Speakers for string Quartets

Hi, I know already this is not a great question to ask, but…I’m looking for speakers that will only be used for string quartets.  Looking for something that will give me some of he sound of the body of the violin, not just strings. Looking for transparency with great tone, but don’t care too much about bass.
I have a large room, but never listen above 80db

current amps are Pass xa25, first watt F8, Aric Audio Single ended kt88, PS Audio m700.

just looking to really hear the violins, cellos. 
hHopefully the narrow range of music can reduce the list of prospects.




Speakers must be chosen for a specific room...

Also adapted to a specific amplifier...

Not for a genre of music why?

Because timbre, dynamic, imaging soundstage, listener envelopement and all other acoustic factors emerge from the speakers/room relation...

Then when listening to violins any good speakers/room relation will do the job...

For sure you can own small speakers and listen to near field in a very small room but even there it is the speakers/room relation which will give you an optimal timbre instrument experience...Not the brand name of the speaker by itself...

There is plenty of choice in speakers design for example and to answer your inquiry i will look myself about the small Harbeth which are supposed to be good for mid range especially... But his relation to your room will be decisive for sure in my experience...Room acoustic play a role even in near listening in very small room especially...But there is too much possibilities to recommend ONLY ONE speaker not knowing your room especially...

There is no speakers specialized in violin quartet though ....

my best to you....




This is my favorite haydn interpretation... Tacet sound is magical....


If using the first three amps, I'd look at Audio Note AN-E or Devote O/93 or 96,

If using the higher powered one, Harbeth 40.1 or 40.2, or Spendor SP100 Mk II.


Also one of my favorite...

But if you look for speaker ONLY DEVOTED to quartet music i am pretty sure you dont need my recommendation at all... 😊


My deepest respect to you....

I wish i owned them... Great choice!

Even if i am in heaven with my Mission Cyrus 781 vintage  and low costs... The cello bass is good in my room...

But the Quad will be a complete different animal to work the room for, i  will love them....


Quad 57 Electrostatics.


Before I gave up listening to speakers and going on to headphones I used to Have ATC SCM 40 speakers and they were ideal for string quartets. I truly love chamber music with Quartets being my bread and butter and The ATC's being absolutely brilliant being a very accurate speaker and able to handle any amp put to them.  

I’d suggest British BBC-heritage speakers such as Harbeth, Spendor, Stirling, and Graham. These often are reviewed by Robert E Greene (a violinist) in TAS.

Another choice would be electrostatics. The low distortion is, I believe, good for string music. I find my Janszens quite good for string quartets.

An additional investment might be an equalizer, such as the Schiit Loki Max. The variance in tonal balance among SQ recordings can be extreme. An EQ will let you make more of them pleasant to listen to.

I have two friends who are professional classical musicians, playing in orchestras (one being the Philadelphia Orchestra), and both have Vandersteens, and love them.

I also have an older series 2 Vandersteen. They have beautiful tonality fitting for violin and piano. My top priority in speakers choice is 1. violin, 2. piano, so this recommendation might be useful for you.


Without question - the Quad ESL 57’s are the best for the acoustic music that you like.

The ATC’s would be also - but they’re expensive.

Next choice would be Harbeth 30.1’s / 30.2’s / etc.... which sound very much like the Quad ESL 57’s.  If you want something for near field - the Harbeth P3SR sounds very much like the 30.1's / 30.2's...

But... if you can accept the look of the restored ESL 57’s and have the room and matching electronics - nothing really comes that close, except possibly the 30.1’s / 30.2’s...

In fact... I’m seriously considering the ESL 57’s myself.

I love string quartets. The early and middle Beethoven quartets are fabulous, Dvorak is not bad but I can listen to Cherubini all day long.

As for speakers, only ESLs will do. Nothing, and I do mean nothing else comes even remotely close. My daughter plays violin and the sound of a rosin loaded bow stroking those strings is as frissonous as it gets.

Thanks for the perspective, suggestions. I understand the argument that speakers reproduce sound, not just specific types or instruments.

currently have modified Klipsch Cornwalls,(mods make them similar to Cornwall 4)

they sound great with most music, but give stringed instruments a steely, metallic timbre. Looking for a second set for strings only. Room is pretty well treated, I use REW to take measurements.

As some said I’m looking at British, and Magnepan, investigating electrostatics.
I’m just trying to get some perspectives from other stringed music lovers. Orchestras do very in well, but solo violin/ chamber doesn’t get the tone.

thanks for all the help.



Well, I agree that I don’t think you buy a speaker for a genre of music, as a good speaker will play all well…..but….

Another vote for Vandersteen. I play a lot of classical both orchestral and quartets, and love the tone and timbre Vandersteen’s provide, especially with quartets….listening to a quartet as I type this.

I have Vandersteen Model 1’s, Model 2 Sigs, and now Treo. The Treo are a step above, especially for classical/quartets. I would highly recommend the Treo, Quatro or above.

Highly recommend Martin Logan ESL 15A’s. They are power hungry. I had mine paired with McIntosh Monoblocks (1.25kwh). Luxman is a better choice for an amp based on my experience. Good Luck and keep us posted!!

I have two friends who are professional classical musicians, playing in orchestras (one being the Philadelphia Orchestra), and both have

Vandersteens, and love them.

I also have an older series 2

Vandersteen. They have beautiful tonality fitting for violin and piano. My top priority in speakers choice is 1. violin, 2. piano, so this recommendation might be useful for you.

And Ann Akiko Myers has the model 7 (I believe) in SoCal.



Well, I agree that I don’t think you buy a speaker for a genre of music, as a good speaker will play all well…..but….

Another vote for Vandersteen. I play a lot of classical both orchestral and quartets, and love the tone and timbre Vandersteen’s provide, especially with quartets….listening to a quartet as I type this.

I have Vandersteen Model 1’s, Model 2 Sigs, and now Treo. The Treo are a step above, especially for classical/quartets. I would highly recommend the Treo, Quatro or above.

I play a bit if everything (rock, Punk, Folk, a smaller amount of classical and Jazz) and like piano and vocals… and especially woodwinds.

My 2C pair play everything pretty well. They are 35 years old, and I expect that the newer ones are no worse. 😀 (I have heard some and they do seem to be better… but even a used pair the really are hard to beat.)

If you are going to shove them against a wall, then the Treos are probably a better choice than the 2C.

You probably would be well advised to also consider their subwoofer for the cello “body”, as well as it frees up the Pass amps from servicing the lows..

But I have also heard Maggies that sounded good, and some others.
(The Devore and the Harbeth seem to have cabinets that possibly sing along with the music?? - to me some of those more boxy speakers loose something in piano and strings.)

What shops are near you?
Or what area of the country are you in?

I listen to mostly violin concertos and string quartets.  B&W 805's audition their full range and pick the pair you like best.  

This comes up often and the answer is always the same: Any well designed speaker will reproduce any music sent to it as a "music specific" speaker is simply silly. 

I'd suggest you consider Russ Andrews' Plug-in RF Router or even the RF Router MK 2 as this type of music could really benefit from it.

All ground wires are connected through it to a separate general power outlet or self provided earth rod if you are up to installing one.

"Russ has produced a guide explaining how to effectively ground your system: click here to download our PDF guide."

There's a recommendation to ground the cases of all equipment and a suggestion to do the same with speaker driver frames. I have extensive shielding to protect from EMI and RFI, so it is also connected to the unit. The routers are one way system, so any noise in the earth wiring is isolated and you are free from contamination. As I live in a multi level apartment complex it is a no brainer.

There's a 25% sale starting on March 30 if anyone is interested.

No I am not associated with them. Just a satisfied end user who'd like to pass on some guidance. I only know about the sale as I was given the opportunity of purchasing early.

My NOLA Boxer speakers (via my Primaluna integrated) work quite well for this fiddle/violin player. With a good EMI or Philips recording, timbre can be pretty close to convincing. DGG can suffer from the usual brightness, but what can you say?

This comes up often and the answer is always the same: Any well designed speaker will reproduce any music sent to it as a "music specific" speaker is simply silly. 


Piano and vocals are the hardest to fake as we are pretty evolutionarily well tuned into the voice… and pianos are purer tones.

If they play those well, then everything else is sure to be nice as well.

I have ATC SCM 19s mated (very well) with a Dynaudio 18s dual 9" sub

The ATC’s are smooth and accurate with extended but not intrusive highs

Where string notes drop into the sub range the sound is musical and precise - YoYo Ma’s Apalachian Journey albums sound fantastic.

It's funny because I do have an answer... sort of. First of all, it goes without saying that the other components beside speakers are of paramount importance too. I haven't been exposed to lots and lots of audio gear, but of those I've heard the best electronics for string quartet were Accuphase (oh, and an expensive DAC from Luxman).

This being said, the best speakers for string quartet that I've heard are the Harbeth M30.2's. Overall I preferred my Spendor SP2/3R2's so I sold the Harbeths but for string quartets they were kings. My current Martin Logan Impression 11A are also good (when paired with Accuphase) with better detail, extension, effortlessness etc. but not quite as convincing timbre and less tactility.

So, yeah, Harbeth. And another contender might be Sonus Faber.

I’m pretty new to the hobby, and consequently, don’t have nearly as much experience as most of these guys, but I own a pair of Martin Logan Summits that make quartets sound amazing. I’ve sort of marveled over it, really.

Somebody mentioned timbre. I think that nails it. Especially when it comes to stringed instruments. As others’ve also mentioned, I guess there’s something about electrostatics. I’m just blown away by the image and soundstage that these speakers present. With the electronics you have and some good clean power I can only imagine how they would sound.

One of the reasons I got these speakers is because of how gorgeous they are from a visual slash design standpoint. I don’t think I’d be as cool with the idea of pulling a box speaker out away from the wall the way I have with these, of course, so I can get excellent acoustics. But they’re sexy as hell to look at and I’m being serious. One of the reasons I got them is because, to me, they’re almost like a piece of art in terms of the industrial design. I consider it a real bonus that they fit so well with the design of my place. Visually, they’re very cool. They’re expensive as hell but if you can afford them I think they’ll do the trick.

The 15A’s somebody else mentioned are kind of in a different league than mine and they’re probably the ticket. I read a little bit about the way the woofers oppose each other in the design of the bass cabinet back when I was shopping for mine and it sounds like a really cool design. The second ten inch woofer in mine is down firing instead of opposing and I think the 15A is actually a better design. If you’ve got those bucks I think they’re probably worth it. You know the law of diminishing returns, right? We all have to draw the line somewhere.         : )

In terms of how the acoustic is formed, it’s my understanding that when you get the bass right, everything sounds better across the spectrum, esp the higher frequencies. And even though you listen to stringed music only, I’m thinking this is how you’re going to really get the sound you’re after. I hear you when you say you’re not really into bass, but my experience is that when I started to get a handle on the bass it sort of opened up the higher frequencies. It was like the missing piece, you might say. It sort of filled in the picture.

@mahgister is right, it’s all about the room acoustic ... and especially, if for whatever reason you’re not into that, you know, treating your room. Or if you have an ideal space to set them up, then the next best option I believe is a speaker that’s designed to give you that acoustic.

The way the sound waves move and interact in the room in the dipole configuration to form the acoustic is what I think is really cool from an acoustical engineering standpoint. The curved panel is part of what causes a unique wave launch, which is especially relevant in the higher frequencies I guess.

I had to study room acoustics a little bit to get mine placed properly, in order to get them to perform to their potential, but when I did I was floored. And I’ve been in audio nirvana ever since. I think Mahgister gets it. : ) For me, it was the you don’t know what you don’t know, thing. I believe these speakers may be cut out for what you’re looking for though.

Let us know what you decide and hope you enjoy!



IMO "String Quartet"  is not a silly constraint.  I take it to mean that the OP is interested in speakers that do an excellent job with small-scale, intimate arrangements emphasizing the mids. He isn't so interested in deep bass, a super wide sound stage, or the wide dynamic swings you get in orchestral music.

I had a pair of Totem Arros that worked very well within those constraints, in a small to mid-sized room. The speakers disappeared, the center image was very clear, the mid range was beautiful.  The price was under $2K.  

There tends to be a bit of false conventional wisdom about reproducing string quartet music because of the fact that we are dealing with four instruments instead of a full orchestra. String quartets can have significant dynamic range and the fundmental on a Cello is at 65hz. So while it is 20hz above a double bass, it's still well down in the bass range.

Apart from the PS Audio, any of those other amps in a big room are going to need a pretty sensitive/efficient speaker. The DeVore  96 probably fits the bill best.

I would also look at Harbeths but do not rule out listening to one of the bigger models like the HL5 Plus XD.

If you really want a stand mount speaker and are prepared to compromise on bass extension, the original Sonus Faber Guarneri is worth seeking out.

Suggest trying Harbeth SHL5+ with a lower powered amp & see what you think. I own them because they work well for me across many genres of music, but I enjoy cello and they certainly sing for that instrument - very musical down low, beautiful voicing and clarity throughout. Again, I’ve never played these with an amp putting out less than 40 wpc, but your needs obviously dependent on listening distance, volume etc.

Let us know how your thinking evolves and what you choose!

Have a great day

I had a pair of Totem Arros that worked very well within those constraints, in a small to mid-sized room. The speakers disappeared, the center image was very clear, the mid range was beautiful.  The price was under $2K.  

Chief say, “totem pole provide many face.”
Best is “about face”.

Klipsch Forte IV.  Hard to beat for the intensity and body of bowed strings, especially once you get to the cello.

Unfortunately,the Quads, as good as they are, cause listening fatigue rather quickly.

IF you have quality electronics, I recommend you try Magneplaners IN YOUR ROOM.  If they are set up properly with quality electronics, you should be pleased.

If not, I guess keep auditioning speakers IN YOUR ROOM until you find one you like.


While you don't NEED a separate system for acoustic string music, I have a hard time parting with gear from old systems so tend to assemble them into systems with certain strengths.

My 'string system' is a pair of original Martin Logan CLS powered by a large Class A amp (Classe DR3 VHC). It is magic for acoustic strings.


The chap that suggested Quad ESL 57s was on the same wavelength. Both are fast enough to reproduce the subtleties of low level strings.  You might think that you'd miss out on the low bass, but even a stand-up bass fan will be happy as those speakers are fine with the 250-500 Hz low end usual for that instrument (although they will play lower).  My CLS are 3 dB down at 45 Hz. The Quads are good to 50 Hz,

No one mentioned time coherence. Quads got me interested in coherent speakers more than ½c ago.

Vandersteens are pretty good. Maggies can be if set up properly. Spice TC-50 on stands with sub in a good room can transport you.

Tri-amped, time corrected Eminent Tech LFT-8b w dual subs are outstanding! 😉

With 650 wpc, they will make you duck in the finale of the 1812 or have you stomping along with Queen’s "We Will Rock You". Jaqueline du Pre and YoYo Ma live  here!

Small string ensembles in a good room are extremely rich in coherent harmonics.

Speakers plastered on a flat plate are never going to cut it.


Quad 57's with the right room set up and proper amps matched to them

Quad 2805's again, with proper amps matched to them.  

the 2805's perform well down to about 33hz

Quad 2905s.  more speaker area.  more bass response.  2905s perform well down to about 28hz... again with proper room set up and amps.  

Magnepan's: several great options.  I used Maggies for over 30 years.  I like the 1.7s, the 3 series... and hot rodded Tympani's.  Maggies need a bit more power than the Quads.  and again proper room set up and proper amps matched to them.

I am not a big fan of the ML's. the ML's are nice.  really good in fact.  I personally don't care for the bass range being driven by a cone speaker and trying to match that with the planar mid range / treble via a cross over.  Again very good.  But for what you are specifically looking for.... 

nothing will come close to the Quads.  Seriously.  NOTE: I have not tried Quads with any of the amps you list.  I drove my 2805's with AirTight ATM-3 mono blocs... sublime!!!!  

I know several amazing violin and cello players.  some are world famous.  I am familiar with standing near them while they play live.  I know the sound and the feeling in my bones from strings being played,  I have been actually in the recording studio with some famous violinists and know the sound WELL.  The Quads are stunning close.  Especially when set up properly.

The Maggies are quite nice as well.  I just prefer the Quads.. they are amazing.


fascinating read,

Re tonality of speakers Im amazed to hear strong recommedations for Vanderteen.

My limited experience of that touted brand was entirely negative,

One of our respected audio store here in Toronto was offerin a record cleanibg service for LPS back in the day.

About 10lps having been cleaned and dried he played one back on the house demo system-the speakers being Vandersteen Towers.

Well the lps were cerainly cleaned up but the sound was brutal.

Id assume this upscale shop wdve had the speakers properly set up in their listening room and paired with sympathetic electronics but granted the reputation of the brand very likely not.

At any rate my experience and that long ago.

Most posters are blasting past the amplifiers you have.  You would need to decide between the lower powered ones and higher power.  Most recommend choosing a speaker and then getting the right amp to power it.  For timbral purity with lower powered amps, such as you mainly have, I'm going to repeat my recommendation of Audio Note.  I was at Deja Vu in Washington DC and put on my favorite CD of English viol consort music (the antecedent of the string quartet) and I was blown away.  

Consider a single driver speaker that is not a horn, e.g., Voxativ. This German speaker uses the cabinetry to drive bass notes, like a piano. It is acoustically designed using many of the principles of high end piano design.. Vox’s are high efficiency, very fast, and not cheap. I run my pair with a 300B SET.

I have the Magnepans. 7's and l think they really excel with stringed instruments, in my opinion. Any Maggie's for that matter.The YouTube vid I've attached of my stereo rig should give some indication Keep in mind that l feed my Maggie's with a very power amp with lots of watts/current and l also have one SVS ultra 13 sub 

My setup and equipment is in the description 


Watch "Magnepan .7's & audio system" on YouTube







Lots of good (and predictable) advice here. Electrostatics, the English Invasion (Harbeth, Spendor—and don't neglect B&W, DGG's monitor of choice, favored by John Eliot Gardiner); Sonus Faber, Vandersteen. Quad ESLs get mentioned a lot, and I have a friend with a pair. Underwhelming. No one has mentioned Vienna Acoustics, which sound very civilized with chamber music. So let me add my contentious two cents, just to poke a stick in a few eyes (or ears, as the case may be). 

First, and despite the conventional wisdom that any good speaker will reproduce any music well, I do think there are brands better suited to String Quartets vs. Heavy Metal. I like Tool better on a friend's Klipsch corner horns than on my own system. Those speakers can dislocate your spine. No one's spine was ever dislocated by a String Quartet.

When I bought my speakers, I auditioned them against Vandersteens and B&W. Both of those contenders seemed to veil the music slightly, and were distinctly disappointing with loud, bass-heavy rock (the B&W 802s less so). 

In my home, I've compared my beloved Teslas (yes, that's right, but they were made by Mike Maloney of "Scientific Fidelity" back when Musk was a toddler) against PSB Synchrony Ones, Von Schweikerts, various B&Ws, and the enormous MartinLogan "The Quest." The Teslas always prevailed. Unfortunately, you won't find them; a bad review from Corey Greenberg in Stereophile pretty much killed them. Too bad. They're beautiful to look at, too.

For what it's worth, I play cello in a String Quartet. Granted, the listening experience is different with the instrument cradled in one's body. But, of course, I've had many hours of experience in the audience. The Teslas rule, IMO. 

Check out my "virtual system," if you're curious. Besides the photos, there's a long account of my "audiophile journey," to repeat the cliche.

If you want the best speaker for string quartets look for the best jazz speaker or the best rock speaker or the best folk speaker. Most likely it will be the same speaker.

Because i can control at will all acoustical factors in a room designed for specific speaker, i think that acoustical treatment and especially mechanical control import way more than the brand name speaker itself...

Even in near listening...

I repeat that because all people with different ears, with different speakers boast their favorite speakers, but who spoke about the huge improvement from acoustic control over the relation speakers/room ?

My box speakers in a well controlled room are not behind but better than magnepan in a bad room by the way , EVEN IF TECHNICALLY the magnepan are better speakers...I know one of my friend own big magnepan but in an horrible room.....

Then....Conclude yourself....

The choice of speakers itself matter least than room control and treatment...

Timbre perception dont emerge magically from the speakers techs sheets, but from his specific relation to the room acoustic content and all other acoustic factors too comes this way...

Pick the best speakers ratio/price for your needs and for your room size and geometry and think acoustic treatment and mechanical control ...

Acoustic listening experiments are way more fun and enlightening for us than "buy this brand name and plug it"...

But it is for me at least....

Deeper purse with no time to loose in experiments think otherwise for sure.... 😁😊😎😊😊😊😊😊😊😊


ESL63’s. Hands down. Incredible midrange. Pinpoint imaging. They need power, tho. 

I just came across this post. I agree with some of the early posters that Atc makes speakers that do a good job with this type of music. I have SCM 40 V2s and of all the types of music I play, I think they are best with string and wind quartets.

You can get a set of these used for around 4K.


Thanks for all the perspective!!!!

I’m leaning towards the “British Invation”…

question…with a pretty large room, open to kitchen/dinning room, I’m hesitant to go for bookshelve/monitor size. 

I believe Quads would be great, but I don’t know if I could go to something with so little dynamics after loving my horns for all the dynamics!

Harbeths seem to be my go to to audition, but I’m sure you pay a lot for the name.
interested to see if I can find a way to Audition Spendor, Stirling, ATC (which I’m super interested in!) .

Any thoughts on the current KEF line up? Somehow I don’t think they’re very “British” anymore.

Out of left field I’ve become interested in Great Plains Audio Altec 604 coaxial 15” drivers. From what I’ve read it may have possibilities.

thaks again!