I have recently inherited a McIntosh 240 tube power amp and C20 tube preamp - both are in the shop now being tuned up. So now I'm looking for a pair of bookshelf-sized speakers that will match up well with the Macs. The system will be in a small carpeted room (~10'x10') with about 7 feet between the speakers. I'd like to avoid using a sub. Listening primarily to rock and jazz (new & old) - on vinyl and cds. The MC240 is rated at 40 watts per side.
My budget is $650 max.
I'm leaning towards a pair of B&W 685's since I've seen plenty of good reviews on them, but not sure if they would be happy with tube power. I don't imagine that I'll have an opportunity to audition the speakers with my amp, so I'll be going on reviews that I read, and suggestions from folks on these boards.
It is a great disservice that there is a myth out there that tubes lack power and can't drive a lot of speakers. The general rule of thumb that many adhere to is to take a tube amp's power rating and multiply by it three and compare that number to a SS amp. In other words take the mac's 40 watts times 3 = 120watts and compare a 120 Watt amp to the Mac. B&W is not an overly difficult speaker to drive - and McIntosh is a popular choice with them.
Having said that if you love tube gear it's not the worst idea to look at speakers geared for two channel (B&W isn't) and that were made with tube amps in mind (B&W doesn't).
That;'s not a knock on B&W - the 600 series IMO has always been their best value for the dollar (along with the older silk dome tweeter 300 series speakers). Their upper lines IMO have stiffer competition offering better sound for less money but that's just my opinion.
Another factor is that the room is small so you'll probably never need more than 10 watts even at loud playing levels even with 600 series B&W's. Get a more efficient speaker like the Klipsch Standmounts and you'd never likely use more than 3-5watts. But of course Klipsch is not to everyone's tastes.
I consider B&W to be a relatively safe selection here for the money. I personally would prefer a better treble response and generally try to avoid metal tweeters - but if you like a little tipped up treble the B&W's are certainly not outclassed by much.
I'd also consider Wharfedale's Diamond Series which is a less expensive "just as good" alternative (the Evo line may be about the same price as the 600 series as well though not sure). The Audio Note AX Two which is next to impossible to find trumps both IMO but runs about $650US and is very easy to drive and more importantly is designed for tube amps, and designed for a small room. The McIntosh not only has enough power but would have about 35 watts extra unnecessary power!
I'd recommend Skylan Stands as they're quite excellent in terms of value for the dollar and they'll custom make them for you at no extra cost - just tell them what the speaker maker recommends (height width etc)
The audio retailer I normally do business with heaps much praise on the Mordaunt-Short Aviano bookshelf speaker (read a current review on What Hi-Fi). While my audio retailer does not currently carry the M.S line (he does carry Reference 3A speakers) he has reported to me that he may decide to carry the M.S. Aviano bookshelf line and/or adding some Dynaudio.
The M.S. Aviano bookshelf models are within your price range. So are the Usher S-520's, Wharfedale Diamond's (read the review on the new model 10.1's on What Hi-Fi), and Epos ELS-3 (now a discontinued model and was still available on the Music Direct website last time I checked).
I have currently have the Wharfedale diamond 9.1's and have found them to be picky with amplification but the 9.1's are now a discontinued model so maybe the 10.1's are better suited to a variety of amplification? I have owned a pair of Usher S-520's and they are quite musical and dynamic for their size/price point, have no problem with a variety of amplification... but the little woofer does more than it's size should be allowed to do and therefore can begin thracking sooner than you would prefer, otherwise, it's a bargain and eye candy too. The Epos ELS-3 I have always considered to be the best of the three I mention here but I have only auditioned them on a handful of occasions and have no long term exposure with them.
If you find yourself interested in the M.S. Aviano then check out the site for Wild West Electronics.
Those skylanstands look like some very well made units. I am in the process of deciding to go with some stand mount Usher custom built speakers for my main speakers and stands are something of high importance and I will remember this company when I get to that point to see what they offer.
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