New speaker suggestions

I’m thinking about getting some new speakers and would appreciate suggestions.

My stereo resides in the back parlor of my house (ca. 1900). The room is 11 x 12 with 9’ 3" ceiling. It opens onto the front parlor with a set of pocket doors, which normally stand open, and onto the dining room through a large archway, with a smaller door into the kitchen. All these openings mean that I don’t have much problem with reflections off the back or side walls or with standing waves.

The problem is that many speakers require a certain distance between them and the listener in order for the various drivers to integrate properly. What I need are speakers that can be placed close to the back wall with the listening chair 8-9’ away.

For a number of years I’ve been using Von Schweikert VR IV-jr’s. These are small floorstanders, generally sized well for the room, but they need more distance to the listening position than is ideal in my room. What usually happens is that the back half of the listening chair ends up in the dining room; not so bad when I’m alone, but looks a bit odd when I have company.

I value most of all accurate timbre of instruments and voices, along with good PRAT. Soundstaging is nice, but I don’t obsess over it, and the asymmetrical room makes it problematic anyway. I detest anything that is hot on the top end. I’ve been very happy with the SQ of the IV-jr’s but would like something that works better in the room. I’m open to either small floorstanders or speakers on stands, probably with a subwoofer. I listen mainly to acoustic music, classical with some folk and jazz, plus a little rock. Any suggestions?

First big question: price? And second question: is the “back” wall where the speakers would be solid, or are there windows or openings back there?

The wall behind the speakers is a bay window, with three openings that are covered by curtains (never opened for ventilation).

I want to get speakers that will play on the same level as my DS dac, c-j Premier preamp, etc., so this means probably means a few thousand. Megabuck speakers are out of my range. I am open to used equipment (half my stuff was bought on Audiogon).

Hey Magister,

It probably goes without saying, but you want to avoid rear ported speakers if you want to place them near the rear wall. That leaves you with sealed boxes (eg magico) or front ported. I own these ones

The transmission line concept is executed really well in these. The ones I own are not as high on the WAF scale as some of the others, but worth a look.

One assumes you want to try and stay with more of a full range speaker (floor stander)? If so, as you noted, it makes the choice a bit harder since most of these demand more of a “room presence” that some stand mounted jobs. Speakers designed for boundary placement, like the Audio Notes, might work better in a scenario like this - assuming you like the way ANs sound.

The VRs retail for what, about $4K? So if you look for used that’d put you (in Audiogon terms) looking at used speakers up to about the $6-7K “new price” to keep it at or below the retail cost of the Vons. In that range, if you were to consider stand mounted speakers, on Audiogon right now there are some Harbeths, a couple of Wilson Benesches, sonus fabers, a J.M. Reynaud (interesting!), and a new Sonist, among others. I’ve heard (at shows) the models shown on Agon for I think all the ones I’ve mentioned. I’m partial personally to the Sonist, J.M. Reynaud, and the Wilson Benesh. All three to me produce a nice, realistic, balanced sound - all with respect to the physics of their size. None of them will fool you into thinking they are full range.

For floor standers in that range (of the ones I’ve heard and personally liked) there’s a pair of banged up Vandersteen 5s, but I think they’d overwhelm your room - local pickup only, anyway. …hmm, as I look at the list on Agon it seems most of the floor standers will demand too much of your room - either because they are rear ported (like the Watt 3 / Puppies) or because I think they are just so big. The Sonist Recital 3s are nice, front slot loaded, and a good price new.

Your comments about being open to stand mounted speakers seems like it makes the most sense. A lot of folks love the Harbeths, although based on what it seems like your room is like and your preferences I think you might like something from Audio Note. A nice pair unfortunately just sold on Audiogon.

Thanks, stereophilus and tony22. I will definitely check out the items you mention, none of which are familiar to me from personal experience – so I really appreciate the suggestions. I’ve never been interested in subwoofers, because my Von’s go pretty low and because I didn’t want to mess with the integration with the main speakers, more complex cabling, etc. But I am now thinking that a pair of stand-mounted speakers, along with a subwoofer (I do like my organ music) might be an option – particularly if the sub was designed specifically to accompany the main speakers, so they should integrate well.

Sounds like larger speakers are out I would highly recommend PROAC response 1 speakers, or if too expense PROAC tablets. I have tried many speakers but PROAC tend to beat other hands down imho.

I am running PWT DSD Crimson bi amping and PROAC D18’s and they really compliment the PS Audio sound.

hope this helps and good luck !

If you are thinking about stand mounted, the Quartets are some of the best MTM’s that I have ever heard and near field listening is just fine. John is a perfectionist and has been fine tuning his speakers for years. You probably haven’t heard of Van L Speakerworks because he is not interested in large scale production at all. His floor standing T-Line speakers, the Silhouettes, integrate well in the near field but are not going to give you the PRaT that you desire. John can help you integrate his designs with a sub. He has a 21 day trial period as well so you can decide whether you like them or not. Personally, I think that his speakers are a bargain. If I did not have a fetish for building my own I would have a pair myself.

P.S. The ambient recovery circuit is not a gimmick, it sounds great and does not “stand out” as a particular sound or affectation. The speakers offer several selectable levels including “off” so no worries.

Kef Reference 1…Harbeth 30.1. The Kef will give you tremdous bass.

Perhaps Maggies. Or all of their offerings too big?

I’ve always understood that Maggies and similar speakers, even the smaller models, need some distance between them and the rear wall, which I don’t have in my room. If that’s not right let me know.

How about summit by Martin Logan. There ES and I think can be put close to walls in the rear. But someone who knows for sure please way in on placement. I heard. Pair very clean and hyper detailed. Only draw back was a bit of note thinness. But 121 would fix that for sure. Bass intergration is ok but not perfect either


magister said I've always understood that Maggies and similar speakers, even the smaller models, need some distance between them and the rear wall, which I don't have in my room.
I was relying on your statement "All these openings mean that I don't have much problem with reflections off the back or side walls or with standing waves."

Also, one can damp the wall behind the speakers.

I have heard Maggies in many locations which appeared less than ideal and they worked great, with very coherent sound.

When I wrote “back wall” the first time I meant the wall behind the listening chair (which is more or less non-existent), not the wall in back of the speakers. Then I wrote that the speakers need to be close to the “back wall.” I was not being clear, obviously, but the bottom line is that speakers which produce a back wave like the Maggies are not a good idea for me — at least until I buy a house with a bigger listening