"Best" mini-monitor?

I have a relatively small listening room (12x10) and have always owned mini-monitors.  Currently I have proac tablette anniversaries, but have had the original 15 ohm rogers ls3/5a, proac response 1, KEF, and reference 3a through out the years.  As you can see, these are all moderate priced speakers, having never spent more than 3k on any pair.  I am now in a position to spend a bit more money, certainly 5k, and maybe up to 10k.  So what out there should I be listening to?  I am in the Chicago area, so I would love something that I can listen to at a local (Midwest) dealer, but I do travel a lot and have auditioned/purchased things across the country from time to time.  New or used, does not matter to me.

as you can probably guess, I really don't care much about deep base, but live for soundstage and warm midrange, listening to a lot of female vocalists, acoustic rock/jazz/blues, and light (non full orchestra) classical.  

With my musical tastes, I have always loved el34 tube amps.  I currently have the prima Luna hp premium, which has 4 el34 per channel, giving me in the 70 wpc range, more than enough for a small room.  I am running naim digital source material (no bad remarks from the analog folks... I know I have have traded off).

so, what should I spend time auditioning?  I have used "best" in quotes because of the 10k price limit, but I suspect there are many more candidates below 10k than above it.



Talk to Fritz, he makes lots of great speakers, and those Revelator woofers he uses are really nice and warm, with extremely high value relative too the parts he uses. His products are a steal.

I really like Monitor Audio, but they may not have the extra warmth you are seeking.


Post removed 
Post removed 

the smaller AudioNote UK speakers are very good as well and because they are made to be corner loaded they can allow a better integration into your smaller room.

 I've owned ProAc tablet 50's and they do some wonderful things so don't sell them or you may regret it later. 

 I've owned the AudioNote AN-E's they are the largest stand mounted speakers they build but they have  others in smaller sizes, and they do base quite well, I'd suggest the AN-k's or AN-J. they are also quite efficient and Tube amp friendly.

Very musical speakers that you wont miss anything from the Proac's and you will get a more refined sound, more detailed, and more base (not bloated but fast).

They are not mini monitors but I have a pair of Wilson Audio Duette 2's for sale on Audiogon that would make that room sing.  I had them powered to a Raven Tube Amp.  
Two of the better small monitors I've ever hear were the Ridge Street Audio Sasons and the JM Labs Focal Micro Utopia BE. Heard them both in the same system, driven by a vintage 100 W/channel ARC tube amp. Very good stuff. The Sasons are exceedingly rare, a little large, and require the dedicated stands. The Micro Utopias are also very good, but not as good as the Sasons..... 
I am also constrained by a small room.  I have had the Micro Utopia BE.  It is a nice speaker but I did not feel they were very coherent in the small space.  I felt like I was listening to the tweeter.  I have had the Wilson Benesch ARCs and they great.  Easy to get in a small space.  I do see a pair of WB Trinitys on AGON now in your budget  which is like the ARC plus a super tweeter .  My current speaker , which I have had since 2012, is the Vivid Audio V1.5.  Awesome speaker which would be in your range used and your amp would drive them.  Both the WB and the Vivid are great choices. Both would not require additional cost for stands. 
Also not a mini but take a look at the Clearwave Duet 6 monitors.
I've had them for over a year now and they continue to amaze.
They're located in Rochester, NY if you're ever in the area.

All the best,
+ 1 glennewdick just got a pair of AN/J's love them and the AN/K's are great too you can't go wrong with either. Great with tubes too!
I have had mini monitors in my study for many years. Originally the Rogers LS3/5a (the improved 11 Ohm version, however) and more recently the far better Harbeth P3ESR. I have obviously not heard all mini monitors, but I do believe these are likely to be the best you can buy, at any price. The midrange is to die for, with a reproduction of voices that comes very close to that of my Quad electrostats in the main listening room. Imaging is similarly realistic, without any listening fatigue. Bass output is clean, and remarkable for the size. Measurement data give an equally outstanding result. I sympathise with your desire to have the very best, and your willingness to pay for that, but small speakers do not cost that much to make.
You are quite right not to go for deep bass. In a room of that size it is impossible to reproduce deep bass accurately. The Schroeder Frequency would be about 240 Hz, and below that you will have problems with room modes (and their upper harmonics at higher frequencies). In bigger rooms that Schroeder frequency would not only be rather lower, but room modes at lower frequencies are also easier to equalize because the equalization would apply over a much wider area. In your case, with equalization, you would really have to sit very still in just one position. So in a small room there is only one option, and that is not to have deep bass.
The Harbeth P3ESR is a closed system, and that has the additional advantage that it can be located a bit closer to the walls, which is a real bonus in a small room.
They do like a bit of power - in my case a 2x100 watt Quad 405-2 is not excessive in my 16x12x9 feet study. Personally I prefer solid state amplification because there is less risk of load dependent frequency response due to high output impedance. Harbeth speakers are a benign load, however. At the advice of Harbeth’s designer, I do not use any fancy cables.
These Harbeths are also interesting in medium sized rooms if combined with a subwoofer. I tried that by way of an experiment in our big living room, and with the B&W PV1d subwoofer and more powerful amplification of the main system (equalized by an Antimode 8033). The PV1d can be set up very precisely for crossover frequency and slope, and when that was done, integration was perfect and the result very impressive. In this big room the sound bubble remained a bit too small, and dynamics were a bit restrained, but that was to be expected from such a small speaker in a large space. The combination would have been perfect in a room of, say, 15x20 feet.
Check out Salk Exoctic monitors.  Those Seas drivers are incredible.  $5999.00
Check out Salk Exoctic monitors.  Those Seas drivers are incredible.  $5999.00
I have a similar sized room and similar musical preferences, and also have a 70 watt tube amp, an EAR 890.

I have been through a lot of speakers over the years - Dynaudio C1s, Proac D2s, Tablette signatures and 1.8s, Sonus Fabers Cremonas, Spendor S3/5Rs and 2/3s, and various others. My search stopped with Harbeth - first P3ESR and then M30.1s. Both are good, but the M30.1s are perfect in a small room at low to medium volumes, with a rich, warm and detailed sound, without ever sounding analytical or harsh.
I used to have a similar size room (10.5' X 12.16') that had a primary room mode of 46 Hz. I had the best results with speakers that started to roll off before 46 Hz for a more even frequency response.

Speakers like the Audio Note AN/J that I owned for 15 years and liked very much in a larger room were just too boomy in the bass in that room. In the Audio Note line the AN/K would be a much better choice. I really liked the results with the Spendor S3/5 speakers in that small room. They had a well proportioned presentation, but lacked the dynamics of the Audio Note speakers. 

Personally I would be interested in trying the Trenner & Friedl Art Speakers in a room that size. I haven't heard them, but I suspect that they would be a good match for the room. There's a nice user review of them at https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/trenner-friedl-the-little-speaker-that-could
Merlin TSMs. I had the Mmm version and it was phenomenal in a smaller room. In the bigger room they ran out of steam and lost Impact being the reason I sold them. One of the few speakers I miss. 
Usher Be-718/Dance Mini X Diamond...
Raidho Eben X-Baby
Radiho Ayra C1
Dynaudio Special 40
Triangle Magellan Duetto
Magico Mini II

Having owned Spendor S3e, Merlin MME , Usher Be-718, Spica TC60 and a few others, my favorite to date have been Volent VL-2.  

With that said, I currently like both Devore O/96 and O/93 models.  They had a palpable sound at low listening levels.

I think I would narrow it down, first by the type of drivers you prefer. Example: I like soft dome tweeters and could not survive ribbons.
You might have a Wilson Benesch dealer near you. If so the Vertex is certainly light years ahead of most speakers. Featuring downward firing ports, carbon fiber cabinet, soft dome tweeter re-inforced with carbon fiber. Clean, fast accurate and most importantly they have soul. 


You definitely need to hear a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsars.  Holm Audio used to carry JA but not sure if they do anymore.  Best of luck. 

II can’t comment on the best, only what I have tried and what I have now.  I have a relatively small listeningroom (11.5’x15’) and purchased a used pair of Wilson Audio Sophia 2s.  Too big for the room and the sound wasn’t to my liking.  I then tried KEF LS50s augmented with a subwoofer.  I liked the sound, but felt I was missing out on treble and mid bass.  

I just got a great deal on a brand new pair of Focal Sopra 1s and really like what I’m hearing.  I understand they have a long break in period, but so far to my old ears they sound great.  I listened to KEF Reference 1s and didn’t like them.  I’m sure the way they were setup by the dealer,  and the wide open space they were setup in didn’t help at all.  

I’m not an audiophile mainly because I don’t know what that means, but I’m an Audio enthusiast and I know what I like when I hear it.   I am very much enjoying the Sopras.

Driving them with a Classe Sigma 2200i integrated, Aurender N100H, PS Audio Directstream DAC and multiple cables from a sweat shop in China.

Happy speaker hunting!
Will second the recommendation of soix for the Joseph Audio Pulsar. I have a pair and they are outstanding, so I would not hesitate to recommend them. As far as I know Holm Audio is no longer a Joseph dealer. They do have a used pair of System Audio SA2K monitors that you might want to check out. They are a very "under the radar" speaker but are VERY good.

Other monitors I like are the Usher BE-718, Dynaudio C1 and Special 40, and Focal 1007BE. I have owned the Ushers and Focals but not the Dynaudios (I have heard them on quite a few occasions at dealers and AXPONA).
Listen to the Aerial 5T’s if possible and plan on spending at least an  hour to audition. 
I have a similarly small listening room (9 by 11) and tried a lot of speakers there before I felt like I got it right.  The best for me is the Trenner and Friedl Sun (little sibling of the Arts) with the Brinkmann integrated.  Heaven!

I would also take a look at the Watkins Stereo Generation 4 speaker just reviewed in Absolute Sound.  Sounds quite amazing.  

Depending on amplification, some prefer the Falcon Ls3/5a to the Harbeth P3esr.  I own the latter, though, and it is quite stunning especially on the kind of music you favor.

The Aerials are very nice.  At twice the price the KEF Reference One is a reference among small speakers.
+1 on the Joseph Audio Pulsar.  This speaker deserves excellent electronics.  
Again, FLYBY ALERT.  OP hasn't responded in over 3 months since thread started.  Waste your time at your own risk. 
OP here.  Yes, I have not posted, but I am taking notes and trying to find local dealers that have the specific models in stock.  So I continue to appreciate the comments.  I have also played around with some room acoustics and demoed a couple preamps.  The only speakers I home demoed were the harbeth p3esr, which I did not like as much as my proacs.  While a bit sweeter in the mids, the soundstage was considerably smaller and the mid/high details were less crisp.  I did enjot the harbeth 30.1s, but they are way to large for my room, both physically and sonically.

the search continues, with setting up demos being much more difficult (mostly due to my schedule) than I had thought.

Thanks for responding.  After reading your experience I'd reiterate a strong recommendation to try a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsars if at all possible.  Best of luck. 

$10K is a lot (to me!) to spend on bookshelves when I’d have thought one could also get a compact floorstander that takes up no more room overall than minis on stands?

Having said that, I’d add the ATC SCM11 or SCM12 Pro (effectively the same) to your shortlist. If I was going to spend your whole budget, I’d try to hear the Diapason Astera!

For several years I enjoyed a pair of Totem Fire Monitors.  Since they've been on the market for a long time, you can probably snag a great pair of used on Audiogon for a reasonable price.
Hi Bill,
Where are you located?
If in the USA, then the Audience 1+1 V2 is the choice.

I love my Audience for it's purity of sound because there is no crossover, no time and phase alignment problems of tweeter and the bigger driver. If you want more oomph in the bottom end, just get a small sub for your room will do. These speakers need high quality partnering cables and equipment.

Have fun shopping.
There are many good choices in this price range.

We sell quite  a number of great monitors, we currently display the KEF Ref 1, the Paradigm Person B, ATC SCM 11, SCM 19 and are looking at the new TAD ME 1.

We were Vivid dealers so we know the V1.5 it will all come down to what you value, we also had a set of speakers that were very similar to the Pulsars so you could say we have a lot of mini monitor experience.

It will all come down to your particular set of criteria.

So far we were blown away by the TAD ME 1 which is basically a $30k speaker shrunk down to mini size, amazing in every way, we are going to be testing a pair after hearing them at Capitol Audio Fest,

See the Absolute Sound review on them.

In our estimation here is how we would rate the best mini monitors:

1: TAD ME 1 about $12k unbelievable driver technlogy, deep tight bass down to low 40's, huge soundstage, tube friendly. Smooth yet detailed.

2: Persona B, clear midrange, very holographic, good with tubes, good but not super deep bass. 

3: KEF Ref 1, slightly more colored than the B, fantastic bass and dynamics, big wide soundstage not as much front to back depth as the Persona B

4: ATC smooth midrange, very tight bass to the low 40's, likes power, loves rock and jazz, big soundstage, not as transparent as the others, but extremely natural midrange, likes power, depends on how much you have, great buy for the money, ie the SCM 19

5: Vivid V1.5 fantastic clarity, not as smooth in the midrange as the Personas, a tad light on the bass, very fast, articulate, likes tubes wide soundstage. 

6: Radiho/Focal both can be peaky, uber detailed, Radho can be very expensive both of these speakers run to the detail class, Radhio loves smooth solid state, Focal loves tubes. 

The TAD ME 1 if you can swing um are probably the best compact speakers in the world right now, the Persona B with a good small fast sub will also amaze. 

If you are ever in the New York Tri State area we have KEF, Paradigm, ATC, and most likely the TAD ME on display

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Another vote for Raidho.  I’ve been enjoying a pair of D1’s for some time now and feel they are the best of any stand mount I’ve ever owned (Wilson, Revel, B&W, etc, etc).

The D1 are very fine speakers but at the $30k price range they are a bit much for many people don't you think and do you really think they are better than an ME 1 and or substatially better for almost 3 times the price?

Personally I think this would be an interesting demo, I would say I have heard the D1 at shows and was impressed we feel that the Radihos are just a bit on the too expensive side for what you are getting. 

Persona B, absolutely.

Definitely listen to Raidho though (higher price).  

I’d also suggest Gamut, but above your budget as well.  I stick with my Persona B recommendation.  Absolutely magic.
Almost every review I've ever read regarding "high-end" monitors points to the fact that usually the speakers are "over-achievers" for their size.  This is a good thing- amazing bass for their size, very coherent two-driver design with an innovative crossover, etc.  But also, they may need a top-flight amplifier to get the best results, have fussy placement issues but are "amazing" once you get it right, break-in can also take some time, the stands have to be special and the just the right height, cabling can become a critical factor, etc.  My only suggestion is that just perhaps a speaker that is a bit "smaller" in size (relatively) that plays sweetly at moderate volumes (not to say you can't turn them up on occasion, but why for 90% of the music you prefer would that be necessary?) might be more enjoyable and not drive you from the room.
You still want a very well made speaker of course, but you just might have to spend LESS money after considering just how small a room you're talking about.  The only exception i would think of is if you cover most of it with special sound treatments, Otherwise maybe a high-resolution monitor might give you too much of a good thing.  
    Long ago I had a pair of ADS speakers and never (NEVER) was
disappointed with the sound, whether i was listening to classical, jazz, rock, female vocals, whatever.  Of course my standards have risen over the years since, and so have the number of "problems" i had to find
solutions to.  Not that i haven't had fun doing all this when I got enough money together.  But now it's finally the room that for me is the limiting factor.   
Long ago I had a pair of ADS speakers and never (NEVER) was
disappointed with the sound, whether i was listening to classical, jazz, rock, female vocals, whatever.
Me too, ADS L810s, which I stupidly sold a long time ago.  Finally found the same level of enjoyment with Aerial speakers, designed by Michael Kelly (formerly designer for ADS).

As large monitors, I now have Aerial LR5s on Sound Anchor stands and, along with two Aerial SW12 subs, I have not heard a better speaker system in my room.  As long as you have the power (to drive the lowish efficiency of the LR5s) there is no practical volume limit in a moderately large room.  Very dynamic yet smooth, with great tone and a touch of warmth (maybe due to paper drivers).   At Kelly's suggestion, I run the LR5s full range and roll in the subs at around 40Hz, but if I was aware of a very high quality high-pass crossover that would not affect sonics in the upper frequency ranges then I would try it. 
I am a big fan of ADS as well and have owned 520, 710. 810, 980, 1090, 1530, l8e, l9e, 620, 520, sat 7 and for me the sleeper was the l9e’ however they are very rare. The 710’s still remain my go to recommendation for people on a budget that want good sound for little $$. They are easy to drive and there is something about that soft dome midrange that just sounds right to me.

I’ve moved on to Speaker Art now and have yet to find a standmount that I like better after hearing and ownin many others. The one that comes closest are the Ryan R610’s. For the money and size they are tough to beat. I would like to checkout aerials at some point, I had a pair of the ERA d5’s that he designed for Peachtree and they were pretty impressive little speakers.