Paradigm 3f, KEF reference 3, Monitor Audio PL300II

I've been auditioning speakers in the $15,000 range and am almost ready to decide.  My short list right now is the KEF Reference 3 and the Monitor Audio PL300II.  I'm planning to hear the Paradigm Persona 3f this weekend.  I've also heard speakers from B and W, Wilson, Wilson Benesch and Proac but none made the final cut.  I really expected to be blown away by the Proacs and, while they were very good, I prefer the KEF and Monitor Audio. Unless the Paradigm is even better, it will be a tough call. They both seem to have great imaging and soundstage, reasonable bass and pretty life like presentations.  We all know how hard it is to compare and contrast speakers, especially when there's a large time gap between listening sessions. The Monitor Audio dealer has offered to bring them to my house, set them up and let me live with them for a week at no cost. Sounds like a great offer but I don't want to accept if I'm leaning more towards the KEFs.  Any helpful advice would be appreciated.  

We sell both the KEF's and the Paradigms, and the Legacy's which also use AMT drivers so we have a pretty good perspective on all three.

So far have heard the Monitors also at a few audio shows, and our opinion is that if you are going for the magic of AMT drivers the Legacys offer more performance, deeper bass and a larger soundstage for less money.

Your impression that the Persona's are tipped up is not the case, the Beryilium drivers are not bright but show a level of transparency that will show you everything both good and bad in your system. 

The speed, transparency, and holography of the Personas is that of what you would find in way more expensive speakers in the $20+ price range, such as Radiho, Magico or Rockport. 

The only issue with the Persona's is that some of the dealers setups are not going to be right. We show the Personas with T+A electronics from Germany for the big 9H and we show the 3F with Naim, or Micromega.

Your statment that the KEF's are neutral is pretty accurate the KEF's are very well balanced, to my ears the Paradigms are more special and once you hear a speaker with this level of transparency and image realisim it is hard to listen to a lot of much more ordinary loudspeakers. 

As I mentioned before the Legacy Focus XD with a Wavelet is also really special combo that rivals way more expensive speaker systems.

The Monitor audio's are good speakers but whenever we have heard them they sounded good and were less of a standout than either the KEF's the Legacy's or the Personas. 

If you guys are ever on the East Coast and want to visit our store to hear our large collection of superb loudspeakers please give us a call.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Being voiced and bright are not mutually exclusive and B&W is another example of a voiced design. Bad, good, all the ear of the beholder but as you said, its not exactly a forgiving design and you didn't mention the source material as its often a pretty common culprit to bright sound.

Now for the Persona's elevated response on some spots of the frequency response by no means indicate a forgone conclusion the speaker will sound bright, as long as it can produce the ranges cleanly without linearity changes. It does indicate the speakers will need some placement work to get there. The upper treble response is elevated on axis but seems to be engineered with the fall off curve. Its likely something you don't want to have dead on to your listening spot and instead use the off axis response to make the in room balance work. The second is the flare between the mid and tweeter as there is an elevated response area in this range. A bit of that transparent sound is certainly comes from that and I see that upper treble elevation an effort to prevent the loss of treble air due too the tweeter fall off in area.

Knowledgeable setup work would be advised for this speaker more than others. Certainly not the only speaker that is well regarded doing this and this seems to be another design that follows that trait. I might add Focal or Triangle in that grouping as those also have a targeted response and both brands have their fans and advocates on their particular house sound. I think its more a certain sound one might be seeking than anything else. In my own personal experience, I've tended not to enjoy this style as often as I do others.

The Monitors are good speakers, and may be slightly high priced in terms of performance compared to some others in its range. They do provide a differing aesthetic which may speak to some over others. Maybe glossy wood veneers are really your thing! If that was the case, I go for the top end Dali Epicon, as those have some striking wood finishes and from experiences with them are quite good in their own right.

So many good options, so little time!
I have been auditioning speakers in my listening room, as well as visiting friends on the west coast and listening to their speakers and systems (some have blown close to $1M!). Here is my $0.02, which is probably worth a great deal less.

I AM BIASED: I like highly analytical speakers, not musical speakers such as B&W or Sonus Farber.  I slightly prefer passive speakers, do not like electrostatic speakers and enjoy power amplifiers driven by tube preamps, and do not use vinyl but high-resolution DSD and other file types from TIDAL. I have a 302 sq ft room in my basement (underground) that I insulated along with a professor in audio engineering who is a friend of mine. He used microphones and other devices to achieve a blend of sound absorption and reflection (not an anechoic chamber). 

In the under $20K range, including demo's and slightly used (I try and not spend retail price), here is my list so far. This is biased and I listened to these on a plethora of different systems (not in stores).

  • Paradigm Persona 3Fs or 5Fs: Hard to find these as used or demo models as they are brand new products. For my space, the 3Fs are better but lack a bit of bass. The 3Fs I could find at $10K for a pair (which is how I believe all loudspeakers should be advertised as pairs of speakers, not individual ones), the 5Fs at $16-17K;
  • Wilson Audio Yvettes. Some demos are becoming available at $16-$18K.  Much different than the Paradigms, but slightly better mid-range IMHO for reproduction of strings and orchestral music;
  • Vandersteen Wood Quatro CTs. Wonderful speakers, $14,600;
  • KEF Blade 2's. Hard to get discounted, but have found some advertised for under $20K;
  • ATC SCM40As.
These are what I like so far...also have wonderful Focal Utopia headphones. Thanks for listening - Gerry
Your perception of analytical vs musical is so hilariously skewed.  

Literally every speaker you mentioned in either category is very musical.  Then you go on to say you like tubes...  which are usually more “musical” and not analytical at all.

My head is spinning.   Good luck.
I've never read someone say they like analytical speakers then go on to call B&W "musical". My impressions are the exact opposite.