Thoughts on Usher S-520's...upgrade?

Hello all.

First let me say that I'm fairly new to the hi-fi world (about 5 years now) and have so far centered on "budget hi-fi".

I love monitors (and they fit in my office where I do most of my listening) so a few years ago I did my research and bought some Usher 520's (before the price hike) based off the glowing reviews (professional and user). I added an Outlaw LFM-1 Compact to fill out the low end (I'm not a huge bass head; the Outlaw's volume is halfway and the crossover is right at 60 where the Ushers start to drop off) and it integrates well I feel with the 520's.

Well I've loved this combo for years now (I am running it off of a Cambridge azur 640a v2 amp and DAC Magic with lossless files from my computer) and have left it alone since it is certainly "good enough", if not great sounding to me.

But...sooner or later upgradeitus hits us all right? Or, if not that, just curiosity at what other monitors might sound like and if I'd prefer them over my 520's, since, after all, these are the only "real" pair of speakers I've ever owned.

So my question is what the general consensus is of the Usher S 520's here, especially compared to more expensive speakers. Is it worth it to go up to $500 to $700 ish (new msrp anyway) monitors? Will it be enough of a step up in SQ to justify the cost (remember I got the 520's for $330 shipped)? Or do the Usher's lack in some criteria that I can't really hear since I've never compared them to other good monitors in their price range or higher? I will say that I love their neutrality and transparency, detail and accuracy (I don't like "warm" or "natural" sound), but it seems that they are a little lifeless or flat as well, maybe even a little recessed in the mids (voices can be a little distant it seems).

So, short version, is there something in the next tier of monitors that will have much of the Usher 520 SS (accuracy, transparency, revealing, detail, neutrality, tight/taut bass, etc.) while adding maybe some excitement or energy? Perhaps also go lower in the bass region so I can listen to them without a sub without them sounding as lean as the 520's do without my sub. I'd like an all-rounder since I listen to much of everything, although I mostly listen to rock (all decades and genres), synth pop, and singer/songwriter. I also would need speakers that sound good a lower volumes (I mostly listen at mid volumes) although can crank too (the 520's seem to do this).

Thanks for any input, so far I've got a list of about 20 monitors to look at, but that's fun to do and I take a long time looking and considering before I buy anything!
Audio...Nah, I don't buy that. I know what you are saying, but listening to speakers for even a good hour with different setups and equipment than yours is not going to give you an accurate representation of what they really sound like. I mentioned this above. You need to hear equipment (especially speakers) in your own environment, with your own gear, and with tons of material you know well, for days/weeks to really get a good grasp of how it sounds. Anything else is a mere indication that may or may not sound good to you upon extended listening (where flaws start to emerge).

Besides, I bought my 520's based purely on reviews and they have definitely suited me for years. I just now am wanting to try something different, and may or may not like it more.

Josh, my Usher's are stand mounted on either side of my computer desk which is right in the middle of a wall in my office. So they are centered on the wall (about a foot from it), and I even have an easy chair against the back wall that I can sit in and be in their sweet spot.

My problem with them is that they are just kind of cold or clinical and not engaging. The mids seem recessed too, especially on voices. Great speakers, but I want to try something different.

Anyway, I think I've pretty much decided on some Quad 12L2 from seller Lanemart on here. I've realized that no matter how long I take to read reviews I won't be hearing the speakers in my room with my set up for weeks. That's the way to figure out how a speaker sounds and if I like it or not, nothing else (including showrooms or even people's houses). If I don't like them (doubtful), I'll sell them back and try something else, or, more likely, keep them to compare to something else and sell the one I like the least back. That's the real way to determine if you like something or not: compare and contrast in your room with your own equipment. It is expensive for awhile, but when you sell everything back you don't like as much then you're ok. I recently did this process with a few pairs of headphones and headphone amps. I have one amp (selling the other 2 now) and 2 cans (tried 5 total).

Thanks everyone for your help, and sorry to be a pain! I'll post impressions of the Quads after I get them and listen to them for awhile...if anyone wants to hear what they sound like with my "cheap" gear anyway.

I'd also like to say that Carl Marchisotto DID email me back when I asked about B stock Boxers or the Nola Mini's (it went into my junk box for some reason). So no, he didn't just brush me off as a cheap skate. :P He even gave me the email of a dealer that might help me and said that the mini's haven't been made for 3 years and the boxers were better (I bet I'd love the mini's myself!). So just clearing that up.
>>07-07-10: Pw_09
but listening to speakers for even a good hour with different setups and equipment than yours is not going to give you an accurate representation of what they really sound like.<<

Wrong again.

1 hour of listening is plenty of time to discern a speaker's personality. Granted you won't get all the nuance but certainly will have an idea if it's a contendor or pretender.

With more experience you'll understand.

Good luck.
It sounds like you really want to try a new speaker which is understandable. There are much better speakers out there, but the S-520 is very good at it's price.

Be careful of getting too much speaker for your small room. You may get too much low end that will overpower the mids/highs. You will probably need to move the Quads further out in your room and you definitely need to move your listening chair away from the back wall when listening.
Audio, no way.

I've listened to lots of speakers (dozens) over the years (I'm glad you know how many I have though) and if I go back and listen to them again, in the same set up (friends houses, dealers), they sound different from what I remember, because I only heard them briefly with just some material. It takes several listens over weeks/months (like at friends houses) to start to know how a speaker sounds. And even then, it's not your equipment and it's not, much more importantly, YOUR ROOM. That's why some speakers sound great in some rooms, and not so much in others. Some of my friends have moved their speakers around (same gear) and in different rooms they sound better or worse. I have too with my Ushers (and several other low-fi speakers I've had before that). They are great in my office, not so much in my living room.

With better ears and less of an ego (I heard that speaker, I judge it as this blah blah based off such a limited time with it--like 5 minutes I'm right, you don't need to own a speaker yourself for weeks to know what it sounds like! pssh! such nonsense! I went to a meet! I KNOW!) you'd understand.



Thanks Josh, but I'm mostly going to be listening at low volumes and I don't mind getting blown away by what I have now, which gets VERY loud and I have a sub too in my small room. But that's only when I rock out, which isn't that often.

So I doubt an inch more bigger woofer (and about 10hz deeper) than the 520's with the Quads is going to kill me. In fact, I'm looking for a more filled out sound, one that I can turn off my sub with without feeling I'm missing something or it sounding too thin (the 520's without a sub do).

We'll see of course, once I've had a good week or so with my room and my gear and my material if I like them or not. I bet I will. :)
The Usher S 520 are good speakers. With a small mid woofer that was tuned to go down to 50Hz, the midrange should be a bit recessed (no surprise here)

Some of these listed below deserve an audition

Usher X 718
Totem Rainmaker, Totem Mani 2
Dynaudio DM 2/10, DM 2/8 and DM 2/7
Dynaudio Focus 110, 140, 220
Dynaudio Excite X 12, X 16, X 32
Dynaudio Audience 52,72, and 82
PSB Image B6, Image T5, T6, PSB Image T45, T55, and T65
Some Amphion models
Some Dali models

Dali makes some decent speakers too but IMO Dynaudio is usually better than Dali. You do need a decent sub for most of standmount models regardless of brands.