral balance of our reverberant sound correct.

Not that this is the only thing that matters, but ime it’s one of them, and one which is often overlooked.

If I might ask a question, wester17, how much freedom do you have with speaker placement?

Duke
Under $10k? Tekton Ulfberht, obviously. Unless you want 90% of the Ulf for half the money, in that case Moab is the way to go. 

In any case you will find like Duke is saying there are factors other than the speaker itself. Tekton have superb timbre and tone, absolutely. And maybe it is precisely because they are so good at this that I have noticed with my Moabs just how much the other components contribute to this.

Speakers are so far apart in this, the range is so much greater, we tend to think of components as more or less all the same. I have been surprised how much more lifelike and natural timbre and tone improved with a set of Townshend Pods under my turntable and amp. Was totally not expecting this! But all sorts of instruments now stand out so much more clearly each with their own individual timbre, and the improvement in detail while remaining natural (not hyped) is impressive.  

Not trying to push Townshend so much as trying to make the impression this is the same thing that happened listening to Tekton. These speakers are a genuine bona fide standout bargain. 

Also you mention image precision. Everyone hearing my Moabs finds the sound stage and imaging remarkable. Everyone. You give up nothing. 
Ohm Walsh are in the running.

Well under 10k for most every model and the most under for small to modest size rooms. 
I've moved from Tekton to Harbeth for the same reason as the OP.I have nothing negative to say about the Tektons. I've never been as satisfied or looked forward to listening as much as I do now.
Magico,Rockport or Vimberg buy one asap.
Peter Walker's Wonder - the Quad 57! "We don't think our speaker is the best - only that all the others are worse!" - PW
@mapman : I have a pair of the older Walsh Sound Cylinders. They must be experienced to be believed! 3 - D imaging from anywhere in the room! Uncanny!
Vandersteen Treo CT, new for under $10k (or a used pair of their Quatro CT's).
Goldenear Triton Reference.   Had mine about 8 months now, driving with a Carver tube amp and prima luna preamp.  10K for the speakers.   Love mine...Never heard a soundstage as open and precise...
Harbeth, Stirling, Spendor, Graham. -- i.e., the speakers descended from the BBC research programs of the last century. Someone has already mentioned the Harbeth 40.2.

Electrostatic speakers, also, can be excellent at timbre. I have a pair of Janszen Valentinas and would put them high on the list of speakers that match your criteria.
Post removed 
I prefer the tannoy sound. Natural, warm, non-fatiguing, addictive to listen to. 
yes, definitely Moab...hehehehe. Idiocy.
Sonus Faber Electa Amator III
What high-quality loudspeakers, in your price range, are available for audition where you live? Harbeth sounds like a good suggestion, but that does not help much if no local dealers carry them and you cannot arrange an in-home demo. The USA distributor is at Fidelis (New Hampshire); maybe they would ship you a demo pair for in-home trial. 

You might want to consider electrostatic or planar magnetic loudspeakers. Major brands include Martin Logan and Magnepan. Smaller, boutique brands include Sanders and JansZen. JansZen only sells direct and will ship speakers to you for a 30-day in-home trial.  
If used speakers are on the list and you're willing to look at some less-than-typical speakers, nothing I have seen comes close to the realism of JBL M2s.  They require DSP and lots of amplification, but I have seen whole systems, amps and DSP included, for around 12-13K.  The speakers themselves should be able to be found for <10K per pair.  I mix on them for a living and they are the first speakers I have ever heard that come close to replicating what my microphones are hearing in the live room.without knowing what the recording chain is there is no way of telling what you're hearing is an addition or subtraction to the real performance by real musicians in a real space.  M2s are unique in tat regard.
  "has the best"

That's where you lose me. Who is qualified to tell your ears it's hearing "the best"?

Upgrade your PL PP to an EVO or used Dialogue, and you'll get more of what you're liking. All those speaker recommendations  are "the best"

The PL will drive most anything out there, Your ears will tell you what's "best" Look for home demo/return policy deals.
I don’t know if one speaker will be able to produce all the right timbre of any instruments. iME my Andra using tube amps , piano sounds piano, I believe they were voice with  piano .My Technics c700 Sb Speaker Acoustic and string they sound real , using Plinius sa 100 amp , My Diapason Speakers using viva amp every instruments and voice all sounds real.My ps 12 Tekton is very close timbre on diapason.I did have to really listen a lot and use the right matching to get the right timbre for every systems I have , I takes a lot of listening experience to achieve the right timbre . Maybe why I end up having four system, If I would like to listen to piano, I go with Andra.The focal Kanta I heard at Music direct I like the timbre of that speakers they are using esoteric gear Audioquest pc and wireworld Speaker wire the expensive one Iam not sure if they are platinum.Its also very important to use good recording.I have reference cd by Gary Karr title Double bass , this cd make all my systems sounds so real.l
Used Vimberg,Rocport or Magico jump on a pair ASAP.
realistic, natural, and rich (but not artificially warm) tone being the primary attribute.  

Genelec 8351b. If you need more bass get a couple of genelec smart subs and GLM. 
I hear you Wester. When I did my intensive speaker search many years ago I found lots of brands that did the audiophile checklist well but just did not sound “right” in the way you (and I) consider important. After listening to literally dozens of speakers two dynamic speakers emerged—Harbeth and Daedalus. Other types like Quad ESL and Sound Lab also hit the mark but brought with them other requirements that I wasn’t able to meet so ended up with Daedalus and am now on my third pair.
@audioguy85,

'I prefer the tannoy sound. Natural, warm, non-fatiguing, addictive to listen to.'


Me too, though there are some very good reports regarding the Joseph Audio Pulsars.

And this from a while back. No ultimate consensus but possibly some good information.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/best-loudspeakers-for-rich-timbre?highlight=Rich%2Btimbre
@wester17  The problem with some of the replies here is that the posters are not reading your OP carefully and noting the particular characteristics you require, but rather are just listing their favorite brands.  Consequently, you will need to exercise caution with some of the recommendations.
Here we go again. I bought a used pair of meridian dsp 8000’s they cost what a $10k investment in speakers then add whatamp,pre and dac would cost and it’s to my ears the most natural sound i’ve gotten. I had to turn the bass down a few ticks, but the detail is all there just in the music , not in front of it. D&D, Kii3.
Twoleftears agree, why it’s always good to audition, and understand there is no such Speaker can give the listener all the accolades he prefer, This hobby need a lot of time to listen,.
For realistic, natural and not artificially warm or neutral being the primary attribute it's going to be very hard to surpass Genelec the Ones. In a passive speaker around 10K maybe Revel 228be. 
yo, djones51 are you bringing all that asr stuff over to ag? I really don't know why revels from the performa 3 and newer sound so generic to me? maybe because I listen t 2 channel stereo and the later waveguides seem to diffuse the soundstage idk, tonally they're ok a little light  in the bass, but most use subs these days anyhow.

I would love to hear some Genelec powered speakers, but where?
Sweetwater in Indiana. Dutch and Dutch 8c  are very good but not as neutral sounding to me. 
I’m not bringing anything anywhere most of these speakers mentioned are far from realistic, natural and not artificially warm sounding. Never heard the Meridians but they always looked interesting. Joseph Perspectives 2 are very natural sounding for a passive a little light in the bass, might find some used for 10K.
You might consider reading about the speakers SET lovers prefer. It's a group that focuses directly on the qualities you appear to be after. As pointed out above, many of the suggestions seem to be for "my favorite speakers" not speakers that meet your desired criteria.
I haven't heard the cube audio offerings, but they are one modern option that falls into the above category:

https://refinedaudio.com/collections/cube-audio

Lots of love for The DeVore Orangutan O/93
Not sure if your PrimaLuna Prologue Premium (integrated?) has 16ohm outputs to try.
Also the Devore Super 9s. I’m running then with a PrimaLuna HP Integrated and they are very involving speakers. Just shy of $10k. 
There are boxes and there are panels. I've owned both. Some large, some not-so-large, some efficient and dynamic, some polite and restrained. But the question at hand is timbre and tone. And here to my ear, the choice is simplified. A box will always sound like a box. There are some pretty sweet boxes out there, but at the end of the day, that box sound, however mitigated, remains. Panels, Martin Logan and Magnepan specifically, require attention to electronics (hint: current is your friend) and even more attention to room placement, but properly set up, and for timbre and tone, they are unmatched. 
ATC SCM 19A.  Then ditch the PrimaLuna.  Done
Anything in that price range from Magnepan will be better than anything else you find, but listen IN YOUR ROOM to whatever you pick before you buy.

Cheers!
One  amp/speaker combination that I heard and think comes close to what your looking for was the Devore O/93s driven by a Line Magnetic 845 SET integrated.  

I own Tannoy Sterlings, the Turnberrys are the bigger brother at $8000. I let room size dictate the Sterlings. 
Just shop AG and USAM, buy low try at home and resell un til you get a taste for how each reacts to your listening room and components.
Harbeth 40.2’s or 30.1’s, but you will need to drive them with a good SS amp - preferrably a Hegel. Though, I also drive mine with a $700 Class D Audio SDS 470C - and they sound about the same with it as the Hegel.

Or... Spatial Audio M3 Saphire... with some great tube amps.

Or... Maggie’s also with a great SS amp, and possibly some REL Subs.



The most expensive Dali you can find/afford. So rich I can't seem to listen with my eyes open
Good question.  Part of the equation comes from the components.  Tube, SS, etc.  Some speakers have better bass, some are more open sounding but without the upstream components the sound can vary greatly.  Tone to me comes from the source.  IN manufacturing components I can change the sound completely with capacitors (think oil or copper caps), resistors think Audio Note non-magnetic, silver, etc. TO me the speaker has an impact on the sound but tone IMOP comes from your components. Have you ever heard a speaker sound poorly and then hear the same speaker somewhere else sound much better?

Happy Listening.
The title question is so subjective that everyone will have a different opinion.  In my case, it is Spendor D series.  D9.2 can be found for under $10k.
No suggestion here.
Without glomming onto the word "best" in your subject line, the body of your post described your experience and goal quite clearly and reminiscent of my experience.

If your like me I’m guessing you may have ridden the audio merry-go-round for a time.
Faced with the reality that a thirty minute listen of the multiple products at an audio show or in stores is nothing like that first dissatisfied listen at home as the fear of the possibility system synergy could add to the cost of your resent purchase and still not reach the goal you’ve heard, just not at home.

Like you I made a not so lateral change to an unaffordable new speaker at the time which was suggested by someone I later learned is an industry professional. Years past until I could afford his suggestion used and bingo. That was thirteen years ago.

All the BEST in your search.
M

Ahh yes! The audio merry-go-round. I’m truly ready to get off. Over the past two weeks I have sold three sets of speakers and a tube amplifier. The basement looks so much more uncluttered now! It actually feels good!


What is best for tone and timbre is so dependent on ones hearing that I believe it impossible to generalize across the population, and i feel that none of us knows this for themselves. We only know what we like from what we have experienced. 
Tannoy speakers, the upper range, are well known for what you are looking for.