Speakers for extremely close listening

I am not sure if this can be called "extreme nearfield listening", but I wonder whether some kind of audio bliss is achievable within an extremely narrow space?? I am talking about listening distance of not more than 3 feet (or around 1 meter) from the speakers.

Of course headphones could be an option, but I would rather not having to wear headphones. Just personal preferences.

The listening spot will be at a corner of a small room, with book shelves lining the walls behind and beside it. The speakers will be quite close to the wall -- one feet or less.

I do not have any amp for the speakers yet, but I plan to use some SS integrated amp and with CD as the only source. Due to many factors tubes are out of question for me.

As this will be a third system for me, I would like to keep the budget to be less than $1500 used. This system will mainly be used to play rock, electronica, and vocal pop, as well as post-rock, alternative rock and even metal music. So bass needs to have good impact and deepness.

The speakers will have to be small monitor size. Floor-standing will not do, because the speakers will be put just beyond my working desk.

I have given it a few thoughts. Perhaps you can see if they make sense:

- with such close distance, would a single driver or co-axial driver unit be much more desirable? My gut feeling says a 2-way co-axial driver like the KEF Uni-Q unit may be the best for any achievable imaging.

- also because of the close distance, I think the sensitivity requirement can be relaxed somewhat. So I am considering quite insensitive speakers too.

- since the speakers will be very close to the wall, I think the bass response could be reinforced. Does it mean that speakers with a low-end frequency rolloff at 80Hz or even 100Hz should be OK?

- I am not sure whether a port-reflex or tight cabinet is better?

I would try to do audition if possible, but I would also like to hear what you think about this. At the moment, Dynaudio, B&W, KEF, ATC, Linn, Sonus Faber are some of the brands I am considering.

Your thoughts on the Kef co-axial design was good thinking. Here are some other design attributes that i would look for in speakers given your intended use:

1) Spacing of drivers should be located very close together i.e. minimal space between them. The farther that the drivers are spaced apart, the more likely that comb filtering will take. Sitting so close to the speakers would make this more evident. You would hear the sound eminate from each driver rather than as a point souce. As such, a widely spaced design wouldn't have time to "blend together" as it would sitting further away from the speaker, producing a less cohesive presentation.

2) Look for a speaker that has smooth bass response with minimal peaking at resonance(s). Due to being both nearfield and factoring in room gain due to close wall proximity AND being in a corner, non-linear bass output would become overpowering rather quickly. Then again, one can somewhat fine-tune "peaky" output in the bass by altering the amount and density of sound damping material in the cabinet.

3) A speaker with limited vertical dispersion may come in handy. This will reduce the tendency for the sound to reflect off of your desk. If you go with such a design ( vertical MTM aka mid-tweeter-mid or "D'Appolito" ), tweeter / ear height becomes more critical.

This approach allows you to use two smaller drivers for better upper midrange response while providing lower mass for quicker transient response. Surface area is not hurt either as you have two drivers sharing the load rather than one larger driver. On top of that, efficiency can be increased by using multiple drivers, power handling can be increased by sharing the load and the amp, if properly designed, should provide measurably more power output into the lower impedance of the multiple drivers.

The wider horizontal dispersion of this type of a design shouldn't provide too much of a problem as the books located on each side of them will act as natural diffusers, especially if you stagger the depths of their bindings here and there.

4) While it would be a matter of personal preference, i would look for something with a soft dome tweeter. The thought of sitting on top of speakers with metal dome's blaring directly in my face already has my ears bleeding...

Hope this helps... Sean
I would suggest getting speakers that are often used for "nearfield" listening. I'm talking about recording studio monitors. I've been in several recording studios with great sounding monitors and I noticed what they had in common. They were using a speaker called the Mackie HR824. It is a bookshelf sized speaker (with soft dome tweeters) and they sound great up
close -- or -- if you spread them out, they will throw a wide deep soundstage. They are "active" speakers, they are bi-amped and I think that's one of the reasons they achieve such amazing sound. The amps are tuned
especially for the speakers, with a more powerful amp for the bottom end, which helps give them a lot of low extension for such a small speaker.
If you buy a CD player with a volume control, you could plug straight into the Mackies -- they will take balanced interconnects, single ended, or speaker wire. Another thing you could do is use your computer as a transport, get a
sound card that would take a digital feed from your computer, convert it to
analogue and feed it to your Mackie Speakers. You can download your CD's
to your hard drive uncompressed and they will sound great. So, instead of a
CD player, you put your money into a high quality sound card -- and you also
have a computer. My next suggestion would be -- get a 17" Apple i-book and then you have a home entertainment center with a 17" widescreen monitor, DVD player, digital music transport, internet, games, speakers -- plus -- an extremely powerful portable computer. Now, for your bookshelves, I recommend hardwood with fine grain....
I'm using some KEF HT-2001 alumi-pod speakers driven by
an Almarro A205A 5-watt integrated amp.
Source is a Philips DVD-963SA.
This is working extremely well for listening at the computer.
Drop a note if you want to see a picture.
Might I suggest a "supprise entry"? The Little Infinity TSS750 mini shows some superb promise with the right gear!!!
They are very detailed, uncolored, dynamic(yes!), and great immagers! I think these would be wonderful with tube gear especially! A little tube integrated should sound way good on em. They also sound good with warmer SS gear.
The deal with these is that they are bass limited to upper only. They play down to like 125hz, and you need a sub! They are only $99 or less each retail, are well well built(aluminum case), solid, and great looking...not to mention compact(3 to 4" driver with 3/4" tweeter).
One trick with these is you might consider putting a bit more insulation inside them to warm up the midrange pressence a bit. Otherwise, superb!
For cheep, you can pick up two of these at Circuit city and similar...VERY WORTH A TRY!
Not that I go by this, but HT magazine rated this system(4 of these plus center and matching sub) like 95/100 or so! Anyway, worth a listen/try for your application. Like I said, you can tinker with the gear for best results. But I think you might like what you hear...
The norh marble speakers are good on close listening.
The 6.9, 7.0 0r the marble 9.
For extremely close listening single driver speakers would be my choice. Speakers with multiple drivers require some space for those drivers to blend properly. I'm still trying to figure out Sures headphones with 2 drivers--expensive and supposedly very good, but I haven't heard them. What other headphones use multiple drivers--none that I'm aware of. KEF Uni-Q design would make sense, so would some of the panel type speakers (solid panels--not electrostats that move air as one unit).
I would like to thank everybody for contributing to my questions. They are all very useful. In particular, I am really impressed by Sean's insights. Thanks again!

I am also intrigued by Rsbeck's reply. Indeed I had totally forgotten the pro-audio monitor speakers. They are quite commonly installed close to the listening spot. I have now done some research on studio equipment. Mackie 824s are widely used and they get very positive reviews.
The price is also within my budget too. The general impression of its tonal accuracy and bass performance also fit my requirements. I shall try to get an audition of the Mackie in my area.

Now I have a question: How come we don't hear more about those recording monitor speakers in the audiophile world if they are so good? Apparently the usual hi-fi stores don't stock Mackie or Genelac. Only stores that sell music making and recording equipments stock those monitor speakers.
I've heard the JM Reynard Trentes up pretty close and they sounded wonderful. Not the most neutral sound (bit warm and woody sounding), but oh so ravishingly musical. Up close, analytical, detailed and lean sounding speakers really sound bad.
Payip: Many recording studios and mastering facilities have taken to using "audiophile grade" speakers and left the "commercial grade monitors" behind. The repurcussions that such a move has on the finished product has the makings of an entirely different thread on that subject, so i'll leave that alone.

As far as some of the other comments made, i agree that a single driver or co-axially mounted drivers could work quite well here. As to my suggestion of a small vertical MTM array, even though i suggested multiple drivers, the acoustic center of such a design is actually quite compact. In some cases, it will be smaller than a two way running an 7" or 8" and a dome.

By physically sandwiching the drivers together in a vertical array, the cabinet size is reduced and imaging is improved. If using a dome with two 5 1/4" drivers, the center to center distance from woofer to woofer with the tweeter in the middle would only be about 8" - 10" or so. As you can see, the spacing between drivers is quite limited, so the sound appears to come from one larger driver. Using 6 1/2" drivers would give you a center to center spacing of the woofers of about 10" - 12" or so. The figures quoted take into account various basket sizes on the mid-woofers and that some tweeters use quite a bit bigger faceplates than other designs. While some 1/2" to 1" domes use faceplates as small as 2", others have faceplates that are 4" or larger.

Given that some of the speakers mentioned here use fewer drivers with wider vertical spacing, this type of design for this application is not as far fetched as it sounds. Remember, the wider the spacing between drivers, the further back you have to sit. Sitting appr 3' away from such an array would allow plenty of time & space for the signal to blend together. This is especially true since the two drivers "sandwiching" the tweeter tends to act as a waveguide. This gives us better blending of multiple drivers AND controls the dispersion. Whether or not that you can find something like this that suits your sonic preferences and / or price range may be another matter all-together though. I'm just offering food for thought : ) Sean
I will second the recommendation for studio near field monitors for your application. Studio equipment and home audio equipment are designed with different goals in mind, to be sure, but from what you describe, your situation sounds more akin to a studio environment than it does to the typical home listening environment. I own a pair of Genelec 1029A's, which I use with my PC-based Pro Tools LE studio, and I am very happy with them. The Mackies are also quite good. My thought are that a pair of Mackies or Genelecs (I am somewhat more fond of the Genelecs), combine with a CD player with a volume control, would be great in your situation. This will also save you the price of an integrated amp.

However, if you go the home audio product route, I would just accept that you are not going to have the best imaging or soundstage in that setup, and pick up something that sounds tonally accurate and pleasing to your ears. I might suggest ProAC Tablette Reference 8's as a great sounding, very compact speaker in your price range. I have a pair of these (Signature series) in my office system, and even though they are close to the rear wall and have bookshelves quite close by one of them, their performance is still quite compelling (of course mine are further apart - 6-7').

Good luck, Tom.
I have mixed feelings about some aspects of the MTM configuration, but they often do a very good job in the nearfield and in Payip's application would most likely work better than a more conventional two-way. If the room is very small, then an MTM might have some tonal balance aberrations related to its power resonse in the crossover region (though probably not much moreso than a conventional two-way).

Personally I think a coaxial or full-range driver would make the most sense in this case (disclaimer - I sell some of each). Imaging and tonal balance can be very nice with a good coaxial or fullrange even in a very small room. The fullrangers I sell (Omega) also benefit from boundary reinforcement, so might be worth considering. Their high efficiency and friendly impedance curve means you could even use 'em with SET's.

The true nearfield studio monitors I've listened to have too forward a presentation for me to enjoy long-term, but maybe I just like a little euphony.