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Another thought exercise

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To me, $2,000 to $3,000 (US $) is the sweet spot for speakers. I agree with those who think speakers make the biggest difference and are where most of your money should go. I also, however, understand that many of my own personal favorites in this price range present problems re: amplification and source, especially amplification.


My own personal favorites in this price range are as follows:


Martin-Logan ElectroMotion ESL,

Magnepan 1.7i,

Anthony Gallo Strada 2 (needs a sub, TR-3d and stands will bring you to $3500),

Vandersteen Signature 2Ce,

Ohm Walsh 2000 (I'm cheating a little hear, I've never heard the current iteration, but the predecessor impressed the heck out of me).


My thoughts on these are as follows. The Logans are easiest to drive (I know, I know, electrostatics?) If someone wanted to know a speaker they could live with for a long time and not spend a ton on amplification, this is the speaker I would recommend. They are also not nearly as beamy as other electrostats (e.g. my own Acoustat Model 3s). I know this is computer AUDIOPHILE, but seriously, you could build a listenable system around these and a decent AVR.


At the other end of the spectrum are the Gallos. I heard these once and what they did well was intoxicating. Unfortunately, they fell down with male vocals, which I have to believe is an issue with appropriately crossing them over to the sub and amplification. I've been told by people who should know that with appropriate amplification and attention to subwoofer integration, these speakers can really shine, being true reference speakers. I would really like to hear them in that setup. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if you could get them setup with moderately priced electronics to come even close to shining, so you could not put them in a moderately priced system with short term satisfaction and an upgrade path in mind.


The Ohms and Maggies fall in the middle. You'd need to spend a bit more on amplification up front, but I think once having done that, upgrade itching would be minimal, other than maybe a sub for the Maggies.


So the thought experiment is this. Is it better to start with the best speaker but know you're going to have an upgrade vision in mind for source and amp, or is it better to start with a speaker in the same price range that you can be happy with moderately priced electronics for a long time, maybe the life of the system?


What are your favorite speakers in this price range that need good electronics to shine? What are your favorites that will do well with moderately priced (maybe even commodity level) electronics?

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Well - even the very best electronics won't make much difference if your using them to drive speakers incapable of showing their differences - for example, an $80 pair of Dayton speakers, or a $600 pair of Bose speakers.


However, a good set of speakers will highlight all the good things about the amps driving them. Might also show the deficiencies, but it depends a great deal on how loud you play the speakers, etc.


Speakers are generally a long term investment, while amps change about as rapidly as a teenager's mood.


So my logic would be to get speakers you are really truly happy with, even if you have to skimp on the electronics.


Given that, I love the Magnepan 1.7 series, if you have room for them. Following that chain down to the $600 Maggies is also a good choice.

LS3/5's or products based upon them are my next favorites. (I really like air suspension speakers better than ported ones, but that is a personal choice.)

The PSB Speaker lines, especially the Imagines and above, are specular.

I like Martin Logans too, as well as a dozen or so other brands. :)


I stay away from Dynaudio - they are great speakers, I just do not particularly care for their sound. But that is *probably* because I have a 58z hearing loss, and they may be particularly strong /weak in that frequency range and it's harmonics.




Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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What are your favorite speakers in this price range that need good electronics to shine? What are your favorites that will do well with moderately priced (maybe even commodity level) electronics?

Speaking as the happy original owner of a pair of 15 ohm Rogers LS3/5as from late 1975, I'd underline Paul's enthusiasm for both the original (which is still available in "improved" form from several sources) and the evolutions with larger drivers. I've driven mine to enjoyable sound with everything from fine tube amps (e.g. HK CItation 2, Marantz 8b, McIntosh MC275, Prima Luna Prologue 5) to generic $150 sound reinforcement amps (e.g. Stewart pancake amp, Alesis RA100) and a lot of in-betweeners like a Yamaha B-1, a Hafler 500, and a Crown DC150. My son has a pair of Spendor clones he bought new in about 2002 that he drives with a Krell amp. It's amazing how versatile the original BBC design is.


Maggies are wonderful, but I've found them to be more amp-dependent than the BBC monitor family. The LS clones will reveal more of the character of electronics than almost any other speaker, but they seem to make the most of the signal they're fed - and they don't demand huge power to sound really fine from the noise floor to their maximum comfortable loudness level. The few times I've heard Maggies powered by marginal amps, they did not blossom fully.


Focal makes some excellent floor standers in the $2k to $3k/pair range. They sound great with a variety of electronics, but I've never heard any of them with what you term "commodity level" power. Sonus Faber has a very nice pair of stand-mounted speakers in that range that seem in my limited exposure to be kind to electronics. I agree with PSB too - they're all very nice and great value. One speaker I haven't heard but that I expect is also amp-friendly from the reviews is the Triton line. They make various size and price levels, but every review I've seen was strongly positive.

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The Vandys aren't difficult to drive (about 6 ohms minimum impedance). But they do sound best with around 100wpc at least IMO.


They are also easily good enough to show off a very expensive system behind them. I never felt any desire to upgrade my 2ces until I bought a Spectral amp to go with my Spectral pre-amp. For a quarter century before that, I did not feel they were the limiting factor on a pretty decent system (the aforementioned Spectral pre-amp, Theta DAC... ).

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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In my opinion, the most noticeable quality of a loudspeaker is it's "tonal balance".

I like the frequency response at the listening spot to be flat, with a gentle downward tilt from LH to HF, a mild BBC dip in the "presence" region and rolling-off mildly above 16-18KHz; floor-bounce control is very important to preserve that all-important "warmth" and polar dispersion should be evenly balanced for controlled in-room response.

The next thing I look for is absence of midrange "coloration" and also for "clarity" in this range.

Sealed cabinets produce better transient response which translates into "crisper" lower frequencies but they are as rare as hen's teeth...

Driver behaviour is very important; cone and dome resonances can produce very unpleasant "colorations".

I prefer cones to panels and 3 or more ways for greater dynamic abilities, wider low frequency extension and reduced intermodulation distortion.


My current speakers are a pair of PSB Imagine T2.

Tonally I find them quite even with a balance veering on the "warmish" side (to suit my taste), while the midrange sounds "clear" and devoid of any noticeable character.

On the other hand, the treble is a bit exagerated and unnaturally "sparkly", perhaps due to the use of a metal-domed tweeter; I have always had a parti-pris against metal-domes (and cones), perhaps unfairly or unfunded for lack of extensive experience...

I also think that they are dynamically challenged, even at civilized listening levels (loud passages in orchestral music); whether this is due to intermodulation, harmonic or other kind of distortion, I cannot tell.

Having experimented with the port plugs, I have chosen to plug all ports to achieve a "crisper bass" although I feel that this constrains the dynamics somewhat.

Despite this, I am quite happy with my purchase and have been recommending an audition to prospective buyers; they perform better than most of the competition and I am being very demanding in my assessment.


I am a big fan of the BBC lineage of speakers (I owned a pair of Spendor Sp9/1s), though not of the LS3/5a which in fairness were not designed to reproduce music but to monitor speech inside mobile-studios (vans).


I have retirement plans to design my own speakers.



"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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so-called entry level audio is where it's at these day. I wanted the transparency and imaging of panels with the dynamics of box speakers. Went with Spatial Audio M2 Turbos which are an open baffle design with high efficiency drivers. I'm using a single ended tube amp hand built by Dennis Had (founder of Cary audio), who builds these basically as a hobby in retirement and sells them on ebay, that puts out maybe 10 watts.

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Speakers make the biggest difference. I would get the speaker you like best in your price range. That is obviously most likely to lead to long term satisfaction. If you need to make upgrades to amp you can always do that later over time.


Obviously anything can be too extreme. At one time not so many amps would play the early Apogee ribbons well. There was no great alternative that was cheap on the amp side. So in that case, you might know up front you would never pay as much as required for the amp needed. Which would mean you would never get most of what the speaker could offer. So it would be a bad choice in a speaker.


I am thinking you get better bang for buck with powered speakers like some of the Focal pro monitor speakers paired with a powered sub these days. I haven't heard Genelecs in this price range, but digitpete (and many others) think highly of them. You could afford to kick in a bit more on the speakers in that case as you need no amps. You should be assured of getting amps that work without figuring it out yourself that way. Simplifies things that way. Amp/speakers are a matched pair and you only need worry about source/preamp. If you are an upgrade junkie that might be a bad thing.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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