What used speaker would you buy with $20,000-$35,000 and why?

I'm closer to the 20,000 part, but if I get stretched i would like to know higher recommendations. Remember, this is on the used market - not retail. I'm even interested if you think I should make a huge jump (say to 50,000), but I want to know what justifies that jump. I'd like the best bang for the buck and even the worse bang for the buck. Are there speaker lines that are totally overlooked that sound wonderful in this price range that I need to be exposed to? I may go higher, but lets start there.

PS Let's just assume the upstream equipment is adequate to drive any recommended speaker. We are not limited by upstream components.
Ag insider logo xs@2xnab2
For me it would be a pair of Apogee Ultimate Divas from True Sound Works ($22k). Nothing, IMHO, compares to the sound of large scale planar speakers. The original Divas are one of my all time HiFi show most memorable speakers demonstrations. Apparently the TSW refurbished/upgraded versions are way better than the originals (I have only heard the originals).

I encourage you to answer a couple of questions regarding preference before you lay your money down on any speaker. Do you prefer a variety of experiences or are you content with one type of experience? Do you have a particular type of speaker design you enjoy more than others (i.e. Horn, panel, dynamic, omnidirectional, line source, or a hybrid design etc., or are you open to any/all types of speakers? As expected, you will encounter a lot of enthusiastic recommendations here among the responses. However, answering these questions may well determine the framework of your selection.

Try your best to get to an audio show. With your means to build a system you should be hearing some of the premium speakers. It is often possible at a show to buy the display set for a significant discount. Also, it is usually possible to work out logistics of shipping.

For me it would be a newer set of Classic Audio Loudspeakers model T-3.3 or later. They fit in my room, they can be placed against the wall behind them. They are easy to drive (16 ohms, 98 db 1 watt/1 meter) and are full range to 22Hz. They are very fast and smooth, owing to field-coil powered drivers, the midrange of which has no breakups until 35KHz and also covers most of the spectrum from 500Hz to 12KHz.

When I go to audiophile's homes and hear systems with less efficiency, I am often struck by how **small* such systems sound, even if they get imaging and all the nuances seemingly right; something is usually missing, and that something is the power limitations that result from low efficiency.

When making recordings (I run a recording studio and have done a lot of field recordings using just two mics), I find that if the recording sounds right on these speakers then it actually is right; I can trust them to be correct. 
I've always like the big floor standing Avalon loudspeakers.  They image wonderfully and have all the clarity and detail you could ask for.   That being said, I'd rather put together a Linkwitz LX521 system for under $5000, which will equal or outperform even the big Avalons.  I'd set 'em up against ANY loudspeaker at ANY price.  Drop $5000 on the LX521 and then take your spare $15,000 and tour Europe.  Go see some live music there or anywhere and still have speakers at home that won't be surpassed by anyone.
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That's a serious investment and critical one.  I agree with dougles_schroeder, if you can attend one of the audio shows and then make an decision. AXPONA 2016 right around the corner :-)

We can forward our recommendations based on our associated components and listening experience but what sounds good to my ears may or may not sound good to you.  

I settled on B&W 800D2 couple of years back.  To my ears, they are the best sounding speakers at 24K price point. You can get them on used market in 12K-16K range.  

Good luck!
"Hookers and Coke"

That sounds like a lot more fun then listening to a bunch of speakers and getting confused. To me you can listen to speakers until the cows come home. The really Important thing is how will they sound in you're home.

The "hookers and Coke" line was a reference to a recent Fox News attempt to play up the Lotto fantasy during a live interview.  You might want to "Google Fox News lotto interview hookers and Coke" if you get a second.   It's hilarious.
For the first time I think I'm going to attend some shows. I probably won't spend quite that much money (it is serious cash), but who knows. The reason I asked the question as I did is that the used market has a way of depreciating different brands at different rates (i.e. Wilson and B&W hold their value quite well, while others depreciate more rapidly). On the used market, Revel Ultima Salon 2's sell for what 802d's sell, but retail the Salons are 22 and the BW's are 15. There have got to be some crazy good price points for some speakers I don't know well on the used market.

As for vacation: Thanks, but I like sound more than traveling (some of that is health related).

Hookers and Coke: If we are going that route we should do LSD or shrooms and then my bookshelf speakers in my office would sound better than my floor standing beasts straight.
It's a wonderful journey you're on with that kind of available cash.  For the sake of all that's holy, enjoy the ride and take your time.  You've named some really great gear.  This should be fun!
I also agree wholeheartedly with your choice of recreational enhancement.  :-)
+1 to martykl.
But seriously, I like Venture, Bosehendorfor (or however it’s spelled), and Kaiser.
I must agree with Russbutton, above... very few speakers at any price can best the Linkwitz Orions or LX521s, when properly set up.  You get the sound of the best planar speakers with superb dynamics and bass.  And... my second choice would be the Pure Audio Project speakers, configured to your preferences.

Any of these driven by some of the better tube pre-amps (e.g.  ARC Ref 3, etc.), and some of the better SS amps (e.g. Pass Labs, etc.) - will provide you "best of show" sound, which you'll not be replacing any time soon.

Spend your money on attending live performances, and music... not on over-priced equipment.
Best I've heard: Genesis 5.3 and Vandersteen Quattro Wood CT. Both had low bass to die for in a normal room, paired with good but not crazy expensive amplification.
nab2  Great decision to go to shows first. At those price levels there are so many choices just between all the different types of speakers. But I would like to add - consider the electronics. At that level speakers seem to be more picky as what it driving them to sound their best. You have to consider what sound you like best.

That said I'm all for finding the sound from a speaker you like best then work on an amp - pre and source(s) to optimize that sound. IMO you have more choices than starting with electronics.

Best of luck
What: TANNOY Kingdom Royals (used )

Why: do NOT just rely on their stellar reviews, make the effort to actually audition them.

when you do audition them, it is quite apparent that you are in the presence of something quite special

Eg. http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue64/tannoy_royal.htm

If you have the room for them, forget the used journey
and get Magnepan 20.7s and apply the difference
to your source and amplification chain.......around 13K
90% of the way to the 20.7s are the 3.7i's at around 6K

You can attempt to do better, but you won't..........

I also cast a vote for the Linkwitz 521, but the multichannel
discrete aspect makes it a difficult speaker.....plus you have
to build it yourself.......
I have entertained the Magnepan's. I'd like to set them up A/B in my room with my speakers. Before I pull the trigger on this I'm fixing the room dynamics (in part by stiffening up the floor and removing the carpet). It's a near perfect cuboid, but the structure behind the walls and underneath the floor is lacking (listening room is in part of the old house).

Only downside of shows is that it's all cutting edge stuff not used stuff like I'm asking about here. A slightly used high end car generally drives pretty close to a new one at a fraction of the price. Electronic gear is even closer due to the nature of electronic components.
I'd say in most cases, especially ss amps and preamps that holds very true......speakers are all over the map, there's a 30K pair of Martens on GON for 12900......will they beat a pair of Mag 20's in most categories?  no.......so does that mean they're overpriced?  who's to say.......most would say new Maggies are severely underpriced........

So what do you get with Maggies that others can't touch:

There's a definite sense of space around instruments that create an eerie realness and it's primarily a function not only of speed, but also dipole dispersion that's close to perfect.....instruments on a stage create a lot of their image by reflecting off the back wall as well as directly and dynamic speakers with a few exceptions just don't reach that element.....

The downside has always been the low end, but the 20.7s pretty much negate even that argument if you feed them what they want, which is a lot of SS watts with high current, coupled with a great tube preamp......

I've owned 30K speakers......I now own 6K speakers......

Give them a chance if you can deal with their size......they're very forgiving in terms of placement.......some listeners even listen to them with the edge of the panel facing them.......LOL

I would try some Grado PS1000e headphones for a paltry $1,700 and see if they satisfy your musical needs. Amazing sound there, IMHO.
If we are going that route we should do LSD or shrooms...

I wouldn't recommend that, based on personal experience. The last time I tried that stuff, an orange rhino walked into my condo from the patio and started berating my modest Ax-7e/P3esr setup, and boasted on how his McIntosh system was SO MUCH BETTER...  :-)

In terms of the thread, if I'm spending my own money I would look at Harbeth 30.2 or Magnepan 3.7i, and bank the rest.

If I'm spending your money, I'd look at either Wilson Max-3 or Tannoy Westminster Royale SE.
FWIW, if it were my money, I would buy a used pair of Sonus Faber or B&W speakers. I'd buy as high in the line (used) as I could for my $20,000.
You won't regret it!
Here’s a pair of the Linkwitz LX521’s with the ASP and multichannel amp - ready to go. I almost bought them... but... already had the Orions and couldn’t justify the expenditure for another set of Linkwitz speakers. Not sure the guy has sold them yet - you might check with him.

They sound like Maggies... but... with better bass and dynamics.  Same soundstage and imaging, because they're open baffle, dipole speakers.  I have the Maggies also... and... I prefer the Orions for the reasons mentioned.  Very much the sound of the live music performance.


They also sound a lot like the Grado PS-1000e headphones mentioned above - which is spectacular... but... with a more realistic soundstage.
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I will sound like a "broken record" with this recommendation, but based
on what I have heard, and considering that you can place these speakers
easily in a medium sized (or larger) room unlike Maggies, the Eggleston
Andra-3's can be had for under $15K with the new carbon-fiber based
midranges.  I had the Andra-2's and they sounded Very Real on acoustic
material.  On well-recorded pop or rock music (such as Steely Dan) they also were spectacular.  They have superb bass below 20Hz also, without
any strain.  Their only competition is a significantly larger speaker system
that can move more air or something else that you prefer the looks of.
Here's what one Orion owner said about his Linkwitz Orions on the Madisound site:

"Orion 4 Madisound/Wood ArtistryThe most important thing I can say is that this is the best loudspeaker I have ever heard in my life for reproducing natural acoustical music, regardless of price. It's not bad for electronic music either. Pretty universally excellent on rock, jazz, trance, etc., but especially good for classical music. The most natural, nonelectronic sounding human voice reproducer I've yet heard. It is dynamic, crystal clear, coherent, has thunderous and tight lows, and most especially captures in a most captivating fashion the space of a live performace in a way I've never heard from a non planar speaker, although much more dynamic and with a greater sense of ease than a planar can do. I speak being quite familiar with a variety of ribbon/planar magnetic, electrostatic, and other cone (including ceramic) speaker designs. I freaking love this speaker!"

And the LX521s sound even better.
Magico Q3,Q5 and S3 mk2 or YG Acoustics Anat Ref 2 or Joseph Pearl mk3 because they sound wonderful.

There's a pair of Joseph Audio Pearls for sale here now.  Very very rare to see for sale here.  Only $11,200.  Just buy them so I don't have to get divorced and take out a second mortgage. 
nab2     01-26-2016 10:17pm

Before I pull the trigger on this I'm fixing the room dynamics (in part by stiffening up the floor and removing the carpet). It's a near perfect cuboid, but the structure behind the walls and underneath the floor is lacking (listening room is in part of the old house).
Can you clarify what a "near perfect cuboid" is, and what its dimensions are?

-- Al
Just FYI, there is a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers in Red Violin for sale on Audiogon today. The price is $21,000. This is one of my favorite speakers in a drop-dead gorgeous finish. If it doesn't appeal to you I have no more advice to give you.

P.S. I have no affiliation with the seller
Al, this is what Cardas has to say about the golden cuboid (yes I left the word "golden" off earlier - saving time):

"The Golden Cuboid listening room is 10’ x 16’ x 26’ (Read 10.000 x 16.18033989... x 26.18033989...

It’s dimensions differ in a Golden Ratio or Fibonacci sequence (5-8-13-21-34...)."
From: http://www.cardas.com/room_setup_golden_cuboid.php

My room is 10' x 16' x 26' but is not not expanding in dimension as one moves out from the short side of rectangular room. I didn't design the room that way. It's the size of the front room when we bought this house (hence the need for some structural support - the floor joists are not sufficiently engineered for a really tight/stiff 16 foot span).

A lot of good speaker recommendations have been offered, which would be suitable for a room of that size (assuming, in some cases, that the structural improvements you are intending to make would enable several hundred pounds per speaker to be comfortably supported).

In addition to the speakers that have been mentioned, you might want to consider some of the models from Sound Lab. One of their dealers, btw, (for the Rocky Mountain region) is Duke Lejeune of Audio Kinesis, who participates here from time to time as member Audiokinesis, and who is by all accounts a wonderful and very knowledgeable person to deal with.

Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with Sound Lab speakers, but if I were shopping in your price range, and had a room of your size, based on what I know of them they would be high on my short list.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

None, the better bang for the buck is to go surround 5 speaker setup with cheaper speakers. It’ll sound better too.

"Hookers and Coke"

 Now you are in a whole new range of decisions. I assume you would go for top of the line Columbian Marching Powder, but the Hookers, do you go for quantity or quality? You see it is not so simple. Perhaps we should start a new thread

Agree with Stringreen.  Have you ever seen anyone list an ad for someone selling a Vandersteen Model 7?  Must be a lot of happy owners...
I agree with the poster that you should head to one of the audio shows to hear many expensive speakers, which is the rule at such shows.  However, in my experience, and I have had a number of really expensive speakers, you should try some of the single-driver speakers.  I bought a pair of Audio Nirvana 12 inch alnico drivers and mounted them in a 5.6 liter cabinet (I also had some 8 inchers in a 2.8 liter cabinet).  These cost me about $1500 and I will never (as much as any of us audio nerds can say never) go back to multi-driver speakers with electronic crossovers.  Just a thought before you did like I did and spend a lot of money chasing what to me doesn't sound like live music.  My kids and wife all play musical instruments.  An added bonus is that these things are really easy to drive due to high sensitivity and a more resistive load.
Indeed, all good ideas. Remember that the retailer's middle-man will have tweeked everything to perfection, which you won't be able to reproduce in your living room, plus you're parting with twice the money the retailer paid for them. I hate to sound like a broken record, too, but investigate Tyler Acoustics in Kentucky.
I was recently making just this sort of choice.  I finally opted for Wilsons, but the Maggie 20.7 were my runners up. (I'm a sucker for clean low bass)

Great thread idea - I was also shopping in this same ballpark recently.  Here are the options that stood out to me in my search, for one reason or another, which fit into your proposed price range (I am not saying I loved all of these speakers, but they all offered some qualities of note):

Avalon Time
YG Anat III Studio / Signature
Magico Q3 / Q5
Wilson Alexia
Tidal Contriva Diacera SE / G2
Kharma Midi Exquisite
Marten Coltrane
MBL 101e
Apogee Full Range
Sound Lab U-1

With that said, I have found that speakers are oftentimes the products most subject to an individual's tastes, and thus auditioning is a must to find the speakers that work right for you - so I strongly encourage you to hit the show when and as you can.   For example, there are some products referenced in posts above for which I cared very little, but that does not mean they are invalid choices, depending on what is of musical importance to you.  Also, don't discount the need to have the appropriate equipment (particularly amplifiers) for driving your speaker of choice - some of the above speakers require real horsepower, and you may end up spending as much in amps as you will on the speakers themselves.

"Bang for the buck" is, as lawyers are wont to say, a bit of a "vague and ambiguous" term.  Do you mean absolute cost v. performance?  Do you mean cost savings at used prices relative to retail?  Or some combination of the two?  Of the above, one could say the Magicos offer the worst bang for the buck, but that is only because they hold their retail price value very well.  Thus, you can expect to pay >50% of their retail price (e.g., $22-25k for a pair of Q3s, which retail for ~$45k).  Conversely, the YG's may offer exceptional bang for the buck, as Anat II's that retailed for >$100k can be had for $25-28k.  But in absolute terms, which is a better value for the money at that price?  Without knowing your particular tastes, it is hard to say (I would lean toward the YG's, if you forced me to pick).  As another example, the Apogee full ranges are fantastic speakers, fully comparable with others on the above list, and can be had for ~$10k (if you can find them) - thus, in and of themselves, they would seem to present the best value.  However, you really need to triamp them with amps that have exceptional current capability to get the best out of them - a popular combo is with 3 pairs of Mark Levinson ML-2s.  After you factor in the the cost of all the amplification needed, they are not so much the bargain as they would seem.

If I had to pick one speaker that would be the best "bang for the buck", I would actually go lower in price and point to the Genesis 200s / 300s / 350 SEs - at their used prices, they are incredible bargains, easy to drive, easy to place, full 20Hz - 20kHz frequency performance, tremendous soundstage depth and dynamics (although a little constrained in soundstage width).  However, note the original Genesis is no longer around, and I do not know if the new Genesis offers support for these older models. 

Of the particular models I listed above, I will only say the speakers I ended up buying represented the best bang for the buck to me, but that is only because of how good deal was (which also is a luck of the draw type of thing); several other speakers that I listed, in my view, actually offered higher performance, but at (significantly) greater cost, even used.

I don't think you need to make the "jump" to $50k if you are buying used - in the right system, any one of the above can provide a level of sound quality that represents an end of the road type investment (i.e., no more upgrade bug).  The only exception would be if you have a truly massive listening room (which you don't seem to have, based on the above) and/or are a pipe organ fanatic - in that case, as an example, a Wilson Alexandria may be more to your tastes than the Alexia.  

Best of luck, and let us know how your search progresses.
Despite the long post above, there is one other speaker I forgot to mention as a consideration - Evolution Acoustics MM3.
This really doesn't need to be discussed at such length. have been through so many speakers and waisted so much money on speakers, amplifiers and all the trappings trying to find an evocative, emotional connection, where the sound was natural and I didn't have to have my head in a vice to hear the sweat spot. I have had several Magnelans, 2 sets of Linkwitz's Audio Artistry speakers, Thiels, horns, ...you name it. The most natural, easy-to-listen to speakers have been well- designed omni-directional speakers. Forget Ohm. I had those and the woodworking looked like it was from an eighth grade shop class and the sound was like having horse blankets over the speakers. Having experienced Decware omni's is where I discovered THE natural sound, where it was ethereal, and not thrown at me with a shovel. I have tried out so many different pieces of electronics along the way with the speakers that it would make your head spin...thirty some odd amplifiers. 

So where I ended up was with a set of Holistic Audio Arts H1 omni's being driven by a 35-year old GAS Son of Ampzilla modified by Mike Bettinger at GAS Audio. The Son is driven by an Eastern Electric Avant tube preamp. The signal source is a Mac Mini with an Uptone Audio linear power supply. Amarra is the music player on the Mac. The sound is not so much of the highs this or that. It is more of a feeling, a connection, a deep involvement with the music where there isn't any hype or buy-in to someone else's opinion.

If you are looking to spend that kind of long green, take a listen to some well designed omnidirectional speakers. There aren't that many of them around. But when you listen you will understand what a natural sound they can convey over that of other speakers...and you don't need premium electronics to make it happen.

As a bonus you can have many listeners enjoy the stereo presentation without having to sit in the sweat spot. I have sat next to either speaker and have not heard the direct sound from the speaker itself, but that of a soundstage, that while maybe being skewed right or left, was still enjoyable while not feeling deprived because I was not sitting dead center. I am so totally done with this insane chase for the absolute sound.

For the money you are budgeting, the k out the MBL line of omnidirectional speakers. The reviews you will read echo my experience.


I have Quads so that's enough for me when it comes to the ESL's. Maybe I'd have a pair of speakers made using baffled cabinets and Western Electric die cast horns but then I'd have to buy a fork lift. I daydream about the Harbeth line, so their high end floor speakers would certainly be enticing. Or could I pick up a used pair of Vandersteen 7A's for the above price given? And someone mentioned the Austrian piano builders Bösendorfer but I wasn't aware they made speakers. A Bösendorfer Imperial Grand could run between $250,000.00 to $500,000.00. OK, I'm sure I've run out of money by now.