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What Are the Best Sounding Speakers UNDER $2,500 that You've Ever Heard.?

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I listened to a harbeth p3esr today and was impressed.

They're very nice and great value. As an alternative, you can still get the LS3/5a for a few hundred less - the latest incarnation from Falcon drew great reviews, e.g. from Stereophile. The BBC minimonitor genre is not for everyone, as none has earth-shaking bass and there are a few colorations that you either find objectionable or wonderful but won't ignore. Some say they don't have any bass at all, but that's a bit of an exaggeration. I nominate the LS3/5a family for inclusion on this list.

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They're very nice and great value. As an alternative, you can still get the LS3/5a for a few hundred less - the latest incarnation from Falcon drew great reviews, e.g. from Stereophile. The BBC minimonitor genre is not for everyone, as none has earth-shaking bass and there are a few colorations that you either find objectionable or wonderful but won't ignore. Some say they don't have any bass at all, but that's a bit of an exaggeration. I nominate the LS3/5a family for inclusion on this list.

A friend of mine just drove 200 miles to pickup a pair of 1960 vintage JBL pro speakers. He took them home, ripped out the horn tweeters and mounted them in a simple box. He then replaced the tweeter horns on his Avant-garde Duos with the JBLs.

 

He paid $200 for the JBL speakers. His Avantgardes have never sounded better, very open and natural! Lol!!!


nuckleheadaudio.com

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I listened to a harbeth p3esr today and was impressed.

 

I heard some recently. They do sound nice within their limitations. To me much nicer than most LS3/5a's I have heard. Even though these are something of Harbeth's modern version of those. They do like a bit more power than you might expect for best sound. Also benefited by being away from the walls a good bit more than you might expect.


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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When you listen to them you have to close your eyes or look away, otherwise your mind plays tricks on you as it is hard to believe you can get such a sound from those small boxes.

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Several people have recommended the Vandersteen 2Ce IIs but judging from Sphile's measurements these speakers are probably quite bright and forward sounding.

 

107Vanfig06.jpg

 

I wouldn't bother with a listen and perhaps try the 3s instead.

 

R

 

Perhaps, but I've never heard a pair of Vandersteens I didn't find appealing and musical. One of the great buys in audio, along with Maggies and the lower-priced Focal lines.

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They're very nice and great value. As an alternative, you can still get the LS3/5a for a few hundred less - the latest incarnation from Falcon drew great reviews, e.g. from Stereophile. The BBC minimonitor genre is not for everyone, as none has earth-shaking bass and there are a few colorations that you either find objectionable or wonderful but won't ignore. Some say they don't have any bass at all, but that's a bit of an exaggeration. I nominate the LS3/5a family for inclusion on this list.

 

I agree. Years ago I had a pair of Spendor's version and I'm sorry I ever sold them. I'd also advocate for a pair of used ProAcs in this price range.

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This is from the Vandersteen 2CE signature measurements done by Stereophile. That looks more like the Vandy's sound to me.

 

Vandy's if anything always sounded a bit soft vs some other good speakers. Just a bit, and very good in the other things you want from a speaker.

 

Vanfig2.jpg


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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John A. measures all speakers in the same way. I think this is fair, but it requires a person reading them to know what really matters. The in room response is the least informative, especially on a speaker with more than 2 drivers and first order crossovers. If the speaker has provisions for vertical alignment (horizontal doesn't matter) 2 thirds of the samples are not where the listeners ears are and that causes a very inaccurate measurement of what the speaker is actually doing. A speaker with steep crossover slopes and a minimum number of drivers is not defected nearly as much. Obviously if the speaker designer doesn't provide vertical alignment instructions as is typically the case with high order speaker designs the above point is certainly obvious. High order crossover designs do not preserve the waveform anyway, so all frequencies are in different phases relative to one another which randomizes the result enough to not change the measurements much by the above mentioned procedure. A listening session would be more important than the measurements anyway.

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I'd also advocate for a pair of used ProAcs in this price range.

Yes! The little ProAc monitors are fabulous - I had a tough time deciding between the Tablettes and my Focals a few years ago when I decided we should have a pair of contemporary speakers for our living room system. I "retired" my LS3/5as (originals I bought in early '76) to a vinyl-only system powered by my PrimaLuna amp.

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John A. measures all speakers in the same way. I think this is fair, but it requires a person reading them to know what really matters. The in room response is the least informative, especially on a speaker with more than 2 drivers and first order crossovers. If the speaker has provisions for vertical alignment (horizontal doesn't matter) 2 thirds of the samples are not where the listeners ears are and that causes a very inaccurate measurement of what the speaker is actually doing. A speaker with steep crossover slopes and a minimum number of drivers is not defected nearly as much. Obviously if the speaker designer doesn't provide vertical alignment instructions as is typically the case with high order speaker designs the above point is certainly obvious. High order crossover designs do not preserve the waveform anyway, so all frequencies are in different phases relative to one another which randomizes the result enough to not change the measurements much by the above mentioned procedure. A listening session would be more important than the measurements anyway.

 

I've been building home and pro audio speakers for years and measuring and improving along the way.......and can find NOTHING in this post that matches my experience or anything I've ever been taught or read other than listening ( in YOUR space) is better than purchasing from measurements.........which isn't saying much as I'd be better off eating that steak in the Delminicos ad instead of wondering how it tastes. LOL

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Perhaps, but I've never heard a pair of Vandersteens I didn't find appealing and musical. One of the great buys in audio, along with Maggies and the lower-priced Focal lines.

 

Unfortunately those comments are only meaningful to you; people liking the sound of speakers or enjoying music reproduced through them doesn't make them universally appealing or more importantly accurate transducers.

People's tastes vary wildly and many audiophiles don't listen to classical music and as such accuracy is often not a requirement.

 

R


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

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Hi Ricardo -

 

Two speculations from me of possible interest regarding the Vandersteen measurements:

 

- The extremely comprehensive setup guides in the Vandersteen speaker manuals (well worth reading for setting up *most* speakers, not just Vandys) strongly suggest using very little if any toe-in. I don't know whether JA's measurements were done on-axis, or if off-axis by how much; that's a possible explanation for a difference between measurement and listening experience.

 

- Regarding integration of the midrange, Vandersteen's avowed goal was to maintain correct phase and time response, so first-order crossovers are used. (See, e.g., SoundStage! Interviews Richard Vandersteen of Vandersteen Audio Part One (08/1998).) Use of a first-order crossover in order to serve Vandersteen's design priorities (which I feel as an owner pay off handsomely in terms of imaging and localization of instruments and vocals) may be in part responsible for that aspect of the response measurement.

 

Hi Jud,

 

Regarding your first hypothesis, unfortunately JA didn't publish the horizontal response plot but the one he made for the previous version seems to point in the opposite direction, namely that there is little off-axis attenuation of the offending frequency band:

 

Vanfig4.jpg

 

 

 

As for correct phase and time response, there are several aspects of speaker design that influence performance but not all aspects affect performance with the same magnitude.

 

Many designers, such as Siegfried Linkwitz, dismiss the audibility of phase and time alignment:

 

Sound reproduction is about creating an auditory illusion.

When the recorded sound is of real instruments or voices there is a familiar, live reference in our auditory memory.

The illusion of hearing a realistic reproduction is destroyed by distortion that is added anywhere in the signal chain from microphone to loudspeaker, but the speaker is by far the biggest culprit.

Every designer focuses on the on-axis frequency response as if it were the all determining distortion parameter.

Sometimes great attention is paid to the phase response in an attempt to preserve waveform fidelity, which at best can only be achieved for a single listening point in space.

Ignored usually, though of much greater importance, is resonance in drivers and cabinets and the slow release of stored energy that goes with it.

Furthermore, the uniformity and flatness of the off-axis frequency response which we hear via room reverberation and reflections is rarely a design goal.

You can check the naturalness of the timbre by listening from another room.

Does it sound like a loudspeaker is playing?

The imbalance in the speaker's power response between low and high frequencies destroys the illusion

 

(...)

 

Now, a first-order crossover can be made phase-perfect at one point in space, but I feel quite strongly that you cannot just look at a speaker's performance at one single point in space.

The off-axis response is also very important to a speaker's overall performance in a real room, because the radiation in these other directions will add, through reflected and reverberant interactions, to what you hear.

Typically, we don't listen to speakers outdoors or in anechoic chambers.

 

And, just as he mentioned, the midrange cone resonances do seem creep up in Vandersteen's designs:

 

107Vanfig10.jpg

Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II

 

 

310Vanfig10.jpg

Vandersteen Model Seven

 

One could say that driver resonance coloration is not an issue for many audiophiles just as correct phase and time response might not be to other audiophiles.

I guess we all have our expectations, requirements and taste but the one thing about measurements is that they provide information on a particular aspect of loudspeaker performance with respect to accuracy, regardless of taste.

 

 

 

There's no way around it, speakers have to be listened to.

And ultimately most people will end up buying the ones that sound better to them.

 

R

SaveSave

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

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many audiophiles don't listen to classical music and as such accuracy is often not a requirement.

And that comment only has meaning for you. I and the rest of us lower class proles do prefer that the sonic garbage to which we listen sounds like it does live. OTOH, I've heard and played more than a few "classical" pieces that might have benefited from a wee bit o' distortion. :)

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Hi Jud,

Many designers, such as Siegfried Linkwitz, dismiss the audibility of phase and time alignment:

 

Sound reproduction is about creating an auditory illusion.

When the recorded sound is of real instruments or voices there is a familiar, live reference in our auditory memory.

The illusion of hearing a realistic reproduction is destroyed by distortion that is added anywhere in the signal chain from microphone to loudspeaker, but the speaker is by far the biggest culprit.

Every designer focuses on the on-axis frequency response as if it were the all determining distortion parameter.

Sometimes great attention is paid to the phase response in an attempt to preserve waveform fidelity, which at best can only be achieved for a single listening point in space.

Ignored usually, though of much greater importance, is resonance in drivers and cabinets and the slow release of stored energy that goes with it.

Furthermore, the uniformity and flatness of the off-axis frequency response which we hear via room reverberation and reflections is rarely a design goal.

You can check the naturalness of the timbre by listening from another room.

Does it sound like a loudspeaker is playing?

The imbalance in the speaker's power response between low and high frequencies destroys the illusion

 

(...)

 

Now, a first-order crossover can be made phase-perfect at one point in space, but I feel quite strongly that you cannot just look at a speaker's performance at one single point in space.

The off-axis response is also very important to a speaker's overall performance in a real room, because the radiation in these other directions will add, through reflected and reverberant interactions, to what you hear.

Typically, we don't listen to speakers outdoors or in anechoic chambers.

There's no way around it, speakers have to be listened to.

And ultimately most people will end up buying the ones that sound better to them.

 

RSave

Save

 

 

Hi Ricardo -

 

 

The Vandersteen speakers I've owned definitely had/have a defined "sweet spot," which is fortunately not a problem for me, since I've set up the speakers and room so I sit in it. :)

 

 

Have you heard any of the Vandersteens? For some reason I was under the impression you had.


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 -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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OTOH, I've heard and played more than a few "classical" pieces that might have benefited from a wee bit o' distortion. :)

 

[imagines listening to the introductory notes of Beethoven's Fifth as played on Keith Richards' fuzz tone guitar from "Satisfaction." :) ]


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 -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I am not saying that they will not "sound great" for many people (surely not me) but I have learnt from experience how to correlate some measurements with the actual sound, by measuring the speakers I have own, some DIY experiments I did and looking at measurements of speakers I have listened to.The frequency response plot, even a weird one consisting of averaging several very wide averagely spaced measurements such as this one, tells us about the tonal balance of the speakers, the accuracy with which it reproduces "colours".

 

In this case the upper midrange and lower treble are shelved some 5dB above the remaining spectrum denoting poor midrange driver integration.

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]31180[/ATTACH]

R

 

These Vandy's are ANYTHING BUT "bright."

Suggest you listen and learn - to the speakers and what some earnest folks are trying to impart.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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Hi Ricardo -

 

 

The Vandersteen speakers I've owned definitely had/have a defined "sweet spot," which is fortunately not a problem for me, since I've set up the speakers and room so I sit in it. :)

 

 

Have you heard any of the Vandersteens? For some reason I was under the impression you had.

 

I listened to the 2Cs if I remember correctly (could have been the 1Bs) but it was many years ago.

I took a 10year break from audiophilia in the early 90s...

My knowledge and expectations have changed a lot.

 

R


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

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More Vandersteen 2 measurements

VA2FIG03.jpg

This is the in-room response of the Vandersteen 2C from a 1986 review. That's very near ideal even for a $$$ speaker. This is also JA's room . . . in Santa Fe rather than NY. But, it's always possible that RV made better speakers 30 years ago!

 

Vannmancom1.jpg

This one is from the 2Ce review in 2000 and comes from RV as he took exception to how JA measured his product. This is missing the nearfield from the woofer but see esldude's post above.

 

If you're shopping at this price point (or even up to $5K) and have space for a largish floorstander (and can live with it's monolith appearance), the Vandy 2 Sig IIs deserve an audition. I have no regrets and am still happy 8 years in. I'd like to upgrade to the Treos but might simply buy current production Sig IIs - RV has made several changes since they were introduced including replacing the midrange with the one he used to put in the Model 5.


Roon ROCK (Roon 1.7; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 Twenty > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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More Vandersteen 2 measurements

[ATTACH=CONFIG]31230[/ATTACH]

This is the in-room response of the Vandersteen 2C from a 1986 review. That's very near ideal even for a $$$ speaker. This is also JA's room . . . in Santa Fe rather than NY. But, it's always possible that RV made better speakers 30 years ago!

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]31231[/ATTACH]

This one is from the 2Ce review in 2000 and comes from RV as he took exception to how JA measured his product. This is missing the nearfield from the woofer but see esldude's post above.

 

If you're shopping at this price point (or even up to $5K) and have space for a largish floorstander (and can live with it's monolith appearance), the Vandy 2 Sig IIs deserve an audition. I have no regrets and am still happy 8 years in. I'd like to upgrade to the Treos but might simply buy current production Sig IIs - RV has made several changes since they were introduced including replacing the midrange with the one he used to put in the Model 5.

 

I loved a pair of Quattros I heard at RMAF, and I own 3A sigs (as *my* sig says :) ). If the Treos are anything like the Quattros, I'd certainly give them some thought if I were in your situation. Of course we're talking about a cost difference between the 2Ce Sig II and the Treo (without carbon tweeter) of over $4000! (And we're getting further off topic, apologies to the OP....)


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 -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Perhaps, but I've never heard a pair of Vandersteens I didn't find appealing and musical. One of the great buys in audio, along with Maggies and the lower-priced Focal lines.

 

Fortunately those comments are meaningful to you and many, many other people including me (tho I finally sold mine in favor of Maggies).

 

Maybe we need a Maggie vs. Vandie smack-down...

 

Even if a speaker IS inaccurate in some ways, it can be good enough in other way to compensate. Besides that, some distortions are euphonic.

 

Speakers are the most compromised component in any digital audio system - pick your compromises carefully.

 

(add the cartridge/tone-arm/turntable if an analog system)

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Unfortunately those comments are only meaningful to you; people liking the sound of speakers or enjoying music reproduced through them doesn't make them universally appealing or more importantly accurate transducers.

People's tastes vary wildly and many audiophiles don't listen to classical music and as such accuracy is often not a requirement.

 

R

 

Well, having been an audiophile for over 40 years, I've observed that a consensus develops among experienced listeners as to what brands or models tend to bring satisfaction to a large number of listeners at a reasonable price over a long period of time--"classics," if you will, that display enduring design and construction quality. I think it helps newcomers or those seeking upgrades to know what those are. That said, I trust that everyone reading this forum knows it's just an opinion, but opinions, in the end, matter a lot more than measurements.

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More Vandersteen 2 measurements

[ATTACH=CONFIG]31230[/ATTACH]

This is the in-room response of the Vandersteen 2C from a 1986 review. That's very near ideal even for a $$$ speaker. This is also JA's room . . . in Santa Fe rather than NY. But, it's always possible that RV made better speakers 30 years ago!

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]31231[/ATTACH]

This one is from the 2Ce review in 2000 and comes from RV as he took exception to how JA measured his product. This is missing the nearfield from the woofer but see esldude's post above.

 

If you're shopping at this price point (or even up to $5K) and have space for a largish floorstander (and can live with it's monolith appearance), the Vandy 2 Sig IIs deserve an audition. I have no regrets and am still happy 8 years in. I'd like to upgrade to the Treos but might simply buy current production Sig IIs - RV has made several changes since they were introduced including replacing the midrange with the one he used to put in the Model 5.

 

I will not exclude the possibility of a problem with the 2Ce Sig IIs but considering that JA has been using the same setup and methodology for a few decades that possibility should be quite remote.

 

Here are the tweeter axis listening window frequency response plots of the 2Ce, 2Ce Sig and 2Ce Sig II:

 

V2efig4.jpg

Vandersteen 2Ce

 

 

Vanfig2.jpg

Vandersteen 2Ce Signature

 

 

107Vanfig04.jpg

Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II

 

 

R


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

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Well, having been an audiophile for over 40 years, I've observed that a consensus develops among experienced listeners as to what brands or models tend to bring satisfaction to a large number of listeners at a reasonable price over a long period of time--"classics," if you will, that display enduring design and construction quality. I think it helps newcomers or those seeking upgrades to know what those are. That said, I trust that everyone reading this forum knows it's just an opinion, but opinions, in the end, matter a lot more than measurements.

Not to me.

 

Measurements don't replace listening (even less so in the case of speakers) but they are very informative and correlate reasonably well with listening (more or less depending on the measured parameter).

They remove the self ("taste") from the equation; that is very important because listening reports generally describe how the speaker sounds according to the listener's taste.

And taste, as you well know, is personal and can vary wildly from listener to listener.

 

R


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

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