In Search Of: Full Range Speakers

So, where to go from here?

I have a pair of lovely Merlin VSM-MXR speakers that want for nothing. My room, on the other hand, wants for quite a bit. So, I’m on the hunt for a full range speaker.

The problem with full range speakers is that the cost-performance ratio is entirely non-linear. In English, to get that last octave requires stupid-money. Honestly, I don’t know why that is. Yes, there are manufacturers that put out offerings in the sub $10k space (Legacy Audio comes to mind), I’m not sure I want them to be my “last speaker”, if that makes any sense.

I’m looking for a new Reference. Something I can use to do reviews. Something that produces a seamless, coherent musical experience. Something with deep reach, alluring midrange, and grainless treble. Linear. Neutral. Powerful. Enthralling. Something that doesn’t require tri-amping, or have so many drivers or so much physical size that I have to sit 15′ back in order to get the full effect. My room is only 14′ wide, 8′ tall, and while I can put the woofers 5′ from the back wall if I need to, I can only sit 9-10′ back from them. Lastly, I have the amp already, and no, it’s not a low-power tube amp and no, I’m not interested in trading it in (it’s a long story).

So, no horns, though the Avant Garde Nano’s came to mind. No, probably not a Whisper from Legacy — too big. No panels — while I love Quad, Magnepan (and probably King), they don’t have the deep bass I’m looking for (oh, I should mention that the back wall is 40′ back, so yes, I can get some serious bass).

Last restriction? I’m not rich! If I convert all my current speakers and drain my financial swamp, I’m limited to about $20k.

So, here’s the list:

  1. Vandersteen 5a
  2. Revel Ultima Salon 2
  3. KEF Reference 207/2
  4. Joseph Audio Pearl 2

Of the four, I’ve heard (and loved) the Pearl 2’s, but they’re a bit beyond my reach. I’ve not heard the other 3. So, what am I missing?