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  1. #1
    Aussieaudiofan
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    Best Bookshelf speakers up to $3000

    I am in the market to purchase some new or very good used bookshelf speakers in the up to $3000 price bracket.
    Could anyone recommend some of the better ones in this price range and why they believe so.

  2. #2
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    More info, please.

    How do you listen to music (soft to very loud) and what are you looking for? The fellow who loves to blast rock 'n roll and feel the bass vibrations through the floor is probably going to end up with something a bit different than the guy who is looking for the most natural presentation of acoustic music.

    How big is your room? This becomes more important if you listen at loud levels. You also need to look at your existing equipment (or what you plan to buy.) It is possible to combine units that are each high quality on their own but make for a horrid mismatch when used together.

    Once you've got the basics above sorted out, you can start fine turning your choices.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    If you can get a pair of Usher BE718's down under. They would be my choice. Always rated class A in Stereophile. I'm saving for a pair myself. If not, give us a list of brands that your local HiFi shops carry.

  4. #4
    RGA
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    I will recommend the Audio Note AN E - I don't know what they are rated at at Stereophile (nor do I care) but I think what is more telling is that two of their writers bought a pair and a third, Wes Philips, hailed the system that they were fronting as the best sound that he has ever heard - three writers at that magazine - 3 at enjoythemusic, 4 at dagogo(including me) with a 5th who wants a pair, the reference speakers at Hi-fi Choice magazine, hailed as one of the top five speakers ever made by the Hi-Fi Critic off the top of my head.

    In your price range you could afford the AN E kit - whch apparently takes an hour to build. New and no need to build yourself I would recommend the Audio Note AN K/Spe, Reference 3a De Capo, speakers from Harbeth, Tannoy, possibly Spendor, Sonus Faber, possibly JM Reynaud, and PMC.

    The AN E I like the best - of the above as it offers an upgrade path (although pricey) - still a used AN E/LX HE hemp is as good a speaker as I have heard from the competition regardless of price. Art Dudley of Stereophile bought them, so has Peter Van Wellinswaard of Stereophile and Wes Philips recently said this - "Forget best sound of show, for sheer emotional delivery, timbral clarity, dynamic agility, and, yes, the highest fidelity, the Audio Note system may have been the best hi-fi I have ever heard. It was one of those magical moments that we audiophiles put up with all of the hassles for. After the Audio Note demo, the rest was noise, so I quit on a winner. Not many people who come to Vegas can say that." http://blog.stereophile.com/ces2009/...means_ecstasy/

    Kit is obviously much lower in price http://www.audionotekits.com/

    Find a place to try them out and decide for yourself. That may be a problem since there are few dealers and even if you do like them - the wait list is getting obscene - but I like to recommend my favorites first before I recommend option 2, 3 and 4.

  5. #5
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I have been very impressed with the ProAc Response D1, which I heard with a tube amp and a Rega Saturn at a local dealer. That setup had very lifelike midrange...amazing, in fact.

  6. #6
    Aussieaudiofan
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    Thanks all for the responses so far.
    My music tastes are primarily easy listening, alternative and vocals. I prefer to listen to the quality and detail in music, rather than the shear volume.
    My room size is around 4m x 5m.
    I am able to get my hands on quite a few speaker manufacturers, namely Elac, PMC, Klipsch, Legend, Monitor Audio, Jamo, ATC, Sonus Faber, B&W and Polk.

  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    I will recommend the Audio Note AN E - I don't know what they are rated at at Stereophile (nor do I care) ...

    Kit is obviously much lower in price http://www.audionotekits.com/

    Find a place to try them out and decide for yourself. That may be a problem since there are few dealers and even if you do like them - the wait list is getting obscene - but I like to recommend my favorites first before I recommend option 2, 3 and 4.
    I have looked at the Audio Note Kits site a good many times. I always come away surprised at the price of the basic AN E kit, US$1600. It really seems out of line for what really looks like two fairly cheap drives and a simple, (and crudely constructed), 2nd order crossover. I have priced speaker components on many occassions and price seems 2-4x higher than what it ought to be for the components included. But I suppose it will be justified on the basis of "research & development" costs.

    On the other hand, the price of the assembled cabinets, US$950, seems much less out of line to me, an inexperience builder without proper tools. Of course that might seem different to an skilled cabinet maker.

  8. #8
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    I was going to suggest something like the Dynaudio Special 25, for less money the Focus 110 is very good or upstream the Contour series. I've always found Dynaudio a very good performer for what ever music I played through them and with various amps.

    Sticking with only your list my choice would be the Sonus Faber. If wanting high quality you can strike Klipsch and Polk off the list. Each have their own applications but generally not in "high end" systems. Especially, their bookshelf speakers.

  9. #9
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    I have looked at the Audio Note Kits site a good many times. I always come away surprised at the price of the basic AN E kit, US$1600. It really seems out of line for what really looks like two fairly cheap drives and a simple, (and crudely constructed), 2nd order crossover. I have priced speaker components on many occassions and price seems 2-4x higher than what it ought to be for the components included. But I suppose it will be justified on the basis of "research & development" costs.

    On the other hand, the price of the assembled cabinets, US$950, seems much less out of line to me, an inexperience builder without proper tools. Of course that might seem different to an skilled cabinet maker.
    Unfortunately, anytime anyone looks at the cost of something using their eyes they're heading for trouble. AN speaker kits are not quite the same as other speakers in the sense that much of it is already built for you and being semi built in England has higher than average labour and shipping. The woofers are made by SEAS only for Audio Note and that drives up cost because if you use off the shelf drivers like most of the rest of the Kit industry then you have a buying power of scale. This also goes to the Tonnegan tweeters where the tweeter normally has ferro-fluid cooling. This has been modified with a different magnet and the ferro-fluid being removed.

    The entry speaker is $1550 and $800 for the built Russian birch cabinets if you get them together - which I think you would. $2350 with a lot of upgrade potential - efficient - not to bad. The ultimate answer to cost is on performance. What is the other guy's $2350 speaker sounding like? I heard one famous standmount kit that costs $1500 or so to build with the tweeter off center using scanspeak or peerless drivers - it looked great - heavy every kit guy knows them - and for $700 the AX Two easily bettered it using a dumpy 5 inch vifa woofer and .75' vifa tweeter. One is designed by someone who knows how to design and the other uses expensive drivers.

    I think Art Dudley addresses this issue of cost/performance at the bottom of his review of his purchased AN E/Spe HE speakers, http://www.stereophile.com/standloud...an/index5.html
    Last edited by RGA; 07-21-2009 at 10:33 AM.

  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Yeah, well maybe

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Unfortunately, anytime anyone looks at the cost of something using their eyes they're heading for trouble. AN speaker kits are not quite the same as other speakers in the sense that much of it is already built for you and being semi built in England has higher than average labour and shipping. The woofers are made by SEAS only for Audio Note and that drives up cost because if you use off the shelf drivers like most of the rest of the Kit industry then you have a buying power of scale. This also goes to the Tonnegan tweeters where the tweeter normally has ferro-fluid cooling. This has been modified with a different magnet and the ferro-fluid being removed.

    ...
    In the end $2500 for a pair of large bookshelves isn't outrageous, so match to you, RGA.

    On the other hand the "drivers are specially made to our specifications" is something of an old saw used by many manufactures to justify high prices when the actual changes are little more than a custom label or model number. Could the claims be true? Sure, could be, but call me skeptical

    Another sterling example is Merlin speakers who principal, Bobby Palkovic, affects outrage whenever anybody suggests his stiff is overpriced for (apparently) simple speakers with (apparently) standard Morel drivers. My drivers are made to a custom spec and matched to a tolerance of 0.000001%. My coils are made of platium plated wire wound by hand by gnomes in Transylvania under the direct supervison of Count Dracula. My capacitors are made of papyrus found in ancient tombs and fill with an eyedropper with oil extracted from the liver of sasquatches. Etc..
    Last edited by Feanor; 07-21-2009 at 10:46 AM.

  11. #11
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    I am able to get my hands on quite a few speaker manufacturers, namely Elac, PMC, Klipsch, Legend, Monitor Audio, Jamo, ATC, Sonus Faber, B&W and Polk.
    Back to the original subject, of the brands you've listed, I'd probably be most tempted by the Monitor Audio, ATC or to a lesser degree the Sonus Faber.

    If you have access, I'd also recommend your auditioning Spendor, Harbeth and Dynaudio. (I'm a Spendor owner.)

    All have models that will more than meet your needs for room size and playback volume, and all are capable of accurately rendering voice and acoustic instruments in a refined and lifelike manner.

  12. #12
    RGA
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    Feanor

    Yes it is hard to believe claims by makers when it comes to drivers - or most other parts for that matter but I think Audio Note is a lot more up front about it than most everyone else. They do not hide the fact that the drivers are SEAS - in fact they tell you. They don't hide the fact that the speakers were platformed off of Snell's original speakers or that turntables 1 and 2 were designed by Peter Dunlop of Systemdek or that the Arms are made by Rega.

    When you start looking at cost of components only then you have problems - you would be mortified if you knew the costs of your Magnepan's from a parts perspective ( I know the guy repairing them as a magnepan authorized dealer) so I would not throw too many stones when you see the costs of what goes into a 20.1.

    The least expensive aspect of a loudspeaker is the drivers. Typically Audio Note uses Russian Birch no void ply - plenty of loudspeakers of similar size shape and price use far less expensive (shockingly MDF) and easier to work with materials - it's not just the cost of the woods - it's the cost of the parts that are lost in making the loudspeaker. Paper woofers are the most difficult to pair match to tight tolerances and yet there is no one else pair matching to those tolerances even at far higher price points with easier to match materials.

    And the bottom line is labour is higher - We're talking real British wages, medical taxes and shipping and a company not quite big enough to be doing things at huge scale. With 100% testing and calibrating the driver to the crossover to the box because each is slightly off when you get things sourced - this creates a big labour element. With many companies that are mass assembled on a line in China that no one actually listens to ensure it works before it gets put in a box then costs for them are much reduced.

    You have numerous companies like Wilson, B&W who have a little more wood - one extra driver in each speaker and charge $15-$22k (Sophia and D800) and IMO neither are as nice to listen to as the AN E/LX HE at about $6k. Certainly there is nothing in the "cost of parts" that would run those other two speakers to warrant a 9K - 16K price hike.

  13. #13
    nightflier
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    I would not necessarily take Polk off the list. Their LSi9 & LSi7 bookshelves, while certainly not as expensive as other brands, are of a very different caliber than the rest of Polk';s lower lines. That tweeter is the same one found on super expensive speakers (Wilson Audio, Krell,VSA, etc.). You just can't buy that kind of technology anywhere else at that price-point. IMO, they represent a fantastic bang for the buck, and will leave you with some extra cash to spend elsewhere.

  14. #14
    Aussieaudiofan
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    Smile Thanks for the input

    Thanks nightflier and everyone else for their input.

    The Polk LSi7 and LSi9 bookshelf speakers appear to have the specs I am looking for and are quite affordable.There is a dealer nearby, so I will be popping in to have a look and listen over the next week or so.

    I'll let you know what happens.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  15. #15
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Great personal suggestions above.

    It doesnt sound like you have alot of audition choices in your country.
    Things to consider is that everyone here, as everywhere else, has their personal preferencea in audio.

    Feanor - Loves Classical music on SACD thru Magnepan's colored sound. Also, he can't hear anything higher than a cat's fart.

    Mr. Peabody - what I imagine to be nicely balanced system, but thinks 80's hairbands and ballards are the pinnacle of hi-fi recordings.

    RGA - Not a shill of AN, but has volunteery planted his foot in the AN franchise. But his musical taste is far wider than just acoustic or electronic.

    And there is me, who can't stay with a same gear for more than 6 months and doesn't even know what I want. Loves tubes and vinyl because it makes me feel special. Oh yeah, I listen to alot of poorly recorded music finds, and I like then buys everything they have ever produced within a month.

    Here is my suggestion, contact Ty from Tyler Acoutsics and see if he'll make you a pair of Taylo Reference in their new cabinets with Scanspeak Revelator tweeters. Last time I contact him, he told me he would build a pair for around $2800. He said he wouldn't do custom speakers after April of 2009, but I bet he's as willing as anyone to sell a pair, due to our current economy. Their original Talyo Reference is an incredible pair at less than $1200 used, but their cabinet needed some help. That's one of the reason why he started a new line with different style cabinets.
    But if you are not the type how is not afraid to try something different, get a pair of speakers without cross-overs (Single Driver).

    JRA

  16. #16
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    ....

    But if you are not the type how is not afraid to try something different, get a pair of speakers without cross-overs (Single Driver).

    JRA
    This from a guy who thinks Magneplanars are colored!

  17. #17
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    This from a guy who thinks Magneplanars are colored!
    I guess I had that one coming, but have you ever listed to Magnepan anything other than acoustical music, intensively? I find them to be one of the most colored speakers in the world. Some strings sound beyond exceptional, but wouldn't call it realistic. As soon as brass instruments come into play, they never made me think I was listening to a real instrument. They absolutely suit certain instruments, but Maggies get out of their element rather quickly. Of course, I only had them for less than a year, and didn't experiement with tons of diffrerent gear. We all have our own definition of what neutral is, but to me Magnepan sounds like they use a sheet of cheap aluminum foil for drivers. And no, I've never heard or seen speakers with tin foil.

    PS - If I don't hear pops and clicks, they just dont sound neutral to me

  18. #18
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    JRA, I take exception to that sir. Just because I throw on some R&R now and then does not make that my reference for sound quality. Actually, most of my "big hair band" gets played on my second system during work out. I save the CJ for Jane Monheit, Vavaldi, Dave Grusin and the like, of course, we have to play da Blues once in a while. Oddly, enough though, I have Dynaudio in my second system as well driven by Adcom 5500. Dyn makes what I call a "neutral" speaker, it can do it all on most gear and sound good doing it. I guess maybe "versatile" could be a synonym.

    If I didn't know you were joking I'd have my feelings hurt. You were joking, right?

  19. #19
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Of course my man and same goes to Feanor. But I'm not joking about Magnepan and colored sound. But that's just based on my experience, not others.

  20. #20
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    Today, while browsing the aisles of Barnes and Noble, I checked out the latest edition of Future Music magazine. The current issue compares 5 different studio monitors and declares the best the the bunch to be Event Opal studio monitors. Here is the mfg link for your review and some specs.

    http://www.eventelectronics.com/

    Event Opal studio monitors
    2-way 750-watt Active Monitor with 8" Woofer and Rotatable Tweeter
    8" EX8 Driver with 30Hz to 10kHz range

  21. #21
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    The eVent look like they rock. They look like you could probably hook them directly to a preamp since they are powered.

  22. #22
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    ESL's = single driver speaker. No crossovers and the best transient response there is.

    jrhymeammo:
    I always called it the credit card sound. Sort of plastic like. It may be the tweeter sections of the smaller models. The 1.6QR's have less of it. The true ribbons on the 3.6R's and 20's sound much better than the QR models. Also, if you turn them around and listen to the backs they sound a lot better. This works on all the Maggies I've heard.
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
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    Behringer UCA222, Emotiva XDA-2, HiFimeDIY
    Accuphase T101, Teac V-7010, Nak ZX-7. LX-5, Behringer DSP1124P
    Front: Magnepan 1.7, DBX 223SX, 2 modified Dynaco MK3's, 2, 12" DIY TL subs (Pass El-Pipe-O) 2 bridged Crown XLS-402
    Rear/HT: Emotiva UMC200, Acoustat Model 1/SPW-1, Behringer CX2310, 2 Adcom GFA-545

  23. #23
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeE SP9
    ESL's = single driver speaker. No crossovers and the best transient response there is.

    jrhymeammo:
    I always called it the credit card sound. Sort of plastic like. It may be the tweeter sections of the smaller models. The 1.6QR's have less of it. The true ribbons on the 3.6R's and 20's sound much better than the QR models. Also, if you turn them around and listen to the backs they sound a lot better. This works on all the Maggies I've heard.
    Hey Joe,

    I've often described the sound as "Plasticky" but felt like I wasn't expressing it correctly, thus Aluminum foil... I've not been fortunate to audition 20s, but 3.6R's do sound nice. They portray less of "Plastiluminum" sound, but not natural either. Nice boxless sound though.

  24. #24
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Hey Joe,

    I've often described the sound as "Plasticky" but felt like I wasn't expressing it correctly, thus Aluminum foil... I've not been fortunate to audition 20s, but 3.6R's do sound nice. They portray less of "Plastiluminum" sound, but not natural either. Nice boxless sound though.
    Hiro, other than that you don't care for Magneplanar, I have no idear what you're talking about. "Plasticky" or "Plastiluminum" convey no meaning to me, nor I suspect, very many other people.

    What is clear is that you like to play with toys. You played with Magneplanar for while and have moved on -- out of boredom if for no better reason. What next's next after the Tylers?

  25. #25
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I would choose Magnaplanars over any comparably priced box. MMG's with the addition of a decent sub (~$500) are better than any $1000 pair of boxes. The 1.6QR IMO is one of the best buys in audio.The boxless sound far outweighs the small amount of "plastiluminum" in their sound. The 3.6R is simply a fantastically good speaker. The true ribbon tweeter reduces the "plastiluminum" sound to negligible levels.The MG-20 is simply one of the best real world (barely affordable) speakers in existence.
    I know everyone doesn't agree with me. That's OK, Maggy owners do.
    ARC SP9 MKIII, VPI HW19, Rega RB300
    Marcof PPA1, Shure, Sumiko, Ortofon carts, Yamaha DVD-S1800
    Behringer UCA222, Emotiva XDA-2, HiFimeDIY
    Accuphase T101, Teac V-7010, Nak ZX-7. LX-5, Behringer DSP1124P
    Front: Magnepan 1.7, DBX 223SX, 2 modified Dynaco MK3's, 2, 12" DIY TL subs (Pass El-Pipe-O) 2 bridged Crown XLS-402
    Rear/HT: Emotiva UMC200, Acoustat Model 1/SPW-1, Behringer CX2310, 2 Adcom GFA-545

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