What speakers should I consider around $5000?

I'm ready to move on from my current system: Bryston 4BST, Proceed Pre, Revel Performa F30's and Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC. I'm planning to keep the DAC, and swap the Bryston and Proceed out for a decent integrated SS amp (just don't want to "do" tubes, even though I think they can sound great). I like the relatively deep bass of the Revels, but they can sound very bloated without VERY expensive cabling.

I recently heard the following speakers and enjoyed them, but wanted to get some feedback on these and suggestions for others in about the $5k retail price range. I'm open to a used speaker too. Here's the list: Martin Logan Theos, Von Gaylord VG-8, Salk Veracity HT2-TL, Wilson Audio Duette (yes, I know this is dramatically more expensive, but I liked the sound). Also, wondered about the new Revel F308s.

And another issue to consider is WAF....she's HATED the look of the Revels since I first got them 13 years ago. Something a bit less monolithic would be great.

As a separate but related question, I've previewed a Karan Acoustic KA i180 MkII and thought it was great, but if I go down that route, it'll limit my speaker budget to some degree.

I'm getting confused by all the options, so I thought I'd ask for some advice to get me some clarity.


You might want to check out the Vapor Sound speakers. A whole lot of speaker for any price. They have several models and they're pretty much built to your liking. I have the Aurora's coming. I choose those because they were the closest thing in the midband to the Apogee Stages and they have a 3 person sweetscape. Most of their models are direct radiating. Actually they all are except the Aurora has waveguides on both the tweeter and the bass driver.
My choice at your (our) price point was the Revel F208. The F308 was shelved as far as I know. The look of Revel's new Performa3 line has done a lot to fix the WAF problem of some previous Revel models. If you like Revel's sound generally, the F208 or even 206 should get a listen.
"I'm getting confused by all the options, so I thought I'd ask for some advice to get me some clarity."

I agree. The only problem is that you just can't listen to what other people tell you and then go buy something. You'll need to take the advice but then go confirm it for yourself. I can give you many recommendations but I have no idea if they will be good for you and your tastes.

One thing I will say is that you need to think of this in terms of a systems approach, and not just getting a new pair of speakers. Whatever you buy has to work with everything else. What makes you think you need a new pair of speakers anyway? Why not a different component? Also, can you list your whole system? You put down the Ayre. I'm pretty sure its USB only so I assume you are using a computer as a transport. And the very expensive cables that the Revels need to sound right. Knowing all this can make a difference.
I think you should consider the dynaudio C1 in your list of contenders.
Are you able to audition any of these? Speakers are such a matter of personal preference. These threads may help you narrow things down. But if you are spending this kind of money I'd try to figure out a way to hear the speakers that interest you. Shows aren't ideal settings, but may be your best bet. Even better is to hear the speakers in your own space. Some online retailers have good return policies. As do some manufacturers (Von Schweikert for example, and the VR-33 would be in your price range, tho WAF might be an issue).
OK, I'll try to answer everybody's posts in one response. Thanks for getting back to me and engaging in this conversation.

First, I did list my current system at the top of my post. I will list cables here in just a minute.

Second, aside from the Revel F308's, I did listen to all of the speakers I listed in my post at the CA Audio Show (my first show......fun, but overwhelming).

Third, yes the Ayre is USB only. I use an Auraliti PK90 USB server connected to a generic hard drive filled with uncompressed FLAC files in a variety of sampling rates ranging from 44/16 up to DSD files.

Fourth, I'm currently borrowing a bunch of cables, and, frankly, these cables have made a huge difference, but they would be crazy expensive to buy (representing something like 100% of the cost of my system). Here's the list: WyWires Silver speaker cables, Wywires Platinum IC between Amp & Pre, Wywires Silver power cord to Amp, Wywires Blue power cable to Pre, Harmonic Tech AC-11 power cord to DAC, Harmonic Tech IC (Magic Link 2) between DAC and Pre, Grover Huffman power cord to Auraliti server, Wireworld Platinum Starlight between DAC and server. With these cables in place, the system sounds better than it ever has.

Fifth, for space reasons, and cable costs, I'm really wanting to shift to an integrated SS amp. Also, my Bryston is "acting up" and only has a couple more years of warranty left. The Proceed Pre is also manifesting some sporadic problems. These are just old pieces and I think it time to modernize a bit.

Sixth, as I said, the WAF factor of the Revel F30's has been perenially low; since she's willing for us to invest in some new gear, thought I'd pay more attention to this issue.

Seventh, we listen to a wide variety of music, but primarily electronic Jazz (e.g., Pat Metheny and Bela Fleck), acoustic solo piano and guitar in a variety of genres, symphonic music, and good old rock n' roll (mostly from 70's, although the occasional modern pop song will grab out attention).

Finally, the issue we both noticed with the Revels (and much improved with the thousands of dollars of cables listed above) is two-fold: bloated bass (recording and cable dependent), lack of integration of drivers. You can literally hear (at the right volume and with right music) the physical separation of the woofer from the tweeter/mid "module." It's very disconcerting. We like relatively deep and full bass, but tight. We also are soundstage addicts....the bigger the better. Detail that's musical is also high on our desired traits.

So, that's the scoop, with as much detail as I could manage.

Thanks in advance.

A couple more things....

I looked at the specs of the Dynaudio C1....and am concerned it wouldn't have enough bass energy for the types of music we most listen to. Looked at the specs of the Von Schweikert VR-33.....it's actually bigger and more monolithic than my current Revels ;-) but I did like the specs. FYI, heard the flagship VS's at the show and was impressed by the sound. Unfortunately, i don't think the size of these will fly.

Any particular thoughts on the Martin Logans? I almost bought a pair of electrostats instead of the Revels years ago, but the lack of bass was a real issue.

If you consider Martin Logan you will need to buy the model(s) with a self powered woofer if accurate bass below 40hz is a must. A box speaker with a relatively small footprint and bass claimed to be accurate down to 30hz is the Gershman Acoustics-Sonogram. I was considering buying the Sonogram but the retail $ jumped from $4400 to $5495 seemingly overnight(lol). I tried contacting Gershman Acoustics if the Sonogram had been revised with no avail. Even with the price increase the Sonogram still represents good value and could be what your looking for.
If you are thinking stats check out King Sound . Disclaimer- You may see my pair of King Sound King up for sale soon . I am moving and need to downsize to bookshelfs. They are more lifelike than Martin Logan's or magnepan's . Read the reviews on them .
The new info was helpful. I can maybe give you a few ideas on how to proceed. The first is you have to decide on if you are going to buy a new speaker based on how it looks or on how it sounds. You can't really make an exception on that one. If you want great bass and integration of all the drivers (or use panels), you are going to have to get a big speaker. If you have a lot more than $5000, you can buy your around that problem, at least to some extent.

I see you starting to fall into the cable trap. I believe that the super expensive cables make the differences you say they do. Cables can make a very big difference. On the other hand, I see 2 components that are possibly broken and some questionable decisions overall in you component choices. Do cables last. If you do a good job matching all of your components, cable choice becomes easy (and a lot less expensive). Its very common to find that very expensive cables that make a big difference in SQ, like the ones you are currently borrowing, actually sound bad in a well matched system.

Before I go any further, I'll make a suggestion and see what you think of it. Looking at your system, I don't see your speakers as your weakest component. If I had your system, and it were my choice, I would do 3 things. 1. Send your amp back to Bryston and have them fix it. Its not the last word in any one area, but its a good sounding amp that has a ton of power. It will sound good with a wide variety of components. You can get something better, but keep it for now. 2. Get rid of your current preamp and upgrade. That may sound like a strange recommendation, but the preamp is without question, the most overlooked component in an audio system and its just as important as any other piece. Without a good preamp, you will NEVER get your system sounding right. That's how important it is. Since you already have an Ayre DAC, an ideal choice would be an Ayre K-5. Making a change like that will completely transform the way your system sounds. Even if you change nothing else. 3. Here's another odd recommendation. Given your loaner cables, you probably know some people that have some pretty nice gear to lend out. See if you can't get your hands on a good CD player. I think you should compare it directly to your current PC/DAC type setup. You can get great sound going this route, but its new and there are many ways you can go wrong and probably not know it. All you need to do is see if your current source is competitive with a good CD player. If it is, that's fine. If not, you need to fool with it until you get results that are equal, and hopefully better.
As an owner of F30's, perhaps I can add something. Cables matter. I have settled on Analysis Plus Solo Crystal IC's - my reference for years and available pretty reasonably on the used market. My speaker cables are Nordost.

Originally I also used the same Bryston amp but found it less than ideal for the F30's. Then I went to Proceed HPA2. Lots of power but I always thought it better a home theater amp. I was hoping for a cheap ML, but it wasn't.

Your electronics -proceed and the bryston, are both dry. That makes me think the bloat is all about placement of the speakers.

My speakers finally blossomed with tubes. First CJ then Rogue, which I thought was better than the CJ. No problem at all with discontinuity between drivers. I think speaker placement plays a huge role here. try using the placement guide on the Cardas web site. I found it highly useful.

These days I use Pass electronics which is really great with the F30's. Bass is solid and palpable and there is zero discontinuity between the drivers. The woofer does hat its meant to do and low bass properly done is very hard to localize so thats why I get no discontinuity.

Good luck. Personally, though, if I didn't have Revel, I think I would go Vandersteen.
Usher Dancer Mini 2
Wow, so much great and helpful info. Again, I will try to comment to as much as I can in one post.

Interestingly, I have listened to the Ayre K-5 with the Revel F-30's and the Ayre QB-9. It sounded terrific with relatively inexpensive cabling. VERY emotionally engaging. But, again, I really wish to simplify my life with a good integrated.

I can, and will, listen to the Revel F208's. And yes, I did hear that the 308's were cancelled. Interestingly, they are a bit taller than the F-30's, but the shape is much more.....umm, sculpted and may have much great WAF.

I had a Resolution Audio CD player prior to switching over to an exclusively digital front end. I did alot of side by side comparisons before I let go of my CD player. While it wasn't a clear cut victory, the digital front end was at least on par with most recordings......and that was before I got the Ayre DAC. I don't see myself going back to CD's.

I really have thought of tube'd gear to get some warmth out of the system, but am still reluctant to go down that road.

I have also looked at, and wondered about the Pass integrated. But, I'm also wondering about the Karan Acoustic integrated which I can get for less $$ than the Pass.

I appreciate everybody's feedback. This is VERY interesting to me.

Wow, the specs, price and looks of the Usher are right on target. (Size is not much different than what I've got now....at least it's not worse!) What can you tell me about these speakers? Why did you recommend them?

For a thousand more ($6K) the Vandersteen Treos are really good. I recently listened to a pair and was impressed. Low sensitivity, so a SS amp with a little balls is probably a good idea.
In that price range, and for speakers you are likely to be able to actually listen to, I would go for the Martin Logan.

However if you are thinking of speakers like the Wilson Duette in that price range look at the Rockport Mira. Many people like myself are not that enamored with the Wilson - it does tend to polarize but I have yet to come across anyone that doesn't like the Rockport. Of course now that I have posted it tons will probably come out of the woodwork. Well worth your time however to give them a listen.

Interesting about the Vandersteens. One of my friend's swears by them. I've also gotten curious about GALLO ACOUSTICS REFERENCE 3.5, which seem very reasonably priced for the specs they deliver. Anybody have experience with those speakers?

I'm planning to reaudition the Von Gaylord VG-8's and their Starlet 4 TUBE integrated (yes, I'm going to listen to a tubed amp) as the owner has agreed to bring his gear here to my home! No matter what else, that's what I call customer service!!

08-11-13: Mwsl
A couple more things....

I looked at the specs of the Dynaudio C1....and am concerned it wouldn't have enough bass energy for the types of music we most listen to.
Before you categorically dismiss the Dynaudios as bass-weak or incapable of filling a large space, read Wes Phillips' Stereophile review. If you want big speaker sound in a manageable size, the C1 should be on your short list. Also, if you value coherence, imaging, and soundstage, these are the strong points of a small baffle 2-way.
Your wife will like or at least accept the look of the Usher and you will love the sound :) They are also easy to drive.
Please do yourself and ears a huge favor and check out the new revel performa 3 f208 they are simply awesome, I personally don't think they have any real compatition at their price point and they sound better than most speakers at twice the price, Revel has a real giant killer on their hands .
I suggest considering Merlins.
Matt -

a few thoughts;
if you are going to keep or step up in the Revel speaker line, keep your Bryston power amp and get a Bryston pre-amp.

If you are going to step up to the Wilson speaker line, then, plan on buying Transparent cables/cords for the electronics (the best sonic match).
So, after much research and all of your feedback, here's the four speakers I'm going to listen to. These are in my price range (the Wilson's really were WAY out of my price range). These are listed in no particular order:

1) Gallo Ref 3.5
2) Revel Performa f208
3) Usher Mini Dancer 2
4) Von Gaylord VG-8

I've got an IN HOME listening session set up for the Von Gaylord speakers, along with their integrated tube amp (!). The Revel's are sold by a local dealer whom I have a good relationship with. The Usher and Gallo I'll have to track down, but I know are available relatively close.

Thanks everyone for your feedback. Quite enlightening.

I also agree the Dyns are a fantastic monitor, but they are expensive, as an alternative you should add to your list Selah Audio, like Vapor, Selah's speakers often hit way beyond there price point, and there is much more flexibility in driver configuration to tailor to your needs.
Not to add more flame to the fire here, but looking at what you are looking for (integrated drivers and tight bass), I can't help but think you might want to give Zu speakers a look (probably the Omen Defs). With the full range drivers, they have no xover in the midrange area so you will not experience the driver integration problems you are having with your Revels. And they are very easy to drive (an integrated amp, tube or ss, will work just fine). You might give the Zu guys a call -- they are great to deal with and really do want to hook you up with something that matches your tastes.
Eventually with threads like this, every product on the market gets
recommended. So I will add my suggestions. :-) The KEF R series (R700
or R900) are at or below $5K and will be absolute imaging champs.That
UniQ driver is exceptional. Different sound from Revel, but equally
legit. KEF is on a roll.

You also might have a listen to the appropriate models from PSB and
Paradigm. The designs are a bit heavy on the bling, as the earlier Revels
were, so WAF might be a bust, but these are good companies with
decades of experience and serious engineering chops, just like Revel
and KEF.

One other would be the floorstanders in Dynaudio's Focus line. Very
handsome and great performers.
Im with Drubin on this. I also listened to Wilson duettes with tube integrated and ranked high of 24 demonstrated speakers, some 10k+ . I own the kef r900s and also liked the dyns but I found the kefs out performed the dyns to my ear. At least listen to a pair if possible before you decide if you can they list 5k. Best
"Interestingly, I have listened to the Ayre K-5 with the Revel F-30's and the Ayre QB-9. It sounded terrific with relatively inexpensive cabling. VERY emotionally engaging. But, again, I really wish to simplify my life with a good integrated."

If you want an integrated with the level of SQ that K-5 has, it will probably cost a lot of money. I think it will be simpler just to stay with separates. You already tried the Ayre preamp and had great results with it. Not only that, it shows that you don't have to go with ultra expensive cables. That was the overall point I was trying to make in my previous post. Getting the preamp first will simplify you life.

"I had a Resolution Audio CD player prior to switching over to an exclusively digital front end. I did alot of side by side comparisons before I let go of my CD player. While it wasn't a clear cut victory, the digital front end was at least on par with most recordings......and that was before I got the Ayre DAC. I don't see myself going back to CD's."

I wasn't suggesting that you go back to CD's, only that you use the CD player to compare with your current digital front end. Just to make sure you have everything dialled in right. It looks like you were able to do this with the Resolution Audio. Its a great CD player. If you are getting that kind of performance with your DAC, your OK there as well.

If you still decide to get speakers first, some of the other posters recommended Vandersteen. I agree. That's my favorite speaker too. Be aware, though, they are more revealing than your current speakers. Whatever flaws you have upstream will definitely be brought out to a greater extent than your current speakers.
thanks again to all. It'll be interesting to see where this hunt ends up. I'll try to post occasional report from the "front lines" and let you know how things are developing. This is a really great community!
I dont know where you are located, but the PSB Synchrony One speaker has consistently been a best buy and recommended by every reviewer. the are also available in most areas, and within your budget, so they will be easy to compare to whatever else the store sells. I own a pair, and they will be my last unless I hit the lottery. they simply do everthing you need a speaker to do, without breaking the bank. their new Imagine tower is also excellent, but in a smaller package.
I think the Revels are a good choice but I second the Vandersteen Treos. I've heard them 2 years in a row at RMAF. They really sound great (and are, IMO, the best looking speaker Vandersteen has ever made). They are probably my next speaker (I'm happily using the 2Ce Sig IIs right now).
Darned it....you guys are making this hard!! My friend swears by Vandee's. Maybe I'll have to add them to the list. This has gotta stop ;-)
Since you are also considering SS integrated amps, I would suggest the Pass INT-30A and the Hegel H300.

I own the Pass and truly love it. Beautiful midrange that makes vocals incredibly realistic and just awesome soundstaging & imaging. I heard the Hegel at RMAF on Thiel 3.7s and it was also great for all the same reasons. It also has more power and possibly better bass control (I don't know this for certain since I didn't hear it in my system). Regardless, it's certainly a worthy competitor to the Pass.
Vandersteen Treo's and Ayre Integrated. You won't be sorry.

Save $1000 and get the Vandersteen 3A Sigs although the WAF may be compromised. Bass is a littler fuller with them but the Treo's are definitely more stylish.

I own the 3A Sigs and they are wonderful. I also have Magnepan 1.6's which are equally wonderful but different.

I have used a Bryston 3BST which is a great no nonsense amp, as is your 4BST but the Ayre will be a better match sonically for the Vandersteens. I liked the Bryston with the Maggies but not as much with the Vandersteens. In both cases I used a tube preamp in front of the Bryston (ARC SP16 and Audibile Illusions Mod3A)
Got some appointments over the next 4 days. Will be listening to at least the following: Revel F208, Gallo Ref 3.5, KEF R700 (didn't have the 900), PSB Imagine T2, Von Gaylord VG-8. I will see where I'm at after this....remaining of interest are Vandersteen Treo and something from Martin Logan (kind of concerned about bass extension with the models I can afford). Keep your fingers crossed for me. Should be an interesting period of time.
If there is any chance you could listen to the Thiel 2.4 I highly recommend them. I have a pair and they go down to an honest 30 Hz in my room (that is after break in).
Listened to the Revel F208's and Sonus Faber Cremona (think it was the M version, but not positive) today. First listened to the Revels with the Luxman L550, next with the Musical Fidelity M6i. Also listened to the Sonus with the M6.

To keep it short for the moment, the Revel's just didn't do it for me. I was impressed by the midrange response and linearity, but the bass response didn't do it for me....there were lots of notes that I'd previously heard on recordings that just didn't show up. With the M6, there was more life and liveliness to the presentation, but it was still not significantly different than my F30's (with less bass).

Switched over to the Cremona's as the dealer has a demo sale on them (still expensive for me but really worth considering). I was very taken with these speakers. Truly lifelike and natural instrumental sounds, great midrange (loved how voices sounded), excellent soundstage, and just a very realistic (with just the right amount of detail) sound. This was my very first SF.....left feeling quite impressed.

More to come in a couple of days.
Mwsl what have you found in your auditions as of late?
Matt , I would second the Vandersteen Treo's or 3A Signature and Ayre Integrated. I recently spent a few days listening to this combination and felt it covered everything in the music spectrum from top to bottom. Vandersteen also goes well with tube gear.

If you live anywhere near Verona NJ, I would highly recommend visiting John at Audio Connection