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.


In my opinion, the best way to get a system that sounds good at low volume is with an SET and a pair of sensitive speakers.  As I have improved the quality of my system, every detail, especially the digital, the less I need to turn it up, i.e., the better it sounds at low volume.

Point number 2:  The bigger and more powerful the amp you buy, the less likely it is to sound good at low volume.  

I won't name names but I had a very powerful amp with a better-than-average reputation which I bought to drive some Martin Logans.  Switching to a much more sensitive speaker pair, I was not impressed with the speakers...I was about to sell them until I heard them with an SET.  the powerful amp was gone in a week.  Currently using a 2 wpc amp while a custom 4 wpc amp is being built.

The ability to sound good at low volume is important to me.  I tend to listen many hours a day while doing other things on the computer (like make this post) so I can't use high volumes that would fatigue my ears.



I  am familiar with amazing low level resolution with both the YG Carmels and my YG Haileys.  I am sure the Audionet electronics and Tambaqui DAC are part of the sound.

Experience with lots of pro and hi fi systems over the years says low level sound quality is mostly related to higher gain audio quality- as simple as that. Despite the obvious Fletcher Munson ear sensitivity issues, that would point some towards a loudness control, most of these loudness controls are not calibrated to the efficiency/SPL of the loudspeaker at a given volume- so are just a random more bass and treble control (which when used always sounds better to most listeners). But it is not more accurate. Fletcher Munson curves are directly driven by SPL so must be calibrated to the system and its output to be accurate.

In pro mastering, where a lot of mastering is done at low level and high level both, there is no such thing as a different EQ curve for loud vs soft. I’ve never met anyone in 30 years who thought they needed it or asked me if I knew of anything that did that. If the speakers don’t sound good at low level, they probably didn’t sound good at high level either. Experienced listeners accept there will be less low and high end at low level, but they expect the midrange (the translating part of the sound) to be consistent between low and high level. Engineers and customers both expect the mix or master to sound good at ANY level.

NOW if I am only listening at low level, that could be a different scenario. I might choose a completely system all together. But it wouldn’t be for improved accuracy- it would be for better enjoyment!

I think this whole issue is not worth any jump to DSP as a method to cope with level. The move to DSP can completely change the perception of the entire rig as it affects everything, not just low level loudness compensation.


@lonemountain and what’s your take on digital room treatment such as in the Anthem preamp. I’d believe that’s a different story than ordinary DSP.