Best Loudspeakers for Rich Timbre?

I realise that the music industry seems to care less and less about timbre, see

But for me, without timbre music reproduction can be compared to food which lacks flavour or a modern movie with washed out colours. Occasionally interesting, but rarely engaging.

So my question is, what are your loudspeaker candidates if you are looking for a 'Technicolor' sound?

I know many use tube amps solely for this aim, but perhaps they are a subject deserving an entirely separate discussion.
I know what timbre means but what is the "rich" timbre you are looking for?
Daedalus Audio

the entire line

solid wood speakers and very natural and engaging
Sound is not in technicolor.  But it sounds like you are looking for warmer speakers.  Harbeths are good for that.  Too many audiophiles assemble systems lacking in midbass warmth and then complain about it later.  

Depends what exactly you are looking for when you want Rich Timbre.

To some richness evokes a fullness of tone, where you really feel for instance the weight and presence of a tenor sax in the bottom registers or whatever, that may be thinned out in other speakers.

It that is what you mean by timbral richness, I'd throw the Devore Fidelity 0/96 and /93 have  in that camp.  That's their specialty.  Big, Rich, Thick full sound, so you feel that a piano or acoustic guitar has a vibrating sounding board,  low strings vibrate the air,  voices have a "chest" projection and not just disembodied mouths.

On the other hand my you mean something more like Timbral accuracy, in the sense of bringing out the specific timbral characteristic or tonal color of voices and instruments - e.g. that a brass cymbal really sounds like brass, a struck triangle silvery,  a trumpet warm resonating metal, the special combination of reedy/breathy/bell of a saxophone, wood sounds like wood, etc.

I've always looked for "Technicolor Sound" in the sense of a speaker producing a wider array of timbral colors, because through most speakers I immediately hear a homogenization, an imprint put over everything by the speaker.   Once I hear a sax, or trumpet, or cymbals on a speaker it's not long before I pretty much know what those will tend to sound like forever more on that speaker - unlike the truly endless element of "surprise" found in real life in that regard.

In that case, among the best I've ever encountered are the Joseph Audio speakers.  They are very accurate but with a particularly grain/haze-free sound.  Just the way colorful pebbles are more richly revealed through a clean, clear stream than through one full of fine silt, I find the timbral colors of voices and instruments seem more finely and purely revealed from the JA speakers - a greater "rainbow" of timbres and tonal colors seem to get through.   At least that's what I hear, though that seems to be echoed by a great many other people who hear them as well.  

Legacy Audio. They tend to make more recordings listenable, don’t break the bank, and surely fall into the rich sound camp of speakers.
Brilliant responses, really impressed. Audio Note (Hemp?), Harbeth and DeVore are names that often come up. Joseph Audio sounds like one to watch out for. Tannoy, I'm quite familiar with.

By rich timbre I guess I mean that you can clearly hear the harmonics in a voice or in an instrument as as you can hear the pitch, loudness or edge detail. Many speakers can do the start of a note well but not it's body - all attack and little decay. All frequencies of sound including Bass can have beautiful harmonics (I find that the ones around 4-8kHz can be particularly delightful).

Perhaps it's not strictly accuracy I'm after - I'd much sooner have exaggerated tonal colour than slightly muted. For some like me it serves as a drug when it comes to listening. Of all the critiques trying to explain the lasting popularity of the Beatles music, the best ones for me focus on their diverse use of timbre and tonal colour. Compared to many who followed their recordings (admittedly in an age of analogue recording and valve/ tube desks) do seem to exhibit 'a greater "rainbow" of timbres and tonal colors' especially from Rubber Soul onwards.

I find that Classical music and Jazz really become captivating when it's easy to distinguish the sound of the instruments rather than just the notes they are playing. Wood sounds like wood, metal has it's natural sheen, wind instruments sound different again. Piano can either sound plain and two dimensional, or it comes alive as you get to hear all the tones and micro tones. A real sense of someone at work.

Tonal colour is not merely edge detail, it's infinitely more than that. Plenty of speakers can do leading edge detail well, and seem lightning fast whilst they do it, but few seem to handle the body and decay of the notes as well. 

It is difficult to speak about tonal colour without also speaking about warmth, especially in the midrange (Bose anybody?), but I don't think it's necessarily dependent upon warmth. It's just that cold sounding systems can often expose their monochromatic nature far more readily. 

I find that Classical music and Jazz really become captivating when it’s easy to distinguish the sound of the instruments rather than just the notes they are playing.

That describes exactly what the Joseph speakers are great at. Pretty much every review of the JA speakers (look up the Pulsar reviews) makes a point about how easily separate and distinct the timbral qualities of instruments remain, even as a mix gets more complex.

You’ll see Michael Fremer describing that quality here:

Or from the absolute sound review:

"The first thing I noticed about the Pulsars was their midrange purity and lack of grain."

"Of all the Pulsar’s sonic attributes, the one that impressed me the most was the high level of discernability. What I mean by discernability is, how easy is it to listen into the mix and pick out exactly what parts you want to concentrate on? The higher the level of discernability, the easier it is to do this. The Pulsars made it easy to recognize the essential banjoness of a banjo on Paul Curreri’s “Once Up Upon a Rooftop” [California Tin Angel Records]. Even when a harmonica is added to the mix, it’s easy to tell where the banjo stops and the harmonica starts."

I found this particularly intriguing when I played various mono recordings on the Joseph speakers - Chet Baker, etc.  When you have various voices and instruments "lining up" behind one another in the center, rather than spread out discernibly in the soundstage in stereo,  a less pure-sounding speaker can make it harder to untangle one instrument from another.  But on the Joseph speakers it seemed every instrument was effortlessly separate timbrally, making it more realistic and "easier" to listen to one particular instrument over another even in a really tight mono mix. 
Mostly the sound will come form the source not the speakers, they only really reproduce what they are being feed.  Yep some speakers can do this or that better but the source really IMO makes the sound.  Happy Listening.
Isn't correct/natural/realistic timbre (or as close to it one can get) a better target vs. 'richer'? 

I'd rather see us consider: How do we build systems (yes, Systems) that get us close to 'nailing' timbre?

I believe this would be a more valuable and productive discussion vs. having another 'Type of Speaker List' thread. 
If that's the case I can put away my Dynaudios and go back to my Cambridge Audio satellites/sub or my Realistic Minimus 7's...?
Yes the Joseph audio speakers I have heard at shows do provide a very clear window into the sound. Always a fave of mine at shows. Audio note also more along the lines described for Devore.

Ohm Walsh are also very good at not coloring the sound and just allowing whatever is naturally there to come through.
Well, to me there is a problem with this whole notion.  I mean, different instruments will their produce their signature timbre at different frequencies.  Is this not correct?  Wouldn't a flute's timbre be reproduced at a higher frequency than a cello's? 

If this is the case, then I'm not sure it's wise to go for speakers traditionally considered to have a "warm" sound, because that may entail being rolled off in the high frequencies, which might auger against the ability to accurately render the timber of a flute or piccolo. 

It seems to me that one should look to acquire speakers with the most accurate response over the widest frequency range.  Now, if one only listens to a certain type of music, say for example, chamber music, then it might be possible to pick a speaker based on it's abilities in the associated frequency range.
+1 @mtrot  
different instruments will their produce their signature timbre at different frequencies. Is this not correct?

It seems to me that one should look to acquire speakers with the most accurate response over the widest frequency range.

If I am imagining right what you have on your mind, Sonus Faber would fall into that category.
I don't have a specific recommendation but I do think that the OP wants very high performance level. And the rest of the system, including recordings, should be up to this as well. $50k set-up for a medium size room ? At least.
Why spend the dollars on a speaker when one can saturate and distort, delay, pitch shift, play with reverb, EQ, etc. to fatten up portions of a recording?
Though I consider them more accurate than Technicolor, this term you used is exactly how the Soundstage review of the Focal Sopra 2 described them.
All the bbc design speakers have it in spades.
Amphion speakers have it too, although they have a different sound.
+1 @david_ten

Correct. The speaker should be as transparent and neutral as possible. It is not possible to remove resonance or euphonic syrupy timbre once you have it. However, starting with a speaker that is clean and neutral at all dynamic levels across the entire frequency range and you can then begin tailor the sound with your favourite SS or tubes.

My recommendation is neutral and clean, accurate speakers with an excellent highly accurate powerful SS power amp and then add coloration to taste using TT cartridge, phono pre, preamp and or DAC.

For me the OP has it all backwards. I agree with David 100%.
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I have no idea what is a "neutral" sounding speaker.  That implies some kind of reference; what is that reference?  The correct speaker is the one that sounds most musical to the beholder.  It would help if the original poster would provide a personal reference of stuff that sounded good and stuff that sounded to thin or bleached of "color."  At best, I can hazard a guess that this person is looking for something from the likes of Audio Note, the O93 or O96 DeVore, Vandersteen, Harbeth (particularly the 40.2), ProAc, JM Reynaud, Trenner and Friedl, and Charney.  There are some speakers that may sound a bit bright on top that still manage to deliver weight, upper bass warms, and natural timbre (e.g., Triangle speakers).

The very best speakers, in terms of delivering saturated harmonics and timbre, to me, are horn-based systems, but these require some expertise to assemble or are quite pricey; they involve finding and using older/exotic drivers or really expensive new drivers (e.g., G.I.P. Laboratories).

If you are willing to put in some effort to hear stuff that is quite unique, check out the custom-built-out-of-vintage parts speakers at Deja Vu Audio in McLean Virginia, or at the satellite stores (Deja Vu South-Southern Florida, or Deja Vu West-La Jolla, Ca.).

Cheap components in speaker crossovers can cause serious problems with timbral accuracy by introducing distortion which masquerades as 'fast leading edge'.

Therefore suggest that you consider speakers without crossovers or delay lines. Or, consider upgrading those components in speakers of choice.

Almost all manufacturers work to a price point. Cheap crossover components are an obvious place to save - but fortunately, they are an easy thing to upgrade. I have had good luck dealing with Parts Connexion and Michael Percy Audio (no connection).

If you are good with a soldering iron, it's a lot of bang for buck. If you are on a budget, spend $10 on cables and $5000 on component upgrades instead of the other way around. YMMV
Spending $10 on cables would get anyone nowhere, unless you steal these cables and $10 is your taxi bill. 
It is remarkable that many don't understand that cables are components, they are equally important. Another mistake is to think that they are easier to design than electronics, speaking of high level.
How to best stretch your dollar when upgrading cannot be answered in general, sometimes it should be active component upgrade, sometimes cables or power cords, and yet at times either would be a correct path, just different.


It is remarkable that many don't understand that cables are components, they are equally important.

Everyone understands cables are a component.  You don't get sound without them, and they have to be matched at least in the most basic sense to the situation in which they will be used (e.g. right length/capacitance, etc).   

The question is, how much does one need to spend in order to pass along a signal with high fidelity?   The answer seems to be: not nearly as much as audiophile lore suggests.

Spending $10 on cables would get anyone nowhere, unless you steal these cables and $10 is your taxi bill.

What then is the lower limit you suggest, and on what grounds?

My speaker cables are Belden, put together by Blue Jeans cable.
If you buy two 6 foot lengths it costs $14.50.  

It seems to me $14 bucks for speaker cable is close enough to your 10 bucks that "would get you nowhere" claim.    And yet my system sounds incredibly good - as good and often better than plenty of the systems with audiophile-approved-cabling I've listened to.  So low cost cable certainly "got me somewhere" quite impressive.  (BTW, the appraisal of my system isn't simply my own,  I've had many audiophiles listen, including friends who review big priced audio gear, who think it sounds fantastic).  

So, I'm afraid your claim doesn't get very far in my experience. 

The often neglected subject of timbre in modern designs could be a major factor in explaining why some connoisseurs like Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note casually state that in their opinion audio reproduction has gone backwards in the last half century.

They are talking predominantly of the era in which tubes and high efficiently drivers were used both in analogue recording and playback systems. Innumerable lush, tonally rich recordings such as those by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Nat Cole, Peggy Lee, and innumerable Jazz artists still survive today as testament to fabulous recording quality of those times.

The main focus in the modern era often seems geared towards the pursuit of cold fine detail through ever increasing bit rates and oversampling techniques. Impressive in the short term but rarely satisfying in the long. At least for some.

One seems to appeal mainly to the intellect, the other to the heart. It's always difficult to generalise but I think Qvortrup is basically right if you're looking for music reproduction which speaks predominantly to the heart. Generally speaking, I've heard few loudspeakers that employ paper as a cone material which sounded awful, and even fewer that used polypropylene that sounded great.

So many great suggestions here, the Joseph Audio ones being intriguing with their aluminium drivers and the Focal Sopra review which namechecked another metal driver loudspeaker, the fabulously expensive Vivid Audio Giya G2.

Thanks for all the suggestions, it's reassuring to know that timbre has not been forgotten by everyone. 

To echo previous recommendations- you should really hear the Legacy Audio Aeris. I've heard them with tube amps, solid state amps and Class D amps and every time they sound incredible. If you pair it with their Wavelet you can use the tone controls to adjust the speaker's brightness/warmth to your liking- it's really flexible and helpful because you can fine tune them in your room and aren't stuck like you are with most speakers.
Funny enough, the recordings you referenced as tonally rich like Sinatra used Legacy Audio speakers, in addition to Nat King Cole and Elvis.They're simply the most dynamically capable, full range and revealing speaker around, and if you want to hear the real timbre on those recordings, it will show you!

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Spending $10 on cables would get anyone nowhere, unless you steal these cables and $10 is your taxi bill.
It is remarkable that many don't understand that cables are components, they are equally important. Another mistake is to think that they are easier to design than electronics, speaking of high level.
How to best stretch your dollar when upgrading cannot be answered in general, sometimes it should be active component upgrade, sometimes cables or power cords, and yet at times either would be a correct path, just different.

Roger that. With my ARC Ref 6 and Ref 150SE, cabling made a huge difference. In my room, for my ears, with my gear, Cardas Clear speaker cable and Cardas Clear Beyond XLR's made everything "right", It was nothing less than shocking how much difference I heard among some pretty well respected cables. I've said this elsewhere in this forum-I suspect that those who don't hear much difference between cables have equipment that for one reason or another don't put much demand on cabling. I believe that both the ARC pieces do in terms of getting the best out of the preamp and that the DeVore's do in terms of getting the best out of the amp. The truth of timbre was apparent with some but not all of the competitors but with the Cardas, timbre and spacial relationships and transients and bass weight all reached new heights. I don't sell Cardas. I am not in the biz. There are quite likely other brands of cables that would have done the same job. 
As I interpret Prof's point, you have to distinguish between color saturation and accurate timbre. As an owner of DeVore O/93's I would say that they do a blend of both. I wish I could say otherwise, but they are not the last word on timbral accuracy. But they portray timbre in a believable way and they ever so slightly emphasize timbre. I'm not sure who it was, but one of S'Phile's reviewers criticized the DeVore O series as sounding a bit "woody". I reluctantly agree, but I have come to find it a virtue and not a defect. The woodiness is so slight and complimentary to virtually everything played that it reminds me of the importance of judiciously implemented oak in wine. It is not perfectly neutral but perfectly neutral in audio is a) not realistic and b) not particularly enjoyable. It's not realistic because playing back a performance though two loudspeakers is never going to be totally realistic. Compensation is necessary to create the illusion of recreating the original. 


Excellent comment!

I believe I know just what you are talking about in terms of a "woody" timbre and compensating toward real life.

I'm pretty nuts about correct, organic sounding timbre so that's always been job one for any speaker I have owned.  The problem has been for me that instrumental timbre often doesn't sound organic, but more glazed and electronic/plastic through most speaker systems.  I had usually found the best I could do was pick a speaker (and with judicious amp choice) that had traits consonant with what I like about real life sounds.  A number of speakers I've owned and ones I've liked have had a somewhat "woody" character or timbral tone because that at least imparted an organic quality to sounds that helped many things sound more "real" to me - from acoustic guitars, string instruments, even the "woodiness" of the reed in a saxophone.  Or drum sticks, and even to some degree voices.  (I'm not talking about some ridiculous level of woody coloration, but more the sense that the sound is made of organic material, vs plastic, steel, and electrons).  

The Devores are one of those speakers that to my ears has a canny bit of coloration that is very consonant with how real sounds impress me, so in that sense they often sound more "natural" to me than other strictly more neutral (or other non-neutral) speakers.  

The Joseph speakers are more like the Hales speakers I have owned (and still own), where I get the sense of much reduced distortion/coloration revealing timbral qualities.  So I find the sound a bit more varied from such speakers.  But then, they also sometimes miss some of the particularly papery, organic sense of touch from the Devores, and some of the realistic fullness and weight.'s always compromises.  

Well, Inna, I still prefer physics.

Differences between caps I can measure. Ditto resistors. Ditto inductors. Ditto dielectrics. I'll spend my money there first. And I'm still not finished with things I can measure.

But you spend your money as you see fit. If you think that cables are better bang for buck than nude Vishay input resistors, you are welcome to your opinion. I won't even accuse you of not understanding whatever.
Legacy Audio Aeris and Legacy Audio Focus SE would be at the top of the list.   
terry9, Purist Audio's designer is a former NASA engineer specializing in underwater acoustics and signal transmission. Tchernov cables are designed by engineers building military grade equipment. I am sure those people understand enough of physics. But Jim Aud of Purist is also clearly an artist with excellent hearing. If you think that you can compete with them and others, that's okay with me but that's not a proof.
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- Compensation is necessary to create the illusion of recreating the original -

Exactly, and well-said.


Like I said, Inna, you are free to spend your money as you wish. But I will say this: every time I get a yearning for a tone control, an improvement elsewhere makes it unnecessary.

For example, when I went to vacuum and air gap capacitors, a whole lot of tizz simply vanished.
This is a ridiculous post. There is no such thing as a speaker that is good at reproducing timbre.

Timbre is a result of all of the components capturing the essence of the instrument and reproducing that signal as accurately as possible.

The entire reproduction chain is responsible for a system's complete sound. So the amp, preamp, cables, source components, room, loudspeakers, cabling etc will all come into play.

If your system isn't reproducing instruments natrually you have to look at how each piece is working together. 

Yes there are "rich" souninding speakers but that is not necessarily going to reproduce all instruments naturally. Same things with brighter or more detailed loudspeakers, which may sound incredibily real reproducing high frequency sounds, but may not sound as wooden for midrange frequencies as the "richer" sounding loudspeakers.

So the reason why timbre is so difficult is that all systems are colored and true accuracy accross all freqencies is very hard to accheive.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ