I need (small, efficient) speaker help.

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by JohnVF, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    I'm stumped. Not because I can't figure out options, but rather, I just don't know enough about the options to make any progress. I have a very specific set of criteria and could use some help with ideas.

    I have this little tube amp, a Leben CS-300x. And I want it to live in my bedroom setup. Currently that setup is a pair of Elac UNI-Fi UB5s on big 4-post, filled, Target stands, driven by a Proton amp, with a Berkeley Alpha DAC as preamp. The system is fine but it's too much for the room. The Target stands are in the way, the Elacs are kind of plane-jane and not in a good way. On the stands they're just homely. The Proton is great but I'd rather use the Leben.

    My budget is around $1000, so I'm thinking used is the way to go here. Would love to spend less but could swing a bit more if I found something really special.

    So, the criteria:

    Decent efficiency. I'm thinking 90db at least. It's a small room and the Leben is gutsy for its size but only 18wpc.

    Can't be homely. I would love some sort of real wood veneer or piano black. Or shiny white. Anything but ugly vinyl wrap.

    I prefer a sound that errs on the warm side.

    Needs to be smallish. Can be small floor standers or something that works well on lighter stands. No more huge stands! Ability to play near a wall is a plus.

    Ideas I've had:

    Dynaudio Contour S/R. These are actually designed to be wall mounted. They might not work with the Leben but wall mounted? I'm intrigued.

    Rega Ela (early ones). These are a small floorstander, they're fantastic. I just can't find a pair.

    Meadowlark Swifts: Another small floorstander. I may go this route I've just never heard a pair.

    Royd Envoy: Smallish stand mount. Another speaker I haven't heard but have heard good things about.

    Dynaudio (something or other): I just like Dynaudio speakers. I don't know much about their hierarchy however.

    Small Spendors: They'd stretch my budget but I like them.

    Martin Logan Motion(?)- The newish stand mounts with the air motion tweeter. I'm intrigued.

    Harbeth P3esr- Ok, WAY out of my price range but I'd love them. Perfect look, too.

    Things I've tried:

    Elac UniFi UB5s: They sound great but don't open up with the Leben, and they're ugly.

    Allison CD7s: They look great but don't sound great. Perfect size. They're just too "vintage' sounding. Rolled off, indistinct, just bland sounding. No, i"m not suggesting all vintage speakers sound like that.

    Yamaha HS7 powered monitors. Ok, they didn't use the Leben but they were too, well, pro-monitor sounding. Everything revealed in a non flattering light. They're back in use in my home recording setup.

    And...that's it! Sorry for the lengthy treatise. I just need speakers :(
  2. billfort

    billfort Administrator Staff Member

    Something from Reference 3A. I've seen their smaller models come up used for around $1k, even some of their small floor-standers. I believe fabric-dome tweeters come up in the older production more often too, which might help in the warmth department, although I doubt any of their speakers would sound bright and biting with the Leben.
    JohnVF, ICTWoody and TubeHiFiNut like this.
  3. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Oh yes, those would be something to consider. I found a pair of the Dulcets online in ...ugh, maple. I wish I wasn't such a wood obsessor. I like dark woods. And I know that shouldn't be a deciding factor. I'll add those to my list, as I'm sure they came in other finishes. I almost bought a pair of De Capo BE once, but went with less expensive Kef LS-50s. The Kefs are gone now, and the Ref 3a would have probably stayed.
  4. Alexz

    Alexz Junior Member

    IMO ProAc Tablette will do very well in a small room with 18W.
    TubeHiFiNut and MikeyFresh like this.
  5. Mortsnets

    Mortsnets Junior Member

    Audio Note AX-Two 90db easy to drive, can be used near back wall.
    StevenZ and MikeyFresh like this.
  6. MikeyFresh

    MikeyFresh Moderator Staff Member

    I have never heard them for myself, but others have described various incarnations of the Triangle Comete as somewhat ProAc Tablette-like, but with 90dB efficiency. It's been in production in one version or another for well over 30 years if I recall correctly.


    They surely don't have wide distribution in N. America, however perhaps a decent used pair can be had as I think the days of these being a grand are long gone, probably closer to 2 grand new now unless thats just for certain special anniversary editions/exotic finishes etc...
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2018
  7. Add the Heresy III to your list.

  8. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    The Reference 3a would probably be my first choice. The Audio Note AX-2 also near the top.

    Pro-Ac Tablettes can definitely work in a small room.

    The Heresies are definitely efficient enough - not sure they would appeal to your preferences?

    Are you familiar with the Decware DM945?


    94db efficient. Looks like it's finished fairly well.
  9. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Junior Member

    I also support the Audio Note AX Two as I've had mine for 5 years now - And the price has gone down a little. Although tough to find and when you do the dealer usually has to order them - making them difficult to audition ahead of time. Still natural sound and can be placed right up against the rear wall (within 5cm) making them good in smaller spaces.

    A Second hand pair of Audio Note K speakers is even better - but AN speakers tend to go up in value over time so the guy who bought a pair for $1500 back in 2000 is likely to get $1500 or more today. On the flip side you won't likely lose any money buying a second hand pair.

    The AN K can also be placed near wall and IMO they sound a lot better than the Reference 3a MM DeCapo - the speaker I was ready to buy until I heard the AN K.

    But in a small room and assuming you don't play really loud your Leben should not have too much trouble most speakers if the speaker doesn't have long low impedance drops.

    Most single driver speakers from the likes of Omega would be fine (but bass depth and dynamics may be limiting factors) and numerous other speakers will work - Legacy Audio Studio HD are also nice and a second hand pair is possible at $1k.

    When you buy second hand you are somewhat limited for choice as to what becomes available - so the best option IMO is to listen to as many speakers as you can in the $1500 - $2500 range and compile a list of 5 or so favorites - where you like them all and then when they come up jump on them.

    Buying blind is always tough - I like the Martin Logan AMT tweeters and the sound of their speakers as well as Legacy - but I also like the silk domes of the AN's and ATCs and Harbeths and the Quad stanmounts and the KEF LS-50s Coaxial- I don't like them all equally or in the same ways as nothing is perfect - so it somewhat depends on what you listen to more often.

    If I mostly listened to electronic and trance and hip hop I might take my KEF LS-50 over the AX Two - for everything else and especially female vocals, unamplified music, cello, piano I take the AX Two. Driver sonic matching is important to me and it's important that the tweeter material mirrors the material of the woofer. Metal tweeters typically don't have the cohesion and so there is an out of step nature to them - why Martin Logan hybrid panels never really work for me and why I prefer the older Reference 3a speakers to the new ones using Beryllium.

    The fancy sexy materials make for great advertising copy but not great for great music reproduction.
    JohnVF likes this.
  10. Audionut

    Audionut Next Round Is On Me

    Don’t remember if you are pro or anti JBL so I’ll cautiously make my recommendation:
    JBL 4408’s; real walnut veneer, well built and 90db! They are a little on the bigger side though.
  11. So, here's a little blasphemy, cheap and ugly and not as efficient but oh so good. And can be sampled for a quarter of the budget.
    "So, the criteria:
    Decent efficiency. I'm thinking 90db at least. It's a small room and the Leben is gutsy for its size but only 18wpc.
    Can't be homely. I would love some sort of real wood veneer or piano black. Or shiny white. Anything but ugly vinyl wrap.
    I prefer a sound that errs on the warm side.
    Needs to be smallish. Can be small floor standers or something that works well on lighter stands. No more huge stands! Ability to play near a wall is a plus"

    ugly vinyl wrap
    Very warm sounding
    Small with enhanced bass when next to walls
    Hide a sub in the room and your done for under $500.
    JohnVF likes this.
  12. Check also ProAc Response 1SC.
    Great with tube amp ;)
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  13. MikeyFresh

    MikeyFresh Moderator Staff Member

    In the mid 90s I knew someone that drove the Response 1SC in his bedroom system with a Cary CAD 300SEI integrated amp, "between 8 and 12 watts depending on how you measure it" according to Dennis Had many years ago.

    A few years later Wes Philips did the same in a Stereophile review of the 1SC.

    Apparently these days Cary are calling it 15 watts.

    Surprisingly great combo in a small room, I'd expect the Leben to do a similar job.
    StevenZ and TubeHiFiNut like this.
  14. David

    David Moderator

    Been waiting for these to turn up locally for ages....
  15. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you all, excellent suggestions! I had completely forgotten about Triangle. And had no idea that Audio Note made a smaller speaker...those look fantastic. The Neat Iota Alpha was brought to my attention privately..that one is REALLY cool. I had thought those were big, but no, they're TINY. Those would actually be perfect but they're about double my budget. The Heresies are too big for what I need, but the right efficiency for sure. I used to have a pair of KG-2s that actually sounded pretty nice. I had LS-50s, too...they were too fussy for amps and one of the reasons I'm still looking. But they sounded excellent.

    I'm going to try to track some of these down to demo, and anything else I can find.
  16. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Another one I just thought of was the SEAS A-26 kit speakers from Madisound. That would be...fun! Sadly they're a bit too big.

    a26 kit pair.jpg
  17. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    Was thinking about suggesting the Seas A-26 kit but wasn't sure if you wanted to consider a DIY solution.

    I've had a "gut feeling" about this speaker since first reading about them.
  18. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    I have, too. I just priced it out, with a cabinet and fanciest innards its around $1300, so not toooo outside of my budget except I just spent a few hundred on speakers to replace my Allison CD7s in my upstairs home theater setup. And I need to repair something on our 20 year old BMW. And I need a new couch. And I need to pay pay for some dental work for my wife. And and and ...ugh....
  19. JohnVF

    JohnVF Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, come to think of it, the small floorstanders I just picked up use SEAS drivers and probably aren't that far off from the A26s.
  20. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    Be nice if they match up to the Leben.

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