Second round of auditions under my belt

I had the opportunity to audition a handful of speakers the other day, and although my listening session was brief, I did get a feel for the "sonic signature" of several popular models. I didn’t pay much attention to the associated equipment:

Von Schweikert VR4jr – As a prior owner of the original VR4’s, I was intrigued by all the hype surrounding VSR’s current designs. Powered by solid state amplification, the “junior” bettered my original VR4’s in the midrange, and were slightly better in the mid-bass, but there’s no mistaking that these are VSR designs. Very heavy in the bass, they just aren’t able to present instruments in their individual form, and they still lack punch and percussive detail. Their bass-heaviness “blends” the low end of the spectrum which makes the system sound slow and lethargic, just like my original VR4’s. It also strips the mid-bass region of detail, so the overall presentation is anything but seamless.

Nola Viper 2 – I’m sorry to say, but I couldn’t even get through a whole song on these speakers. They were very, very thick in the mid-bass, the midrange was “nasaly,” and the highs left something to be desired. They were punchy, but so out of balance that listener fatigue set in immediately. Easily the worst of the bunch (to my ears).

Gallo Ref 3.1 – I expected quite a bit out of these speakers, given all the rave reviews, but I was totally unimpressed. They generate an enormous soundstage, but I found the presentation also out of balance. There’s a bump in the mid-bass that really overwhelmed the rest of the systems qualities, and their performance with vocals was also average. Definitely not my cup of tea.

Usher 6381 – Powered by Cary tube equipment, and exquisitely finished, this is a neat pair of speakers. Tight, punchy, extended bass, coupled with a wonderful, open midrange, extended highs, and detail out the wazoo from top to bottom. One of the best balanced conventional designs I’ve heard in a long time. Individual instruments were set in space very nicely, and the system was very fast, so intricate details were extracted that the other systems left behind.

In a nutshell, the Usher handily outperformed the other systems, at what would be considered a pretty decent price, given that MSRP’s of $10K+ for run-of-the-mill speakers are a dime a dozen these days. Of course, these are my opinions, using my ears!
I would be cautious about labeling a speaker with qualities like "a bump in the mid-bass that really overwhelmed the rest of the systems qualities" on a casual audition. A lot of this is highly room and placement dependent. I've spent a lot of time listening to the Gallos and couldn't disagree more with your assessment.

I don't think it is fair to any manufacturer or to the rest of us to give a review, especially negative, based on a brief listening session in rooms and with equipment you aren't familiar with.
To be fair, i would be aware of the associated equipment before really making up mind about a certain speaker. Like Herman said, speakers are very room and placement dependent. My opinions of speakers have changed before due to hearing them on differnt types of equipment and room configuration. But is is your ears and your money so get whatever will make you happy.
Hmmm, I beg to differ slightly vs Herman above. Despite the somewhat negative commentary.
The commentary can be seen as a desrciption of the listener's experience and the writer doesn't seem to claim anything more than that.

Indeed, midbass is a critical point for placing spkrs correctly; however, Seadweller also mentions "balance" and midrange (vocals/ "nasality").

All in all, interesting IMO.
Herman this whole website is a majority of opinion based content, why choose to get critical now? Do you really think most ALL posting's are based on solid fact and lengthy experience with intimate knowledge, I never do.
based on your descriptions of what you liked, and disliked in these speakers, you should ensure you gove Totem Mani-2's a listen. I don't recall if you're open to a stand mount or not, but if you include a good stand, I think the Manis will deliver what you're seeking.
I agree 100% that room placment and associated equipment have a huge impact, however I have two comments:

1. You would hope that a dealer would do his best to make sure systems are reasonably well matched, and that speakers are placed to maximize their performance. I'm sure there are exceptions, but in general, you would think this to be the case. All of the speakers were placed where the typical user would have them placed in a typical room, so if a speaker needs to be hung from the ceiling, from gold twine, to sound good, well.....

2. I also agree that an abbreviated session doesn't flesh out everything, but I'm of the opinion that all speakers have a distinct, overall sonic signature. This is related directly to the design and desired voicing by the designer, regardless of placement or associated equipment. This sonic signature can be massaged, but not changed (a Zebra doesn't change its stripes). For example, the VSR 4jr's are so close in balance to my original VR4's that it's obvious their presentation is a deliberate design consideration.
Hey Dweller - It's REALLY hard to find a truly excellent pair of speakers. So far, for me, the only under $20k speaker that's really done it for me in auditions is the Wilson Sophia.

Until I can afford them (or whatever else I end up deciding on) I'm pretty comfortable with my Dynaudio monitors. Pretty neutral across the board, but ultimately I've got to be able to do big scale classical with full dynamics to be content. No monitor can handle this.

Anyway - Have you tried any Dynaudio floorstanders? The 3.4 maybe or the 5.4.
Goatwuss, you are indeed correct, it truly is hard finding an excellent pair of speakers, particularly if you're not in the mood to spend $20K.

I've now listened to around 10 conventional designs, ranging in price from $2K to around $8K, and none presented the music as if it were alive and breathing. It's time that I move on to some horn systems to see if they can reproduce that live performance I'm seeking.
Given that we agree all speakers are flawed, and you value "alive and breathing," if you haven't done so check out some Lowther designs. A lot of the problems in earlier designs (the famous Lowther shout) have been addressed in the new designs. The new Alerion really is a special speaker. They need a sub but most speakers do IMHO. A pair is available from Lowther America on the Terry Cain Benefit site for $2,000 with shipping. A nice bargain.
If you can, audition these:
Focus Audio FS888
B&W 803D
Totem Mani-2 Signature(cheapest of the bunch but amazing)
Dynaudio S5.4
Seadweller, in your last thread on this topic, it was established--or so I thought--that box speakers in general didn't convey the energy you want. Therefore, it's not surprising that another round of listening to box speakers was not likely to prompt you to go home with one.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I think your best options are:

Pi Speakers
Klipschorn or La Scala (with slight mods) + REL or ACI subwoofer
Green Mountain Audio Continuum 3.0
Zu Audio Definition (with a move to a tube amp from your current SS)

Of the box speaker designs, I happen to like Silverline & Totem in particular. Still, for someone who likes the transparent crack and energy of live music, I'm convinced that no standard box speaker will satisfy you.

Just my two cents.
Seadweller ; just so you don't doubt what you heard , I auditioned the VS4jr , Gallo 3.1 and the Ushers (6381 and a standmount) through at least 2 different systems each . I , and my wife , came to the same conclusions on these speakers as you did . We heard the Nola's on a different system and were not impressed either .

On a side note , if you heard these all at the same dealer , I think that I know where . Or it is a large coincident !

Good luck .