High end speakers at low volume

After having got accustomed to my new Vitus RI-101 mk II, I came to the conclusion that I need to improve my system's performance at low volume to enjoy music more.

Current sources: LinnLP12, Holo Spring 3 KTE, Nucleus. 
Speakers: Avalon Idea. 
Shunyata Delta NR V2 and Hemingway Indigo PC, Tara Labs Forté, TQ 2 Black diamond IC.

I am looking at replacing the Avalon Idea with speakers that could improve the low volume listening experience. I listen to 60 / 70db, I can afford to go up to 85db for very short time (neighbours).

I am also considering to purchase a Loki Max which I understood being quite a neutral EQ unit.

I have selected a few speakers which should match my musical taste based on what I have read:

- YG Carmel 2
- Wilson Sabrina X
- Vandersteen treo ct

I don't have the chance to listen to them except the TAD ME1 which I have enjoyed very much but not in my apartment.

Budget max $15k new or used.

I am looking for speakers sounding musical, with wide soundstage, not cold, detailed yet not analytical.

I mostly listen to classic rock, blues and jazz.

The system sits at the end of the long wall in a living room measuring 33x13ft, listening position 8ft from the speakers.

Unfortunately I have to face a tough WAF putting several limits:

- speakers must have a clean design, not black, not too hifi looking... and not too big
- distance from the wall behind the speakers 25cm

I don't mind changing amplifier if it will be necessary to match the next speakers.

I haven't found a preamp that I could consider a good candidate except a very expensive CSport featuring a loudness button which works very well (tested at Ana Mighty Sound).

I would much appreciate some advice from who knows well the above speakers or who had similar needs.


Many have been down this road.

There are a few generalizations to consider:

1 Small rooms are easier to energize at low volumes and the listening position is closer.

2 Speaker size effects low volume listening. Big speakers are generally designed for big rooms and the resultant higher volumes which translates to driver suspensions designed for high spl vs smaller drivers designed for more modest max spl. Only a few drivers have suspensions/spiders that work well over a wide range and they are expensive. Satori drivers are very good over wide volume ranges being they use those excellent German spiders.

3. Noise floor starts to be a huge issue. Big amps are generally not happiest there which is probably why the SE tube amps and FR setups are so recommended.

4 Fletcher-Munson curves  come into play and some speakers have a good voicing for non ear blasting levels but EQ can really go a long way.

I currently have 5 pairs of big speakers, Apogee Divas, Thiel CS5i's, BD Orpheans,  Pure Audio Project Quattro 15 w the AER BD-3b and Sound Labs A3's I can say that the 2 high eff setups do indeed sound better at low volumes as well as the Sound Labs but not to the extent of the PAP setup.

Wilson Audio now uses the Satori drivers with the above mentioned spiders in some of their designs and they are the ones people like at low volume. Magico has those German sourced spiders as well in several designs.

@ricco275 @elliottbnewcombjr is exactly right. In order for any speaker to sound decent at low volume the bass and treble need to be boosted. Older preamps had loudness compensation filters for this very reason. You can use tone controls to do this but best is to have a digital preamp you can program with your own loudness compensation curve into a preset that you can select when you are listening at low levels. At high levels you want to roll the treble off. No speaker that sounds correct at normal listening levels is going to sound correct at very low levels. You Avalons are fine. Look at the Trinnov Amethyst, The Anthem STR and the DEQX Pre 4. These are all full function digital preamps that allow you to do these special things and a lot more. 


You have the right aswers....low level sound quality and efficiency are not related.  Sound Quality at low level is related to how low the driver distortion is and the front end quality.  ATC has very low driver distortion and sounds quite good at low level, which is a selling point most dealers comment on.   Their passives are around 1w/1m 86 to 88dB SPL.  A speaker designer can optimize his drivers and design for more bass but gives up some efficiency as a penalty.  



@mijostyn these are great info! I believe tone control is key for low volume listening and I’m sure it will be more effective with high efficiency speakers. My Avalon are alright but not great in terms of details, clarity, imaging, sound stage. They sound nice and are forgiving. That’s why with the little McIntosh MA5300 I was very happy. When plugged to a much more demanding and resolving amp like the Vitus all the limitations came out. Maybe with one of the components you mentioned I could be fine with a pair of Sabrina X, but still doubting how much details they can express at low volume. And anyway whatever we add in the chain is a possible filter or source of noise. I’m intrigued by the Anthem as I know it is quite good as an amp per se. Or the Schiit Loki max as a pure EQ.

@ricco275  You would be surprised. Once you correct the frequency response for low level listening all the details will come out. 

I am not a fan of the Loki. If price is an issue the MiniDSP SHD is the way to go. The Anthem STR Preamp is even better , the Trinnov Amethyst better still and the best is the DEQX Pre 4. These are preamps so you you would need an amp to match. Given that you like to listen at low levels I think the Pass Labs XA 25.8 would be perfect.