Long-ish thread, please read. Newer Sonus faber or mint vintage NHT

So I was just watching one of Paul’s latest “Ask Paul” videos where someone asked Paul about either upgrading his Stellar Gain Cell DAC or getting dual REL subs. Paul’s answer was essentially to upgrade the speakers.

Ever since we planned to move into a house, I have been thinking about changing my speakers out as well. As some of you may know, i have a pair of fairly new Sonus faber Venere 1.5 bookshelf speakers. What you guys don’t know is that I have several different pairs of loudspeakers stored in my old bedroom at my parents house.

The pair I’m thinking of using once we move into the house are some mint NHT 2.9’s that I’ve owned now for over 10 years and have used off and on over the years.

Even though the Sonus’ sound good, they just seem to be lacking that last little bit of information, that last little bit of emotion. They’re also not very “snappy” or lively (dynamic). One thing I fear though is possible damage to them as I play them fullrange, and even at the lower volumes I play in our apartment, I have heard them approaching their limits. Not horrible, but you can hear it coming. I know for a fact I’ll be urged to push them harder in the house, which won’t be good for them.

The NHT 2.9’s on the other hand (aside from being fullrange) seem to be a bit more neutral in the midrange, definitely more dynamic and snappy, and just seem to convey emotion better if memory serves me correctly. And… They have no issues getting loud and staying clean.

I think my particular pair were built around 2002 (the 2.9’s debuted in 1999). I plan on running them fullrange naturally as well as running my dual JL Audio e110 subs, all fed from the M700’s.

Just and FYI, I also have a pair of mint Martin Logan SL3’s of the same vintage as the NHT’s that I completely bypassed the passive crossovers in to fully bi-amp with an active crossover. I thought about reinstating the passive networks and using them again, but they have a particular mellow (house sound) to them and also lack dynamics.

I also have a pair of less prestigious Monitor Audio Bronze BX6 towers, which sound remarkably good for what they are.

With all of that said, I continually gravitate back to the good old trusted NHT 2.9’s.

So what do you guys think (including you Paul)? I would really love to get some input from everyone.

Many thanks in advance!

I almost forgot… I also have a pair of mint AV123 X-Statik hybrid loudspeakers that I purchased new almost 12 years ago factory direct. About 4 years ago, I completely gutted all of the stock damping material as well as the crossover boards and repopulated them with all Sonic Caps, new coils, resistors, etc, etc, all from Danny Richie of GR Research. I also lined the bass cabinets with his No-Rez damping material. These speakers are also excellent, neutral and dynamic, and can also get loud and stay clean.

However, I think I want to stay away from open baffle/dipole loudspeakers this time around, hence they NHT’s.


Quite the setup as well as dilemma there. Not having any personal experience with the models you’ve described (other than the SF and ML) I don’t really have a great opinion.

I think you’ve described the SF perfectly. They’re pleasant speakers but hardly revealing and detailed in the way the MLs are exactly the opposite (to a fault).

I wouldn’t have either as the basis of my system. The MLs are too laser-like and lack the dynamics I crave. The SF are too polite. So, depending on your ultimate goals, maybe the others fit the bill. I just don’t have any experience with them.

I must suggest that this scenario is exactly the reason we’re getting into the speaker business. I am so tired of compromises in every direction when it comes to speakers. Every company makes their products and focuses on this or that: Magico spends a fortune making the perfect cabinet and then shortchanges them with ultimate musicality, SF is too polite, ML too razor edged, nearly none have built in subwoofers that are servo controlled for linear performance into the basement, few have the dynamics of music, too much of this at the expense of that.

I honestly wish there was a simple group of full range loudspeakers that do it all but alas, I can’t find them. Some that get close are too hard to setup and require placement in “the middle of the room” (to exaggerate a point) while others are easy to setup but sound like oatmeal.

Yup, you’ve perfectly described why we’re getting into speakers. Filling a vacuum.

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Good morning Paul, and thank you for your response.

I know it’s a difficult question to ask, especially when others have not had any experience with the loudspeakers mentioned.

The thing about the NHT 2.9’s are the way they get setup in a room. Their placement requirements would probably work best in this room as well as allow these speakers to sound their best in the 10 years that I’ve owned them. The spacing of them from the front and side walls and my position in the room would work out almost ideally. I just have to figure out where the optimum placement will be for the JL subs.

Both the 3.3’s and 2.9’s are said to be just a touch tipped up over neutral. In several of my untreated rooms, I never really noticed that, however I have always purchased all copper IC’s and speaker cables as well as amps and preamps that tend to have a slight “tube” sound to them. So if the NHT’s have a slightly tipped up top end, the cables and gear downstream tame that slight forwardness, making the speakers that much more neutral.

And speaking of untreated rooms, this will be the very first time ever that I will be treating (tuning) a room. Sadly, the room dimensions fall a bit short of the “golden ratio”, being that the room is a little too short, by about 5’. Other than that, it has room for improvement, a.k.a. - room treatments.

I plan on getting a plush, shaggy area rug to cover a good part of the floor between me and the loudspeakers. I also plan on using some sort of diffusers and artsy absorption panels. Being that this is the first room you walk into as soon as you walk into the house, it still has to remain inviting and homey, not cluttered and man cave-like.

It’s going to be a learning curve, but I think the NHT 2.9’s are going to be the right choice, not to mention they have great dynamics, something I greatly miss with my current speakers and the fact of living in a stinking apartment.

Back to the Sonus Faber issue. I had owned a pair of Meadowlark Audio Kestrals for nearly 20 years and decided to upgrade in the under $2500 speaker range. Because I live in Hawaii, shipping costs a fortune so I was limited to auditioning what Crutchfield had to sell because of their free shipping both ways.

I tried quite a few speakers, including Sonus Faber. Yes, SF is overall polite, but I found their Chameleon T’s to be different. They’re made for a younger audience and have a lot more boogie to them. And unlike the Venere like that’s made in China, the Chameleon T’s are made in Italy at the SF factory.

While certainly not the end all in speakers, but for in the $2000 range, I’ve been very happy with the Chameleon T’s. A nice mix of detail and musicality.

I am curious to try DynAudio one of these days, but the upgrade train is on hold for now.

You do realize that Sonus faber had engineers in China, right? The Venere series being built in China has nothing to do with anything. The Venere series are solidly built loudspeakers, just as solid and top notch as anything.

Regardless of that, I have no need to purchase more speakers when I already have several other very capable pairs of speakers to use.

FYI, family room setup- NHT 2.5i from 1997!! (granted they sat in storage the whole time I was in NYC and the UK, so about 12 years)


I know this is going to sound a little low brow for this forum:

Since you have the luxury of having the various speakers in your possession, you have the ability to hear them in your space.

I would suggest you try them each, and pick the one you like best.

Speakers are the most personal element in your system. No two people hear the same thing from a given speaker. No two people experience the same emotions from a given speaker. No two rooms interact with a speaker the same.

You get to eliminate all those variables and find out first hand. This is what has been lost with the death of good high end audio dealers in most markets across the country.

You are every fortunate to have this luxury.

Not low brow at all, and I completely realize this.

I plan on probably trying all of the speakers out over time, but just to simplify things and get the system up and running, I’m going to shoot straight for the NHT’s. I’m familiar with the sound of all of them, and judging where my system is now (gear wise), I’m thinking the NHT’s are going to be the best bet.

But yes, thank you for your input, and yes it is a decent luxury to have all of these speakers at my disposal.

I was speaking in general about Sonus Faber’s politeness. I was not suggesting you buy yet more speakers.

I personally prefer products not made in China whenever possible.

Sell everything that doesn’t float your boat and start again.

I think that’s good advice. One pair of speakers you love is better than a few that are so-so.

I’m guessing you haven’t heard Magico M3 or M6 with appropriate electronics in a properly set up space. You couldn’t possibly want for a more musical experience.

Valin thought so… My jaw literally dropped when I listened to The Weavers at Carnegie Hall , a record that (God knows) I’ve heard heard a few times, as the seemingly vast reaches of Carnegie opened up behind the M3s with a width, depth, height, and volume unparalleled from a three-way cone loudspeaker. For once, Carnegie actually sounded like Carnegie. Venue, audience, musicians, and instruments were equally “there”—the hall huge and filled with joyous listeners sitting at various heights and depths, running from the orchestra level up to “glee club” in the top tier of old Carnegie’s wedding-cake layout, the timbres warm and natural, the transients with the genuine snap of gut-and-steel strings, and the individual voices and instruments imaged as clearly as if you were staring at them in a large-format photograph. This is the kind of densely populated, three-dimensionally immersive, wrap-around stage that I’ve only heard in the past with the MBL 101 X-treme Radialstrahler and the slim-line, quasi-line-source Raidho D5.1 (both of which cost a quarter-of-a-million dollars)—and I’m not sure either of those were quite this immersive."

And of the M6 he said…

“I might as well say at the start that the M6 is, IMO, the best loudspeaker that Magico has yet made—the most transparent, the most detailed, the most invisible, the most seamlessly of a piece, the most startlingly lifelike. It is also the best dynamic loudspeaker I’ve yet heard (and I’ve heard most of the competition, the Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic being a big exception).”

I infer from both that Valin concludes the Magico speakers are quite musical. And I agree with him.

I read an opinion piece recently of 10 respected reviewers who were asked to name the best 10 speakers less than $100K. 9 of those 10 had a Magico in their list.

If you run a business you have to believe you make the best speakers, amplifiers, or what-ever; - or what’s the point to it. P S Audio make excellent products - but they are not the best. There is no absolute. Different strokes for different folks. As I see it You hurt Paul by dissing his speakers so he hit back… It’s all just fluff… Much of what you say is spot-on and you just say as it is but you get vilified for it… I have suffered badly too owning P S Audio equipment. One of my two BHK250s is currently back at the UK distributor - where it’s been for 1 month being repaired…!

But musically if you don’t play, learn to play an instrument and you will discover music. People like yourself pay out extortionate amounts of money for cables when you can buy quality musical instruments at a mere fraction of 2Ms of fancy audiophile cable and 4 plugs !!

I play the accordion and guitar. No “HiFi” gets close to the sound of “real music” being played from “real instruments” live in my HiFi listening room…! Thousands and thousands of dollars, euros, pounds, spent on interconnects, speakers cables and mains cables - only alters the sound of one’s HiFi: the cables don’t/can’t bring your system remotely close to sound of a real instruments played live in one’s listening room. Recordings are a joke, affecting to duplicate the dynamic range, tone and colour of a musical instrument at home from a mere HiFi… There’s just No-Way !! If you heard a piano and/or saxophone played in my house then you wouldn’t bother with the added expense of fancy cables… Seriously - you would just laugh…the dynamic range, tone, and the noise level of a saxophone played in my listening room has to be heard to be believed - then compare back to the recording of the same saxophone played back through my big system…! It’s another thing altogether!

I have expensive equipment - but under no illusion, it’s just a HiFi, it’s not the real thing… Enjoy your system and don’t bother what others think of your HiFi speakers…! As long as you get enjoyment from the Magico’s and your system that’s all that matters…

That’s why I use Shahinian Diapasons, not because they sound like the real instruments live in the room, but that the omni-directional acoustic dispersion presents the music closer to the 3 dimensions of a real instruments when played in my listening room…

Don’t fret about what others think… I will still like you :grin:


I wasn’t fretting. I was just postulating a hunch that he hadn’t heard M2/M3/M6. If he had only heard earlier model Magico speakers (i.e. pre Q generation) the lack of musicality observation might well be true.

I dissed on his speakers only for their cosmetic appearance, because they look late 90’s era. And I guess they have wood particle enclosures which are common even today. But not common to the hi-end speaker manufacturers because of this:

and this…


Sounds good. If it’s working, you’re in good shape. Go for it! You can then follow an electronic/cable upgrade path if you find the system lacking at any time.

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Unfortunately none of the graphs or FEA analysis screen shots mean anything if the sound is not pleasant to your ears in your system.
I appreciate all of the high tech mechanical bits as they are my vocation and business but sometimes you have to just accept the fact that perfect form does not make perfect function.
I will never be interested in Magico anything strictly due to their market target. They are way above my means but my measly $3k set of MDF boxes still are pleasing to my ears on my system and that is really all that matters or should matter to anyone.
Is carbon fiber and billet aluminum cool? Yes. Way cool and plenty to brag about. We don’t do CF here but we do make things from aluminum billets every day. They are all neat and serve an important purpose but it is purely physical and not emotional which speakers have to be.

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Perhaps that’s true.

The bulk of my listening has been at Radar Audio in Hong Kong. The last time, I was given carte Blanche to use any equipment I wished and set them up however I wanted. Try as I might I just could not get them to come close to my one set up and
certainly they had no deep bass. I was giving a seminar and using the system to demo so I snuck in a JL subwoofer so the honchos at Radar and the attending public did not know the Magicos were being augmented with a JL sub.

The end result was pretty good and one reviewer familiar with Magicos told me the setup was the best he’d ever heard Magicos play and he was super impressed with the bass. “I didn’t know Magicos could produce that level of bass. Must be the PS
Audio Power Plants.”

I didn’t have the balls to tell him the truth.


LOL, Paul

…and if they ever moved things around, they probably went nuts trying to re-create your results.

I must add, though, that I’ve never been a fan of how Magico setups sounded until I heard the M3’s at the last RMAF. That rig totally sucked me in - at least for the short time I spent in the room. But there are 75,000 reasons a pair are not likely to cross my threshold.

But, to your point, Jonathan Valin recommended adding subs in his TAS review of the M3’s.