Which Hi-end monitor for near field listening

Looking to buy a pair of monitors for listening within 6-7 feet in small room 11*13*7.5. I hesitate between well known brand: JM Lab Micro Utopia Be, Dynaudio Special 25, Merlin VSM-MX, Totem Mani2 Sig...OR direct manufacturers: Tyler Linbrook monitor, Ellis 1811b which seem to get me same quality for much les money. Any opinions? I'd like the speaker to go down to 50Hz or less, have decent HT capability and DI-SA-PEAR!!!!.
Silverline SR17's will do all you require (as I'm sure some of your other candidates may). Don't know what you are intending to pair them off with. At 89db they are moderately efficient so fairly versatile. Great at near field listening and disapear like Casper. Just another (extraordinary) candidate for your list.

As good as the SR17s are, I really recommend listening to the SR15s as well. To my ears, they are much better speakers all around. Waaay more PRAT, and a clearer midrange. Granted, many prefer the SR17s, but it really is worth giving the 15s a shot. Might save you some dough.
Merlin TSM-MX or MM depending on the amp you intend to use.

I use VSM-MMs with a Pathos Logos amp


The Merlins, Tylers and Ellis are the standouts on your list in no particular order, IMO. I would also add the Tyler Taylo Reference Monitors for nearfield listening that only needs to go down to 50 hz (as they go down to about 46, and cost about half of the Linbrooks). The Taylos I prefer slightly to the 1801Bs for about the same price.

All three (or 4 if you include the Taylos) will get the job done. Probably the Merins and Linbrooks are the best of the lot, but the Ellis and Taylos cost about half as much for about 90-95% of the others' performance. It will pretty much come down to your own sound and music preferences, electronics used, and how much of a value seeker you are.

Good luck,

I love my regular Micro Utopias, they just disappear, are super transparent, and have surprisingly good bass. Best of all they're easy to drive, I'm using 18 watts with no problems.
Here is my 2 cents worth of input. You should always audition it first. What we hear might be different from your opinion.
I Best recommendation is ATC SCM10. Aside from being a choice of recording studio's reference speakers, it's hard to find anything else that can beat it in such a small room. Since passive is hard to match, I recommend the active version. I'm very sure it will sound better than most of the speakers you listed above. The SR17 doesn't have the dynamic and the deep explosive bass you're seeking for. The Totem is not as transparent in the lower freq. The Tyler also can't produce good bass in this samll area. The Merlin is abit "Hifi" and good for HT. Not as musical as I would like. The Utopia and Dyna-audio is lack of warm in the mids when compared to ATC, otherwise they're great sounding. If you have deep pocket, my second recommendation is the Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage. For $6000 in used market, it comes with its 200 lb stands. They're really nice sounding. A good amp is a must. They're more of work of art.
Just remember, a good stand is a must. Right listening height is critical.
The Guarneri Homage price has dropped in used market to under $5000. I guess I have not follow up the pricing.
Check out Green Mountain Audio Callisto. This is a wonderful speaker with dual bottom ports, first order cross over and 90-91 db effecient. I use mine in a 12x18x12 room. The base is adjustable for angle to tweak the listening position to your height and room. The cabinets are dead quiet, made of cast marble. Incredible sound and rated to 50hz, but I would swear they go lower.
Good luck !


I'll support Elsned's recommendation for the Green Mountain Audio Callistos. The recommended set up for these is to have the distance between the speakers equal to your listening distance. My near field listening is at 9 feet, they dissapear better than any other monitor I've owned. Sub 50hz, won't be a problem either.
Mirage MRM-1 Reference Monitors.

I ran a pair in a very small room in nearfield and loved them. They were designed to be setup in nearfield and mimic the sound of the big bipolar Mirage designs in a small package. Usable bass well below 50hz. They do need power though, 86db if memory serves.

These speakers are not for everyone though. I found them to excel at jazz and female vocals, good for classical at lower listening level (ie don't try to recreate a life-sized concert hall and you're okay), mixed bag for anything else but typically pleasing.
As good as the SR17s are, I really recommend listening to the SR15s as well. To my ears, they are much better speakers all around. Waaay more PRAT, and a clearer midrange. Granted, many prefer the SR17s, but it really is worth giving the 15s a shot.

WOW, I'll have to take a listen to those at some point as PRAT and midrange are two areas I find the SR17's excel to a tremendous degree. I'd definitely encourage you to listen to the less expensive monitors as the SR17's are currently $1200 more than the 15's and will be going up in price again soon. I do think Alan Yun makes some outstanding products. A couple of things I'd like to point out: On the SR17's at some point in their production Alan swapped out the tweeter for a superior version. I can't recall the year/serial number but I'm pretty sure they were in production for a few years before he did that so there are many used examples with the older tweeter. Also, the current production version that I have uses the most idiotic massive speaker terminals that really are a PITA if you use spades. I don't know if he is using this on all his speakers, and I'm not sure if there is some trick I'm missing to use these terminals, but if so, I have not been able to figure it out and went over to banannas.

On another note, a good friend of mine is currently having an issue with the veneer finish on his SR17's. Seems the paper thin veneer (which is quite beautiful in fact) had started to reveal the seams, and the grain is raising on them as well with some bumps forming underneath in a few spots. This is happening on all four sides of the boxes so is not likely due to any specific exposure to sunlight as one might suppose. They've always been kept in an temp-controlled environment, and well maintained. My friend has contacted Alan to see if the warranty will cover the repairs (a simple swap over of the components to new boxes). In content the warranty does cover it, but, according to my friend Alan is not stepping up to the plate on this one as of yet (he'd offered to pay for half the cost of the boxes and charge the balance of $400 to my friend + my friend would be paying shipping both ways). The warranty, on the other hand, implies complete coverage of such a problem. This does surprise me as he otherwise has a fine reputation in the community and, as I said, his products are outstanding. I'll be curious to see how the issue is resolved, especially since it was me who turned my friend on to those speakers. I've seen the speakers in question and they do indeed seem to have something gone wrong with the veneer on all four sides. In his discussions with Alan he mentioned that he was once again revamping the design of the SR17 for 2006. He'll be going to a thicker box wall (from 1" to 1.5") using the same drivers with a new (improved) crossover. The available finishes may also vary. I don't know if similar upgrades will occur with his other models as well.

S23chang said: I Best recommendation is ATC SCM10. Aside from being a choice of recording studio's reference speakers, it's hard to find anything else that can beat it in such a small room. Since passive is hard to match, I recommend the active version. I'm very sure it will sound better than most of the speakers you listed above. The SR17 doesn't have the dynamic and the deep explosive bass you're seeking for.

Am I missing something here? The ATC speaker you are recommending has a frequency cutoff range of 45hz-22khz. The SR17 is 38hz-28khz and has tight, controlled bass lower than a monitor of that size has any right to in my experience. The ATC you're recommending has an 80db efficiency rating limiting it's use to either the active model with the integral 250 watt amps (which I'd imagine have a whole lot of room for improvement), or the passive model requiring some significant amplifier muscle to drive them. Have you actually compared these two choices side-by-side? Seems like a 'unique' recommendation and I'd not heard of it till now so I'm curious about your assessment of these two choices.

Add Focus Audio FS688's to the list. Small 13"x7"x10". Gorgous woodwork. Go to an honest 45hz.

I use them in a 12x13 room and they work exceptionally well in this small space. Before and since my purchase I have listened to bookshelf and floorstander from Revel, Vienna Acoustic, Sonus Faber, Mirage, PSB, Paradigm, Reference 3A, Thiel, Meadowlark, Epos and Martin Logan.

Nothing I've heard has made me second guess my decision.

BW Maxx
Capability to Disappear I would recommend the Diapason
Adamantes either I or II.
Let me add that I would rather have a thin than thick midrange as I have a sweet Mosfet and powerful amp. Anyone can recommend out of the list above recommended which one would be better?
Tks, these are great suggestions and I will audition a short list of 2-3.
One more thing: isn't the Revelator tweeter a bit forward thus not necessarily adapted to nearfield listening? some of the models above use the Revelator and I would rather have a little more backward than forward sound.
Marco: believe me, I was just as surprised as you are! I went in to the dealer ready to love and buy the SR17s. I heard the SR17s, and the dealer said 'wait one sec'. He put the SR15s up, same room, electronics, etc, and they really were markedly better in every area. The SR17s just sounded a little muddy in comparison.

This is really subjective, and I'm sure others disagree. Just my opinion.

Also, you're absolutely right to be mentioning production cycles. Alan Yun changes things in significant ways, and sometimes it's impossible to tell what's what unless you ask him.
Beheme, I can say that with respect to the Revelator in the Taylos, while it can be swapped out for a SEAS Millenium at no extra charge by Tyler... I have not found the Taylos in Revelator form to be forward at all...

I would rather have a little more backward than forward sound.

I wouldn't call them "mini" monitors, but if you like a laid-back sound I might suggest listening to the Harbeth line. I've listened to a friend's Harbeth Compact 7's at length and they are very nice indeed, but in fact a bit too laid back for my taste. I was not using them near-field so could not comment there. He loves'em and I can see the appeal if you are into that kind of sound. I'd say the SR17's I prefer would be somewhere in between, but definitely not a 'forward' sounding speaker that puts the performance out front. They use the Dynaudio Esotec drivers (both woof and tweet). They definitely do a disappearing act like nobody's business. I wouldn't call the midrange "thin" so perhaps, again, not the right recommendation for you. Take a listen to the Harbeth's if you have the opportunity.

Thin midrange with recessed tweeter. Sorry the FS688's arn't what you are looking for :)

The terms thin and thick, of course, mean different things to different people. When I think of thin I think threadbare with a lack of harmonics and overtones. Thick I think bloated, slow and congested. The FA's midrange is far from either.

As Drseid mentioned the Revelator is definitly not forward IMO. Sweet liquid and extended. No harshness or grain. I could see how someone might think it too prominent. At first I thought it too prominent as it extends to ribbon territory and has fantastic detail. After getting use to the new extension and detail almost everything sounds "thin" and rolled off.

Seriously though we all hear different and have different tastes so I doubt if the FS688's would be your cup of tea. Fact is most of the speakers on your list may be too "Forward" for your taste. The Esotar, Morel and Hiquphon used in the Dynaudio, Merlin and Ellis are anything but recessed, rolled off, backward or what ever similar term you want to apply.

I noticed the Tyler linbrooks on your list. With the size of your room and the nearfield listening not sure if the 3 driver Linbrooks would be what you are looking for. You may want to look at the Taylor monitors and have the Seas Millennium substituted for the Revelator. Same midbass as the Linnbrook but in a two way at a substantially cheaper price.

Good luck in your search.

Bw Maxx
I have auditioned the Focus 788's and the new smaller 68SE's. While they can sound musical, I found the smaller ones slightly lacking in low-level detail retreval as compared to my 97 db efficient ribbon-tweeter speaker (I suspect due to the lower efficiency and second-order crossover). Morever, I do not feel the Focus lineup will work with SET- they need more power IMO.

HOWEVER, I DID enjoy he 788's VERY much in a BIGGER room, and at higher volumes- once cranked a bit, the sound very good (and that was with a 25-watt Air Tight ATM-4 believe it or not), and that was an INCREDIBLY musical combo- I could live with it actually.

I find this thread interesting though, as I am moving next week, and looking for a pair of speakers for a second bedroom system with the EXACT same room size- except I want high efficiency for an SET amp...
Marco, I've compared them SR17 with many. The spec and actual don't match. The SR17 doesn't go as deep as the ATCs. I have the passive SCM10s driven with 60 Watt/ch tube amp ( the tube amp sound better than 5 high power SS amps I've tried.) and my friend bought the Silverline so we can compared. He dumped the silverline after 2 weeks. It was very disappointing. We had high hope on the SR17 since many folks give such a high mark. From the spec, they should be very easy to drive and match well with most of the amps. They just sound thiner than what we would like. Also, the lower frequency is just not there. Lack of clarity and no punch. You would wonder where is the bass as it claims 38 Hz vs 55 Hz of ATC. Again, these are just our opinions so you can choose whatever you prefer.
Beheme, I think neutrual sounding mid is the best : )
Most of monitors has good sweet spot for mid. Some just sound less weight than the other. As far as tweeter choice goes, I think the crossover design in these speakers is probably more critical than the tweeter themselves. However, if I have to choose, I'll probably go with silk dome type or ribbon type for the small monitor speakers. They're more easy on my ears.

Any correlation between sensitivity and tonal balance? over the years, I found most high sensitivity speakers I listened to to be rather "thin" but again they were mostly French: JM Lab, Triangle, Cabasse...and other in the 86-89 db to be thicker Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, Audio Physics, Opera...is there any correlation? should I continue my search toward higher sensitivity (92-94db) monitors then...and go silk / ribbon tweeter? Any recommendation that would meet both?
No correlation between sensitivity and tonal balance.
It has to do with crossover design again.
I'm using 94db large coxial speakers on my second system and they sound very full.
My friend using 100+ db JBL and Altec horns and they sound just fine too.
It really depends on room accoustics and size limitations to determine what's the right speakers for you.
If you insist on getting high efficiency speakers ( 92db + ) then you can look into something like Reference 3A MM DeCapo.
Due to the physical space and tonal balance of the speakers, I would generally choose the speakers first and then find the right amp to match. This makes things easier.
From the spec, they should be very easy to drive and match well with most of the amps. They just sound thiner than what we would like. Also, the lower frequency is just not there. Lack of clarity and no punch. You would wonder where is the bass as it claims 38 Hz vs 55 Hz of ATC. Again, these are just our opinions so you can choose whatever you prefer.

Needless to say, this has not been my experience at all with the SR17's and I've owned two different pairs (one of the earlier models, and currently a recent one). Nothing in your description of them resembles my impressions of them so I imagine it may be a matter of synergy. Either that, or your friend did not allow them to break in long enough as, by all accounts, they do have a long break-in period. I've used them with about five different amps, both tubes and SS. I did experience some lack of low end using the Pass Labs Aleph 5 with them, but I do think that was a drawback of that particular amp. My favorites have seemed to bring more muscle to the task: Mesa Baron and currently a Portal Panache. In spite of having heard more than once that the SR17's are voiced for tubes, I have not found that I like them as much with the lower powered tube amps I've tried them with, but they were still great performers here...just better with more power behind them IMO. Those amps were Quicksilver Mini-Mites, Quicksilver EL34 Triode Prototypes, and a revamped Scott 299C (going from 35W to 17W respectively). I'm pretty sure I've read all the online reviews and comments on Internet forums on these monitors and absolutely none reflect the same experience you and your friend had, so I'd have to guess something was amiss there. Regardless, I'll definitely look to check out those ATC's sometime...sounds like a worthy candidate!

In terms of amps and Silverline speakers: I'm getting great results from using a hybrid intergrated with a tubed pre and SS amp. Silverline does 'like tubes', but it also benefits from amps that control the bass well. Not that these two things are always mutually exclusive, of course...
The SR17 we tested was used 2nd version. I agree with you Marco that low power tube amp doesn't make the SR17 sing. It will make the SR17 sound sleepy. We've used the good old Mac MC240 (55 Watt/ch) as the based amp for both speakers during the test.
For vocals and strings instrument, the SR17 handles good. When you play R&B with faster rhythm, the SR17 is slightly sluggish compared to SCM10. The bass is not as snappy clean and less seperation between the instruments. SR17 does have sharper highs but not as smooth as I would like.
It is not as "hifi" sound as the Dynaudio's I've heard.
We prefer a little warmer tone of ATC. It sounds more natural to our ears. It does out perform Platnum Solo Reference that another friend used own. That speaker is just so hard to match that we gave up in the end. Compared the SR17 to the vintage rogers 15 Ohm LS3/5A, it has better extension on top and bottom but the mids on Rogers just more seductive to our ears like the SCM10. However, one of the biggest problem with Rogers is lack dynamic handling capability. Most of Rogers owner only listen to easy going music then it is great. Perhaps the SR17 is more suitable for same type of music as Rogers LS3/5A.
Reference 3A DeCapo
The SR17 is in the third generation, which has absolutely nothing to do with the older generations. 2nd gen SR17s shouldn't be used as a point of comparison.
Thanks to all and also to those who sent me e-mails with thier opinions and sometimes offer. I will continue to enjoy suggestions but am leaning toward either the SR17, TSM-MX, Callisto or possibly a custom Taylo Ref by Tyler. Funny that we are somehow leaving the big "commercial" brands behind......
Do they have to be monitors? What about smaller floorstanding speakers or monitor-like speakers with an integrated stand. One of the best sounding smaller speaker I heard was the Gryphon Cantata (integrated stand), but it is quite pricey.

Small, floorstanding speakers that I like include the Gradient Revolution and DeVore Super 8. I also liked the Eggelston Andra (I think that was the model) I heard in a nearfield demonstration. It is somewhat compact, but quite heavy and pricey.

Most monitor-sized speakers don't really do it for me. They are not able to present classical orchestral and choral music with the proper scale and weight.
Actually, i like floorstanders when they behave like monitors with more "balls". Your suggestions are quite interesting, especially the DeVore Super 8. Tough for me to audition though.
I have never heard a speaker disappear like a Sehring, and I have heard almost all the above. The Sehring 700 monitor is absolutely stunning in transparency and imaging and totally disappears. They go to about 45 or 50hz......only drawback is the import arrangement, it is done totally half-assed, unless things have changed.
In general my experience has been the floor standers can certainly bring more authority to the music, more often than not bringing the bass down lower and, of course, moving more air in the room. Where I feel that monitors excel is in creating the width and breadth of soundstage, as well as in their disappearing act and imaging. Don't get me wrong, floorstanders can do all that too, and pretty darn well. But I'd say, at a given pricepoint, the monitor will excel those specific areas, especially the later two (again, as a broad generalization). I'd have to agree with Larryi that monitors do not necessarily lend much authority to a convincing full-on orchestral piece. But they do render the more simple acoustic and vocal pieces in very satisfying ways! It just depends upon what you are after, and what programming you listen to most of the time.


I really enjoy my B&W Nautilus805 Signatures.
GMA Callistos. Awesome. The best sounding monitor I have ever heard. They dissapear and cast a huge soundstage even at low volume and at near field listening.
Genelec active 8030's are $1,100/pr go into the 30's. Huge, dynamic, tight bass for such little speakers - in line with Dynaudio BM-7's ($1,650.00). We like the Genelec's better. Active so amps are built into speakers. Just need CDP with volume.
Before spending big $$ for audiophile stuff, try these pro audio nearfield monitors.