Need Help Matching to This System To Speakers

New member here, and I would like some assistance on bookshelf speakers to match a "mostly" new system I have put together over the past year. I am looking to spend between $2,000 and $4,000 for a pair of bookshelfs.....This is only a 2 channell audio set up. It will be a new system, in a new first floor remodel. I will have the tube and solid state amps to drive the single set of speakers.

I am an engineer, and have over researched the subject and am now completely moved to "inaction" by an overwhelming list of speakers. The speakers MUST be bookshelfs, as that was my agreement with my wife when she agreed to all of the new equipment and cable purchases.....the Thiel CS3.6 speakers have already been sold. Something I never wanted to do. I will be adding a REL T/5X or T/7X sub as well.

My listening tastes are classic rock, 80/90s new age rock, southern rock, blues, old school rap, some country, some grunge, some newer rock, etc. I do not listen to classical, jazz, opera, orchestra, etc. Well recorded (if possible) is just as important to me. You are likely to find me listening to Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Radiohead, Gorillaz, REM, Black Keys, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Tom Petty, Gary Clark Jr. Chris Stapleton, Little Feat, Alice in Chains, NWA, Eminem. My listening style has changed over the last 15 years, I do not tend to listen at high volumes....enough to fill the space is sufficient for me. I'd like to listen more often, not louder.

My listening area is 12' x 20' with 8' ceilings in a relatively open floor plan, with a sitting position about 8.5' from the speakers, open concept room with hardwood floors. It will have couches/chairs/curtains/area rugs/ but doubt wife will go for acoustic treatments. I will be placing the speakers 12" to 18" at most from the front wall.

Suggestion on speakers is welcome, and hopefully I've done a good job with associated equipment; I found some great information on these threads. Also AXPONA is here is Chicago this year, so I may get to listen to some of these speakers. Thank you in advance for your constructive input.

Speakers on my too large list: Ascend Sierra 2EX, Buchardt S400 MkII, Philharmonic BMR, Triangle 40th Anniversary Comete, Dynaudio Evoke 20 and Special 40, ProAc Tablette 10 Signature, Xavian Perla, Amphion Argon 3S, Totem Sky or Signature 1, Arendal 1723, Tannoy Autograph Mini, Spendor Classic 4/5, Harbeth 7ES-3 XD, Paradigm Founders 40B, ????

NOT a fan of B&W, Klipsch, Focal, Def Tech, Polk, B&O, KEF, ELAC, JBL.

Components: NuPrime AMG-STA Amp, Denafrips Pontus II DAC, Onkyo C-7030 CD Player, Denafrips Hestia Pre-Amp, Tubes4HiFi VTA ST-120 Tube Amp (KT120 Tubes), Bluesound Node (3?) Streamer, Schiit Magni Headphone Amp, Sennheiser HD599 Headphones, Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner, Dedicated 20AMP 120V Circuit - Furutech FPX Gold Wall Sockets

Cables: Pangea Audio AC-9 SE MkII Cables (Power Amps) & AC14-SE MkII Cables (Signal Components), Morrow Audio MA-4 Analog Co-Ax Pairs, MA-4 Analog XLR Pairs, DIG 4 Digital Co-Ax Singles, ANTICABLES Level 3.1 Reference Speaker Wires, Wireworld Chroma 8 Ethernet & Starlight 8 USB, Supra Cat 8 Ethernet, Oyaide Neo USB D+, KableDirect TOSLINK Professional Optical Digital


Watkins Gen 4

I am not related but have known & bought from them  for 40 yrs and live 2-3 miles from where they are made. They are honest & dependable. If I were in the market for bookshelves, they would be on my short list. They demo them in a room a bit bigger than yours with no subwoofer. Very impressive sound with bass to 41hz

My suggestion would be to go listen to the different offerings from local dealers, if possible. This should speed up your quest.  F none are available locally, you can try some online dealers that offer 30-day returns to help you find what you will connect with. 

Check out Vandersteen VLR CTs $3300

but you can't go by reviews you have to demo what we like you might not


when you say ’bookshelf speakers’ you mean relatively small standmounted speakers yes?


and if so, you are saying you feel these have the necessary wife-approval factor compared to relatively slim floorstanders?


Gents thanks for the fast responses, and I agree 100% regarding finding local dealers and ordering speakers on-line that I can return if don't love them.....that is what I did with my electronics and cables over the past year. The problem at a local dealer, is they will not have my electronics and cables to audition with; and the problem ordering on line is is the time frames, and packing and shipping (and paying) for returning speakers.

As I mentioned AXPONA is here in Chicago this year, and I'm hoping that may help auditioning as well. The beauty with a forum like this and reaching a larger audience, is someone may have some Denafrips, Nuprime, or Tubes4HiFi gear with similar cables; and can share that experience.

Jss49, when you say ’bookshelf speakers’ you mean relatively small standmounted speakers yes?

Yes. A friend of hers has some gorgeous pair ProAc standmounts that look and sound beautiful....that's something like what I'll end up with. It's apparently worth $10,000 worth of new electronics to acheive that for her.

I even have a pair of Thiel CS1.2 (a narrow speaker) that don't make the cut. That battle is lost unfortuntately.

@vthokie83  - If you live near VT,  It's a pretty short drive from Blacksburg, VA down to Kingsport, TN where Watkins is located. If it were me (it's not) I would drive down to Kingsport and listen to the Watkins Gen 4. My vintage Infinity speakers use a dual voicecoil Watkins Woofers, and I love them. Would love to hear what 40 years of development has done for them. They also have a 30 day money back trial period, so you could try them in your own system when the room is done.

Yes. A friend of hers has some gorgeous pair ProAc standmounts that look and sound beautiful....that's something like what I'll end up with. It's apparently worth $10,000 worth of new electronics to acheive that for her.


Sounds like the Proac Tablette 10 Signature. I've read that the diminutive size belies their performance as they are capable of a big sound and deep impressive bass.

I really like the well balanced tone of Aerial 5t speakers, a goldilocks of pleasant vs open/detailed. Unfortunately I have not seen them for demo in some time. First hand experience is the only really experience...good luck.

Hard to go wrong with those Dyn Special 40s. I own Dyns so I'm biased but for me their tweeter is just so dang good. It is very smoothe and integrates with the lower frequencies very well. Good luck. 


It would be hard to find a book shelf speaker matching Thiel 3.6, but at least gives me an idea re your "taste." Please include Joseph Audio Pulsar in your list. There are several available in the used market starting at $3,250. There is an excellent review of these on stereophile.


Thiel 3.6s can go down to ~30 Hz (essentially covering up to the double bass). Even though frequency response of Pulsar is 42-20kHz, you may not feel you are missing a whole lot at the low end compared to Thiel 3.6. Not only the phase angle relatively low (similar to 3.6s), the impedance remain above 8 Ohms for the most of the audio band. These will be lot easier to drive (no sensitivity given) with nominal impedance of 8 Ohms. But imaging and midrange of Pulsar is where the magic happens.


I really love my Vandersteen VLR CTs. I have them paired with a Vandersteen sub3 subwoofer. The tweeter and woofer are in a coaxial arrangement, with time and phase alignment. They are honest, balanced natural sounding speakers. You indicated you are not fond of speakers that are forward sounding, tipped to the treble that sound exciting on first listen, but become fatiguing. I have owned B&W, Focal and Klipsch, and I plan on keeping these for the long haul. If you live in the Chicago area, there is no excuse to not audition them.

While I have not heard them, Fritz speakers have an excellent reputation on this forum and should be added to your list.



With apologies, but I don’t think the VLR CT would be a good match with the VTS 120 tube amp for that large room. They are not very sensitive at 86 dB/ 1 meter. I would look at Fritz, DeVore 3 XL, ProAc. The Fritz have a benign impedance curve, should be fine with 60 watts of tube power.

Highly recommend Sonus Faber. Bought a pair for my bookshelves last fall.  They have a magnificent sound stage with impressive bass and tweeter set up. Sonetta 1 or 2.  Wanted the 2's but had to get the ones due to height.  You'll love them.  Multiple high end colors to fit ub tyy

Once you decide on your speakers do yourself a favor and get a pair of subwoofers, rather than a single subwoofer. That size room I’d be inclined towards a pair of the REL T-7’s.

try the monitor audio gold 100s that MPD tweeter is incredible sounding very open and airy and spacious and they're in your price range.

Well when the harbeth  7 were in your to big list would you consider the smaller model? Also you might want to look at the neat speaker line. I would start at the motive line not the iota. You can go up from there as well. If I am correct you have both a tube amplifier and a solid state. Are you thinking I biamping these new speakers? Tube running the top and solid state running the bottom? If that is the case you need to find a speaker with two sets of binding posts. Also you might want to think about a pair of ls3/5a speakers from one of the manufacturers that build them. Thinking about that is the same as the small harbeths. The smallest pair of made in Italy Sonus Faber speakers would likely be wonderful as well. Does totem still make the model one speakers? Those and the Mani twos were in my opinion the best that they made. Mani two s you would not need a sub! They are small but might not work for acceptance factor. I have a set of dome phase standmounts they might be to big for you they are about Beauty. Tonal richness and great tonal balance. The importer here has a set new in a box he was clearing out they were 5500 Canadian retail. Lol no one will know what you have almost nothing online about them. I would bet you could get that pair for your budget. The thing with speakers in my opinion is they are highly personal likely the most personal decision in setting up a HiFi. I have a friend who always said there are larges numbers of speakers available and very few good ones. I would agree with that. I would agree with your list of what you don't like and would add to that! Lol. 



I know you said you didnt like Klipsch,  Skip the Reference series which are the bookshelfs as those are Chinese made products just like the Tannoy you have listed.   Based on your listening taste and much of the bands I like , the fact that you have Tube Amp, the fact that you will listen at lower volumes.  The Heresys or Fortes from Klipsch will be perfect but not bookshelf.  If you arent blown away at low volumes on Klipsch Heritage line I would be shocked.    If you could fit the Heresy I would

@vthokie83, "here in Chicago" you say? If you're in Chicago, surely you must have heard of Music Direct? They may not have exactly the pieces of equipment you have in your system and, admittedly, auditioning equipment at home is always the best scenario. However, I'm certain, with the proper preparation and communication prior to an audition in one of their sound rooms, they could come very close to replicating the sound characteristics of your equipment in order to provide you with a fair audition of the speakers they sell. They also have a very generous return policy. If I lived in or anywhere near Chicago and was in the market for new stereo toys, that would certainly be one, if not my first, stops. I would communicate with one of their salespeople prior to scheduling any audition, describe your intended listening room with them in detail, including your intended speaker placement options, and tell them what you're after. I'm certain they could provide your ears with quite an education. If you've over researched, then I assume you are aware the speaker stands will be almost as important as the bookshelf speakers themselves, assuming you plan on placing them on stands. If not, this presents a whole host of other variables. Also, as jss49 points out, why dismiss the possibility of slim or any other floor-standers? Bookshelf speakers on stands take up virtually the same space. Is this a WAF aesthetics concern? If so, I fully understand the futility of negotiating on this with SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED!

For the type of musical preferences you've disclosed, some of the bookshelf speakers I would recommend serious seat-time with are Aerial Acoustics; Dali; Revel; Wharfedale; JBL; McIntosh and Martin Logan, just to name a few.

Good Luck and Good Hunting!

For myself, the only potential “advantage” of a small stand mounted speaker without full bass extension ability can be their ability for ultra detail & disappearing act ( often due to potentially less cabinet resonance s) which many hold in very high regard. I do t think they take up much less floor area or in room notice ability than a tall thin floor standing speaker. Often because of their stands, can be obtrusive than one continuous nice looking, quality furniture grade box. 

Give Jim Salk a call and describe what you are looking for; I'm sure something in his current catalog will meet your needs (plus you can't beat how they look).

If your handy look at building some Criton 1TD-X


I believe they do sell complete speakers, also.


PS - FWIW, I'm running a pair of REL T/7x subs in a room smaller than yours.

If used Pulsars would work with your equipment I'd say buy a pair and never look back. Less expensive is the Goldern Ear BRX which is probably worth a listen.

If the goal is listening more, I'd recommend steering clear of hyper-detailed speakers or real 'up-front' ones as well. A detailed but slightly relaxed sound with good tonality will keep you in the chair for hours, past bedtime...

Good luck. I totally get your 'too much info-I'm paralyzed'. I do it all the time...

GoldenEar BRX is on every list by every trade Rag.

Great speakers for $1600.00 Even Danny a GR Research could find very little to not like.

I have a pair hooked up to Heed Elixir and could not be happier with this office system.


Folks at PTA have yet to point me down the wrong path.

I have more gear that is in their Buyers Guides and agree with most of their findings.



Guys, thank you for taking the time to write the posts; it is truly appreciated! A few responses:

(1) I will not be driving any speakers with both amps at the same time, but the Denafrips Pre-Amp does give me the option to run 2 amps to a single set of speakers with just moving the speaker out cables. I know there are a few "2-in-1 out" switch boxes, but guessing that would degrade SQ.

(2) I've added several speakers you guys recommended to try to find a demo listening situation, I do live in Chicagoland with several good hi-fi shops....I've got appointments at 2 higher end shops this week to see if I can get some clarity.....Music Direct is an option as well, but no listening room. I will attempt to hear some of the speakers recommended shops or AXPONA in a few weeks. Doubt that the Klipsch speakers will pass the wife test, so far the only ones she remotely liked were the Zu Soul Supreme and and Soul VI.

(3) I know it is hard to understand my wife having "veto power" on speakers, but we are spending a lot of money on the remodel and I can understand her position. Trust me, the Thiels would never have been sold otherwise.....they were my forever speakers. It's just not an option for me, and a fight I will not win. Sun Tzu has a lot that can be applied here, but "who wishes to fight, must first consider the cost" seems appropriate.

(4) Yes I do not like bright speakers, and sibilance drives me crazy. That being said, the Denafrips Pontus II/Hestia combination is a touch warm, the tube amp is the same, and the Nuprime amp sounded neutral based on the short listening period I had with it. So detailed speakers that are not harsh should be fine.

So we need to stick to bookshelf shaped speakers in a 12 X 20 foot room, 12 to 18" from the wall with no acoustic treatment. The speaker has to appeal to your wife. If you wish to create a decent image you are going to need a speaker with very controlled directivity or room reflections will interfere. The only type of speaker that I know of that will do that in a bookshelf shaped enclosure is a horn speaker. In your price range the speaker that comes to mind is the Klipsch Heresy. I know you listed Klipsch in your negative list but I think you should give it a close second look. It is a very well made conservative loudspeaker women tend to like. It will image better in your situation and excels at the music you like. You can drive them with anything and get decent results. With the Heresy you will be listening more to the music and less to the room.  I also agree that you need two subwoofers and a real 2 way crossover not just the silly low pass filter  you get in most subwoofers. 

Just convince your wife how much better a floor stander will sound and look great too! If that doesn’t work bribe her. That’s what I did with our family room. Check it out on my page. Good luck ! 


I’ll second the motion for Monitor Audio Gold 100’s, I’ve got them and love them, but they are designed with a small room in mind, yours might be too big.  It helps too that they are beautiful.

Here's a short update. Yesterday I visited a local dealer that carries a few of the speakers that I wanted to listen that are on my list (and some that weren't), and updated a few things. Please note I am not great with flowery expressions, or technical descriptions:

(1) Got a nice commission check yesterday I wasn't expecting, so raised my maximum price to $5,000 a pair

(2) Confirmed that I do not like Focal speakers, just don't do it for me emotionally when listening; always felt like I was listening to a pair of speakers (if that makes sense)

(3) Eliminated the Dynaudio Evoke 20, if I buy Dynaudio it will be the Special 40 or Contour 20 (if I can find them on a sale). All I can say is "damn Gina", these speakers are amazing. Big sound stage, can move around and still have some semblance of "seated postition" audio. Bass was very fast/punchy if not deep, mids are incredible, and tweeter was just a touch bright but very detailed.

(4) Triangle Comete 40th anniversary stays on the list. I didn't get too long to audition these, as my time ran out.....was only able to get 4 or 5 tracks from Supertramp Crime of the Century, but wow wow

(5) Audio Physic Step Plus need some listening.....just hearing their demo tracks, great sound stage, almost couldn't pinpoint the speakers with my eyes shut; but didn't have true listening time

(6) Dali Rubicon and Epicon. Epicon is a phenominal speaker, but above the new price range.....Rubicon was outclassed by the Dyanaudio and Tringle speakers for same of less money

More listening ahead as I'm going to another dealer tomorrow, and met a guy who has the Buchardt S400 MkIIs and Sierra 2EX in his setups and he invited me for a listen

Definitely avoid the Harbeths with that music preference. 

I’ll never understand why some spouses insist on stand-mounts when floorstanders often take up the same or even smaller footprint. 

Try to audition some Tannoy Eatons. You can say, “honey, they are technically stand-mounts.” 



given the need for smallish standmounted speakers, are subwoofers in the cards with wifey?