Speakers that disappear

I have been listening once again to mbl 101-Es last weekend and have been very impressed by the great illusion they create just by "disappearing", i.e. I could not localize the speakers with closed eyes.

Listening to these speakers got me interested again in speakers that create a large 3-dimensional image, "disappear" and do not sound "boxy" in the low frequencies (with boxy I mean that the base somehow sounds constrained by the loudspeaker enclosure, especially the massive drivers in the B&Ws and Kefs gave me that feeling, the very low frequencies had a slightly "wooden" sound to it - I listend to Richard Wagners Valkyrie amongst others and drum strikes suffered in particular).

[I am obviously aware that there are many other characteristics that are required to make a great speaker, i.e. transparency, etc. but i would like to focus on the above in this thread.]

The only two speaker brands I have listened to that did the trick in this respect for me are:
- mbl (the 101-Es, dont know if this applies for their smaller speakers)
- Wilson Benesch (ACT and Chimera, not as strong as mbl but still pretty good - unfortunately a bit too week below 40hz, even the Chimera)

In comparison listening to Sonus Fabers, Kef References, B&W 800Ds, Ayon all of them sounded "boxed in" in the low frequencies and the sweet spot was much smaller and perfect toe-in was far too important for getting a decent image and illusion. (I know these speakers do some other things very well so no need to mention)

Now there are a lot of other great speakers that I could not listen to yet. Therefore I would love to hear some opinions about the ability of some other speakers to create an illusion by disappearing and not sounding "boxed in".

One type of speakers that do a good job in the above seem to be planar speakers but I have listend to both Martin Logans (dont remember which one as they all look so similar) and Magnepans (1.6 if I remember correctly) but somehow they did not do the trick for me and while they disappeared the soundstage sounded a bit flat and lifeless to me. (Both were driven by McIntosh Pre and Monos).

Particular speakers I would be interested in are:
- Magico
- Wisdom Audio Sage Series
- Rockport

At this point I prefer soft dome and paper/carbon type drivers and have not been a fan of ceramic drivers, beryllium, diamond or aluminium tweeter (in those implementations that I heard). Nevertheless there may be great implementations that do the above very well, so I would also be interested in opinions about:
- Kharma
- Focal Utopia Series
- Revel Ultima

Also are there any mid-price speakers that do this well?
Don't forget Verity Speakers like the Parsifal Ovations or Sarastro II, these speaker totally disappear and do not sound boxie in any way.
Sounds like you should consider open baffle dipole or other omnidirectional speakers, the latter with sealed acoustic suspension, not ported woofers. (Curiously, the MBL has a bandpass bass unit, no?) And research active (but not necessarily powered) speakers, especially if you listen to large scale orchestral music, such as Wagner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky. Look at the Linkwitz Lab Orion (open baffle dipole, active), it will out perform anything in your price category. You might also look into Morrison Audio, available in both passive and active versions.
OHM Walsh speakers are mid priced and have some similarities to mbl imaging. To differentiate the two concisely, OHM is perhaps more coherent top to bottom than mbls I have heard as a result of the wide range walsh driver used (German Physiks is the other well known brand that uses these) and are designed to go closer to walls and fit into most peoples rooms easily. mbl requires more distance from walls and created perhaps the deepest 3-d soundstage I have heard during audition.

I've also heard good things about Morrison speakers in regards to 3-d imaging but have not had the pleasure of listening to these.

I also have a small pair of Triangle monitors that are extremely fast and disappear about as well as anything I have heard.

Magico Minis did the trick extremely well also when I heard them (not midpriced though).

Some PSBs I've heard are mid priced and do the trick pretty well also.
Usually when a speaker does a good job of disappearing it is due to the electronics driving the speaker. The easier the speaker is to drive the better it will disappear. I was in a friend's store one day that sold Boston Acoustics and Klipsch speakers with NAD. I remember the sound always hanging around the speakers until one day a sales rep brought in a Boulder amp and preamp. It didn't matter what speaker the Boulder was connected to, the speakers disappeared. I have experienced this many times with various electronics and speakers and hard to drive speakers require expensive electronics. Try an inexpensive receiver on the MBL 101 with their 81db sensitivity and 4 ohm nominal impedance or take the electronics used to drive the MBLs and try it on any speaker. The size and shape of a speaker also affects our perception of a speaker's ability to image and disappear. The last large speaker I owned was the Dunlavy SC IV. The Dunlavys are great speakers with a very live and natural sound. Their imaging is very good, but I could never forget there were two 6 foot tall speakers a few feet away from me on the other side of the room. I never have this problem with smaller speakers.

Good points. I agree electronics are a big factor. Room acoustics and location within the room as well.

Some speakers are inherently fast and have good imaging and dissapear easier/faster than others though. I had never heard a speaker totally disappear in my old system (using Carver amplification) until the Triangle Titus monitors, which did. With my current system with better electronics, all speakers in my system disappear to various extents. The Triangles are still the champs, but the OHMs are close behind and the Dynaudios just a tad behind those.
A few years back, I had speakers that disappeared. I came home one night to find that the speakers, the amp, the pre-amp and the CD player all disappeared.
Thanks for the initial comments and the interesting speaker mentioned. Some of the speaker brands I have not even heard before. So I have some reading to do.

Some of the brands are a bit too small and given that I am based in Europe I will probably never even be able to hear a Linkwitz Orion, Morrison Audio or OHM speaker. Also I am not sure if those speakers looks would be able to make it into my living room...
I will check out the Verity Audio and German Physiks though.

The amplifier comment is interesting. Indeed the mbls i listened to were driven by Pass X600.5 monoblocks and the Wilson Benesch by Gryphon Mono blocks.
I read before that Magnepans need a lot of power but when I listened to them they were driven by McIntosh 500w Mono blocks, which should be enough i would hope.

With regards to the size I found that I only got big orchestra sound from a big speaker. With monitors io had great experiences with acoustic music etc but found big orchestral classical music less convincing.
"With regards to the size I found that I only got big orchestra sound from a big speaker."

Generally that is true

OHM has a German distributor. See the link on the OHM website

Hi mapman,

Checked out the german website of Ohm, thank you for the link I will try and demo the 5000 model.

Have you compared the ohm to mbl or Wilson Beneschs?

Also checked out Audio Pysiks but those guys are jsut sinfully expensive (the bigger models that is)

They are so much cheaper that I am really curious about their sound. I find their design a bit ugly but let's see once i see them in person
Funny, your description pretty much explained Magnepans. Add a sub, that will make both the Magnepans, and Logans anything but lifeless.(specially the 1.6's that already have hot tweeters.)

I have heard mbl 111s on high end and expensive mbl amplification sourced from cd, vinyl, and reference reel to reel in a large dealer room with significant space (~15-20 feet) behind the speakers, a near optimal set up for the mbls I would say.

Their 3-D imaging was absolute best I have heard period. You could point to exact location and distinguish individual musicians in that 3-d space behind teh speakers in a large scale orchestral work. Simply fabulous!

Though the OHMs do things somewhat differently than mbls and my system and room is not to the same level as the dealers mbl setup, I must say that as an owner of the top of the line OHMs (~$6000 retail), I do not pine for the mbls and actually prefer the relative simplicity and smaller scale of my setup.
Stats, baby. Nooo box coloration cause no box. I called the police the other night cause my speakers just disappeared.
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Good one Cerrot. I owned Martin Logan CLS. They did a wonderful disappearing act with a huge soundstage and incredible 3D imaging. They are fabulous speakers with the right electronics. They make you work for it, but it's worth it. Very high goose bump factor.
Rrog, I hear ya. I love reading speaker reviews where they say the reviewed pair does this and that...almost like...stats. My buddy has Magico Minis and I had an extensive listening session at my dealer with Dyn C4's (both systems electronics were top shelf-much, much more high end than mine) and neither system had the transparancy and detail and air my stats do. Dialing them in did take a few years and was like giving birth, but, oh what a pretty baby!
I've listened to most of the speakers that is on your list: Revel Ultima's, MBL 101's, the entire Rockport line, Kharma Exquisite Midi/Reference/Grand Exquisite. They were all in different rooms, different electronics, etc.

I agree with above posters that to make a speaker disappear I think room acoustics play the most important role. I feel like the room acoustics play at least a 50+% role in how great the speakers sound and disappear.

I can see how you liked the MBL's. They do create a sense of space very unique to omnidirectional speakers. For me though, I felt the timber/tone of instruments to be less accurate than the othe speakers, like that of the Rockports, which were my favorite. The Kharma's were great until the ceramic midrange shattered on me (they now use a different midrange), and the Revel's are not in the same league as any of the above speakers in my opinion.
I agree the room plays an enormous role in speaker disappearing, I once played a $250 psb speaker in a big warehouse and couldn't believe how good the speaker sounded, totally shocking.
Finishing up with the placement of my new Verity Sarastro II's and they are disappearing like my Ovations did.
Vandersteen 2ce sig II and 3a sig.
These disappear to my ears. Even when the signal is all in one channel, it doesn't sound like the music coming from "that box". With the lights out and a good recording, I get a room full of unbounded music.
I think my Soundlab m2's and Dunlavy scIII's disappeared in my listening room;I would think the bigger dunlavys would even be better with their larger drivers compared the the sc III's.
At this point I prefer soft dome and paper/carbon type drivers and have not been a fan of ceramic drivers, beryllium, diamond or aluminium tweeter

Then you should try to audition ATC or PMC - a 3 inch soft dome midrange with paper/pulp woofer and soft dome tweeter. Mine are soffit mounted so I have an unfair advantage when it comes to the disappearing act (not heard better from any freestanding setup).

MBL's are a great option but I fail to understand how they can possibly prevent/control unwanted resonances on those long flexible lamellas.
Speaker that disappear especially in the bass, Apogee speakers. I don't think I have heard another speaker that does bass so well in terms of transparency and pitch definition. Overall, Martin Logan CLS speakers disappear like no other planar (Acoustats come close). I heard the MBLs. Although they disappear, they have a metallic quality that bothers me - maybe because they play them so loud during demos they're distorting. For me, the box speakers that disappear like no other box speaker are the Ridge Street Audio Design Sasons. I've heard the Magicos, Rockports, Hansens, Audiophysics the Music, etc... I would like to hear Audience line arrays - they could trump all of the above in disappearing game.
Hansen Audio princeV2 and Knight are the most dissapearing electrodynamic type speakers I've ever heard.
I have never heard a floor standing speaker disappear like the Wilson Audio Sophia does. It is just flat out not in the room, only the music.

The Wilson Sasha will disappear. I can't believe how not only the mids and hi's are so transparent but also the mid bass and bass. Across the entire stage right to left they can be transparent. Also good for me is they don't have to be half way into the room to achieve this. I'm paying a pro to come down and place mine but how I have them placed now is only two to three feet off the front wall. Most of the time when I've heard other speakers be transparent like this they have to be much further into the room. I heard the Kharma in RMAF 2008 and was very impressed by them as well. Now while I'm not sure what else helps the Sasha in my system as all my components are very good but I can listen to any type of music from Classical, blues, classic rock, to soft Jazz and never hear the speaker however my stage does go right to left outside both speakers. I can actually sit at my bar about 8 feet right of my listening position and still get the same transparent stage without hearing either speaker. It is quite amazing. I get nearly the exact same image and detail there.
Wow, lots of different speaker suggestions here!

All electrostatic and ribbon speakers have so far disappointed me. Even with high powered electronics and lots of room fiddling they always sounded a bit flat to me and had small sweet spots.

Hansen I have read about but they are difficult to audition. Wilson I really need to demo sometimes as they seem to cause a large amount of split views from different people just reading on these forums!

Quite a few brands above are very US specific and pretty much not available here in Europe so those drop out quickly for me.

ATC and PMC I find interesting as I seem to prefer their types of driver and soft domes to all those berylliums, ribbons, etc.

Thanks for all those inputs
Maybe give Merlin a look;they are always a highly regarded speaker and have great tech support as well.
Kaifupaddy, the reason why you heard "flat" sounding electrostats or ribbons is most likely due to poor setup. I've owned multiple planar speakers in the past and they're a pain to set up correctly compared to cone speakers. Most dealer and audio show room setups do not do planars justice, unfortunately. But planars have a particular sound (eg, lack of chest thumpin bass slam, less meat on the bones, and more diffuse sound, although there are exceptions) and if you don't like it, no amount of autioning will convince you OTW. Cone speakers that disappear the best are usually 2-way montors which approximate point source better than most floor standers which are usually 3-way. The smaller size of 2-ways also aids in the illusion too.
The Audience line arrays were mentioned here, and after hearing them at the Jacksonville show two weeks ago, I would have to agree, in fact I thought they were "mind blowing" and the little 2+2 was performing (as the dealer even pointed out) at probably 80% of the performance of $52000. large line array. Harry Pearson, upon hearing the small 4+4 line array and a subwoofer at CES said it was the best sound he had ever heard at a show. After Jacksonville, I now know what he is talking about.