Looking for speaker recommendations under $5K

Greetings. After 51 years on Earth, I'm new to the world of high end home audio. Always knew you guys were out there, but was never did anything about it. Suffice it to say I thought my Pioneer L80t3's sounded great paired with a Denon AVR 1803 receiver. I had no idea what I was missing.

Well, I bumped into an old friend (who I later determined is a fellow Audiogoner) at the Phil Lesh concerts at the Nokia Theater in NYC last Fall, and next thing you know I've got a pair of Energy 2.2i's (purchased new on what I now know was a closeout from Audio Advisor) connected to a Pioneer VSX 59TXi receiver and a Pioneer DV 79AVi DVD player (both Pioneer units purchased here on Audiogon). Also have a Hsu VTF3 MK3 sub (also purchased on Audiogon). Not the greatest setup, but night and day compared to what I had. I'm using some hand twisted/sanded magnet wire (ala Anti-Cables) for speaker cables. I have the speakers bi-amped - although I'm not quite sure why. DVD player is connected via Firewire and via MIT Terminator2 interconnects. Sub is connected via Blue Jeans LC-1 subwoofer cable.

My listening room is 20x25. Thin carpet over concrete floor. Plywood walls all around. Believe it or not, room acoustics are good. (Or so I think LOL) I listen to lots of Grateful Dead, but more importantly to any high quality recording I can get my hands on. Everything from Dire Straights to Eric Clapton to 10,000 Maniacs to Alice in Chains to Frank Sinatra to Miles Davis. Definitely into acoustic music. I buy all the remasters of the 70's music I can get my hands on, as well SACD or DVD Audio discs within reason (which rules out Neil Young's Harvest - which is going for $100, as is Frank Sinatra's Live at the Sands).

So, now that I have a taste of your world, I'm wondering what I might be missing. I would be willing to spend $5,000 on a new (or used) pair of speakers - if doing so will make a noticeable improvement. And I'll buy a new preamp and/or amplifier if it will make a noticeable difference.

One of the reasons for the timing of this inquiry is the fact it seems Energy will be unable to provide warranty support for my speakers. I don't know exactly what the problem is, but I noticed what I can only describe as "distortion" when I was playing the Alice in Chains MTV Unplugged DVD the other day. Don't know if its the speakers or some other problem. I have noticed some very minor "anomalies" in the past, but never could put my finger on any specific problem. I have been writing it off as "diginoise" (I don't know if there even is such a thing) or to my ever-declining sense of hearing. Or perhaps to the auditory hallucinations brought on by having attended over 300 Grateful Dead concerts. Fortunately, 99.8% of the time the speakers sound fantastic.

However, well prior to hearing this "distortion," I have been scouring this site and every other site I can find to try to get some idea of what "upgrades" I should be considering. For some inexplicable reason, I have a desire to acquire a pair of floor standing speakers. (That desire has nothing to do with the size - or lack thereof - of any part of my anatomy. LOL) I gave the Anthony Gallo 3.1 a listen recently. Sounded real nice, but didn't have a reference disc with me to make a meaningful comparison. Plus, the exposed nature of the drivers in those speakers probably wouldn't be the best idea considering I have a 12 year old and a 13 year old who, along with their friends, like to play on their Xbox in my listening room.

So, I would really like to hear some suggestions/comments/criticisms.

Thanks for listening.
By the way, the Gallos can be used with a grill:


Some questions related to the noise you are hearing:

Are you using the receiver's bass management?

What kind of volume level are listening at? Perhaps you are just driving these speakers too hard. (I think every 'phile should have an SPL meter, like one of the Radio Shack analog meters.)

Have you tried listening with headphones to make sure it's not just noise in the recording?

Also, you could try some poster putty (e.g. Blu-Tack) between the speakers and the stands.

As for new speakers, for acoustic music, my taste would lean toward Vandersteen (the 3A Signature is under $4000), but they only have a cloth sock over the drivers. However other people's taste is of limited usefulness.
Please consider the Salk Sound HT2-TL ( http://salksound.com/speakers_veracity_ht2-tl.shtml) for a bit more than $4k very nicely finished. This is an internet direct brand with passionate customers. I have the Salk SongTowers and believe they are the best in their class (under $2k). Their speakers are designed and built in Michigan and are also beautiful to look at.

See also the AudioCircle Salk user forum at http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?board=82.0. Several users on the forum will demo their speakers in different areas of the country.
Daverz - thanks for your input.

I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know what bass management is. I've heard of it, but I assumed my receiver would handle that, and the speakers sound great so I never looked into it.

I listen at moderate volume levels. Loud enough to get the imaging/soundstage really going - if that makes any sense. I don't know how to correctly describe it in technical terms.

Unfortunately, I don't own headphones.

You definitely lost me with the poster putty suggestion. Sorry.
Re: the poster putty. It's this stuff. You can usually find a generic version in the arts/crafts section of any drug store. You pull off a marble-sized pinch, kneed it a bit, and stick it between the speakers and the stands at the corners to prevent any movement and provide some damping between the speakers and stands. The idea is that there might be some speaker cabinet resonance that is causing the noise.

The idea of bass management is to send only the low frequencies to the subwoofer and not the satellites, which takes a lot of stress off small speakers. Check your HSU and Pioneer manuals.
No need to spend as much as 5K where you are right now in the journey. I'd recommend Revel Concerta F12.
I've been demoing speakers recently, looking to upgrade from my Quad 22L2's. Tried to stay in the $3k range (new), but I'm now demoing a pair of Living Voice IBX-R2's.

It depends on the gear you're using and what your tastes are, but I've tried both Devore and Living Voice (and had suggestions offered to try Proac, Harbeth, etc.). I've been trying to find a speaker with a "british" sound.

Key thing was efficiency, 90-95db with a forgiving tweeter since I listen to a lot of rock (Tool, AIC, Pearl Jam, Floyd, Bad Company, Soundgarden, etc...). Very tricky to set things up right with digital. Seems tweeters with a 20-25k response are on the softer side of those with extended 30-40k response (even if human hearing can't reach that far).

The Devore's were a bit on the forward side, though very nice. The Living Voice seem to be perfect after a few days listen. Key thing is, try to demo speakers for at least 3-4 days to see if you can live with them. Impressions can change drastically over the course of a few days listening.

Efficient speakers will open up options for tube gear and lower powered solid state amps and most will play nice with amps in the 75-125 watt range.
Two new speakers I recently heard and loved are the Devore Fidelity Gibbon 3XLs (~ $4450) and the Verity Finn's ($5495). Superb speakers that are so new you probably won't see them yet on the used market.

The Verity Finn's replaced Verity's excellent Taminos, which sold for $5995 new. I have a mint condition pair of Taminos with NMT 250 hours on them that I could make you a great deal on, far less than either of the above figures and so obviously well below your stated maximum. If you are interested, contact me directly.

Good luck!
I agree with Shadorne, at least the first part. Not as big a fan of the Revel's, but that's besides the point.
Budget for a system! Sure, choose your speakers first. Do make sure that the speakers will work in your given room, and work back form there. Your new speakers might be best suited to very different amplification. Your room might need a bit of treatment, etc., etc.
Based on your system and music taste - you might try Cerwin-Vega's CLS-215s. Pound/dollar it might be the cheapist speaker made.( and the loudest) lol. and if you like them you could afford 4 more sets.
Hi Deringer,

Well, at least the first step is to admit that you have an Audio Problem at home. (LOL).

You can get some wonderful speakers for $5000, but if your goal is to build a high-end audio system, than I think that money should be spread around a little more. Although your Pioneer Elite Receiver is a decent receiver for background music and perhaps a Movie. I wouldn't consider it to be the foundation of a High-End Audio System, to be used for critical listening

I think you need to view this system as more than just buying $5000 speakers. You can buy $10,000 speakers hook them up to your modest Pioneer Receiver and they will probably sound terrible. You could also buy $2000 Speakers, a $2000 Amplifier, and a $1000 external DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) to be hooked up to your very good Pioneer Elite CD/DVD Player to be used as a Transport and get an absolutely wonderful sound. I think that's what your goal should be.

I know you're probably asking yourself what's an external DAC? All CD players have an internal DAC to convert the sound from Digital Bits to Analog Music, so that we may hear the sounds through our stereo system since we can't hear in digital. For the most part, these internal DAC's in modest CD Players are usually inexpensive, and bare bones just to get the job done. An external DAC, will attach to an input on the back of your Pioneer Elite CD player, using a digital cable, and it will take your musical reproduction to new heights. These external DAC's may cost anywhere from $250 to $25,000 however you can buy an excellent used DAC from $1000 to $1600 in my opinion, and then about $100 for a decent digital cable. The good news is that your Pioneer Elite CD/DVD Player will be more than up to the task.

Now onto preamps; a preamp will allow you to control the volume and select a source that you would like to listen to. Now, more bad news, the preamp in your pioneer receiver is not very good, sorry but true. The good news is that a lot of the new external DAC's on the market have built in volume control's and some even have a built-in source selector. Some people only listen to CD's and they don't need source switching capabilities.

If I were designing your System, I would recommend that you get; Floor-Standing Speakers for that very large room of yours, a separate Amplifier, and an external DAC; with a Volume Control, remote, and possible switching source ability depending on your needs.

To give you a starting point of reference..., I absolutely love the build quality, form factor, value, and musical reproduction of Bel Canto gear. I own a Bel Canto Ref1000 Monoblock Amplifier, and I can highly recommend it; check out all of the reviews on the internet. This amp was $4000 new, but can now be had for $2000 here on Audiogon, because the new Ref II model just came out this year. I also have owned the Bel Canto DAC3, which I absolutely loved as well, and this was $2500 new, and approx. $1600 used.

Speakers, are a more personal selection, but you can probably get used speakers here for $2000 and up that would meet your needs, that originally sold for $5000 new.

I would think you need a tower speaker with at least 3-4 drivers that goes down to at least 30Hz-35Hz for the bass region in that huge room of yours. A few brands that I can recommend you check out are; Vandersteen 3A, Von Schweikert VR-4jr, Aerial Acoustics 7B ,Verity Audio Fidelio, and the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand.

Read some reviews, find a good dealer, sometimes you could get a good deal on demo gear, listen to some speakers, and then after you decide on speakers, then you could match up an Amplifier, DAC and Cables.

But Mikey Fremer liked the Pioneer VSX 59TXi. It's been blessed by one of the high priests of the faith.
First let me say I am very biased toward dipole planer speakers.I own both box(Snell E) and planers(Acoustat 2) and I love them both, but if I had to give one up it would be the boxs. That said,buy yourself a nice set of Acoustats. You can get them here on Audiogon or Ebay for less than $1000.00! Then spend the rest on a Antique Sound labs Hurricane tube amp(used).These speakers are special. I have had mine for 29 years without any problem except for cats climbing them (I am on my third set of socks). Once you have experienced these speakers, it is hard to go back to boxes.Detail,imaging,presence are all words my audiophile friends use when they hear them.
Also indestructible.I have had these with kids,cats,dogs,moved across the country twice and survived it all.
I suggest the spectral models if you can find them (2200,3300,4400).If not those then get the 1+1,2,2+2,3,3+3. Preferably with medallian transformers, but you can always have the transformers modified.(big improvement!)
The bigger the model,the more efficient it will be.
Do not get the ones with the sub woofers. ESLs and subs never,NEVER work! The subs are too slow for the super fast panel and timing suffers.Martin Logins sound disjointed and not homogeneous because of this.
Just sit back and enjoy some Joni,Solti,Kings,Monk or whatever you like and enjoy.
You might want to take a look at the Odyssey Lorelei's. You wouldn't need a sub with these and Klaus has a 30 day home trial.

good luck in your search

"But Mikey Fremer liked the Pioneer VSX 59TXi. It's been blessed by one of the high priests of the faith."
With appoloiges to the late great Frank Zappa: "...And remember kids, there's a difference between kneeling down and bending over."
Not trying to hijack this thread but I have a question for Unsound. Wouldn't you agree that having $20,000,000 does indeed make a heavenly bank account? :)
I am also a big fan of dipole planer speakers. So much so that I do not see myself going back to box enclosed speakers.

Take a look at Emerald Physics CS-2's, they can be had for less than $1,900 used. They require bi-amping but you are already there using your receiver.

Then take the money left and get a good stand alone DAC.
The "big difference between kneeling down and bending over" quote is from the song Heavenly Bank Account. You Are What You Is is a killer album.
I echo the advice given by Richlane and frankly, I can't believe no one else has responded similarly. If quality sound is what you are after, take seriously his suggestions.

As for speaker recommendations, I am a fan of Aerial speakers. I have the Aerial 7 (not to be confused with the 7B) and love them. The 7Bs are even better. Another speaker manufacturer I'd recommend is PSB. Definitely give the Platinum or Synchrony lines a listen.