Focal, B&W or Martin Logan

I'm looking to upgrade my speakers.  Current system is Lumin U1 Mini server > Lampizator Golden Atlantic TRP DAC> Pass Labs XA160.8 Amp > Martin Logan Classic 9 speakers.  Room is pretty good acoustically (25' x 15'), but I have to place the speakers along the long wall making a 12x12x12 triangle for listening with my sitting position very close to the rear wall.  Speakers are currently 8" from front wall and can't be moved more than 5 or 6 inches further into the room (WAF issues), thus limiting the size (depth) of the new speakers. I listen to most all music, but mostly R&B, Country and classic rock.   

The biggest knock against the current MLs is that they don't have a lot of resolution - especially when it comes to complex music. They're great for acoustic guitar, piano or vocals.  They also lack a bit in bass, but that isn't too big of an issue as my wife would prefer I keep bass to a minimum.

Based on budget and speaker size, I'm seriously looking at the following:  Focal Sopra No. 2 (or No. 3). B&W 802D3, Martin Login 13A (or 15A).  I'm looking at buying used, so won't be able to try before purchasing.  I'm interested in hearing from those of you that have experience with these speakers.  Anyone heard them all and have a preference?

I'm currently leaning to the Focals, but only because I like they way they look. 

they all seem pretty pricey to me compared with everything else (like Dyna, Zu, Harbeth. Totem, etc.) 
For Focal you pay a lot for the brand
For B&W - I don't like the sound
I don't know much about Martin Logan, heard it once, nothing to knock my socks off)
Its hard to recommend based on your room, equipment, taste etc.

I have owned the Focal 2’s for a few years and I really enjoy them. That is based on sound quality, equipment and aesthetics that I prefer.

Also, the use of the Townshend platform #3 under the speakers really improves the sound and spreads out the soundstage. But, you can probably get that later on down the road.

Focals rawk and are not genre specific, at least the ones I’ve heard. 
B&ws too colored IMO.

Heard some cheaper MLs years ago and they didn’t do anything for me but as I said, years ago and cheaper model. 
I’m listening as I am also on the market for new speakers and I have those on my short list:
- Focal Sopra No 1
- B&W 805 D4
- Dynaudio Heritage Special
- Totem Element Fire V2

I’m yet to go on listening mission, but from initial (quite extensive) reading, my current #1 are the Focal, even if I owned 2 pairs of B&W for 20+ years. Mostly for the alleged clarity and being more flat.

But I never actually listen to any of those yet! I’m curious to see what you’ll end-up with. Good luck!
It would be an easy choice for me to go with the Focals in this case. They are very balanced but lack low bass extension. Pushing up agents the wall might actually help a bit. If you could get the driver face out to 24” you probably would be fine. 
I having heard the 802d3 a number of times you might get some bass boom that close to the wall. They are also very bright both at 3-5k and again at 10k. Not for me but as we get older some peaks in the upper mids and highs can be nice…

the Martin Logan has too small of a sweet spot and too many oddities due to the design for me to want to mess with. They sound nice on the right music. Throw Metallica in and they come up short. 
It never fails that every time a B&W speaker is mentioned all the negative comments come out. I am curious what other equipment was used when you all heard them. I happen to own 802D3’s with a Classe pre and Classe amps. I find them balanced, with a nice mid range and solid bass ( although I do have dual f 113 subs) I listen to indie and classic rock and like to crank them up. I have never heard them harsh, bright, colored or boomy). Most speakers mentioned on this site have their pluses and minuses, and so do B&W’s. I think the related equipment makes a big difference.
The measurements of the B&Ws show that they are voiced to sound detailed IMO. Spike at 5k and another at 10k on the expensive ones. They are very well made and the people designing them ain’t dummies. They are doing exactly what they are designed to do. I would just never call them neutral although I’m sure sound amazing if your tastes favor a certain sound but I would pick warm ss amps with them such as probably your classe. 

I have nothing against B&W, great speakers. but when I compared them at the dealer with other brands, they lacked the excitement - what my ears said
I've listened to the B&Ws on McIntosh electronics and wasn't overly impressed, but that was a few years ago.  Since then I've come to the realization that other than the MC-2301 mono blocks, I'm not a big fan of McIntosh gear (could be why I wasn't impressed).  They're back on my list as something I want to hear, but hopefully on different electronics.

I don't have a local Focal dealer nearby so never had the chance to listen.  I'll probably have to drive to Chicago to demo both Focals and the bigger MLs.  If I do, I'm hopeful I can listen to used speakers on Pass Labs electronics (Probably wishful thinking).

That is way too big a triangle. I would drop it to 6’-7’, especially since they are such small speakers. See how this effects the sound.
All of the speakers you listed will be significant upgrades to what you have. But of different caliber.

I am faniliar with the Martin Logen in general and I would never characterize them as in lacking detail. This must be because of your triangle. Granted they are very inexpensive… so upgrading makes sense. 
Each of the speakers you have listed have very different sound. The B&W are going to provide a real bass kick, with some strong treble. The ML should provide great transparency and detail with a good punch if properly sized and placed, the Focal will be something in between, a bit more coherent. 

I would work with your current system to get it working right… in a much smaller triangle, and optimize it. You have good equipment. Then look at scaling up… ML if you like them with, but want greater scale… or on of the others based on sound. 

You're correct... I was mistaken.  They're not 12 feet apart, they're only 6 feet apart, while my chair is about 12 feet back from them.  The worst part of the set up is the TV in the middle, but that will likely have to stay. 

Then you seating position should be 6 - 7 feet. If your system sounds great at that distance… an you like the ML, then bigger ML would help. But even then you are probably going to have to move your chair forward for critical listening.

You can see my system by clicking on my ID. My chair is only 7 or 8 feet from my speakers forming an equilateral triangle. If I would want to move my seating position back I would probably have to double the cost of my speakers… but that would create another problem… over powering the space.
Yeah, the chair can't be moved forward (again... WAF).  If I recall correctly, the Logan manual shows this setup as one of the options (although my memory is fuzzy on it).  Whatever the case, I'm pretty much stuck with 6 foot apart and 11-12 feet away.
I find McIntosh a good paring with B&W for what it is worth. You might not like either brand. 
B&W has a lot of tech and is build very well but they have a strong house tuning for a highend speaker. At these price points I want it pretty transparent to the source. 
When I owned B&Ws I was always turning it up to get some dynamics then turning it off when my ears wore out. 
Focal is a lot more neutral. The current line more so than their older lines. The only thing is the poor bass extension could be an issue if you don’t want to run subs. They need subs in a bad was. 
The Wilson Audio Sabrina is another good speaker that works well close to the wall. A bunch used on here too. 
I was thinking Wilson at one point (Because of the large used market), but I'm not a big fan of the looks and I'm sure my wife will hate them (Not that she loves the MLs).
What about a movable chair for listening?

WAF for Wilson is low. B&W / Mac are really good for rock, they have a real punch and midrange bloom… they are really good together because Mac is not very detailed and the B&W have a strong treble. You couldn’t get further from ML.

Focal in the middle.
Moveable chair is a good idea.  I'll have to give it a listen to see how it sounds.  The only downside is I have a bad back and can't sit in just any old chair.  But for a test, any old chair will work.
If your wife likes them (...that's huge), and you’re not opposed to whatever signature they may have, there’s enough potential there to turn it into a pretty amazing system. There are always things that can be done, and should be done to make them suit your needs.  
Ok… I completely understand, I am an old fart. How about “sliders” under your back chair? Also, all the places I sit have these sacro supports behind them. Made for cars, but work great in chairs and couches.

ridiculously expensive, and worth every penny. I have three at all three places I sit in the house. 
Sliders aren't really an option as the chair is a couch with recliners in it.  Too much work (even with sliders) to move back & forth each listening session.  Regardless... I'm going to give it a try to hear the differences.

If I go with the Focals, the set up will have the same issue.  Any idea if the Focals are more or less sensitive to the standard equilateral triangle?  I checked the ML manual and it does recommend 2X as a viable option to the standard (at least they recognize WAF can cause a lot of problems). 
An $8 pack of furniture movers from Home Depot makes any chair a moveable chair. 
All good speakers. If you are not real sure what you want I would always lean toward neutral speakers as you can always add subs for bass or highs with EQ (yeah I know people hate eq around here…). With a colored speaker you are more stuck if you don’t like it. 
I am a recent convert to Focal speakers (though I never cared for the look of the bent front towers).  I have the low cost Chorus 706 in the bedroom and greatly enjoy them.  I am considering the Kanta and Sopra as a future speaker.  The fit and finish is very nice.
I am also a Revel fan and highly recommend them.

I have owned Focal speakers out of the Chorus line for an old home theater. Nice for the money. The higher end Focals keep the same sound but are on another level for clarity and soundstage while maybe a little leaner.

Revels (that I own now) have a very similar house sound as focal. The Sopra to the Revel performa-be line are similar in sound. The Sopra has more air in the highs and upper mids. The Revels are a hair more rolled off in the highs and a touch tighter in the bass. Cost no object I like the Sopra 3 the best but at $24,000 in the US now seems silly next to the 228be for $11,000. Across the pond prices are about the same I would take the Focal every time for the looks alone and I like the added air but I feel the revels are more accurate.

A short A/B video of the Focals and Revels.

To the original poster I doubt he will like the Revel as they are not really lookers but they play nice being close to the front wall too with the early rolling down of the bass like the sopra’s. You might be surprised how close the 226be gets to the Sopra in performance. Once you add subs all these speakers are splitting hairs.
Another model to add is the Sonus Faber Olympica III. Really great speaker and used for $7500 -ish. Looks amazing. Every time I go speaker shopping the wife ask if I like the Sonus Fabers lol.
I'm the the opposite position of not having enough room in my room. I run the Sopra 2's in my 9x13 music room. Highly recommend the Sopra's. You won't need to be moving chairs and couches around to enjoy them. Every speaker has it's limitations and every room has it's limitations. In sure with some discrete absorption panels you'll be more than happy. Give them plenty of break in time, it takes a while. 
btw, nothing wrong with caring about the looks. I want to love the way they look. I would have never upgraded unless I tried SF speakers and when I heard their not so special sound I could move on. I am convinced that most audiophile speakers' looks represent the sound, the music the designer likes, the culture, the country, etc. just like wine represents the climate. These are nerds pouring their souls and vision into the design.
Another thought… if you can’t slide in a listening chair… then Omni directional speakers. MBL or German Physiks? I have never cared for Walsh… so I hate to mention them… but, I just did.
I am thinking the Revel 226be or the M126be. The stands will be $550 or less for the M126. These speakers are amazing. So amazing,no subs needed. I always think you should add a pair of JL Audio or REL subs to any system. Bring in the subs at about 60hz and you are golden. Plus, being a little smaller and really beautiful cabinets they will definitely get the wife’s ok. The distance to the front wall is not a problem for either of these speakers. Plus, less picky about perfect placement or rooms. In fact I would say don’t have any room treatment for these two speakers. The off axis response is way better than your choices of Focal or B&W due to the wave guide on the tweeter. The 226be is front ported so you won’t overload the room with unwanted bass nodes. If you are in the Chicagoland area this store is a dealer.
 You will understand once you hear them. 
What about Dynaudio Confidence 30? In the general price range of the others. Really a superb speaker. The Sopra 2s are great, but that tweeter could take some getting used to. I haven't heard the 3s. I could listen to those Confidence 30s all day long. 
@james633 I have the Revel Concert2 F36 in the living room and truly love the sound they give for the money. 

You make a very good argument for the value of the 228be through compared to the Sopra.  Let's see what the bonus looks like next fiscal year.  I may decide to put more in the kid's college fund and go with the better priced speaker.
Thanks everyone for the input.  I'm going to put the purchase on hold until next year (tax issues), but will continue to research and look into the various brands mentioned.  I'm still leaning toward the Focals, but I won't make a decision until January.  

Thanks again for all the great input.
So I'm cruising along trying to find the best deal on a used Focal Sopra no.2 or no.3 when I run across a dealer here on Audiogon who tells me the Pass Labs XA-160.8 and Focal are a terrible pairing.  

I've found plenty of folks that don't really like the Focals, but never have I heard someone specifically knock the Focals paired with this Pass Labs amp.  Can anyone refute or validate this claim?  


The Martin Logans are better pulled way out from the front wall. It sounds like that might be the last speaker you should consider.

OP It is really important with speakers you have an emotional connection. Your last post sounds like a very bad move. Verify theyhave the kind of sound you love.


The SAF can be handled. For me, her system became the home theater, if I wanted something, I would buy her a really expensive component for her… and she would be more forgiving for me. Think diamonds ? But if you like the speakers… when she is gone, pull them out into the room… see if that is what they need. If not, fine… then take your time… but don’t jump and buy speakers that you are not in love with.


I have had a number of speakers… I have truly loved the sound of my last three sets… all Sonus Faber.