Small room, "budget priced" speaker advice, please


I recently sold my dearly beloved, old Vandersteen 2C's here on Audiogon (and I hope SgtPeppers is loving them at this moment!) :-) I did this because in our remodeled house, my new listening room (which will double as a guest room) is just too small for the 2C's. The Spousal Acceptance Factor was just too low. ;-)

I have a PS Audio Elite-Plus integrated amp for power (around 70 W/Ch) and a soon-to-be-shipped-off-for-a-refurb Sota Sapphire for an analog front end (I have "miles" of vinyl)! I will also get a CD player at some point.

For now, I need to find a pair of best-of-breed, truly "budget" speakers. By "budget," I'm talking upper limit of $850/pair. (Gone are my free-spending, single days... I'm a dad now...) :-)

Listening habits: lots of 60's and 70's folk and rock, some jazz, Donald Fagen/Steely Dan, a little classical. Listening volume: not too loud. Sonic preferences: I value transparency and imaging/soundstage. Bass should be accurate above all, as opposed to chest-pounding powerful.

I've looked at Paradigms, which I know are highly regarded at lower price points. Trouble is, our one, local dealer is primarily a TV/home theater outfit, so you're trying to hear them in a showroom crammed with other stuff... you know the drill. I've also hit a high end shop. Listened to a pair of PSB small towers and disliked them; they sounded muddy and veiled to me. Listened to a pair of the smallest Rega's and liked them quite a bit, but would want to go back to listen again. I even wrote to PS Audio for advice; they recommended the "baby" Epos monitors, but they're out of my price range.

Thanks if you've read this far. Knowing how subjective all this is, I'd still welcome any advice you have to offer about what I should try to audition.
Upscale's description is accurate regarding Triangles exceptional speed and imaging which is very "Maggie Like" and best in class, in my opinion. This makes them best in class in my opinion for use at lower listening volumes/SPLs.

I would probably still own large Maggies if I did not also own Triangles. They convinced me that dynamic box designs can deliver speed and accuracy like the Maggie planars.

If the Triangle description sounds good and you don't hear these things in the other speaks you try, it may be worth considering even without a listen if the seller offers some sort of satisfaction guarantee.

I own Triangles and Dynaudios. Dynaudio's are outstanding, but not as fast and transparent at low volumes IMHO. That is where Triangle shines in particular.

For what its worth, my local dealer that I bought the Triangles from now sells Usher instead (also Magnepan and Sonus Faber). I have not had a chance to listen to Ushers critically, but I suspect they may have some of the same strengths of the Triangles, so definitely give them a good listen.
"Sonic preferences: I value transparency and imaging/soundstage. Bass should be accurate above all, as opposed to chest-pounding powerful".

Rebbi, you'll note your above statement. THAT is the reason I suggested the Triangles. YOU described the sound YOU wanted.

That is Triangle to the letter.

There are hundreds of great speakers available. I mean really great speakers. However, try to keep in mind REQUIREMENTS vs. preferences....

You NEED close to wall. You NEED efficiency. You NEED room dampening. If you don't use the above as minimum requirements, it won't make a bit of difference what the nametag says. Ultimately the sound will be less than desirable. Room acoustics could make a pocket radio sound fulfilling.

Also, and with all due respect, I disagree with a "pretty extended" or "sizzly" or "bright" definition being used in conjunction with the Triangle line. If the high frequency is being considered (in my terms) "overly significant", it is more than likely the speaker simply exposing a problem upstream IE: Bad AC, Impedance mismatches, Vibration issues, etc.

In general terms..... A speaker that is "extended" in any area of the frequency range, will have difficulty projecting imaging in a proper, balanced perspective. Triangle imaging is virtually holographic. With a 91db efficiency in that sized room, your amplification will feel like it's vacation.

Last but not least.... Room acoustics. Otherwise..... Don't blame the equipment. :>)

BTW, the Heliade ES were a "Class "B" $$$" rated speaker in Stereophile. I think it was 2004, but I'm really not sure. Maybe someone can look through their Stereophile collection?

They are a discontinued speaker (not that it makes any diff), which also kept them well within your price point. These are expensive speakers otherwise. $1500 originally?

P.S. Break-in is miserable for a couple of hundred hours.
agree with buscis2.

Triangle high end is NOT harsh, just very revealing.

If you need close to wall, front port is preferred to back port. My Triangles are front port, my Dynaudios back.

Also, my Triangles may still be the most accurate speakers I own.
Well, I got to listen to Totems and Ushers today!

I heard both the Totem Dreamcatcher and Rainmaker, both at Austin Home Theater.

The Dreamcatcher, which is the smaller one, (tiny would be a better word) sounded wonderful. The sound is completely "out-of-the-box;" the soundstage is huge and there is no sense that you are listening to a couple of boxes. Even bass response is impressive for the size. The dealer put on a Diana Krall CD track featuring a very "upfront" acoustic bass and some finger snapping... that's all... sorry I can't remember the name of the track. In any case, the sense of presence and realism of the upright bass was astonishing, again, given the size of the speakers.

Even though the Rainmaker is currently just under $1000, i.e., about $150 over my budget, I asked to listen to them as long as I was in the showroom. If the Dreamcatchers are "wonderful," then I guess that makes the Rainmakers "magical." Again, that ENORMOUS soundstage, with beautiful, detailed highs and excellent imaging. They seem to have the same "DNA" as their baby brothers, but with more "air" and detail. I was very impressed.

Tonight, I also got to listen to the "baby" Ushers at a small dealer here in Austin called Tube Dreams (he also carries Totem, by the way). The associated equipment was all, as you would guess from the name of the dealership, very high-end tube stuff, including a Cary CD player with a tube output stage. I mention this because it's obviously hard to know how much of what I was hearing was attributable to the speakers and how much of what I was hearing was attributable to the associated equipment...

Be that as it may, listening to these tiny Ushers was an extremely interesting experience. Midrange and vocals were silky smooth and gorgeous (again, the speakers or the amplification?)... I spent a good deal of time listening to some James Taylor and definitely had a few of those "wow, he's actually in the room" experiences. I also spent a fair amount of time listening to a variety of cuts from Buena Vista Social Club, and again, the realism and coherence of the voices was fabulous. I joked, "Sounds like a couple of guys singing to me!" What was odd about the speakers, though, was the way they presented the soundstage. The experience was sort of like "looking through a window" BETWEEN the two speakers. In that space, there was a depth and an amazing sense of each instrument or singer having its own place. I can't think of a better word than "coherent." However, and this was the puzzling part, the soundstage did not seem to extend at all beyond or outside of the two speakers. What I heard was gorgeous, but it was all confined to that "in between" space, and I can't figure out what that was about.

All things being equal, at this point I'm leaning toward a Totem Rainmakers, if I can squeeze another $150 or so out of my budget.

By the way, since everybody is so incredibly enthusiastic about the Triangles, I haven't taken them off my list, just yet. But I still get the heebie-jeebies from the thought of buying loudspeakers I've never heard...