Speaker shootout update; aggressive treble eliminating some (fairly?)

I've been trying out speakers in a complicated shoot out, both bookshelves and towers — all in my home with my gear. I'm looking for speakers obtainable up to about $4k but could go up (or down) a bit if the right thing came along.

Basic facts: All speakers were run in at least 100 hours. Room is 27 x 14 x 6.5 ceilings. Powering with all QS tubes, 60w, NOS, tube R2R dac, and decent cables. No terrible reflection points; room not overly live or dampened. REL R 328 sub available but I did most listening without it.

Recent auditions, type:

Klipsch RP 600-M (budget singleton of the group)
Fritz Rev Carbon 7 mk II (bookshelf, 2 way, soft dome)
Focal 936 (tower, 3 way, inverted metal)
Martin Logan Motion 60s XTi (tower, 3 way, AMT)

Coming soon:

Salk SS 6M (bookshelf, 2 way, beryllium)
Dynaudio Evoke 30's (tower, 3 way, soft dome)

Let me speak just to the problems, rather than what was good about the speakers. So far, I've found the Klipsch, Focal, and especially the Martin Logans were all too bright — forward, aggressive, "turn it down" treble.

The ML's were the most impossible to tame and hardest to listen to on more tracks. (I did a lot of hanging of towels and other dampeners and other soft things to try to see if I could bring them to heel. I varied the recordings used. Changed cables/wires. No luck.)

The Focals were occasionally too bright; their bigger problem was a bit too much energy in my small listening space. They were better when I plugged their ports with socks.

I'm looking forward to how the next two speakers sound. The Dynaudio towers, I notice, are 10 inches shorter and half the weight of the other towers; not sure what that might mean, but it could just be right size for my space. I'm looking forward to seeing if the Salks bring more detail to the treble without also being too rolled off or harsh.

Hearing is very personal for physiological and taste reasons. However, if anyone has any thoughts about why I might be experiencing some of the phenomena I am (harsh treble, especially) based on my room or gear, etc., that might help me understand factors I'm not fully appreciating. Thanks.

Are you using silver cables?  That will have a definite influence on bright highs.
If you found the Fritz to be bright and harsh, then I know for sure it is your room.

You need better treatment, including possibly the floor behind and between the speakers. Inexpensively,  use some blankets and pillows around the room to experiment.

Before you review any other speaker contact GIK Acoustics and get expert advice. Otherwise, get tone controls. That really will be your best solution.


@auxinput No.

FWIW, I'm using:

Speaker wire: Analysis Plus Oval 12 speaker cables

Coaxial Digital: AP Crystal Solo Coaxial

Interconnects: Analysis Plus Copper Oval

I've not heard the Fritz but the other 3 you tried definitely tip towards the treble and bright side of things.  I'm not sure why you picked those for audition if you are deliberately trying to get away from bright treble.  The Dynaudios may sound good.  I'd be looking more towards the Harbeth sound of speakers to get what you are seeking.
Fritz not harsh at all. I’ve been throwing pillows in those places and in lots of others. Fritz was quite mellow, up top.
Focals mostly not harsh on most but could be on more than a few others.
@three_easy_payments Good to know. I picked those for audition partly because of personal recommendation, and price point, availability for free audition, and to experiment with different tweeters. Only after listening am I recognizing that I need to get away from bright treble. I want detail — but don’t want brightness. So, I’m finding the line between them. If I can get my hands on Harbeth or Spendor that might be good, too, but the Spendors I’ve heard (A series) are a bit too tame.
I’m auditioning a pair of KEF Reference 1 right now. I’m pretty sensitive to bright speakers and I think I may have found the sweet spot between "detailed" (which I like) and "bright". You could get some B stock for a little over your budget, but then you’ll need stands also.
Thanks big greg. Will consider.
Limomangus -- I set an upper limit which helps delimit what I can afford and might try to listen to. (E.g., no Joseph Audio Pulsars for $8k., etc.) Not sure what gave the impression I did this in lieu of listening; that’s how I discovered the speakers were too bright. Maybe I’m missing your point.

I recommend Tannoy’s Stirling loudspeakers. They may be bit out of your budget but i think they are everything you’re looking for. Speak to Kevin at Upscale Audio and see if he can arrange in-home audition.

In addition, consult with GIK Acoustics for some basic treatments. You get no pressure expert advise and the panels are quite inexpensive.

I find the Fritz to be the most neutral and warm sounding of the bunch.  Unfortunately once you have listened to a truly neutral speaker with actual extension instead of a speaker that is ragged up top it's super hard to listen to anything else.

The tweeter Fritz uses is flat past 20 kHz and uses the same motor found in many of the top end Magicos.  It's no wonder to me that you found it like you did.  I'd stop there honestly. 


@lalitk Thanks for the suggestion. Will take a look. 
@erik_squires I've not hear the speaker above this by Fritz -- the Carreras, which @blimo liked so well. Curious about those, too, but I have a clock running and money down on a couple demo's so I need to rule out before deciding. I will admit that the detail of the AMT's in the ML's was pretty amazing. Instruments and rhythmic "hits" came out of the veiled darkness and that new information is hard to forget.
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You'll be very hard pressed to surpass the Fritz.  Wonderful top end and remarkable bass extension for size.  Really no need to look further.
Rolled off is rolled off. Old trick. Works but you can build $500 kit speakers that do this.

Low ceilings pressure loads high frequency. Really good AMTs are magical in the right room and source/cable combos. AMT size is key too. A larger footprint amt can overwhelm if not rightsized for a given room setting.  

Finding the right size and sensitivity speakers for your amps and “that room” will be key.

The incoming 8ohm 87db Salk monitors with the right tubes and caps in the amps may get ya closer to musical without sacrificing high frequency roll off with those beryllium tweeters. Worth final room, tube, and cable tuning from there.

Your persistence will pay off and nobody has your ears or your unique low ceiling situation. Keep up the good work.
Hilde I hope the Dynaudios work out for you.I had an interesting experience this past week that may interest you.I swapped in a pair of vintage Celestion Dittons with broken wire clips(winter project)for my Tektons and could hardly believe how great they sounded.They gave up a small amount of detail and dynamics being they are only the size of a shoebox.They put me back a few rows as opposed to the front and center of the Tektons.They were hooked up with lamp cord along with my subs and never sounded compressed or distorted or shrill when I cranked them up.These will go the guest room after repairs.What I learned is British monitors are wonderful with the acoustic and electric blues that I like,despite that I've always heard they couldn't possibly be.I'm borrowing a pair of newish Harbeths next week and will see what happens.

@squeakI appreciate the advice to look into room acoustics. I think that will probably be something that I do AFTER I choose my speakers because I cannot change my room in time to make an altered determination about the speakers that I have for a limited trial basis.

@twoleftears I am open to that possibility and I am glad that I have the speakers here in the house. I *will* say that to my ears the speakers I have are a little bit rolled off in the treble and that is why I think I really do need to look further. The experience of listening to the other speakers showed me that there was more going on up top than initially expressed by those speakers. If I do not find something better in the treble, given the other parameters, then I will probably just be satisfied.

@decooney Thanks. It has been a great journey and the way I hear now is remarkably different than how I heard 4 months ago.

@jtcf That is a helpful experience and thank you for relating it to me. I had a great set of experiences listing to the Dynaudio speakers back in December/January (Evoke 10, 20 bookshelves) BUT... they were in an audio store and they were powered by very good and expensive amplifiers; I was also very new to listening critically. Hearing them in my house, and in a tower version, should be a good test of a bigger Dyn sound.

Klipsch RP 600-M.  Obviously these are lower end speakers.  The plastic horn on this speaker can have a tendency to resonate, causing a shouty type of result.  That combined with the metal woofer could result in a harsher upper midrange.

Focal 936 (tower, 3 way, inverted metal).  The previous generation titanium tweeters were always on the bright and harsh side.  In addition, the focal midrange drivers were always very fast responding and can come across thin/bright and sterile.  The Focal speakers need special attention to matching the proper amplifiers and equipment.

Martin Logan Motion 60s XTi.  I don't have direct experience with these, but these lower end ML speakers do have a tendency to sound very forward.  Once again, I don't know.

Fritz Rev Carbon 7 mk II (bookshelf, 2 way, soft dome).  Probably the best engineered speaker you have in this collection.  Using a scanspeak soft-dome tweeter, these are actually pretty revealing even though they are soft dome.

The Salk SS 6M could also be a very excellent choice with the Satori beryllium tweeters.  The Beryllium tweeters do not have the bright/harsh breakup that metal dome tweeters do.  However, a couple of the Satori Be tweeters do have a slight upward tilt in the 22khz area.  You'll just have to try them out to see.

I never got into Dynaudio speakers.  They never sounded good or engaging to me.  I always thought they kind of smeared the midrange and didn't have good high frequency extension.  This is my own opinion, of course.

One other speaker I would recommend trying if you can are the Revel M125 PerformaBe bookshelves.  They probably won't have the lower bass extension that the Salk do, but they have excellent tonal balance and resolution without being bright/harsh.
My Mission cyrus 781 were supposedly the best speakers Mission created...

Before my room passive treatment and active controls they were good but i was not in love... But now they are superlatively good compare to 2 years ago before i implemented the rightful acoustical embeddings...I am in love...

We can put many good speakers in a bad room and we will never fall in love with any them...

We can put many less good speakers in a good room and we will fall in love with each of them...

Speakers+ controlled room + ears = ONE blissful state

The room is the speaker :)
I will gladly stole your words.... :)

I will add that almost all non treated and non controlled acoustical room are bad unbeknownst to us sometimes because we think so much strongly that hi-fi is linked to improved electronical engineering mainly....
Hi Hilde45!  Good to see where you are at in your speaker journey. Thanks for keeping us updated.

The new Carrera BE’s use the same tweeter as the Salks you have coming.  They offer loads of detail without being too bright.  They’ll need to be burned in for quite awhile though to come to their full potential.  The Salks will go through some funky changes... too bright, too dull, not enough bass.  Remember, your burning in new drivers and new crossovers.

Have the Carbon 7’s been your Favorite this far?  There’s a pair of pre owned LS7R’s for sale.  You might ask Fritz how those compare to the Carbon 7’s soundwise.

TheDyn’s will have great bass and sound really pretty nice overall.  They are a bit dry for my tastes but they are pretty nice speakers.

My guess is that the Salks are going to do it for you.  I wish you had the chance to audition the Carrrras though. Withthe 7” Revelator and Fritz’s crossovers, I think it would have been an ideal match for your tubes.

I really do think though that you’re going to really like the Salks, with that paper midbass giving you a natural tone and the beryllium tweet giving you loads of detail, they should be the best sounding speakers out of what you have auditioned.  
The BE tweets sound quite different from the soft domes though so if you don’t prefer them, I’d go for the best soft domes you can.  That might be the Carbon 7’s, the LS7R’s or an esotar dynaudio tweeter, or something with a Seas Excel.
Brighter tweeters can give the impression of relaying more of what's going on in the top end, but one really needs to let one's ears adjust to a soft dome.  Quality Scanspeak tweeters are really very revealing, but just not in the same way as metal 
One thing I don't see is your listening position.  If you are trying to fill the entire room with sound you will have reflection problems.  I would be that if you try some nearfield listening that the sound will be much more palatable.  A pair of smaller speakers and you sitting 8-10 feet away could sound much less harsh.
Also, do you have a rug?  I'd go with as big as you can get.  My theater has about 7' ceilings running Coincident (which can be bright) with Mac amps.  My seating position is 2/3 the way back and a really nice rug with a huge bookshelf in the back of the room have tamed it all.
Appreciate your run down. It’s funny to think that the Salk’s tweeters have a " a slight upward tilt in the 22khz area." My hearing, I’d wager, doesn’t go above 14k at this point!

The Revels are interesting choices for trial. I have a good sub, so a pairing there might be interesting.

@mahgister I hear you about the room. I would not say this room is inherently bad but it is a factor. It’s an interesting chicken and egg problem -- how do you choose a speaker if the room isn’t tweaked vs. how do you tweak a room if you don’t have the speaker you’re tweaking it for? For me, the answer is that my room is good enough for speakers to sound pretty good in, and I’ve only got this room to work with. My hopes in this post are to relay what I’ve experienced with all those factors and hope that some generic issues (as mentioned above by auxinput) are likely to be present in a great variety of rooms, including my own.

@b_limo I asked Salk to burn the speakers in before sending. He ran them for 48 hours and I’ll probably run them pretty good for another 48 before really honing in.

The Dyns I’ve heard were pretty luscious sounding, and I’ve *never* heard them on an all tube system, not least one with mono blocks.

As for Be tweets, I’ve never heard them. Soft domes seems safe to me, but a little too safe. Let this middle aged guy drive a sports car to the grocery store and back! But seriously, I am seeking detail-without-harshness. That’s the target I hope to strike between the soft dome and ribbon/metal tweets I’ve heard.

@twoleftears — Good point. Some of what I’m listening for might rely on my own ability to attend properly to the speaker’s output. I have a scoresheet with all the important characteristics on it, so I will pay attention across the range of metrics (tonality, soundstage, dynamics, enjoyability, etc.) and will keep in mind that my stance in a particular situation (e.g. towards a soft-dome) needs to be appropriate.
how do you choose a speaker if the room isn’t tweaked vs. how do you tweak a room if you don’t have the speaker you’re tweaking it for?
Choose any good speakers you like and after that tweak the room and you will fall in love with your speakers of choice....

Better to have a good room or know how to adapt it to any speakers than to have the best speakers of the world in a bad room...

A room non treated can be good for sure.... But Normal room are not design to be like acoustical monastery or theater marvel.... Then we must do something to go in this direction.... This is not necessarily costly to have results....

We all think that our room are good before changing them....:)

My best regards to you and my apology for my rant..... :)
You would be surprised how many people say that there's harshness or brightness in the highs when they are actually hearing midrange frequencies, especially the upper midrange.  Most people hear frequencies in the 3000 kHz to 5000 kHz range and mistake them for the very high frequencies.

The Klipsch RP 600-M is crossed over at a very low 1500 hz between the woofer and the horn tweeter.  This means that titanium compression horn is playing a LOT of the upper midrange and can contribute to the harshness.

Same goes with the Focal midrange.

For the Salk, Satori has two tweeters that seem to match what is in the Salk:

Satori TW29B:

Satori TW29BN:

The cheaper "B" model is flat, but if you look at the frequency response of the more expensive "BN" model, you'll see a slight uptick in the response at about 25 kHz.  Whether this can be heard by you is another matter, but in general, Be tweeters should not necessarily be harsh sounding like the older metal domes are.
Thanks for that elaboration, auxinput. At this point the key will be just to listen!
What about the Watkins gen 4 speakers?  Probably hard to find since they are direct sales.  I have heard the Dynaudio's need current to drive them.  Used pair of Harbeth 30's? 
For the Salk 6M SS, it's said to be the same Be tweeter used in the Salk 9.5, and the "b" is a 4 ohm, and the "bn" is the 8 ohm version -and- also 1.5db higher sensitivity too.  With woofer and tweeters in the 92/93 range and the end result of 87db sensitivity on the graphs, maybe some padding going on there somewhere by design.  Will stay tuned. 
Interesting.  I didn’t realize there were 2 different satori BE tweets.  I just looked at mine and have the neodymium instead of the ferrite.  Whew!

Hilde, BE tweeters are awesome!  They are detailed like the metal domes you have been listening to but have much less fatigue and aren’t too bright.

Have you ever heard any Beryllium tweeters yet? 
And also, are the Fritz Carbon 7’s your favorite this far amongst the speakers you have auditioned?
You should see if you can audition the Vandersteen 2ce. Years ago I heard them at Audio Connection with QS gear and they were outstanding!
I don’t think I’ve heard a beryllium tweeter before.

vandersteens are on my short list. 

Are the fritz my favorite so far? That is a hard question because I have had them in my house and I’ve really liked them but they were certain things that other speakers did better in my house (soundstage, bass, both better in ML and Focal) and there were things that still other speakers did better in stores. But Fritz, overall, has been batting .400, as they say. It is hard to say. This is one reason I am getting the Dynaudio back into my house. Their towers are going to give me a sense of whether their soundstage plus soft tweeter competes, and the Salks are going to provide a window into mids, highs that may be new and attractive. We will see.
The Salk SS 6M has a nice flat FR with a dip around 1.5 Khz and another smaller dip about 3 Khz Interesting to see your impression of them.
I have had many very good speakers 
Amphion  makes excellent time aligned
wave guide technologies with a Precision Seas drivers ,and rear passive tuned Radiator. made in Finland speakers are now being sold more in studios then in the home 
 The  3S  Or 3SL.  Are in the $3-4 k range They bring out lots of detail lost in  many speakers.

 Raven Audio CeLest take the room out of the equation.....


think it is time to dump this opinion fest"..........

later kids getting why people ⎌leave this forum so fast!

You never stated what the source is or the amp and pre-amp, unless I missed it
Those can be a huge influence on what your speakers sound like.
With a room that low, may be worth to consider open baffle with cardioid pattern (Gradient, Spatial, ....)
(I did not read all the posts, so if someone else mentioned a tip I have thought of, I apologize for redundancy)

Before you spend more time on it, read my article "Audiophile Law: Thou Shalt Not Overemphasize Burn In" at Dagogo.com

When you have been through that many speakers and have an issue with treble, then imo the odds are that either you are highly sensitive to upper frequency and strongly prefer a softer upper end, and/or you have a fundamental problem with your rig in terms of components/cables. 

Another thought: Is that correct, 6.5' ceiling? If so and the speakers are elevated fairly close to the ceiling, then it would not surprise me why so many are overly bright. You may have to lower the speakers beneath ear level and tilt the baffle back. It may help. If the speakers are directed toward your ears, splay them, that is, move them to be parallel to the head/front wall. 

I strongly suggest you try a different set of cables before plowing ahead with more speakers. No aftermarket power cords? That's a problem. 
This is pretty much the reason I had to remove Klipsch, Tannoy and KEF from my short list some time ago. Too much sparkle. I’m sure with loads of EQ etc one could tame any speaker. But I love the sound of Dynaudio and Monitor Audio (Gold onwards) off the bat. You should include these in your list. I also hear lots of good things about ATC. 
@djones I'll give a report!

@audioman58 oman I'm a big fan of the Finns and like the look of those speakers. Difficulty has been auditioning or I'd be trying them out.

@skypunk Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.

@grey9hound Amplification in OP (QS tube gear, Orchid R2R dac); source is CD or Node 2i streamer.
These factors have not varied, so at least they're constants.

@mesch  Waiting for the Salks. They're coming next week.

@aschuh Neat idea. Spatial audio is up the road.

@douglas_schroeder  Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Trying not to overemphasize burn in (I read your article); just trying to do some burn in and put it out of my mind. I may be sensitive to treble but my wife and a couple friends agreed there was over-brightness with the treble. And some speakers were not over bright.

The 6.5' (78") ceiling is correct and some of those tweeters are 40 inches off the floor — i.e., they're a mere 3 feet from the ceiling. As for "lower the speakers beneath ear level", that cannot work with towers so — that may eliminate towers. Though the Dyn towers will be 10" shorter, so that may ultimately be the factor which helps the most. I'll try splaying them. Thanks for the suggestion.

Yes, I have aftermarket power cords and speaker wire but didn't want to bog things down with too much description. Pangea cords for streamer, dac, preamp, and amp: Pangea Audio AC 14SE MKII and AC 9 SE MKII.

@julie People above recommended Kef and Tannoy as solutions to this very problem I'm mentioning but for you they caused the problem. Hmmm. And yes, Dynaudio are on my list.

HILDE45 speakers are 50% of the sound room is 50% of the sound fix the room or live with 50% of the sound sound in a room interacts with the floor first ceiling and walls just no way out
The 1st thing that I was going to say about your list of speakers is you must really like cool and analytical sounding speakers. I would be able to listen to any of these for a few minutes max.
A couple of suggestions would be the Usher mini dancer II’s. I used them in a dedicated room that was 27’ x 16’ with 13’ ceilings. Used they would cost around $3000. You don’t need a large amp to power them, I used a 100 watt rogue Cronus magnum II tube integrated. If you have a powerful amp, used totem’s, used Wilson sophia’s, Usher BE10, or the 1st series revel salon or studios
Quite possibly entire issue could be ameliorated through different placement of speakers.  

Find a classic used pair of original Sonus Faber's designed by the legendary Franco Serblin. No matter what model you audition, his use of silk dome tweeters always deliver a smooth yet highly detailed sound. 
Its my opinion that you just find those speakers too bright.  Your ap cables are neutral or warm in my experience with them.

You ought to get 2 gik 244 or 242 panels and hang them on the ceiling above your speakers.

Cables, room treatments, speaker placement isn’t going to get you there.  You need to find a speaker that you like.  It will in my guess be a soft dome or the Beryllium tweets in the Salks.  The BE tweets are definitely brighter than silk though, but if you are after the detail of the other hard domes, you may end up with BE.  BE and tube rolling may be the way to go.  
Not sure what equipment you are using but IMO that is where the brightness is coming from.  The speakers are just reproducing what they are being feed upstream.  Forget the cables and room treatments, they may be a small part of the problem but if all of the speakers are reproducing the same issue then IMO it is your equipment.

Happy Listening.