Headphones will never be speakers, but some will certainly be far better.....
and, no, there is no YMMV involved here....
This is a 6 year old thread.
The only reason I am addig to it now is because I regularly get inquires as what is the best speaker for such and such a price point.- people figure out how to email me- even though I rarely check head-fi.
Since I started this thread I have been to about 15 hifi shows. Worked all but 2 of them as a high end tuner for the rooms and systems. I got the highest possible praise as a tuner from The absolute sound who said my room did not sound like sound but it sounded like real live music, and that I did it "in a room of size and shape that defeated most". I can cross that off the bucket list.
System 1- combo audiophile and audiophile DJ rig.
I still have my Infinity RS1-b and got a Pair of Entec SW-1 my favorite subwoofers of all time to flank them like I used to have it. Sold the bright Bryston 4bs, and got a Great Northern Sound Corporation modified Audio Research D-250MKII Servo tube amp 250 watts a channel (it has about 48 tubes to run it ) with Odyssey Audio Kismet Reference with double the capacitors and double the power supplies in Stratos Boxes as 200 watt monoblocks. The Entec SW-1 subwoofers 250 watts each were rebuilt by a military radar engineer for aircraft carriers. That system uses my Great Northern Sound Corporation Statement level modified Wadia 860x, a Mitsubish LT-30, and (2) Technics 1200GAE ($4000 each) with Magnesium tone arms (believe it or not they are amazing truly audiophile and nothing AT ALL like the Technics 1200 MKII predessors). The Apt Holman pre-amp was replaced with a E.A.R. 912 tube pre-amp with Bugleboy tubes, There are also two modified Technics DZ-1200's with spindels and outboard displays , a regular Technics 1200 MKII for scratching, a Ean Golden Modified Vestax VCI-100 arcade version DJ controller mixer, and Otari Reel to reel. 100" drop down projector screen, Bang and Olufsen Beosystem 1, Bang and Olufsen 50" plasma Beovision 4.
Yes that's 6 turntables. 3 of them I consider to be high end tables. Not kidding about the Technics 1200GAE I wouldn't have believed it myself .
The following video is absolutely for real..
System 2 : I have a sunroom system with Chapman T-7 in rounded defraction cabinets run by a H.H. Scott 233 integrated tube amp rebuilt by NOSVALVES.com it connects with system 1.
System 3: Diving room :
Genelec s30D ribbon tweeer powered 3 way monitors with built in 24/96 DAC connected to system 1
System 4: Den
Chapman T-8 Speakers , Sherwood S-5500II tube integrated amp, Aqua La Voce DAC, Panasonic TCP65VT60 65" TV
System 5: Library
Magneplanar Tympani IV-a, Great Northern Sound Corporation Modified Audio Research VS-110 with Svetlana Winged- C 6550 tubes, connected to system 1.
System 6: GF's system (I'm putting prices on hers because it's off the chain for a chick to spend her own money on this)
Chapman T-9 flagship speakers $20,000, VAC PHI 200 100 wpc tube amp $11,000, MSB Analog DAC full stack with Universal Media Transport UMT+ and all separate power supplies $22,000, MIT 220 Pole Oracle HD speaker cable $57,000, MIT oracle HD interconnect $20,000, Shunyata Alpha HC power cables (3) $3750, 50 amp dedicated circuit for the amp and 30 amp dedicated circuit for the MSB both wired with 6AWG cable and Shunyata power outlets $900
System 7: Traveling system
Magneplanar Tympani 1 D , Bryston Powerpak 60 monoblocks, CEntrance Hifi-SKYN iphone 6 case DAC/HEADPHONE amp running Tidal Hi-fi
I am selling some of this gear... buying a smaller house- no more renting expensive places. see below.
I am selling my Ultrasone Edition 9 unless I go back to my old Imod 5.5 gen 80 GB with Alo 22 guage cryro 30 pin Imod cable, I will probably go with IEMs to fit into my Troy Lee D3 helmet. The Ultrasones won't work with a helmet. Here's a shot of me wearing the Editon 9 and Imod and Millet TTVJ portable hybrid tube amp, enjoying them to their fullest.
So..... all the systems lists out of the way....
Here's some reccommendations as to what to get. In a variety of price categories.
and like most of my posts it's overly long and detailed (sorta boring and meandering) but full of info you might appreciate if you heard it for yourself.
I do believe that if you get the sound to sound exactly the same as the live performance, you got it right. it's hard, but it can be done. I have a cousin (by marriage to my cousin) Carmen Lundy, her voice is very hard to reproduce exactly. On my systems, it sounds exactly like her, not like her sister, not even like a twin sister, but exactly like her.
She has a set of Chapman T-8s some MIT wire and Cary SE500 Monoblocks with a Hegel HD-25 DAC. and uses it for checking her recordings. Doug Sax, a great recording engineer, was very impressed when he worked on her albums with her system.
so... here goes... here's what I think are good speaker recommendations.
That was several years go. Things change. Sadly Forget the Adams- the main thing they had as an advantage is that they came with the amps built in. The newer class D amps don't sound nearly as good as the older clas A/B amps that they used to use internally. Still a cool company though, and I like some of their more expensive speakers.
WARNING...long detailed reply. give yourself 20 minutes undisturbed...
$1000 is a difficult price point.... hard to get something that is well voiced and even balanced with authority , while still beaing able to "emotionally thrill"and play loud enough to be believable.
Monitor Audio, a British voiced speaker manufactured in China with a good degree of fit and finish for the money sells the Silver 2 speaker, which I have heard and think is a decent value at MSRP $749. And I think it sounds as good as many $1500-2000 speakers from other brands. It is an easy load to drive as well. I auditioned some speaker wire and interconnects and DACs using this speaker and drove it easily to loud and unstrained levels with a Vintage H.H. Scott tube 233 integrated stereo amplifer (30 watts per channel) with the original tubes from 60 years ago. The system had the slam and bass and dynamics of a system that would normally need 150-200 watts with other speakers. Since then I have retubed and upgraded the amp... and it is even better.
If you feel so inclined, you might try unscrewing the Monitor Audio Silver 2 woofer and PARTIALLY lining the inside of the speaker cabinet with some Dynamat (a sound deadening material made for car doors).
It would go a long way to making these an even better sounding loudspeaker for the money. No need to get full 100% coverage on the inside (that would be too much coverage and make them too clinical ) - even a 2 hockey puck diameter irregular sized pieces stuck on the inside of each wall of the cabinet would stop the majority of the cabinet resonance without removing the perceived warmth. Replacing the inexpensive foam stuffing with some long haired wool or felt would also improve the sound of the speaker making it an even better value.
Another darling of a cheapie is the long discontinued Sound Dynamics RTS-3... while missing fine nuance , it is an amazing speaker for the price. You could get these for about $200 used. They will beat most $400 speakers... no real low end though. and they won't benefit much from great electronics... still not bad. An ELAC will trounce these over all. But there is still some musicallity to the RTS-3 which is why I still reccomend it as a cheapie with plastic cones.
Now- I am trying to buy a house so I can stop moving my gear around in large rental homes. I own 6 TRULY high end systems, 6 turntables, 6 amps, 5 sets of speakers, 2 DACs, and well a ton of great stuff. I finally have just about enough for a down payment so I am going to sell 3-4 systems. and I errrrrr... well I just bought (2) Brand new $4000 turntables for a stinging $8000. So I am forcing myself to sell a few speakers that I never intended to ever sell. On the bright side I can easily get new ones as most manufacturers like to pay me in gear for doing their rooms at Hi-fi shows. I only work for manufacturers when I feel I can make musical magic with their gear in the room - though at times I feel handicapped by some of the pairings- I still make the rooms sing.
In regards to amplifiers, I have a pair of Bryston Powerpak 60 watt monoblocks that would do a good job running all of the speakers below to reasonable listening levels . Selling them for on $1650 but I'd sell them to a head-fier for $1000.
I also would be willing to sell that H.H. Scott 233 integrated tube amp with brand new NOS tubes- with a full lifetime warranty from NOSVALVES.com for $1600 only because I can get away with a slightly more nuanced 20 watt per channel H.H. Scott 299b with my Chapman T-7 speakers (the 299b's 20 watts would not be enough for the Monitor Audio Silver 2 (or really many other small innefficient speakers) which are not as efficient because the resonant frequency of the loudspeaker falls smack in the audible range gobbling power.
Whereas with All the tower Chapman speakers the resonant frequency of the system (by intentional audio design occurs outside of the audible range below 20Hz where there is little audio information recorded so it is easier to control and won't gobble wattage). All of the Chapman loudspeakers are absolutely full range hitting even the most difficult lower octaves effortlessly without requiring gobs of amplifier power. You can practically peal the paint of the wall without distortion.
See this demo I did with only 80 watt amps - skip to the last minute- the fun part of blowing away the reviewer who has easily been to over 10,000 rooms over the past 5 year and has heard everything. Yes, it was a mind blower.... entry level speaker or not.
In terms of speaker wire I have some Nordost which is a good match for that speaker- and I bought Nordost using a tower Monitor Audio speaker- and was using this wire at this show:
At this show, I tried to make a minimal system for low money and was grouped in with several systems costing 10-15 times as much- which I also heard at the show and personally confirmed they were on our same level with the designer of the Chapman speakers. Though I will give the edge in midrange and highs to the Stenheim/Nagra room which cost easily 10 times more than ours. Much superior electronics in their room and dedicated subwoofers. I liked it.
So if you need some wire....
$75 for the used pair of 10 - 15 feet of Nordost wire... a screaming good deal.
You NEED decent wire with ANY of the speakers listed here except the Sound Dynamics RTS-3 which aren't detailed enough to appreciate the better wire. (Exception The Magneplanars would be better off with 12 gauge wire or even larger. They LOVE current)
At the show in the link above ....
I had to buy a system for the speakers for the show. I wasn't able to bring stuff from home.
My goal was to put myself in the shoes of a typical music loving husband and wife looking for a system. I had the Chapman T-5 speakers to run, and though I, MYSELF, would have brought the T-5 to a dealer to do a comparision with his gear and THEN take them home to listen - I knew the average customer would not.
So I did not bring The Chapman T-5's and just chose a Monitor Audio $10K -12Kspeaker (costing about twice as much) to do most of the evaluations- then I listened to that Monitor Silver 2... out of curiousity which for the money was pretty good.
So I went to a single store, Adirondack Audio Visual (nice store- good dealer, Jason Tavares the owner was frankly excellent- (shockingly better than many other expensive audiophile NYC stores).
I scoped the Adirondack AV store out. Not too many of the most common high end brands...which often is a good thing musically.
Listened to a few speakers and wire and DACs, took most of the Jason Tavares' advice even if I thought differently and fiercely stuck to my price point like glue. I was going to accept the same mistkes a regular customer might make and then try to get great sound at the Rocky Mountain Audio fest 2014 show. (Apparently the reviewers liked it- and we sold 3 pairs of Chapman T-5 demos at the show in a little over 4 hours and got to go home carrying nothing).
I bought everything at Adirondack AV at FULL LIST PRICE (even though I could have gotten a whopper of an industry discount)... to make it "HURT" like a real purchase , and did this intentially so the dealer would give me the support and demo time entitled to a regular non audio industry customer.
I did not tell the dealer I was in the industry until well after the sale. I wanted to be EXACTLY like a regular customer. I would also buy everything needed for my speakers from the same store, knowing that I the average customer would not be able to drag their girl to multiple dealers.
(When I say "in the industry " I am really a system tuner- I am not a store, I don't get a check from manufacturers. But I am one of the better industry tuners and never have a bad sounding room ever. I have worked with Chapman at a lot of shows, and was going to be a sales rep for M.I.T cable but they did away with Reps. I worked for Bang and Olufsen for 2 years, not really as much fun as true lunatic fringe high end gear.)
At Adirondack AV I also made the GF part of the decision process.... (wincing a bit when she picked the $200 more expensive Nordost Red Dawn interconnects that to my ears were not as good a match (too bright) as compared to the lower price Nordost Blue Heaven interconects) . I went with that, "mistake" because you only get to oppose "the wife" so much, and knew I would have to compensate later with good set up. And I would have to make her a part of the decision process to get purchases to be "Allowed". A typical husband would just trust his wifes ears and try to make do also with a bad purchase decision.
Also everything in the front end of the system (except the amp and speakers brought to the show by Chapman) had to fit into a carry-on for the airplane as I was in a sling (post shoulder operation) and had to carry it all in a single carry on roller bag with clothes for 3 days. the fornt end cost $4000.
Like a typical "husband", I would have to make due with speaker positioning, and nothing more than 3-4 Target bathmats for sound deadening on the walls for the worst slap echo (like a tapestry in a man cave) .- no real properly designed acoustic treatment - no fancy tube traps, no acoustic foam. And to remove the beneficial effects of a well acoustically isolated rack- I just tossed the gear on the floor- static carpet and all.
I limited the combined unload & set up time to 70 minutes, and only 2 songs for tuning.... (pink Floyd DSOFTM "Great Gig in the Sky" and Sinatra "Fly me to the moon" , because thats probably what the average person would do. And the songs are common. I got amazing sound despite a bad room node possibly +4 db at 150-200 hz.
Chapman does not advertise with Stereophile, or the Absolute sound, or Part time audiophile or ANYONE. So it's really unbiased when they say anything about the systems- most manufacturers that dont advertise are IGNORED as if they don't exist at all. And of anyone is mentioned it is usually a teaser of a few lines to entice a manufacturer to advertise.
Then...another show At T.H.E. Show Newport 2015 using truly horrible homebrew tube amps that were struggling we got grouped with best 3 affordable speakers from Stereophile (and the others have HUGE advertising budgets multi page spreads in every mag for the past 20 years)
The entry level T-5 Chapman would beat IMHO all or almost all the Sonus Farber loudspeakers (at any price point) , and do much more believable bass and horns and voices than any Magneplanar - and particaularly would easily crush the tiny .7's. But I have to agree that for somewhat affordable speakers- and the $4995 Chapman T-5 is far more expensive that the .7 at $1400, and Sonus Farber Chameleon T at $1999.
So it isn't much of a fair fight to pit a $4995 Chapman against it. BTW if you look at the review for the Chameleon (gorgeous cabinet BTW) the crossover is pretty wimpy. and So is hte Magneplanars (with exception to my Magneplanar Tympani IV-a with outboard external crossovers boxes - uh...but what is inside is still... not impressive) .
Here is the Sonus Farber Chameleon T crossover. (Im glad they really inspect the speaker box with a quasi tear down)
Sigh... compared this to just a single crossover component in a Chapman which costs more than the Sonus Farber ENTIRE crossover. And the quality between the two is on an entirely diferent level . Almost 1/3 of the cost of the Chapmans goes into the electronics inside.
Shown in my hands is just 2 of about 15 + components inside every speaker... Bigger is better. The blue cap in my left hand probably weighs more than the Sonus Farber entire crossover- and the silver one weighs about 3 times that. And the Chapman T-5 and T-7 are "future proof" as they can be upgraded as improvements come out- much like the Aqua series of modular DACs.
Worth noting ...The Chapman is full range going 20Hz - 25khz. and at 20hz it isn't down -6db it is actually up +3db! Which is good because most information recorded at 20Hz is down by more than 3db anyhow. So the Chapman helps to make up for the deficientcy in low frequency in the recording process sounding more like real music in your room. So no Chapman requires a subwoofer.
So I do know a thing or two about system matching. And even when I INTENTIONALLY HANDICAP the speakers to prove a point (like using the Quicksilvers at CES 2013 that are a bit closed in by modern tube amp standards , or the "50 watt" Ampsandsound.com amps in 2015 at T.H.E. Show Newport Baach which sonically crippled the sound of the E.A.R. 912 preamp so much that a Scott integrated amp alone would have been a far better choice. (Those AMPSANDSOUNDS.com monoblocks- which are built like kits- don't have even have 1/2 the oomph and tonal quality of the circa 1966 H.H. Scott 233 30 watt per channel stereo integrated tube amp) even with all these handicaps ....I can still essentially be mentioned for value in sound compared to 408 other sound guys like me at the show- who are DEFINITELY using better amplification. Just by matching wire and using better speakers.
Chapman is working on a speaker similar to the Monitor Audio Silver 2 with a 1" tweeter and a 8" woofer... but I bet it will cost at least $1500, and it won't look as nice but will sound better.
If you want to double your budget... you can get some value if you are good at making things .. DIY a speaker perhaps?
This looks very promising. My favorite midrange too, but it is a complicated build. I personally would not attempt it, but I might pay a cabinet maker $400 and a electronics repair person $200 to make the crossover. That speaker should sound like a $7000 speaker.
This one below won't sound as good but is cheaper and simpler to make. You might be able to make it for under $1000.
and, well if you want something that really sounds good and not in the stratosphere , maybe I can score you a demo pair of Chapman T-5 for about $2900-$3700 depending on finish. Normally they are $4995.00.
Or I can sell you my Used Chapman T-8 with a far superior tweeter and Clarity crossover for $4200 regularly $8995.00. Those were the VERY SAME speakers that made me fall in love with the brand that I heard at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I only tuned for them because I personally wanted those speakers, that's how good they are. I now own the $8995 Chapman T-8, $12,995 Chapman T-7, and my GF owns the $20,000 Chapman T-9.
It's the rounded cabinet Chapman T-7, the set showing in this article.
You will rarely see a review title a review with "results in glory". But it was appropriate. The speakers are that good- which is why I ended up buying them. I am buying a house now- so they are on the chopping block. With their cabinets they are MSRP 12,995.00 I would however sell these for $6000 if I could sell them before November.
I also have a set of RARE Magneplanar Tympani IV-A (with ribbon tweeters) which I would sell begrudgingly for $3900 which are in excellent condition in white.
Lastly My GF has a set of completely redone Magneplanar Tympani 1D which were stripped to the frames and had EVERYTHING redone including the crossovers she is selling those for $4000. New speaker "socks" in black. They are like brand new.
The benefit of buying the Chapmans T-8 or my T-7 and the H.H.Scott 233 and Nordost cable is that I can 100% assure you that it would beat all of the systems at the last few shows except.... the "....results in Glory system" which used a $22,000 MSB Analog DAC Stack with 7 separate power supplies and $11,000 VAC PHI 200 tube amplifier. But it would still be very close.... very very close. Just not quite as loud.
You'd have a system you could never blow, lifetime warranty on the amp, and all you would need is a DAC. Which.... I could also sell you. An Aqua LA VOCE MSRP $2700 used for $2000.
and this review which is - well more accurate, because the reviewer is more experienced and for the most part only reviews DACs. makes a few good points.
The reason it sounds better is it is a mathematically "BIT PERFECT" Ladder DAC as opposed to a delta sigma DAC which does mathematical "rounding " (read adds mathematical digtal conversion error resulting in more distortion ) and Delta sigma DACs introduce their own EXTRA digital distortions that make bad, flawed recordings sound really bad, harsh, irritating. That unfortuately is a problem with most other "non ladder DACs" because much less than 5% of music is really well recorded.
949-243-4377 cell 10-10 PST
Things I liked at the last 2016 T.H.E. Show Newport Beach (they had a great headphone area too!)
If you have money to burn, the new $80,000 Stein horn loaded speakers are flat out amazing for classical-probably the best I have heard at any price.. but unfortuantely like some other amazing classical reproduing gear like the Kronos turntable they don't do nearly as well with popular music. but if you can afford them , you probably can afford a complete other set up for popular music.
Also The Saunders Sound electrostats are a great value as an entire system about $11,000 complete except for high frequency amp.