Dec 14, 2018246 views

Best speakers you have heard or owned?

A general question for all you speaker lovers what are the best speakers you have heard or owned include the system running them if you can. Would be helpful to be able to look at some recommendations for other members looking at getting into stereo listening. I went the headphone route and sold pretty much all my headphones to go with stereo don't regret it at all. I own a pair of QUAD ESL 57 powered by a QUAD 34/306 stack lovely sounding and vintage to boot. Also heard a pair of Yamaha NS1000s can't remember what they were playing off but they were stunning. I haven't been to any shows so can't say I have heard any of the really newest high-end stuff mainly just my own experience out and about.
Jackula and dcha12

I owned a pair mission MX series floor stander and then upgraded to a pair of JBL horn loaded studio 580 speakers. With JBL, I thought there isn't much to gain. I was wrong. I started to venture into DIY speakers and discover the Seas A26RE4 kit which modeled from the vintage Dynaco A25. The Dynaco A25 was only 28l. It was a cross between a floorstander and a bookshelf and while the mid range and treble response were very much craved by audiophiles, the low end doesn't pack a punch. So in my project, I decided to go with a 65l cabinet on ported design. This was purely experimental because, on paper it looked good with the ability to drive all the way down to 36hz @f3 (-3db), but I have no idea how it would sound in my listening room. I took the risk and now I am happy to report, it beat my JBL. The sound you get from this pair can rival any top end speakers 4 to 5 times its price point. Here's a breakdown of my spending: I spent US$550 getting a CNC guy to fabricate my cabinet using 18mm birch ply which is a lot more durable than your typical mdf. The guy also finished the cabinet using natural veneer. The drivers were from Seas which cost me $300 for a pair of 10 inches A26RE4 woofer and $500 for a pair of T035 mid range tweeter. I also went with a simple high pass filter using Janzten Alumen caps and Mundorf resistors. For speaker post, i went with wbt nextgen. All these added up another $150. All in all, the build cost me roughly $1500. I am based in Singapore where most parts are imported so I figure that this cost would be slightly lesser in EU or US.
I have also include a pic of my current setup here.
I live in NYC & have heard a lot of really great systems over the last 40+ years. Most of them were well out of my price range. Brands that always impressed me & were relatively practical were Proac & Sonus Faber. I always loved their musical presentation. I always loved planar/electrostatic/ribbon panels but couldn't justify their cost or live with their placement needs. I remember lusting after the big Apogees for a long time! Best system I've ever owned? SOTA Sapphire turntable w/ SME IV tonearm & Linn Asak(?) MC cartridge, Mark Levinson 26S preamp, Mark Levinson 532H amplifier, Sony SA7ES cd player. I had my speakers custom made by Zalytron. The mains were Cabasse drivers (2-6.5" & 1" dome in a D'appolito configuration) & the 2 subs were two 12" Vieta woofers each in an isobaric configuration. The system was -3 @ 18hz. It was the most cost efficient way for me to get the sound I was aiming for & that was the Wilson Wamm (I used to listen to them a lot!). They came pretty damn close with a soundstage that you could literally close your eyes & walk through! They only fell short on treble extension. My total cost for those speakers was $2800 ($1300/$1500) so I was well ahead of the game!
My first serious setup with a pair of Paradigm Studio 100's with an Onkyo receiver (before that the Logitech Z5500 which I wouldn't call "serious") - I haven't got the heart to sell these so they're being used by my folks. I now run a pair of PMC Twenty.21 speakers which I enjoy far more, they are much more agile, bass like a floorstander with zero bloat - I like them than much more expensive B&W Diamonds and Focal Sopras. Soundstage is decent once your room has been calibrated, tonality also a bit bright without adequate treatment. Running with a Lampizator tube DAC, Audio-GD pre-amp and PrimaLuna power amp. While I think the PMC's are great, they are a pain to "reset" for home threatre use, and sometimes I do wish the sound was more neutral and with better imaging. Best in that regard I've ever listened to was a pair of MBL 101E speakers, with MBL monoblocks and transports, costing over $500K, something which I can never realistically justify unless I won first prize on Powerball. Going to the Munich High-End Show made me realize you don't have to donate your kidneys for good sound. Some great value stuff comes from newer companies trying to make a name of themselves. There was the Osborn (an Australian company), their flagship speaker costing only $20K which was apparently sold to the Sultan of Brunei to replace his $300K setup when his servants scoured the globe to find the "best" speaker with an unlimited budget. And oh boy they do sound good and I can afford it! I'm now saving up for the Osborn speakers, also in the process of replacing my entire setup with Audio-GD, they are no brainers for anyone wanting to break into high-end.
I have to admit I had a time when I was looking at a pair of PMC speakers I was looking at the Twenty 21s I may have a look at some point would like a nice pair of book shelf speakers for a smaller room. I think I had it down to them and the ATC SCM 11 but never did pull the trigger as I had never heard any of them personally but both are highly regarded. I tend to buy then hope for the best it works out most the time as on the used market you barely lose out so it's a nice way to try things out then sell if not what I am looking for.
I did compare against the ATC at the time of purchase. The ATC's problem is inadequate bass response and hella difficult to make them sing with a tube amp. When driven correctly and with a good sub, the ATC's are better, but that would cost thousands more making them a poor value proposition. For ATC, they start getting better at SCM40a.
I haven’t owned many sets of speakers in my lifetime. What I have owned I have kept for a long time. My first set of real speakers were a set of Polk bookshelf speakers I bought from a frat brother in college with gambling debts. I had those speakers for about 10 years and used a Sony and Onkyo receiver with them. They sounded great. I donated them to goodwill a few years ago as they were just sitting unused in storage. Hopefully, someone is enjoying them today. I replaced those speakers with a set of Polk Monitor 50 towers about 15 years ago (shit I’m getting old). These speakers were used with Onkyo and Yamaha receivers and have been connected to a Sonos Connect:Amp for the past 7 years or so. To my ear they sound phenomenal and I can’t really justify investing in anything else for living room music listening purposes. I had an Altec Lansing ATP-3 2.1 computer speaker setup at my desk for many years (close to 10)that sounded great. I would probably still be rocking them if they hadn’t died. The subwoofer connection broke and the speaker connections were snorting on me. At my desk now (last 6-7 years) I have a pair of Audyssey LES ( powered speakers that are very good especially when music is fed from a DAC. The speakers have tight controlled bass with balanced mids and highs. Prior to my current desk setup with an Aune X1S/X7S stack I fed the speakers from an AudioEngine D1. Both dacs did wonders for the depth, clarity and seperation I get from the speakers. I’m enjoying them now as I write this. These speakers really sound good. It’s unfortunate they are no longer made.
Best bang for the buck: Audioengine A5+. In my opinion you'd have to spend way more to get appreciable improvement in sound quality. Their HD6 is also quite nice and is slightly more liquid-sounding at the cose of a little dynamism. Both are forgiving on source and don't need a preamp, but I personally run my A5+ with a SDAC + Wyrd. Can benefit from better gear. Best overall: B&W 800 Diamond (floorstanding ones) w/ a McIntosh tube amp (don't remember exact one). Absolutely beautiful timbre and naturalness through its range. I was fortunate to have heard them in a well-treated room. Price is eye-watering and represents a stark reminder of why I stick with headphones.
I considered picking up a set of AudioEngine A5s many years ago, but for some reason opted for the Audyssey LES.. No regrets. I have heard the A5s and they sound excellent.
This is probably colored by nostalgia, but growing up my mother had a Sansui 9090 hooked up to a pair of 70's Infinity 3 way speakers, maybe RS series? This was in the late 80's, early 90's, they sounded amazing and the sound was something I doubt could be easily replicated on todays equipment.
I think vintage equipment certainly resonates with me just something about the effortless sound I think they have some great charm. I wouldn't mind a 2nd system with more modern equipment just to compare more.