Which Monitor Speakers to Consider


Hello everyone, I’m finally going to demo some speakers to start my stereo/HT system build. It’s not like going to Best Buy for sure, and I feeling very excited but more anxious as I hope to be able to give useful feedback during the audition. I’ve finally narrowed it down to monitor speakers and perhaps adding a center and using my current Kef subwoofer if bass is needed. My question is given a budget of 10K and perhaps stretching it to 15K, which monitors would you suggest. I enjoy a variety of music from Jazz to blues, rock, indie, R&B and some classical not the grand stuff, just the Yo Yo Ma Bach variety. Based on reviews and local availability I’m leaning towards the SF Evolution, Kef R1, Focal Sopra1, Dali Epicon 2, Dynaudio C1, Wilson Benesch Vertex. As a side note, I need the speakers to have a certain aesthetics so the Harbeths, Nola and Wilson Audio are not contenders. Many thanks.
86047d59 2948 4611 9835 276966e4ba16redphu72
Monitor Audio for mainstream answers. Fritz for the adventurous. :)

One thing to consider is also your normal listening levels. Background music? Live levels? Movies?

Make sure you pay attention to the speakers you listen to at the right volumes. Dynaudio for instance, is terribly not neutral, but play well down to very low volumes. 

Best,

E
Also, not sure if they are too expensive, Wilson Benesch are speakers I'm very curious about but have not heard.
The only piece of (obvious) advice I can give is with an investment that size, I would not buy anything before hearing them in my own listening space and with my own partnering gear.
We sell both the Dali and Kef lines as well as many others ATC, PSB, Paradigm, Legacy, and a few others.


It sounds like you have to have a really pretty pair of speakers as well as good sounding ones. 

A few things to consider in helping you narrow down your choices:

1: Room Size
2: Efficiency of the loudspeakers
3: Matching center channel 
4: Does the company make less expensive lower line products that can work for center channels or backs.
5: Sound quality does the speakers sound musical and will do both jobs well ie Music and Theater

Personally we recommend on moving to a floor stander whenever possible as the added bass will increase the sound quality greatly also as the bass goes lower, it is easier to get that speaker to blend with a sub.

Out of the lines you mentioned KEF is really the best product to do both Theater duties and music duties. Here is why:

The Kef Reference One is the only speaker you have mentioned which use a point source and qusi horn loading; This is advantagous for a number or reasons: 

1: Broad off access dispersion which means where ever you sit you can hear al the information

2: The point source design makes for a very coherent sound

3: The speakers play very loud  a  pair of Ref 1 are rated to produce 111 db output

4: They are a true three way design with low bass down to 45hz which will make them easier to blend with a sub and considering you have a Kef sub easy.

You can also use an R series Center channel to save money until you can move to a Referene one, which is what we did in our theater which uses Reference 3.

The Dali Epicons are wonderful speakers but are not as well suited for the Home Theater thing, they don't play as loud and the lower priced Rubicon center is not as good a match as the Rubicon center uses the hybrid tweeter array. The Dalis are fantastic for music, if you want to blow your budget and can fit a pair of floorstanders we have a demo pair of Epicon 8 selling cheap to make room for some new additions. 

Wilson Benesch is a two channel company I don't even think they make center channels. Dynaudio makes good speakers but they are not as ideally suited for home theater as the KEF's are. 

Focal Sopra 1 are great monitors the only issue is their Beryilium tweeter may show up defficiencie of your gear unless you are willing to invest considerably in the best home theater processor and amp you may find them a bit too detailed for regular TV and Movie watching.

To show you we practice what we preach here is one of our theater which uses KEF loudspeakers:

Here is the movie theater we built for Rev Run of Rev Runs Rennovation
and featured on TV:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/58319891@N08/albums/72157650233548529

Here are the construction shots note KEF THX in walls with JL Audio Subs:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/58319891@N08/albums/72157650239108910

If you watch our store video you will see our KEF Reference Theater:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NPIn3pEmI4

If we can be of assistance to you please feel free to contact us:

Audio Doctor NJ

I haven't heard these but may be worth exploring, Dynaudio Special 40.
I'm considering a new monitor or even going back to a medium sized floorstander for the same reasons @audiotroy stated. There's a high end dealer in my area and I've been to his place many a time and he's always been a Dali dealer, among other brands, and every single time I've been there and heard a Dali, it was always very musical. Musical to the point where critical examination went to the wayside. He's been to my place a few times and always told me that Dali would work in my room.

I think I may have talked myself into looking at Dali. 🤔
Make sure to listen before you buy!

All the best,
Nonoise
Thanks everyone for your input esp auditroy for the detailed breakdown; you've made some great points.  I'd like to here from those who have had a chance to listen to Kef vs SF.  Is it worth the difference in cost. 
The KEF reference stuff I feel is heavily into the analytical and detailed camp.  Very fast speaker. Still musical but if you play sub par recordings you are gonna know it. Tonally spot on and good impact. I like them very much. 
I haven't heard the Evolution but every Sonus Faber I have heard is definitely on the warm side and not at all in the top tier when it comes to dynamics and speed. Slightly Romantic may be a good descriptor. Not crazy about them but I would think they may be perfect for the right person. Again I could be way off base since I have not heard the Evolution. 
Spending that kind of money for a monitor you definitely need to demo. I would think the person who really likes what the KEF does would not think too much of the Sonus Faber and vice versa. 
+1 mofojo - great description and accurate too
@mofojo & shadorne 

exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks guys. 
As a KEF dealer I couldn't have said it better. I will point out that the KEF with the right gear are really fantastic and don't sound as analytical as people think. 

If you hear KEF REF Ones on a Naim system boy will you be amazed. They do like warmer electronics. 

Dave owner
Audio Doctor NJ
Does not appear that anyone asked what your front end (amp/pre/etc) is going to be in this setup?  Important info that would really impact what speakers would/could be a good option for you.

Also, is this going to be a true dual system (2 channel and HT together)?  I know you mentioned that you may add a center channel at some point, but if this is not something that's a priority to you, and you are ok with running 2 fronts and sub, that would also open up quite a few different options. (Alta Audio Celesta FRM-2's for example which are some of the best monitors on the market currently).

Taylor
Goldprint Audio
The HARBETH Monitor 40.2 is an excellent speaker with outstanding sound quality.  Unfortunately, it was too large for my living room and I so purchased the PMC Twenty5.26 speakers that are also excellent. 

I suggest you audition the HARBETH Mobitur 40.2 speaker including stands. 
Thanks everyone. I settled on a pair of Sonus Faber Evolution and and Amati Center.  Now I needs me some good amplification.  
My plan is for a 5.1 system and I’m looking at a good AV pre/pro but first priority is amplification as I have an older Yamaha AVR v3900 that Incan use for now. I’d love to hear suggestions for the best outcome for HT and 2 channel stereo in terms of choosing amp configuration monos vs 2 with a multichannel for surround. Here are some suggestions I’ve received:

parasound monos and parasound 3channel

Krell 403 

McIntosh MC303-too warm/dark for SF?

BHK 250

For Pre/pro or AVR 

arcam 850 or 860
Marantz
krell Foundation. 


redphu72

congrats on the speakers, one of our clients also purchased the new Sonus Faber speakers so these new ones must be pretty darn good.

With that being said Sonus Fabers are in the warm camp. so therefore you need to tread lightly on the electronics selection unless you build a system which will sound less exciting for theater use.

We are dealers for Parasound, Arcam, and Marantz and you can do a bit better.  

The Marantz pre pro was not as good as the less expensive Anthem AVM 60 we had both. The Arcam is good, there is a sister to Arcam which is Audio Control. Both are built in the same factory, which is Audio Controls. The Audio Control products use generally better dac chips and a larger power supply. Audio Control is a custom installer product while Arcam is a consumer product.

Take for example the Maestro M9 prepro vs the Arcam the Audio Control processor weighs 40lbs while the Arcam version weighs 22lbs this is due to the Maestros superior power supply.

The Sound quality is exceptional warm, detailed, huge soundstage and great for music. The Audio Control processor sounded better than the AVM 60 as well as the Statement D2V3d. 

As per amps the Pararsound amps are great for the dollar but lack the resolution of the better class of amps. 

If you want a real shocker recommendation for amplifier look at the Nuprime St 150 killer amp 150 watts per side, and cheap at $1595 each you could purchase multiple of these amps and they have a shockingly good bass control and excellent dynamics. 

We are going to be testing the new Starke Sound amplifier which our reports state is one hell of a multi channel amplifier but it is big and heavy but boy does it seem like one hell of a deal for $8k

We also have a demo Plinius Odeon which is the best sounding multi channel amplifier we have ever demoed with. It is smooth silky and very dynamic but at $18k I think Plinius didin't sell many of them and hence discontinued them. 

Please feel free to PM us if you would like to continue the conversation.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
The single most important consideration when deciding on which high end speaker to buy is the room they will be in. You can spend many thousands of dollars on some wonderful speakers and then station them in a poor listening environment and be completely dissatisfied. Different speakers sound much different in different rooms and there simply is no getting around that. A soft room with a minimal amount of reflective interference is something to strive toward before you even audition any speakers in said room. I have fought this reality for many years and making a listening room the best it can be always seem to come up short where the female or wife factor plays into the equation. Money spent on loud speakers is wasted if the sound studio is not properly treated and very few of us have the ability to make a room in our homes into a worthy sound studio. I enjoy rather high SPLs when I listen yet my room where I am most comfortable is not conducive to loud music and my wife refuses to allow me to make it into a cave designed for listening. The best speakers in this world can't overcome a poorly designed room so spend your money wisely.
Have had my Graham Audio LS 5/9 for a few months now, must say these are wonderful speakers, you can listen for hours without fatigue, but still get lost and lots of detail, I even think they look good without the grills on, mine are the rosewood ones.
I was also looking at a lot of the speakers you are mentioning, but somehow found the Graham’s, a company I did not know much about.
On their website you will find many European reviews of the 5/9.
Curiously I heard the Harbeth 30.1 before the Graham’s, and really wanted to like the 30.1, but somehow they never really worked for me.
Not a new option but one that was well reviewed and I have a favor for even now. Usher BE-718.


Thanks for the suggestions. I have my speakers coming this week.  Picked out SF evolution and Amati center:vox
+1 for the Wilson-Benesch Vertex loudspeakers.  Incredible at any volume.  They are easy to live with.  Striking visually as well.  Yes they are revealing of everything upstream.
Happy hunting
redphu72
Congratulation with your new speakers and happy listening.
erik_squires, please clarify statement "Fritz for the adventurous". Curious what you meant by that.
Ref 3A de Capo  very detailed great sound dynamic at low levels  good with a variety of music.  The older i model is wood and looks better than the newer version
Agreed with the the Decapo choice if your preference includes "lively", dynamic, detailed sound with this wonderful ability to convey the musical message, at least to my ears. Rock, Classical, jazz, vocals, small or large scale doesn’t matter just enjoy the music! Yeah there is always better, but this one is a worthy candidate in the 3k price range. A true classic even with the BE tweeter, guaranteed, your ears WILL NOT bleed.

P.S. This is well under you budget but for sure you might be surprised how good they are. If you insist on maintaining that budget I would SERIOUSLY consider the Ref. 3a Reflector monitors at 12K, haven’t heard but there are a few rave reviews. Plenty of choices in your price range for sure, good luck!