$600 +/- Bookshelfs w/ Holographic Soundstage

Hello all,

Thank you all for your time & dedication to Audio :-)
This site has been a wonderful find for me (and a constant source of amusement for my wife watching me! LOL!)

I have been reading a bunch of the articles - trying not to clog up the forum with yet another speaker advice column - but have learned that it is the specifics of each individual situation that makes this such an exciting topic. So ...

I am looking to upgrade my bookshelf speakers - and would love input on my situation:

Right now I have a pair of B&W DM.601 s1 - that I am enjoying, but I feel their holographic soundstage is a bit limited.

This is my #1 priority - I love 'seeing' the music. My pinnacle moment came when listening to Rimsky-Korsakov, Sherezade on Primare driven ProAc Response D28s - when, with my eyes closed, I could tell you exactly where each member of the orchestra was sitting! That was when all of this began!!

Budget is self set at $600 +/-
Used / New all-ok
I'm partial to bookshelfs due to the size of my room (12'x10') in an NYC Apartment.

My current system:
Rotel RX-1052 Receiver (my upgrade dream right now is the Primare I30)
Rotel RCD-1072 CD
Technics SL-1200MK2 (w/ Shure M97xE)
B&W DM.601 S1 on Stands
Decent Wiring (Monster M850 Interconnects, Kimber Kwik 12 Speaker, I'm working on power cabling next)

What I've listened to in the last 48 Hours:
Art Farmer - Modern Art - CD
David Byrne - Grown Backwards - CD
Pink Floyd (bootlegs circa 1968-1974) - FLAC burned to CD
Thin Lizzy - In Sunshine or Shadow - LP
Radiohead - OK Computer - Audiophile LP
Miucha & Antonio Carlos Jobim - LP
Jorge Ben - BEN - LP Digitized to CD
Amadou & Mariam - Dimache & Bamako - CD
Pepe & Cheich - CD
Franz Liszt - A Faust Symphony - CD
Schuman - Frauenliebe und Leben - CD
Bach - Sonatas & Partitas - CD

Ok - I think this is probably more then enough info!

Thank you all so much & Happy Holidays
Well talking about Proacs my fondest moments are with a pair of super tabletts and original quicksilver mono amps just fabulous bliss...
Suggest that you keep your current speakers and purchase a DAC instead. A used PS Audio or Benchmark should be close to your price range and will do more to enhance your soundstage.
Hey Ethan, I share your enthusiasm for the textural qualities of a fine two-channel image :) My suggestions as far as speakers go would include Alons, Meadowlarks, Green Mountain Audio, and of course Spicas. If you get a chance to listen to any of the Alon open-baffle designs, don't pass it up, they are amazing. The other suggestions I have to preserve that dimensionality are 1) a good passive preamp, like the Luminous Audio Axiom, and 2) a good tube amp. Happy listening!
I don't care what speakers are out there, a bottle of your favorite spirits will make any speaker many many times more halographic. This is one of my secret tweaks that I don't share often.

The new B&W 685's could be just the right move for you. They list at approx $650.00/pair and are a far cry from your DM601 S1's. Even the 601 S3's (of which I have a pair) are a vast improvement over the S1's. I think you would love the 685's. Have you auditioned them yet?

BTW, I too have a Rotel RCD-1072 CDP.
if you can find a used totem model 1 that would be a good candidate.
the harbeth HL-P3es2s
Proac Ref 8s
Like your speaks, not your receiver. The DAC suggestion is right on and will help alot. There is a very good Assemblage 2.0 on A'gon right now for $220. Snag it!! A decent integrated would go a long ways. So would decent cables, dump the Monster. Signal Cable, Anti-Cables, Mapleshade, something. How good are your speaker stands? Massed? Good luck, have fun.
If you can go up a couple hundred dollars there is a pair of used Taylor Audio Taylo Reference monitors that would give you what you're looking for. Phenomenal value, and they disappear like nothing else I've ever heard.
I think you're on the right track. Sure you can put better electronics in front of them and the B&Ws will probably throw a better image than they do currently, but they will never image as well as the Proacs you heard.

I had a similar watershed moment in terms of holographic imaging when I heard Thiels driven by a Pass Aleph 3 and Bryston preamp over 10 years ago. I have found time/phase coherent speakers excel in this regard, including Thiel, Vandersteen, Green Mountain Audio, etc. But there are many others that do very well in this area as well such as Joseph Audio, Silverline, Totem, and Audio Physics among others.

In your price range new I'd look at the Silverline Minuets, Ascend Acoustics Sierra 1, and the Epos M5. If you go used it opens up virtually all the manufacturers listed above and more. I'd bet any of them installed in your current system would improve sonic holography a good bit and will blow the B&Ws out of the water with better electronics as funds allow.

An important point is that even speakers that have the ability to cast a believable 3D image will be limited if not given the necessary space to breathe. You've probably already addressed this, but unless you pull the speakers at least a few feet out from the back wall (and preferably more) the imaging won't physically appear as convincingly. Many cables/interconnects (especially interconnects) will also limit the holographic imaging ability, and I would doubt the Monsters are doing you any favors in this regard. I've found Stereovox interconnects do very well with sorting out a believably dimensional image as I'm sure some of the others mentioned do too.

Hope this at least gave you some ideas, and best of luck.
Paradigm Studio 20 V4. Should be able to get them used for your price range. Very good speaker for the money.
Thank you all very much! I'll start working through this and start listening and experimenting.

My one real confusion is where people recommend the DAC addition? When I purchased the 1072 - I did that thinking that it was the onboard DACs that made it such a good unit. If I were to port out to a new DAC, wouldn't that bypass the good parts of the 1072 (the Brown-Burr 24bit DACs?)

Thanks for the suggestions - I need to get myself out and listening, experimenting. Even upgrading to these 850 Monster interconnects was a HUGE improvement - so I'll check out that route as well.

Any other suggestions / input is greatly appreciated. Thank you all & Happy Holidays!

There is a pair of Epos M12.2 for my price range. I think this would be a great pair for the money?


And I can local pick-up :-)
I listened to those B&Ws at my dealer's store. Then he swapped in a pair of Triangles. I went with the Triangles, and one of the reasons was their amazing imaging. You could find a pair of Com├Ęte ES used for your price.

Another make to look for would be Aurum Cantus.

Now for two cents' worth of system advice. It seems to me that your weak links at present are your receiver and your speakers. If you do change your speakers now, you will hear the receiver's limitations more clearly, so remember that when you plan your budget--you'll want to get your dream amp quite soon. Alternatively, keep saving and get the amp first and look for speakers second. A better amp will make your 601s a lot more pleasing.

I agree that an outboard DAC (and a good digital cable--budget $100 at least) would improve things, but I don't think this is a first priority. Sincerely, I would go for an amp first, then speakers, then I'd consider source gear.

If you want to improve the sound from your 1072, you can do it simply and economically by putting it on antivibration footers like Bright Star Isonodes or for a bit more money, Herbie's Tenderfeet. You could also get it a new power cord. The Acoustic Zen El Nino would be a good choice, and IIRC there's one available here right now.
Since nobody has mentioned room treatments yet that would be my suggestion. Soix touched on placement and that is very important though not so easy in a small room. I have had some of the best listening moments recently after installing treatments at the first reflection points. The imaging is simply amazing with great instrument separation and placement in the stage. Study up as much as possible on treatments and, if wife allows, do your best - you will most likely be amazed and save yourself some cash (although speaker buying is a great time!)
Listened to Totem Rainmakers & Mite's today - and I wasn't blown out of the water - so now I believe my current system is probably better then I thought it was - I was just 'amped' up to buy!

Thank you all - I think I learned a lot from this thread. I am going to start with placement & cabling. I'll read up on treatments (I have a brick wall that would probably do well with some soft-goods on it).

I will then up my amplification and finally speakers. I think this will give me the right learning curve, sound and help the wallet out a bit.

The guy at the store used a great metaphor (and this was after I demoed the speakers :-) Not sure if this is the standard metaphor for the audiophile world, but as he said it:

Speakers are a window and your electronics are the view. You can have a big window that looks at a brick wall or a small window that looks at a beautiful park.

We are city folk :-)

Happy new year all!
Nice metaphor, but I think it leaves out a crucial part. The size of the window is obviously important, but for holographic imaging I think it's probably even more important to have a clear window. What good is a beautiful park if you can't see it clearly? In the end I think need both if you want that "reach out and touch it" imaging.
I like the metaphoric extension Siox :-)

It really seems to be a chicken and egg situation - and that is what leads to the personal audio arms race - it started with a CD player and moved on from there.

I'll move forward and am very grateful for all the wonderful feedback and advice.
I'd give serious thought to these or these. Note that the NHT speakers on Amazon are sold singly, so they're really $650/pair. They typically sold for over $900/pair and were widely considered the best speaker out there under $1K. NHTs are pretty fast, which is pretty essential for good imaging. They also are in small inert enclosures with a small, contoured front baffle, which also bring out the imaging.
If that's a real brick wall, not a metaphor, in your listening room, you are lucky, especially if it's behind your speakers. The rough, jointed surface ought to diffuse the highs very well. You can try other treatments on it, why not, but my guess is that other things, like side reflection points, would need more attention.

Jim Smith's book Get Better Sound is an excellent reference for matching your system to a room. His techniques really work, they have made my system sound fantastically better.

Ethan, I think your new plan sounds like a winner. I saved up some cash and was trying to decide my next upgrade until I became interested in room acoustics. After some research, learning, and less than $100 for rigid fiberglass panels my very modest system has taken a huge step forward IMO.

You might never know what your room/system is capable of without proper placement and treatments.

Of course, you can always upgrade down the line (I know I will be!) and proper room setup will just help your upgrade shine even more. And, while having fun getting your room together you can keep saving up for those Proacs. Be cautious of lateral upgrades and try to get what you really want. I realize it will take a while longer for me to save up for a true upgrade.

Finally, I know this will eat into the budget a bit but audition some decent interconnects - dump the Monster! Maybe some Kimber for cable synergy?

Good luck and happy holidays!
I would also consider speaker placement, I have had experiences in which cheapo speakers were used and placement made such an impression. The speaker used was the psb alphas from a few years back, they still are considered awesome!! Not so much around $280 new! But earlier recommendations that sell for more will be better most likely.
Agree with Paradigms; I would also look at the entry level products by PSB, Harbeth and ATC.