Warm and accurate bookshelves that can handle volume

Hi and thanks for your help. I have been collecting and trying vintage speakers and ended up with B &.W 803 matrix series II, and also Celestion ls700 Se. The latter  are bookshelves and I use them with an NHT SW2 subwoofer. I like them both but prefer the 700s because they more accurately bring out the timbre of orchestral instruments and can be less fatiguing. Troubke is I have a pretty big room and I can’t play full orchestra at realistic volumes on the Celestions without distorting the sound. Are there bookshelves that will be warm, musical and accurate like the Celestions, but can handle volume?  Rest of the system is Qutest DAC, RA LS25 II pre, Adcom GSA555 II speakers. Thanks for feedback on which speakers to try. My reading etc suggests Harbeth Spendor Sonus Faber. Locally have tried kef and paradigm, but can’t get to much else. Will travel to try your recommendations. Seems that satellite and sub will be more flexible and cost effective than tower. 


Are you using them with the high pass filter??


If yes, is it turned up to at least 80 Hz?

Used (passive):


New (active):



P.S. They work fine nearfield, midfield, farfield.

@akg_ca Harbeths really? Yes they are fine sounding BUT turn up the vol and they fall apart, at least in my experience. Local dealer sell them so have heard them many times. 


i have the HARBETH 30.2 XDs driven by a$ 5 figure mutha high end integrate amp ( REGA OSIRIS ) that have everything I ever wanted at any volume and any genre of music . 

the notion that they somehow  “ fall apart” is nonsense and a hard and fast NFW (Unless maybe they are driven by crap ?)

I have very affordable Elac BS 244 speakers with ribbon tweeters in my second system and they play plenty loud in a large open area (lounge, dining and kitchen). They are also warm, dynamic and detailed.

Can you really get warm and accurate? Accurate surely implies neutral, warm is not neutral. Do you mean you want speakers you like the sound of? I have 2 pairs of Audio Physic speakers, they are very detailed but certainly not cold. To me they sound perfect to friends who have Monitor Audio, Harbeth and Lintons they sound bright, friends who have Klipsch say they sound dull.  That truely makes me think they are just right!

I also love Harbeth but would question them for orchestras at volume. I always feel I start to hear the case resonance limits when I listen to orchestras on them but perhaps a better amp would help as suggested.  


I can’t think of any bookshelves that can do a full orchestra well - would have suggested trying b&ws as most likely to work. 

how was the paradigm? 

How big is a 'big room' and how lively or dead is it acoustically? Do you have a target peak SPL in mind? Finally, how far is it from you speakers to your listening position? Volume level is a physical parameter that is easily calculated. If your requirements are greater than the speakers capability, the move on. E.g. KEF LS-50s are rated for 104db peak @ 1M and 100W. 2 speakers +3dB, and applying the inverse square law (2X distance = -6dB in level), so sitting 6 ft from a pair of LS-50S your peak SPL would be 101dBA. In a room, depending on size and acoustical treatment, you might pick up a dB or so. Sitting 12ft, lose another 6db in peak level. A larger bookshelf might pick up 6dB in output, and 4-6 dB in sensitivity. YMMV, so do the math  math first to see if you're even in the ballpark.

I go along with henry53. If a system is always warm it's colored . Input varies and the system should mirror that unless you really want it to be warm all the time. It's a valid choice but it's not accurate. You can't have both. You can't even always have smoothness. Some instruments blare like brass and if they don't on a good recording the system is at fault. I remember Gordon Holt was always bothered when a bress recording wasn't in your face a bit.

The Neat Ministra is an isobaric design just reviewed by Mark Phillips at Part Time Audio, and they seem well suited to your needs.  Check his review out.

Audition a pair of Aerial Acoustics 5T speakers. They will respond well to the power of your Adcom amp. They are neutral to slightly on the warmer side of neutral. They are a 4 ohm speaker that drops as low as 3 ohms. Read some reviews if you can’t audition them. There are occasionally some on the used market. They will play loud without blinking and are good for virtually any kind of music, including large, complex symphonic works.


IN my experience the Monitor Audio G100 and earlier G50's are warm yet take plenty of current/power and deliver in spades. Many like the Silver models, but I have always preferred the Gold models. Warm for me means plenty of bass but not excessive to dominate, plenty of mid-range and nice clear highs, that give a sense of spaciousness. Not rolled off and never sharp. I sold the Gold 100's (too many speakers) but still keep my Gold 50's...

See if you can find an older pair of Acoustic Research AR308 HO speakers, I currently have 3 pairs of them and they will keep up with any of the newer more expensive speakers, or if you want a floor standing speaker try the AR312 HO speakers, they are all 8ohm speakers with 93db and 94db of sensitivity.

If you are ever in the Chicago area, I live 50 miles west in Elgin I would love to let you listen to them in one of my 4 systems.

I own the Harbeth 30.2's and I can get them quite loud without any break up, provided the amp can output clean wattage. No fatigue at all, warm does not necessarily mean colored. I find B&W's a bit bright (only my opinion), but they are clean sounding. The Harbeth are a bit warm, but still clean sounding. A piano sounds like a piano, vocals sound like a live human voice. I do not listen to much classical, but I can crank Beethoven's 6th and 9th and it sounds wonderful.

I've own Adcom amps in the past and would say it's a good match for the Harbeth. I would suggest traveling to hear Harbeth and their other models. Their bookshelves with a sub sound amazing, the three ways also sound very good, but definitely sound different.

Try the new MoFi speaker Source Point 10. I have heard them and believe they go down below 40HZ in room.

For the money Atohm.  Can also be used with their available stands and if you really want to make a statement add a REL sub.  These speakers are made in France and they make all other drivers in-house.  Additionally there are several tonal settings on the back of the speakers to dial in the sound that's right for you in your room.  They also make a matching center channel and sub if you are into Home Theater as well.  Around $4K.  www.atohm.com  If interested PM me for a fantastic dealer.

Good luck!  Let us know how you make out.

From what I’ve read, the new KLH’s models 3 & 5 might do it for you. Worth checking out.

I found KLH a little hot/harsh on some recordings when I tried them.  I went with the Wharfedale Lintons, to me they are warm/smooth, don't cause listening fatigue.  But maybe not accurate like what the OP is looking for.  Plus, I never listen loud, peaks of 75 decibels are loud enough for me.  For what the OP wants, I would start with Harbeth.  

I’ve owned every Harbeth minus the M40. I am now using the Super HL5 Plus and would have to say it's my favorite in the Harbeth line !

Reference 3A’s with beryllium tweeter or ProAc Response D2. For a truly blissful experience add a REL Carbon Special. 

I'll throw these in since they haven't been mentioned:

Fyne F1-8

Qln Prestige 1

Both are superb and throw a huge soundstage while being well mannered. 

Diapason adamantes or music culture rl-21. 
both very difficult to find on the used market. 
some of the best 2 way monitors for the price you can buy. 

Thanks much for all this great advice. Just want to answer a few of the questions:

1) the room is 15 x 20, but the speakers are about 6 feet from the back wall. On one side wall behind one of the speakers there is a 6 foot opening to the rest of the house.

2) I misused the word accurate I guess. I meant that they were able to reproduce the timbres of instruments. I can really hear the difference between oboes, clarinets etc. Massed strings are not just one mess. (I like rock and roll and jazz, but really hearing the nuances of classical music is the ultimate for me.) 

3) Re the subs, I have heard that it is best to use a crossover on the sub itself and let full spectrum go to the satellites. Others have said you can help your satelittes by shunting all the low frequency to the sub. I use a second preamp out to go to the sub amp, and there set a low pass at about 50 Hz. The speakers have good output until about 50. 

4) I go for about 80 or 85 as loud

Thanks again! Enjoy the music.

Human Speakers model 81-DK... 

Or, the venerable Epi 100 w new crossover-capacitor from Human ... it's a "timeless classic" for a reason.  

If you really want output you need surface area to push the air - a single larger driver and a horn loaded compression tweeter. In other words, a JBL Pro-style studio monitor. A model 4349, with a 12" woofer and 1.5" compression horn tweeter with a large format horn. As JBL says, "This combination delivers music with authority and accuracy not possible with traditional loudspeaker designs." For comparison, an 8" woofer has an area of about 50 in2, and a 12" 113 in2. The smaller driver simply has to work a lot harder - and requires more power - for a given output. There's lots of other variables, of course, the basic physics remain. Big output requires big speakers, big power, or both.

I don't know how anyone couldn't enjoy the Lintons.  They are just a whole lot of fun.  

After doing a little research, I think these bookshelves met the OP's criteria for warmth, accuracy and the capacity to handle a large volume of books.


Most of the recommendations here are nice speakers but don’t play very loud compared to the ones that do.

I guess the only way to get loud is to go to floor standing. However, the speakers are pulled so far forward our listening area resembles a small room. I think having a lot of space behind the speakers is good, but does not greatly affect how one calculates room size. I have been doing web searches, and found it is really hard to audition a lot of these speakers. I might travel to a large east coast city in the US but even then only a few will be available. I wonder if the whole model for speaker sales will change. Maybe direct sales like PS Audio, or truck delivery for audition, like magnepan. 

@laddy ‘s 2nd posting seems like a winner to me.

 I recently heard the new MoFi speaker Source Point 10 at Michael Klein’s STEREO Stereo in Pittsburg where they were positively addictive being driven by an ARC I/50 integrated. A modern interpretation of the Original Large Advent on steroids 👍

The Dynaudios I linked to earlier play loud. I have the passive version and the maximum SPL per pair at 1 metre spec is 127dB. This is over twice as loud max SPL as Klipsch Heresys. Not too many floor-standing speakers will even play that loud. They are discontinued and hard to find now but the active version’s SPL at 1 meter spec is 124dB per pair and they still make them. I think if you want any louder than that you would probably need JBL Cinema series.

JBL Cinema

Might as well give the NHT Classic 3s a listen and yeah, JBL L Classics and perhaps HDI series.

I would tend to agree with the gent about high quality amplification. 

Outside of the M40s, Harbeths do not handle high SPLs so well. The 8” midwoofers have weak motors not designed for long term high power handling. Search around the web and you’ll find quite a few reports of blown drivers, even cracked cones.

The Stirling Broadcast LS3/6 can produce much higher SPL (107dB @ 2m) before significant compression sets in, but it is less sensitive so requires higher power amps.

Spendor output capability falls somewhat between those two brands IME.

The Larger ATC speakers can probably outdo any of the aforementioned speakers because they have the required motor structures. High power handling with low distortion requires beefy driver motors and suspensions. There’s really no getting around that without adding greater surface area, i.e. larger drivers or more drivers. Even then, a 7” driver with a beefy motor can outperform two mediocre 6” woofers in some cases.

You might also look around for some 2-way monitors that employ Morel woofers. Some of those have massive voicecoils and incredible power handling.



Harbeths really? Yes they are fine sounding BUT turn up the vol and they fall apart, at least in my experience. Local dealer sell them so have heard them many times.

Same experience here. They sound nice at moderate volume. Even with high current amps they struggle with high SPL. Those who allege they can play clean and loud obviously haven’t compared them to something like ATCs in a large room. In a small room and sitting less than 10’ away they are fine for most music. But this notion that they can handle large scale orchestra at near live levels is laughable—“NFW.”

This shouldn’t be surprising when you look at the size and mass of their motor structure. Most drivers of that type can handle about 30 watts continuous power and 70 watts for very short duration. The typical 8” pro audio driver from the likes of Eminence can handle way more power and play far louder, but pick one up and it becomes obvious as to why. The unfortunate truth about many audiophile “loudspeakers,” even rather expensive ones, is they simply aren’t built for high SPL.

If anyone wants to bring their M30/C7/SHL5 Harbeths over to my place to compare to perform a high volume shoutout between them and my 2-way Tektons or Stirlings they are more than welcome. Just send me a PM.


Hmmm, you can have “accurate” and “warm”, but it usually means flat-ish frequency response up to 15-17kHz and then rolled off response above that to reduce listening fatigue.  So, actually “accurate” across all frequencies except the very highest treble.  Old JBLs sounded great in the showroom, mixing room, and at home when drinking heavily, but for long serious listening sessions, they were a bit much.

Classical music is more demanding for system performance across the board.  You have a very smooth but detailed DAC that can reveal the detail imbedded in classical recordings.  For a higher end solution, I might suggest Monitor Audio Platinum 100 3G combined with a good REL sub.  That pairing would provide a great performance envelope for nearly any type of music with your gear.  For a lower price point solution, I agree the Wharfedale Linton with a REL sub could be very satisfying.

Seconding the recommendation for Aerial 5T. I love mine, and they sound so sweet and lifelike. They are not finicky about source material or placement. They just play everything well.

Fritz Carrera BE.  An incredible speaker and really nice guy that builds them.

Well so many suggestions. I would likely steer you towards something of greater size. Either a floor standing speaker or large bookshelf like the KLH 5. Your listening space is pretty large so I think something quite small will struggle to fill your space at higher volumes. A subwoofer, will extend the frequency range downwards but won't necessarily allow for that much greater volumes before you hit the limit.

What ever you decide, I strongly recommend you try to listen to speakers before you buy, I have had experience where I bought some very highly regarded/reviewed speakers without having heard then (Harbeth Compact 7s) and it turned out they were not my cup of tea despite what I would have thought based on reviews. I do agree with previous posts, they don't play very loud before they fall apart. If you buy used, and if it turns out you don't like them, it's easy to recoup your expenditures. If you can travel to increase your ability to hear more speakers then you will have a better idea of what would work for you.

AXPONA is coming up. Maybe worth your time to attend as it perhaps the 2nd largest high-end audio show I’m the world.  I went there last year to audition, choose, then purchase my speakers (got a sweet deal).  Lots of high end audio systems , components, accessories with very friendly sales reps to answer your inquiries.  Super fun and informative, highly recommended 

Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor.  Read the reviews.  Begs to be listened to loud. 

This is a lot of tremendous advice. Will hit the road, and never thought of going to an audio show. The you tubers say it is hard to listen properly at an audi9 show but might as well find out. From a near vacuum to being surrounded by audiophiles. 

Show conditions often not ideal, heard Magico S5 mk2 often sound great, but only ok at last AXPONA.  But you’ll likely hear something that “you” favor subjectively and will give much more examples /information than you currently have.  Helps if you have a list of brand/model speakers you’d like to demo.  If the brand is demoing a different speaker, then you can discuss w the sales rep the technical and sonically similarities and differences between their models - there’s often a “house” sound due to consistent components and/or design voicing.