New Speaker advice

I'm torn on new speakers...thoguht I would canvass this forum, which I have much respect for. I have done extensive auditioning at hi-fi stores, and am still torn! I do however have it narrowed down to the following:

1. Revel f206

2. Revel f36

3. Focal Aria 936

4. MoFi Sourcepoint 10

Initially, I was all in on the Revels because of how well the measure, particularly off axis, since I have an open concept living room kitchen that is wide. So the majority of my in store demos focused on them exclusively. To my surprise, I actually preferred the cheaper f36 models to the f206, perhaps due to the 1.8kHz crossover  between the tweeter and the top woofer, which is quite low...or perhaps it's due to the slightly higher sensitivity...or maybe it was just paired with a better amp. But regardless, to my ears, the f36 was just a more fun and exciting listen than the f206 which felt a bit bland and boxed in by comparison, despite being the better 'measuring' speaker. 

Being confused by the Revels in this way, I started exploring the Focal Aria line, and really enjoyed the Aria 936. Compared to the Revels, it sounded more 'exciting' to my ears...more forward without being fatiguing, big open soundstage and really nice texture. 

Recently, I auditioned the Mofi Sourcepoint 10 because, like many, I wanted to see/hear what all the hype was about. I was suspicious, even with Andrew Jones as the designer, with it being Mofi's first foray into speaker design...but I was honestly kind of blown away by them. 

At the moment, I am tempted by the Sourcepoints, but they are pushing my budget at over 3,500K with stands. To that end, the Aria 936 can be found in great used condition for around $2,500 and the Revel f36 for even less still.

Just curious if anyone has heard all of these speakers and has any feedback / insight? Or recommend anything at a similar price point. Attributes I'm looking for are: Open, airy sound but not too bright, great midrange (priority), and good off axis response (horizontal).

Current set up for context:

Vandersteen 3A, powered by Audio Research D-300, Denon 4700 as preamp, Topping D90 DAC, Sota Comet TT with Rega Exact cart and Parasound JC3 Jr phono pre.



I would recommend doing some more auditioning. Also, try to switch out of the analytical mode… try and listen to the music. I would extend to more brands and try not to evaluate the characteristics as much as seeing how compelling the music is. Does it suck you in.

What I am recommending is not easy. But this is ultimately what really counts for most folks that love audio.

I remember being frustrated during one of my first speaker searchs. There were so many and none of them really stuck out. I was getting to the point of just choosing one, when a song I particularly liked came on and a tear rolled down my cheek. Those were it. I think I had them for over ten years.

To make things a bit easier, you could probably rule out F36 simply because there's no point in having a floor stander with a light bass response (51Hz -3dB).

Try for home demo. Check out ESLs and ribbons.

Additionally once you hear 2 to 4 subs in that big room...




Goodonya for taking the time to go out and seriously listen and, most importantly, having the guts to trust your own ears! Unfortunately I can’t help with the speakers, but I would very highly suggest you consider inserting a good stereo preamp into your system at some point instead of using the preamp section of the Denon AVR — your nice amp will thank and greatly reward you for it. Trust me, the Denon’s pre section is a huge bottleneck to getting much better sound out of your system as a preamp is an absolutely critical component. Just my $0.02 FWIW, and best of luck with the speakers.

Thank you Soix...I have often considered the same thing re: the addition of a high quality preamp. One of the reasons I went with the Denon AVR is because I needed HT functionality for movies and tv...but that Denon AVR line has a 'pure direct' mode where it supposedly shuts off the internal amps completely and sends a 'pure' signal from amps to that's what I use in 2 channel listening...but I am suspicious of it still bottlenecking as you describe, so I appreciate hearing it from you as well...confirms my suspicion(s). cheers.


Thanks Lanx0003. I should have mentioned in the system profile above that I am running a pair of SVS SB2000's, as well as an SVS ultra center speaker. I don't really use them with the Vandersteens during 2 channel listening, but do engage them when watching movies. I assumed that with both Revels, and the Sourcepoints, I would likely use the subs with music. 

@mattsaunders2000 On the AVR point, what you can do is find a dedicated pre-amp that has a HT pass through. That's what I did when I added my Pass Labs XP22 preamp which I pass through the Arcam AVR through.

We are focal and mofi dealers


Perhaps we can be of assiance

Based on room type the point source will be more musical the focals are exciting loudspeakers but could br a touch too forward 

Dave  AND troy

Audio intellect  nj

Denon AVR line has a 'pure direct' mode where it supposedly shuts off the internal amps completely and sends a 'pure' signal from amps to that's what I use in 2 channel listening...but I am suspicious of it still bottlenecking as you describe

Yeah, you’re very right to be suspicious.  The problem is the sensitive and relatively low-level line signal is still going through the cheap preamp electronics of the AVR, which is the heart of the problem.  Think about how much you paid for the Denon — how much do you think they spent on the stereo preamp section in it?  AVRs are designed to hit very aggressive price points in an uber-competitive market, and the first thing to get sacrificed is parts quality (think critical/expensive parts like power supply, capacitors, etc.) and is why they’re so compromised from the get go. Do not minimize the importance of the preamp, and at the very least I’d encourage you to try a good stereo pre in your system just to hear for yourself what you may be missing.  Lots of places offer trial periods these days, or you could buy something used at a nice discount and that minimizes your risk if it doesn’t work out.  Sorry to be so wordy, but this is really important so thought it was worth going into a little more detail. 

agree on good preamp first, before home audition...though you're picking all good speakers, which all involve trade-offs only you can decide on...

Thanks Soix. Really appreciate it. I was under the 'illusion' that I was taking advantage of a separates system when listening to two channel by using the preamp section of the Denon...what you're saying makes SO MUCH sense...has me thinking that I should make this change before new speakers even. The Vandersteens I have, I inherited from my dad who passed a couple of years ago. They are about 25 years old, and I remember them sounding sublime (albeit in a very tight listening area!)...but in my system, they sound quite veiled and choked...which is a criticism those speakers have earned over the years...but yes, maybe I should try preamp upgrade first! Thanks again

What don’t you like about the 3A’s?   I like many suggest looking for a good pre with an ht bypass.  May be look at a used Modwright or something similar.  Listen to the 3A’s with and without the subs.  You might be surprised. 

Testrun, I don’t dislike the 3A’s per se...they have a good soundstage, and the midrange is awesome...and I have a lot of sentimental attachment to them because they were my dad’s and he got me into hifi. It’s just that they have a very narrow sweet spot where they sound best and soundstage is good...and with my open floorpan, I’m curious to hear something that has a better off axis horizontal response. Also as mentioned, the 3As sound a bit veiled and lack the ’sparkle’ that I’ve heard in some newer speakers (the ones I’ve been auditioning). All that said, I’m really taking the preamp upgrade suggestion to heart, and will maybe start there first.

but in my system, they sound quite veiled and choked...which is a criticism those speakers have earned over the years...but yes, maybe I should try preamp upgrade first! 

Completely agree on your impressions of the 3As, at least the older versions — haven’t heard the newer ones but Vandy speakers have definitely upped the treble detail with their newer models.  I heard the 3As many years ago (so maybe same version you have) with some good Quicksilver electronics and with my reference recordings, which I’d heard on many, many systems in addition to my own (and several that cost well north of $100k), and the 3A’s top end sounded rolled off and dull/lacking energy or life — kinda like someone threw a thin cloth over the tweeter if that makes sense.

If I were you I’d upgrade the speakers first because the 3As may not have enough upper-octave detail to completely reveal a preamp’s capabilities or character in that area whereas the speakers you’re looking at now will likely very clearly expose differences and which pre is right for you.  Plus, those are the speakers you’ll ultimately be using with the preamp so it’ll be very good to know there’s synergy between them that works for your system and tastes.  I think you’re totally on the right track here and that your system is about to take a monstrous step forward and that all your effort is going to be hugely rewarded.  Keep us posted if you could. 

When I listened to Vandy’s I came with the same impression as @soix.  I was just wondering what you were trying to fix.  I traveled the same path some time ago and ended up with almost two different systems in the same room.  It can be a slippery slope.  I also agree starting with speakers is the best way to start.  Just keep in mind what’s driving the speakers in the showroom.  DACs may become your next question.  Good luck on your journey.  Keep us posted.  Sounds like you are taking the correct steps!!!

Not sure where you are located but there are a pair of Focal Electra 1027BE for under your budget in the on Audiogon. They are in Chicago and have been on there a few weeks now. I’ve been eying them but can’t don’t the time to take 3 hour drive each way. The Arias are nice but the Electras will be faster, more detailed and more exciting IMO with a superior driver set. 

Hi @mattsaunders2000 ,  you are getting good advice @soix ​​​​@ghdprentice are as usual spot on.  I myself had the 3As with top Denon AVR.  Then I got a fairly nice Classe amp and thought I had arrived.  I upgraded my DAC, but indeed the AVR even as preamp only was the problem.  My first nice pre was the Audionet Pre1 G3.  Even as their entry preamp it was so revealing what good sound could be had.

Then I went speaker shopping /auditioning. I heard new Focals, Sonus Faber Amatis, Proac D48 and K ?8, and KEF reference.  I did love the Proacs, but the bass was a little bloated sounding (never a port lover). Then last was a visit to a private sale of Revel Salon2’s.  I bought them and love them.  As you said, they fill the room and do have good off axis dispersion.  Mine are in a family room that connects through eat in and in to open kitchen, the whole width of the house, and they sound amazing.  I now run them with Audionet Max amps and Mola Mola Makua w onboard Tambaqui, and the Grimm mu1 streamer.  But the speakers have stayed through all these upgrades.  You still see the Salon 2’s used for 10k ish and they are a steal at that price.  So much better than the newer Revel offerings in my opinion.  The Salon 2’s are revealing without fatigue, full spectrum, and can fill a large space. They are tall, but that works well in a large combined area.  I did take them downstairs where I listen much closer.  They were too tall for an intimate setting.

Yeah I agree with mofojo those 1027BE's look very tempting. But also I  would keep looking, keep listening. LOTS of fish in the sea. I took my time when I got my speakers....

Most dealers understand the need to listen in your own room.  I'd definitely try to get your leading candidate or two in your room.  

I'd be tempted to upgrade the preamp before doing may gain a new appreciation for you have.



I agree with everyone that using the Denon is spoiling the experience, but adding a preamp with HT bypass is the wrong approach in that you will be powering your two channel with the Denon power amp.

You need to add a proper integrated with HT bypass so you can completely separate two channel from HT. A list of components with HT bypass is available at this site.


@2psyop ,

I’ve kept my lowly Focal 836w for over 2 years now. They are far from the perfect speaker but are detailed as hell and dynamic as all get out within their means. Stupid good for the 600 I paid for them. Just something about Focal. Got me thinkin even more about making that round trip to get those Electras! Lol. The Arias have a  completely different sound signature and for my taste worse. 


I sold off my Pioneer (Tad) S1ex to Tharbamer YouTube guy (he has a video of them 😃) and kept the Focals. Tried real hard to like them. Don’t miss them. poor dynamics and didn’t rock at All. 

I’ve owned Tektons, Dynaudios, Revel, KEF reference, Paradigm sig, Golden ear, Merlin, and some more I’m not thinkin of. All did different things well but only miss the Tektons. They were just a complete speaker and were super dynamic. Looks and sh..Ty cabinets bothered me. Looking for another pair to compare with my Focals.




Yeah Focal knows how to make a good sounding speaker. I think many brands can sound good with the right pairing of electronics. I have Vandersteen speakers in one stereo setup and Tekton with tubes in another audio system. I am spoiled in that I have two audio systems. The Focal BE speakers are outside of my budget, but upon hearing the BE speakers years ago, I really admired and enjoyed the sound.

I have both Vandersteen VLR CT and Focal 1007Be in different systems. I love them both. I think used Focal Electra 1028 and 1038 are likely to be a very good investment, though I have heard neither. I am in love with 2 way speakers as they disappear and image well.

I agree with everyone that using the Denon is spoiling the experience, but adding a preamp with HT bypass is the wrong approach in that you will be powering your two channel with the Denon power amp.

@tony1954 Yeah that’d be a total mismatch, but if you look at his equipment list in the original post he’s using a solid Audio Research D300 amp for the front L/R so he’s ok there. 

Preamp with pass through. What is your digital source? Do you listen primarily to vinyl?  I bet the vinyl sounds vastly different to the digital. I have experience with 3A's and the D90. 

I love my F36 but they do benefit from a subwoofer. I have Focal 706 in a bedroom set up and they sound good too. Hard to go wrong with any of the ones you are considering.

At this point, forget the measurements and use your ears.  Except for the MoFi, the designs are all fairly similar, and it should come down to preference.

I am going against the flow here, but I have a friend with an older Denon AVR and I am always amazed at how good it sounds.  I have always thought Denon makes very nice sounding gear for its price points.

I'm a vandersteen guy but I will admit that older models can definitely sound rolled off in the highs. All the speakers you're looking at are great but I'd add a couple pairs of newer vandersteen in there too. For your budget, you can get a pair of their VLR CT bookshelfs, or a pair new pair of iOS. The new IIs are vastly different than the old ones. Carbon tweeter and highly detailed. 

I do own the source point 10s and am very impressed. After months of research with no in-home auditioning, I went with the 10s. I mainly compared them to the kef ref 1, metas also.  One of the last reviews I read compared them with the Fleetwoods which are 30,000$. The reviewer felt that they were very comparable. I mainly listen to vinyl on my p10/apheta 3 and the ss is deep and extends well beyond the speakers position. Am driving them with a pair of ps audio m1200s. I have adjusted my SVS sb3000 as the bass was too much when I inserted the mofis. I think that you will find that the mofis will handle future upgrades and will not be the weak link.

On the Revel side, consider the F208 also. Lower bass and bi-wireable along with the ability to adjust tweeter output and bass to fit your room. Also on Focal, their 948 may provide similar benefits and both should be well within budget on the used market. Both great brands with solid reputations for support and resale. 

@mattsaunders2000 the speakers you are referencing are somewhat starkly different from one another.  This indicates, to me, that you were heavily influenced by the artifacts of the different sound rooms you were in, and the different source components used.  As ghdprentice advised at the outset, try listening with your ears; not your eyes (i.e.  speaker specs).  Among all the specs for all the hardware I can think of, speaker specs are the most unreliable and virtually least helpful.  What you power your speakers with matters a great deal more but not as much as your sound room dimensions, its acoustic properties and other source components.  Your lash-up power source (i.e.  amp & pre-amp) is a real wild card here.  I doubt any of the shops you were in were able to replicate this or even come close; not to mention the sound room and other variables.  It would be good if you could audition speakers in your home, with your equipment.

In my last speaker upgrade, I actually purchased a pair of one of the speakers you are presently considering.  This was after a lengthy quest of scheduled, structured critical listening sessions in several high-end audio shops involving A/B shoot-outs of approximately 18 or 19 different brands.  I spent several hours, in fact, with 2 of your contenders.  I was fortunate enough to hear the final 3 contenders on an amplification source identical to mine and with some other source components identical or very similar to mine, as well.  Of course, the sound room was different, mostly in acoustic properties but the dimensions were similar.  I was and am pleasantly surprised that the speakers I came home with actually sound noticeably better in my home than they did at the audio shop, most notably in further reaching or lower bass response.  Telling you which speakers I chose would be pointless.  The important thing is what sounds best to your ears; not mine or anyone else's.  Be that as it may, judging from what information you've provided, you might want to add PSB, GoldenEar, Monitor Audio and Martin Logan to your explorations.

Good Luck!

@jetter I am going against the flow here, but I have a friend with an older Denon AVR and I am always amazed at how good it sounds. I have always thought Denon makes very nice sounding gear for its price points.

I believe the issue lies in using an AVR as a preamp. I have personally experienced this when using the Cambridge Azur 851A integrated amp as a preamp through its pre-out. While the Azur 851A sounds wonderful by itself as an integrated amp, the sound fidelity from its preamp section via the pre-out is poor, constrained, and heavily attenuated for some reason. It’s better to connect directly to the amplifier. If someone has had a similar experience, they may chime in to share their insights.

I always recommend focusing on the weakest link in the audio chain. Your Vandersteen’s are definitely not your weakest link.

See if you can borrow a decent preamp (that falls within your budget) to plug into your system first before getting rid of your current speakers.

It is straightforward to assess whether the AVR used as a preamp is a weak link, as many have commented. Simply compare it to a direct connection of your DAC with the AR D300, both using XLR and SE connections, and you’ll know immediately.

Finding a preamp that pairs well with your D90 and D300 in terms of impedance is not a problem since both have decent low output impedance and high input impedance. However, finding one with good synergy will take time and effort, but it will be worthwhile. You could start by experimenting with an AR preamp, as preamps often have better synergy with power amps from the same brand. My little gem Parasound Zpre2 pairs very well with two parasound amplifiers I currently have. The sonic quality is improved over the direct connection with airier treble, greater dynamics, and more expansive soundstages.

I always recommend focusing on the weakest link in the audio chain. Your Vandersteen’s are definitely not your weakest link.

@nordicnorm Although I agree with your basic strategy I have to disagree in this specific situation.  While the older 3As are certainly well-regarded classic speakers and for good reason, their characteristic rolled-off treble is clearly not to the OP’s liking and won’t be fixed by adding a new preamp.  Plus, that lack of treble detail will be a disadvantage when evaluating stereo preamps as they will mask important information precisely in the area where the OP has issues.  He’s clearly gonna upgrade the speakers, which is why, although not optimal, I suggested upgrading speakers first in his system as it is and then use them to choose the preamp that synergizes best with both the new speakers and his specific tastes.  Could be wrong, but that’s definitely the way I’d approach it in this specific situation. 

@soix Which is why I recommended auditioning, rather than buying a preamp - to see if it made an appreciable difference.

People are recommending +$10,000 speakers. 

A $1,000 - $3,000 preamp may give the OP the sound that  a) he can live with, and b) he can afford.

REVEL f206, and almost new ones are avail at a great price.   Only thing they don't do is low bass, which is irrelevant.   buy a pristine pair. and add a $1500-2000 sub like REL or JL audio..... and your jaw will drop.    this combo compares well with $10k speaker systems.   Imaging is fantastic.   Midrange awesome and the top end is NOT hot unless you use cheap electronics.

If you get a chance, may want to see if you can have a listen to a pair of Paradigm Founder series. I heard the F80 and really liked them. Up the series I believe there’s some powered low end options.

Also listened to some Golden Ear models. They were sure open and airy with nice mids. 

I also found there was nothing I could connect to make me like the older 3A...loved them for a few months and then not...though some do love them...

The Xovers in anything stock under $15 k is at best average or less .

sadly you see you taiwan or China Xover parts  ,and the xover is the ♥️

of the Audio system which controls everything.  Having rebuilt Xover for years 

a $1500 upgrade is better then a speaker $5k or more which most people don’t know what components are even in their speakers , and even your speak  terminals most use Cheap gold over brass which is a poor conductor 3x less 

vs Copper that’s why I use or look for WBT connectors . If they don’t list or show you the Xover ,then that tells you it’s nothing to brag about .

I recently spent $1600 in parts in my older Dynaudio contour speakers transformed 

them parts far better then stock ,which were not bad it’s betters now $10k speakers 

for a $4000 total investment ,with SVS 4000 SB subs a very coherent speaker .

try looking at Dynaudio , they are much better built then revels of comparable price.

Go to safe and sound audio , they always have deals and save $$ $ 1,000s.

Agree with those advising home audition. You never know how a speaker will drive (or fail to drive) your room until you try it; and what sounded good at your dealer's room may not work at all in your real life living space.

Go for the the one the produces the sound you enjoy!  Leave the analysis aside do you enjoy what you hear!  After all this is about enjoyment!

All you can do is listen, listen, listen, and then, listen some more.  Then, make a decision.  The end. 

I agree. Room dynamics are key. I’ll always side with low dollar into amps, and high dollar into speaker efficiency without distortion. A good SET 300B, low WPC, and some Klipsch out of the Heritage series. Put some life into the music!

+mostly everyone- listen for yourself 

Otherwise, I’m a huge fan of speaker guru Andrew Jones. His MoFi Sourcepoint 10 was the result of larger budget and iirc 3yrs of creation.  I’ve heard the Sourcepoint 10 on several occasions and it sounded great.  I believe it’s a sonic bargain. I’ll probably end up with a pair eventually even though I don’t need them.

The Sourcepoint 8 is less expensive and is cut from the same sonic cloth as the 10. This may serve the OPs need or maybe wait for a used 10

I had the F36. In my room they were awful. I have vintage McIntosh MC2155. It’s warmer rather than neutral. They were so forward and scooped out in the midrange . I could never get them to settle down. I had to move them for .50 after 6 months.