Help fine-tune my speaker search

I'm in the market for a new speaker and hoping to find something that blends what I like about the two that I'm using now -- KEF LS50 Meta and Nola Boxers (original).  Both speakers are really good at imaging and soundstage.  The Nola's are a little more organic sounding and go a little deeper on bass extension, but the Metas are much more revealing about what's in the music.  So I guess I'm looking for a speaker that provides detail while also sounding organic and musical and that is also dynamic enough for what I like to listen to -- jazz (old school and bebop), blues, and rock. 

The rest of my system right now is iFi Zen Stream >>> Denafrips Ares 2 >>> Schiit Freya + (Sylvania NOS tubes) >>>  Schiit Vidar (or McCormack DNA 1 original 1980s).  I also play around with a Yaqin MC-13S integrated tube amp with the Nolas.  For bass, I run 2 SVS SB-1000 Pros.  Long term I see myself sticking with some combo of tube preamp and SS amp but can also see myself with all tubes someday.  The room is 14' wide x 24' long but only has 7' ceilings (basement room with concrete floors and sheetrock walls).   I'm thinking of staying with bookshelf speakers on stands and using subs, vs going with floorstander.  Easier to control bass that way and move around when needed.  Open to any other suggestions about my system.  After speakers, it will be power amp next.

Just started building a short list of what I want to audition but hoping the hive mind has some ideas for me. Thanks in advance.  Budget is $3K - $3.5K. 

  • Dynaudio Special 40
  • Paradigm Founder 40b
  • Paradigm Founder 80f  (floorstander)
  • Monitor Audio Gold 100
  • Vandersteen VLR CT
  • Nola Boxer S3
  • Nola Contender S3 (floorstander, for budget would have to be used)

I've auditioned Fritz and Special 40s and I'd go with Fritz: 

Eminent looks very interesting:

I am totally happy with my Ascend Acoustics Sierra with Raal tweeter for my tube amps. I have 6.5ft ceilings. 


Go with either the Dynaudio special 40’s or the Totem Acoustics Model ONE sig. Dont be fooled these speakers with quality stands are THE speakers to beat in the under $5k range. They are both very dynamic and hit hard while still remaining very detailed and beautiful sounding, they love power too.



Matt M

Are you open to used speakers? If so you can certainly get a lot more quality for your investment and less depreciation should you change direction for whatever reason. 

I agree the Totem 1 Sigs are super. Others you could consider in that price range used are Harbeth 30 series, Reference 3A  and the Chario Sonnet Academy listed here. I used to own a predecessor of the latter; it was a great match with Air Tight ATM1, a modestly powered but high quality tube amp. Fit and finish are hard to beat. Yes, they make 'em in Italy. Cheers,


The Joseph Audio Prisms capture a lot of the performance of the acclaimed Pulsars at a much lower price…

There’s also a used pair of JA Profile floorstanders at only $2500 — a steal IMHO…

The Usher Mini-X Diamond is also outstanding and is drop dead gorgeous to boot. And it uses their top diamond tweeter, which is nuts at this price level…

Either of these will combine the detail of the LS50 with the natural sound of the Boxers and outstanding 3D imaging/soundstage.  Best of luck.

Thanks!  Also heard about some others to consider like Proac SM100, Spendor Classic and PSB Synchrony 600B.

@hilde45  t’ve never heard any of the 3 you mentioned but have read good reviews of Fritz.  What did you like about the Fritz vs the Special 40s?

@bache i was born and raised in Brooklyn so will have to make time to come check out the Metros.

@mattmiller Thanks for the rec on the Totem.  Have always liked the Totem sound when I’ve heard them and can’t believe I didn’t have them on my list.

@sbank definitely open to used but want to get something that’s under 10 years old. Thanks for the recs.  I don’t know Chario but will do some research.


@soix thanks!  I didn’t know that Usher made a bookshelf Dancer. Will look into it,  I met Jeff Joseph about 12 years ago. Nice guy and loved his speakers back then.  I didn’t realize he had something in my price range.

+1 on Fritz. High quality parts and extremely well made cabinets. I have the Fritz Carrera BE speakers in my second system and I feel they have the right balance between providing details but also retaining some warmth. Think something that sits in between a Harbeth and KEF or Proac.

Hand- made in the USA by a fine craftsman who stands behind his product.

I would look at Dynaudio, Spendor, ProAc, Scansonic MB range if that is the type of sound you are looking for. 

Had the Fritz BE and probably should have kept it.

Used Pulsars sometimes sell in your range.

I like the Totem airiness and want to hear the top three models.

Heard the Founder 120H with a Luxman in SF. 

That was a great sound. Used 80's or 100s may be had.

Can't speak on Dynaudio or Nola. Vandi not for me.

I discovered the Philharmonic BMR Tower, at the last CAP. They are designed by Dennis Murphy . The price is $3,700. They sound fantastic. In my case They are driven by a pair of PS  M700 Monoblocks, and the PrimaLuna EVO300 preamp. Main source is the CEC TL5 Belt driven CD transport and as a DAC the CEC DA5. For streaming the new Bluesound  Node.

Listening to Patricia Barber or one of the many ECM label albums, like the “The Outstanding Eyes of Rita” by Anouar Brahem is an outstanding experience

Please try to listen to the Philharmonic BMR’s 

I know is challenging to find many reviews about them, but they are worth the effort












I’ve never heard any of the 3 you mentioned but have read good reviews of Fritz. What did you like about the Fritz vs the Special 40s?

Below are links to a couple of reviews I did.
In sum, what I liked was the ease with which the Fritz conveyed music in a disappearing way. They just pushed the music forward, if you will.
They worked with tube amps and also with solid state.
Other details in the reviews.

Special 40’s need a lot of power. I found their presentation both engaging and a bit perplexing. As if I was listening to an interesting speaker but the music was somehow behind those effects. Hard to explain. There is a teardown of them (literally, figuratively) at GR channel.

Review of Carbon 7’s
Review of Carrera Be’s

One more thing about Fritz vs. some of these other companies -- Fritz has no overhead, no marketing, no advertising, no factory, no staff. When you spend on his speakers a very high percent of your $$ goes to the parts and expertise in the speaker. The speakers are very heavy and have really great drivers. Most important, they sound amazing.

In retrospect, I actually prefer the Carbon 7’s now, because I’ve decided the Be tweeter is too bright for me.

I agree with the comment about the Philharmonic BMR. Those would be worth a listen.

I went from floor standing to stand mounts a few months ago I went with the Dynaudio Special Forty's on Stand 20's and I was and still to this day  very impressed with them very good solid bass stunning mids and detailed and smooth highs. 


@hilde45 I really enjoyed your reviews of the Fritz speakers because like @nymarty my best system is based on KEF LS50s (Auralic Aries streamer, RME ADI2 dac, Rogue Sphinx or DIY Firstwatt F6) and Syzygy subs and I am wondering about an affordable speaker that might take me more in the direction you described with the Fritz Carbon 7s of being able to clearly distinguish a flute from a piccolo. I have recently heard that kind of absolute resolution on a pair of $80,000 YG Acoustics speakers but have no intention of spending that much ever on a a speaker, or a system. However I see you moved on to Salks and now Ascend Sierra Towers. I assume that means you found each to be superior to the Fritzes. Interested in hearing your current thoughts.


PS- Other speakers in the house include AR-2ax's, Klipsch RP-160s (predecessor of the RP-600) and Tangent RS4s.So we have some of the same reference points. I enjoy each for its own character but the KEF LS50s are my goto for overall quality.

I was debating with myself about whether to respond because the speakers I will recommend are difficult to find to audition.  And I've found only one review.  The debate ended when jgueron suggested the same speaker.  The BMR Tower. 

I can't comment on your electronics and how they would sound driving the BMRs because I've never heard them driving any speakers.  If it's useful to you for comparison, I use SS, not tubes.  Specifically, my preamp is a Threshold FET 10 and the power amps are also Threshold 100w monoblocks, SA 2s.

I used to have Martin Logan Monoliths and loved them.  For many reasons it was time to change.  I went with the BMR and all I can say is fabulous.  Better than the ML's.  Friends who have listened to both agree with that assessment.  I made a leap of faith and bought them unheard.  I made my decision after reading unending rave reviews from users on a variety of sites similar to this one and reading the Audioholics review.  Those who heard the BMRs recommended them.  I'll do the same.



Another  vote for Fritz Carrera BE.  I had KEF LS50 meta and Harbeth P3ESRs.  They were each good but did not completely satisfy.  I have had my Fritz speakers for about a month and they blend the positive attributes of those speakers with better bass.  Fritz is also a really great guy and checked in to see how they sounded and if I was enjoying them. 

If you go with Fritz, you can call him up and discuss the various models he offers, and get his recommendation as to which one best suits your tastes.

Beyond Fritz, here's another serious contender.

There's also a floorstander now.

At that point, the BMR tower offers stiff competition.

BTW, the Fritz standmounts go lower than you would think from the size of the cabinet, and they are easy to drive.


Hi-  I have a pair of demo Carbon 7 SE Mk2 speakers available for audition located in Queens.  Let me know if you would like to arrange a little listening session.


Thanks!  Fritz Heiler  FritzSpeakers

Im sure Richard Vandersteen would be glad to speak with you as well.  Give him a call....if he's not on the road he'll pick up

Recently purchased Fritz Carbon 7 SE's. Dealing with Fritz was a pleasure, Speakers make me smile.

Also waiting for my new Sound Anchor stands to place them on. If everything I read is true they will sound even better.

Philharmonic BMRs or Buchardt Audio S400 Mk II, I ended up buying the Buchardts….and am more than satisfied, but the BMRs were truly excellent speakers

You didn’t mention price cap (or I missed it), but the KEF LS60s are getting rave reviews and would have a sound signature familiar to you 


However I see you moved on to Salks and now Ascend Sierra Towers. I assume that means you found each to be superior to the Fritzes. Interested in hearing your current thoughts.

I had ordered the Salks. They took 7 months to build (Covid plus the usual time for custom speakers) and I got the Fritz as trials. I loved them but had a lot invested in the Salks. Over time, I wanted more sensitive speakers for my tube amps and also a ribbon rather than Be tweeter. That's the journey. But something magical happened with those Fritz Carbon 7's which stuck in my mind. I underestimated what a gem they are, but they are, still, a bookshelf and I want to stick with towers.


The Evoke 20's and Dyn Sub3 is a nice pairing in your range. I looked at at the 40's  before deciding on the above then bought a second matching sub. Spread the subs around for fullest enjoyment. Good hunting.

Thanks, everyone!  There are a lot of Fritz fans!  That’s a good sign.  I went in search of speakers on Saturday and spent a couple of hours with Johnny Rutan at Audio Connection.  Great guy, great experience.  It was like hanging out with a good friend talking gear and music. No pressure, no selling, just a good hang. If you're in the NYC area -- it's a must visit showroom. Listened to the Vandersteen VLR CT bookshelf speakers which were very good. They project a layered soundstage and sound much bigger than their size.  Also heard the Vandersteen 2ce Signature 3, which was even better.  I like the floorstander but a little worried about the bass being too much for my basement space (7' ceilings).  He also had a pair of Paradigm Founders 80f that he took in on trade.  They’re on my list so gave them a listen. Very nice small floorstander with good midrange and detail, but not as good as the Vandersteens. It imaged well and could work with my subwoofers but I could also see getting a little fatigued by the detail at the top end.  He also played the Vandersteen Quattros for me and they were wonderful. Musical, lots of detail, big soundstage and effortless — close to feeling like you’re in the room with the artist. You really do get a lot more for another $14K of budget.

For the Fritz fans -- it seems like some of you love the Carbon 7 SE and some the Carrera BE.  What are the different characteristics of the two?

@fritzspeaks Thanks for the offer for listening session in Queens.  Are they at a showroom I can visit?  Or a customer's home?

@vthokie83 Thanks for the Buchardt recommendation. Those look really interesting and the 45 day home trial would give me the opportunity to try them in my home -- the ultimate listening test.  BTW, my son is a 2021 Hokie Corps of Cadets grad.  Love that school! Go Hokies!  

Again, thanks all!

@secretguy I had a chance to listen to the Magnepan .7s (also at Audio Connections) and really like the sound of panels.  I just know they won't work in my current basement setup.  I just can't have them out that far into the room and everything I've read is that they need to be.  Box speakers are just easier for me to move around and live with.  Thanks!

@hilde45  Thanks for sharing your reviews and your comparison of the Carbon 7s and the Carrera Be's.  Really helpful.  Thanks, too, for your thoughts on the Dynaudio Special 40.  What's appealing about that speaker is that there are a few on the used market and can be had for a comfortable $2K.  That said, maybe there are too many on the used market. :-).  The GR Research teardown was interesting but I don't know if I completely trust someone selling a kit to improve another company's $3K speaker.  What else is he going to say?  I watched his teardown of the LS50 and most of it was about his frustration at not being able to build and sell a kit for it -- given it's "don't tamper with me" construction.  

@nymarty  I hear you about GR Research, but there are some elements of his demonstration -- about parts quality, e.g. -- which would be solid data points regardless of what his overall objective is with his videos. That, for me, is the key to modest skepticism -- listen to every aspect of an argument, including the subarguments, and allow those whose validity do not depend on the larger argument to remain standing.

As for the Fritz speaker, all I can say is that listening to the Carbon 7s would at least give you a useful benchmark.

You should really go back to Johnny R’s and listen to some ProAc speakers as I believe he sells them as well.  They’re very natural and organic sounding yet still nicely detailed and image/soundstage right up there with the Vandys with wider dispersion and sweet spot.  Surprised he didn’t play them for you — I think you’ll be very impressed. 

@soix  That's a good idea.  It's been a while since I've listened to Proac's. I used to have Studio 250s back in the day and am not familiar with their line now.  I liked the Studio 250s but didn't love them. I eventually sold them and then got the Boxers.  Any particular Proacs that you recommend now?


There's a lot that can be done to improve off the shelf speakers.

The old favourite; better crossover components.

Grounding the housing, front and rear plates of each driver. Imperative, non debatable.

speaker anatomy

Lining all internal surfaces including rear driver plates with sound deadening material and filling enclosure with sound absorption material.

Adding sound deadening material within the confines of the grille to the baffle with cut outs the size of the cones helps with reflection.

A grille with curved edges helps with diffraction.

reflection & diffraction

Any particular Proacs that you recommend now?

No, not really as I think they’ll all sound really good and share the ProAc sound profile so I’d just try whatever is closest to your price range and ask Johnny R as he obviously knows it all and can give you solid advice.  Definitely give them a listen though. 

In addition to speakers from a regular hi-fi store, I would also look at some large powered studio monitors. You could spend extra with the savings you will have by not needing to upgrade your power amp and even further if you sell your existing power amp.  You may not be able to get a proper audition, but many retailers of studio monitors offer return privileges.

Thanks, all.  My auditioning journey continued today.  I spent some time at HiFi Direct in Hackensack, NJ. It was my first time there and first time meeting Mike.  He  suggested I try Cabasse Murano bookshelf speakers. Wow!  Gorgeous speaker and sounded better than it looks.  Very natural, effortless and musical.  Everything sounded good.  I then listened to Dynaudio Special Forty, which were also very good, but very different.  The SP40s were a little more subdued but still did everything well.  They were a good combo of detail, soundstage and a nice full sound.  Really impressed by the Cabasse, though, because everything just sounded better. With both speakers I was hearing great music, but the Cabasse felt more real. Amp was a Line Magnetic LM-805ia. First time hearing a Line Magnetic and that was also very impressive. 

The best pairing I heard while there, though, was the Dynamikks Athos 10 with an Octave Audio V40SE. $44K of goodness.  If you can spend that kind of money on speakers, you should give them a listen.  I can’t at the moment but maybe someday.

The best thing about this search is going into these stores and meeting great people who know what they’re doing and discovering new gear and new music.

Really appreciate everyone’s feedback.

Well if you are near Hackensack then you are near NYC. Go on an audition binge! Spend a couple hours at all the high end places. You will fall in love with something. Try to just listen to music until it grabs you emotionally.

MA Gold or Focal Aria would be my start point if I were you.  Good luck, fun search.  

While you’re on your journey I’d recommend hitting Park Avenue Audio in Manhattan if you haven’t already and give a listen to the Boenicke W5 for a very enlightening experience. I haven’t heard them yet but hoping to go there next week as I’ll be in NYC for the NY Audio Show. I’d suggest leaving all your credit cards at home — you’ve been warned.  Just noticed they also carry QLN that would be very worth a listen too while you’re there.  Enjoy the journey!

The speaker journey was derailed a bit by some amps — Belles Aria Monoblocks to be exact.  I listened to the Aria Integrated at Audio Connection and liked the amp’s overall sound with the different speakers I heard it with.  When I found them used, I bought them.  Will have them by the weekend to try with my current speakers.  The speaker journey will resume in a month or two.  To be honest, I’ve liked a lot of the speakers I’ve heard.  Favorites so far… Cabasse Murano, Paradigm Founders 80F, and Vandersteen VLR CT and 2CE Sig3.  

@nymarty I've owned a pair of the Belles monoblocks for years, and they are excellent.  They bat well above their price range, and will drive any speaker you throw at them well.  They deserve the best that you can get.

I found the Vienna Acoustics Beethovens to be a great addition to my R105/3's. The other option is to go up the ladder. I have a pair of Blades I'm selling to upgrade to the blade meta's.

I am a big fan of Spendor speakers and suggest you swing a deal on the A4 floorstanders - should be in your budget.  

Update on the speaker search…. I bought a very nice pair of used Vandersteen 3A Signatures yesterday.  I’ve always liked a Vandy’s when I’ve heard them so I thought the best thing would be to just try a pair in my room.  Will use them with the Belles Aria monoblocks or McCormack DNA-1.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a floorstander.  Today will be setup and tonight will be listening.  I’m going to keep auditioning speakers though — heading to Capital Audio Fest in a couple of weeks.