You have to give a listen to the Sonus Faber Grand Pianos. They absolutely disappear and hit all of your requirements except price. They are actully less than you are looking to spend. If you are looking to buy used, you should listen to the more expensive speakers they make as well. They are phenominal.
Hi Kasboot. Your desription sounds like my Meadowlark Heron i speakers. They are 90.5db, go down to 25hz, sweet and warm. And they disappear. In fact, they are just amazing. They do everything with such ease, filling up my room with music. They even allow for room tuning, to suit the size of your room. They retail for $5000. If you would like to email me, I would be willing to share more info.
Look at the VMPS FF-3 Special Ribbon Edition (biamp only). They list for $8000 with the $900 Active crossover, but contact me for price. The level of hardware & construction quality are more inline with $25,000. the ribbon midrange was described by Tony Cordesman in Audio as a "new reference". The fanaticism in the active crossover is unknown by the competition. Hope you realize the level of final sound is dependant on many things besides the speakers. Cheers, & have fun searching.
If you really want the Hales T8 and are willing to buy used, you should have no problem finding a pair in your price range. With Hales closing shop, the prices are better than ever.
Given your specifications, you should add the Coincident Technology Super Eclipse to your "short list" for auditions. Go the Coincident's Web page for more info:http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/eclipse.htm
The virgo is one to check too. I think it only goes to 31khz, but it is very controlled. Sensitivity is around 89 (?) range. They pull off a great disappearing act. They must be out in the room to do it though.
During the last year, I have owned both Coincident Super Eclipses (listed at $5500 although Israel Blume will sell them to you directly for $4500 post paid) and the new Silverline Sonatas (at $6000 a pair). I think that they are both great speakers, but I kept the Sonatas. The latter had a more refined quality, better soundstaging, and a more controllable bass. However, I don't think that you could go wrong with either.
If you look past your list, look no further than the Dunlavy IV-A. They are everything you want and more. They do sonically disappear but visually..they are big.
Go for the Super Eclipse.
Maybe I'm the new kid without being in the know (I haven't gotten to listen to most of the previous speakers recommended, but nonetheless here is my 2 cents: Kef Reference Four Model Two. They meet all of your criteria, and are gorgeous. I wish I had the extra 2 grand to purchase them when I bought my SL-3's (which I adore). A local dealer played the "dark side of the moon" and I was hooked, it was like a religious experience. I didn't know "traditional" speakers could sound that good.
Within your budget and specifications there are but two contenders: the silverline Sonata and the Coincident Super Eclipse. I am less familiar with the second. I heartily recommedn the Sonata. You cannot go wrong either way, but get good, clean amplification and the best front end you can afford, and make sure you have a good room, since these are revealing speakers !
I recently auditioned the Silverline Sonata's (just because they were there) but was not in the market for a speaker in their price range. I actually thought (at the time) that they retailed for $3500.00, so I was not influenced by their real world $5000.00 (if this is accurate, I picked it up at another review site) price tag. Neither the accompanying equipment or their set up was ideal, but nonetheless they were a very impressive set of speakers and well worth an audition in your price range IMO. I am by no means an expert on contemporary high end speakers but even given the limitations of the audition would compare them with older Quad ESL's, Magnapans, etc., for their detail and musicality, plus they had a very impressive low end that I am sure would have been even more impressive under more ideal listening conditions. I find it odd to audition speakers in a room full of other speakers that suck and deaden the music from the test speakers, but this is usually the case in most hifi shops. I originally went to this shop to audition the less expensive Coincident speaker line but did not listen to the high end model listed above. The dealer no longer carried the line and just had a few demo models left in stock. They (the Sonata's) were originally hooked up to an expensive Denon HT receiver and sounded just so so. We switched them to an Audio Research D120 tube amp and an AR tube preamp and that is when the music started. The combo did not sound very tube like, but did sound good.
Dekay, your comparison with Quads and Maggies is interesting. How did the Sonatas sound in terms of transparency, imaging and soundstage? I admit that I'm hooked on transparency and detail but my electrostatics compromise the low end, which bothers me once in a while.
I should have mentioned that when comparing the Super Eclipses (which come without a grill), you should remove the grills from the Sonatas. They sound much better that way!
Hi Jim: I should have said in the "same league as" in regard to sound reproduction, as the Quads sound different from the Magnapans. The Sonata's had a great deal of detail and a very wide and deep sound stage. They were less bright than Magnapans, but without loss of detail (kind of like the Quads in this respect). They were more dynamic than either of the planers (a plus IMO), had a full and very well integrated low end (in this room) and a rather large "good" listening area (like the Magnapans). They were quickly set up which I am sure negatively affected the imaging and transparency, so I cannot form an opinion on those qualities. All three speakers really sound entirely different, but they all just have that "wow" factor, IMO, if you know what I mean. They were very fast and detailed but at the same time very musical, not harsh at all. They are probably good for the long haul. I guess a better way to say it is that the music got my attention, not the speakers.
Thanks, Dekay. I'm going to check these out for future reference. I've got my CLS's in a good place right now (both physical position and upstream equipment) but am pterry sure that I'm going to give in to a real full range speaker someday. I just don't want to lose what I get from my esl's to get low end extension. Right now the big SoundLabs are at the top of my short list but I'm starting to open up to the possibility of dynamic speakers. I've heard a few that I can live with but none have had the detail, transparency and openess that I've experienced with ribbons and, especially esl's. Thanks again.
Anybody own or heard the new ML Ascents? If that is what they are called - the model under the Prodigy's.
More on the Sonatas: the speakers are extremely coherent from top to bottom, in my room the bass doesn't really roll-off much until below 30 Hz, and still remains very very tight and accurate. The midrange is simply astounding, the softcone midrange driver (which is set with a higher cross-over slope than the other components) makes voices and instruments such as pianos well delineated and clear. The speaker is very dynamic but can be easily driven by low power tube amps --though I would recommend 25-40 wpc real power minumum. However it also works well with good solid state amps. It is a matter of opinion, the tubes will make it sound sweeter primarily due to the looser midbass, and it will be drier and ore accurate with a top solid state amp. With the later the speakers become less tolerant of low quality recordings or front end: they will sound heavenly with the best recordings but will reveal the dryness or harshness particularly in poor CD material. For instance on MA Recordings "Sera una noche" which is a compilation of revisited Argentine Tangos with non-traditional instruments, you can hear well into the recording and the acoustic signature of the monastery it was recorded in, and all instruments are tonally accurate and very well delineated. In Rebecca Pidgeon's unbelievable "The Raven" CD both the voice and the piano are very lifelike. You can almost hear the recording as it was being made. The speakers are also good at reproducing the lower noise floor of the new formats such as 24/96 --I've tried them with many Chesky 24/96 recordings (Livingston Taylor, Sarah K) and Classic remasters and they sound simply gorgeous. One thing which is very critical with these speakers (as with almost any good speaker) are room acoustics. To get the most out of them you definitely need a room that will allow good bass reproduction, and add treatment to minimize mid and hi frequency reflections which will otherwise color the sound. The speaker's distortion is so low that any of these artifacts, whether in the source material, the upstream components, or the room, will be sorely evident. If you are a perfectionist on a budget then these speakers are for you. If you want to cover other defects with your speakers then they are not !
Besides the "usual suspects" among which I think you definitely should audition Vandersteen 3A and 3A Signature, there is a not-that-well-known speaker from Canada called Gershman RX-20 Avant Garde. These, like the Vandy's, and IMO unlike the Silverline Sonata, do go down to 25hz with a power and authority which is almost never heard in this speaker price range. Gershman's give a great soundstage effect both from side to side and front to back, have great imaging and a pure clean midrange that some have described as almost electrostatic. These speakers have been winning best-in-show awards at recent hifi expositions. On the complaint side, some have said they are too laid back in the high end. Nevertheless, they are smooth in the high frequencies, if not overly prominent. They are never harsh or strident. You may need to consider cabling which favors the high end slightly, depending on your taste. Because of the bass, they require careful set up and a room which is not tiny in order to avoid bass bloat. You will probably have to locate them away from the wall by two feet or more. These speakers are definitely warmer sounding than either the Sonatas or the Coincident Super Conquest/Super Eclipse. This is not to disparage the performance of Silverline or Coincident, but just to get you to look at all your alternatives in order that you may decide according to your personal taste. They are slightly less than 40 inches high, have a small footprint and have an exceptional beautiful finish which comes in a lacquered high gloss black or burgundy, among others. Cost is $4400-$4800 list, depending on finish. They are difficult to find, but definitely worth an audition.
I looked again at your requirements. Efficiency of the Gershman Avant Garde's could be a problem. I believe they are only rated at 86db/w/m. Although 100 watts is more than enough in an average sized room, I would recommend a high current solid state amp in order to get the most out of them, including that glorious bass response.
Hi Pops, Haven't heard the Ascents yet, but they are heavily based on Prodigy design. I stay in touch with the guys at Martin Logan and even they debate whether this is better than the SL3. Comes down to personal taste, like most things. Dealers I've spoken to (in the LA area) all seem to say that it's a better speaker. It depends on what your huckleberry is. If you like ML hybrids I would have to make an educated guess that this is a good sounding speaker. Dealers claim that the crossover between the panel and woofer is better extecuted. I like the SL3's OK (as the hybrids go) and don't think that the Acsent is a huge difference. I did have an overzelous dealer tell me that it was "80% of the Prodigy". Hardly likely, I think. But worth a listen -- I'm going to check it out soon just to keep up with what ML is doing firsthand.
Thanks Jim, I'm hot and cold on Logans. I listened to some Aerius the other day with all Classe electronics and the sound is so open it's got to be addictive but I worry about bass response and maybe too much detail for older CD recordings.