Highly efficient speakers to pair with my SET amp

Hi - I'm posting a little shyly, but with the hope that the collective wisdom and experience of Audiogon can help me chase down some speakers to pair with my SET amp.

I'm currently running Paradigms (Studio 60s) with my Almarro 318A (18 wpc). These are my first speakers, and the combination has kept me happy (and rolling tubes, swapping cables, and otherwise delightedly descending into happy audio oblivion) for a year or so. I've rotated among CD players and have had similar levels of happiness from a Jolida JD100 and a Njoe Tjoeb; both are lovely.

As you can see, I'm balancing sound I like with equipment I can afford. Of late, though, I've been seduced by a friend's setup, which features a much more powerful amp (tubed; same goes for his pre-amp), a higher-grade CD player, and much better speakers. I'm wondering if I can approach that level of bliss without (1) chucking the Almarro, which I love; (2) breaking the bank; and (3) ever getting into the 'edgy' danger zone (I definitely fall out on the sweet SET side of the listening world).

On said friend's advice, I'm thinking that the easiest place to start would be to seek speakers with a little more efficiency. I'm wondering if anyone might offer suggestions as to terrific, highly efficient speakers (~92 db?) in (here goes) the under- or near-$2500 range -- or might have another perspective to keep me from, um, 'borrowing' my friend's setup when he's next out of town.

Thanks very much,
Betsy -- you might try searching in the past discussion threads and i think you will find some good suggestions there. One that i might look at if you are willing to buy used are the devore super gibbons -- i don't own them but i have heard them and liked them. Carol
Betsy- if you are running an SET with 18 watts, you need more efficiency than 92 db to really hear what the amp is all about. One inexpensive way to get that is the ZU Druid- but if you look into them, make sure they are a new pair or a set that has had the recent updates, else make sure that they are priced so you can get the updates.

Audiokinesis has made easy to drive speakers in the past in your price range, you might try with them.

Another approach is to go with vintage- I recently sold a set of Altec Siennas that were 97 db 8 ohms. Although not much response below 40Hz, above that they were fabulous. I sold them for $300.00... I could have gotten more but I have too many speakers laying around :)
SET + Single driver horns = heaven

If you are handy with tools and have enough determination, please contact me privatly.

For less then your original budget, you can have a slice of heaven. I think your friend just might start visiting YOU more often. :)
Hi Betsy, Take a look at the Sonist website, I am running a pair of their Concerto2's with 5 watts and loving it. They have a SPL rating of 95db and have been voiced to to run with SET amps. Also Reference 3A- MM DeCappo's will work with your amp as long as you don't put them in a large room. One final brand that I recommend is Decware most of their speakers were designed for low wattage amps. The Sonist speakers are 2500.00 new but hard to find used, the Reference 3A- MM DeCappo's are 2500.00 new and used ones are easy to find on the GON, Decware comes up on the GON once in a while, they have a few models that will work with your amp, just call Steve the owner and he can help you with witch one. Good luck with your search.

A site I have used in the past when looking for speakers is: http://www.welbornelabs.com/recomendspeaks.htm

There are also other recommended speaker sites like: http://www.wavelengthaudio.com/speaker.html

A site I like is Decware. See: http://www.decware.com/newsite/speakers.html

Good luck!
I second the recommendation of the DeCappo's. No reason to chuck the Almarro, there lots of great choices. A few other manufactures that immediately come to mind are; Audio Note, Living Voice, Horne Shoppe, Devore, Tannoy, Zu Druid, and Coincident. Different flavors for different taste. Room dimensions are important. A powered sub might be helpful down the road depending on your taste, room size and speaker.
Zu has a sale on "re-manufactured" Druids in the lastest configuration - complete with 60-day home trial and full guarantee. You should at least talk to Sean. http://www.zuaudio.com/zuaudiocom-exclusive-sale.html
I can second the Decware choice, along with a recommendation to look at Tonian Labs. The Ref3A stuff is excellent also, maybe not as efficient as ideal for an SET, but an easy load, and that's important too.
I used a pair of Reference 3A MM DeCapos in a small/medium sized room using 3.5 watt/ch 2A3 SET amps. No problem at all. Your 18 watts/channel would power them nicely in a medium sized room. Of course, if you listen to primarily full scale classical music, you may need more power or a more efficient speaker than the DeCapos.


take a look at omega speakers,im using a pair of omega compact hemp speakers, they are 96 db efficient and sound as good as they look and are well within your price range
The best match with an SET amp will be horn speakers. I second the Klipsch Cornwall recommendation - I bought mine here on audiogon for only $600. If those are too large for you, you could try the Heresey's. You can still find things in the Klipsch Heritage series for very reasonable prices.
I’ve just had the chance to read through the responses to my post, and at risk of sounding less than sincere by offering a large-scale thank you, I wanted to send some real appreciation to all who took the time to offer advice.

I’ve chased down links for many of the sources you suggested, and – at your prompting – have thought a bit about the kinds of music I listen to, my ideal listening volume given the proximity of a decidedly non-audiophile neighbor, and the nature of my listening space. The result has been fun and educational: just what a neophyte might hope to learn from her first Audiogon thread. As our local parlance would have it: thanks – for reals.

Because switching out my Paradigms has the potential to represent a pretty major purchase for me, and because my ears seem to be getting more and more choosy over time, I’m fairly sure that I’d like to listen before buying. I’ve had very limited experience with horns, and hope to find some locally to take for a spin. In the meantime, I’m leaning in two directions – inasmuch as that’s possible.

First: happily enough, there’s a chance that my Friend with the Seductive System (FSS) and I will audition some close-to-local Coincidents with the Almarro this weekend. Doing so will let me hear the Total Eclipse flavor of efficiency with my amp for the first time, and I suspect that the experience will be enlightening.

Second: I have more than a passing interest in the Zu Druids. FSS reminded me that they’re crossoverless; that would be new territory for me, so the suggestion to try the 60 day in-home trial for the refurbished version seems especially right on (thanks, Gsm18439, and those who mentioned this by email). I heard these once and didn’t fall for them -- but the setting was less than ideal, and I don’t think they were playing to their strengths. I’m more than happy to give them a real chance.

Can't wait to test these waters; if successful I may never leave the house again (heh). As for whether FSS will visit me more often, Mrjstark? Not sure; he just got a new CD player, has tubes en route, and even has some new power cords to try. I might be out of luck. :)

Thank you again to all for your suggestions and advice.

Betsy (Fangirl....I am guessing),
no worries about your friend and his never ending pursue of "Audio Nirvana"........which but away, blinded him to the point that he's missing the chance of..........finding the real "treasure". :)
If you ever decided to go with Single Driver horns....just let me know and I am sure that something can be arranged to suit your taste and preferences.

Keep an eye out for 'Oris' horns that appear every now and then on here and are very reasonably priced. You could do a lot worse than the offerings Johnk (KCS) has to offer.
18 watts and tube watts at that, is not flea powered, many conventional speakers are eminently suitable. My 22 watt SET for example, drives my 89db acoustic ZEN adagios, with better grip than the 180 watt SS amp I also used. In addition to the above suggestions, I would include some other small US names, Silverline and if you can find them Reimer, now sadly no more and Daedalus. If you are talking horn speakers, then the Cain and Cain Abby looks and sounds wonderful.
Hi All,

I am the evil friend that Betsy mentioned, the one who is intending to drive every last bit of pleasure from her listening experiences, and instead transforming those into a set of analytical exercises!

Even though there is some truth to having introduced Betsy to the potential for quality musical reproduction, I'd much rather help her along that path without making her too crazy. Like most of us, she does seem to enjoy the chase. Nice of all of you who offered suggestions with that same intention.

I think that Betsy's rig sounds pretty darned good, and as David12 suggested, her 18 watt amp drives her 89db Paradigms very well if not quite to ear-bleed levels. If I had to guess what she hears in my rig (that _might_ be missing from hers) are some degree of micro details and spatial information. In my own experiences, a good match between amplifier power and loudspeaker efficiency (and impedance) can help that.

Therefore, I suggested that she consider speakers that are somewhat more efficient (say 92db from 89db) and have an impedance curve that is kinder to tube amps. Her Paradigms are excellent for the money, but their impedance curve is far from ideal for moderately powered tube amps.

So, I don't think she necessarily needs anything in the 100db range--although I do think she would like flea powered SETs--and that she might find a nice improvement in speakers designed for tube amps.

And Mrjstark... not sure how you gathered it from her posts, but you are correct; she's a gem.

Betsy - I may be able to provide suggestions depending on where you are located. For instance, there is a pair of JBL L-200 speakers for sale in Tennessee that would sound good as is and which could be used as the foundation for a world class horn system.....but shipping would be very difficult and expensive.
Near Toronto, Canada, there is an itinerant horn maker who has been in the biz for 30 years and who has heard everything and worked with most of it. He consults for many companies you have heard about but has no desire to be involved in the commercial aspects of consumer audio. He does, however, sell the best horns available today and offer expert advice with an eye toward economy.
There are others.
Emerald Physics open baffle speakers have 92dB+ efficiency and they sound great. I have the KCIIs, which should be awesome with your low powered amp
They have a few pair with Carbon Fiber drivers on sale right now for $1999, including shipping
I owned an Almarro 318B for several years.That was a very good amplifier.They are really more like 12 watts though.They work well with some of the vintage Tannoys.The Tannoy Cheviot [HPD315] for example.Or the Monitor Gold 15.Not the HPD 385 though as the bass can get a bit boomy with them and a SET.Or there are some modern Tannoys which should match well including the reissued Cheviot.Harbeth and Audio Note speakers should also work well.

With a SET you are best off with speakers that are true 8 ohm loads and that do not dip down much below 6 ohms.Avoid 4 ohm speakers.

If you can move a bit up in price, the two reasonably efficient systems that I've heard and liked are the Tekton Double Impacts and the Rethm Bhaava.  

The smaller and cheaper Audio Note speakers might be in play if you can find them used, are candidates because they present an easy load for your amps.  Even though they are NOT efficient, the 15 ohm or 11 ohm LS3/5A clones and used originals work quite well with amps in your power range.  
Altec 604, 605, Valencia, model 19 - all are super efficient (~97-100dB/W) with good midrange, bass, dynamics and natural tone.
Can be driven by any SET amplifier including flee power 45 and 2A3 tube SETs.