Poll: Reference Loudspeakers?

What the hell. Why not throw open the windows and shout out to the ebb and flow:

“What say you?”

I’m looking (and just looking at this point, don’t get too excited) for a reference-class loudspeaker. Must be less than $40k retail (trust me, I want it to be less than this), but the winner must inspire instant envy and overwhelming audiophile lust. I’d prefer full range, or damn close to it for that kind of money.

Feel free to vote. Suggestions for alternatives are welcome in the “Comments” Section.

About Scot Hull 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.


  1. Which of these can reproduce accurately and convincingly on direct comparison the sound of a Steinway grand piano playing in the same room with them? This is not an easy thing to do but for $40,000 shouldn’t one expect a pair of “high fidelity” loudspeakers can do at least that? That’s the speakers I want to read about.

    • Anyone who thinks it’s relatively easy to record and playback a grand piano accurately and convincingly should watch this video starting at 29 minutes into it. It’s an interview with the editor of a famous hobbyist magazine. In it he describes an effort to do exactly that and how he failed. This editor has access to practically any equipment that exists, is familiar with how to use it, and is highly regarded by many of his readers;


      What I took away from this is;

      1. Despite his best efforts and very expensive equipment he failed.
      2. He didn’t know by himself that he failed, he had to be told by others to whom the demonstration was targeted. His perceptiveness as a listener was not sufficient to know it.
      3. He didn’t understand how and why he failed. It had to be explained to him and he still had to think about it for a long time before he had any inkling of it. I wonder if to this day he fully understands it.

      Conclusion; He didn’t fail because of the particular equipment he used or his technique. He failed because the concepts behind the technology he was using are not adequate to the task. Any substitute of different speakers, amplifiers, microphones, recording equipment would have obtained the same results.

      By comparison to convincingly recording and playing back the sound of a grand piano in the room you are both in, that is child’s play to the task of recording a soprano in an opera house or a symphony orchestra in a concert hall and duplicating that sound in a home sound system. Those problems are orders of magnitude more difficult because you have to somehow recreate the acoustics of a room hundreds of times larger than the one you’re listening in. No commercially available equipment or systems have been successful at this so far. The effect of those acoustics is most of what you hear at the opera, concert hall, church, cathedral. The current technology creates enormous spatial, temporal, and even spectral distortions (they are all inextricably intertwined) and the larger and more reverberant the space the live performance was heard in, the more horrendous the distortion in the playback. Why can’t this industry create products based on superior technology to overcome these distortions? Two reasons. First the people who work in it aren’t intellectually up to the task. Those who are have found much more interesting and challenging careers elsewhere. Second, the market seems satisfied to keep buying what the industry can produce no matter what they charge for it. Perhaps lack of music education and experience with the real thing has dumbed down the market to the point where most of it doesn’t know the difference anymore than the magazine editor does or just doesn’t care.

  2. I am very tempted to find out about new Joseph Audio Pearls 3 I really can’t imagine how much better the 3s are over 2s.
    I’m so thrilled about Pulsars that I dream about the new Pearls.
    I would also keep in my list Rockports, Hensen new Prince, maybe Estelon.

    Happy listenings

    • I actually went a completely different direction — updates will come soon — because of a once-in-a-lifetime kind of offer I was able to jump on. I’m so excited I can barely type. Anyway, my new references should be here before Christmas.

      That said, the Pearl 3 is outstanding. Apparently, the Pespective forced Jeff to do somethings that he hadn’t thought of doing before. Trickling that “technology” upwards required a whole new Pearl. It’s out of this world good, and to better it (IMHO), you’d need to spend an incredible amount of money on the project. Or get really, really lucky. πŸ˜‰

  3. what about Eggleston Savoy Signature with 4 by 12inch sub – enough basss to jumpstart your heart !

  4. I just read your post on the Joesph Audio Pearl from RMAF 2012. Every ‘show report’ that I ever read on Joesph Audio is raving, screamingly so, about this brand. I certainly would love to hear it…..or perhaps, have you purchase it:) and have real time with it so that ‘we’ can truly be point our lust in the correct direction.

  5. If your room meets the requirements and you are willing to embrace active design, I would heartily recommend the Linkwitz Lab Orion 4. The design premise to faithfully reproduce full scale orchestration convincingly trumps audiophile issues of bass, soundstaging, airy highs, etc.

    The active design recalibrates the desire to accommodate audiophile neuroses such as cable excesses, subjective benefits over the top amplification, etc.

    The dipole design with custom drivers is a dedicated effort to overcome the inherent limitations of the de facto monopole approach to speaker design.

    The aesthetics won’t win awards, but there are worse things…


    • I’ve seen and heard them — and like them. Never been blown away by them, though, but I’ve liked them. Great bass, for sure. I’ve always wondered if a good XOver, like the one Pass sells, wouldn’t really throw this over the top.

  6. No poll would be complete without the addition of Von Schweikert speakers. In this case the VR-5 Anniversaries.

  7. Vienna Accoustics The Music floorstander is worthy of this poll. It is absolutely stunning.

  8. Another vote for the Proac K6 here, or I know its been out for a while but the Jamo R909 is a very interesting speaker that hasn’t had much press.

  9. While the TAD is great, I don’t really see what it offers over the KEF Reference 201/2 except for a slightly bigger woofer. If you want something more expensive (or more efficient) than a Ref 201/2, what about the Ref 207/2?

    Another more off-beat option, that’s well under your budget but probably competitive with anything anywhere: Soundfield 1812.

    And, of course, multisubs if you care about bass fidelity in a small room. Two speakers just don’t cut it in the modal region.

    • I think the TAD image better than KEF, if you ask me. I’ve never really heard a KEF, Blade included, that imaged all that well. That said, the Soundfield Audio monitors that use KEF drivers for the mid/hi, actually do image well. Don’t ask me to explain why there’s a difference, because I have nothing for you. Anyway, the Soundfield 1812 is very impressive, that’s for sure. Maybe one of these days, AJ will get caught up ….

    • Dude. Yeah. Um. I do love some YG …. but. Did you notice the price cap set rather arbitrarily at $40k?

  10. I have Zu Definition 4s. Definitely full-range. As far as lust is concerned, Zu will do any sort of custom finish. Or you can go for one of the upper level Audio Note AN-E.

    • Vivid is wonderful, and I actually like the sound and the look of the Giya line. The problem I have with the G3 is the low-end. For that money, I’d want more bass.

      • fair enough for 40k. if you are really talking ‘full-range’ then i’m surprised Legacy hasnt been at least mentioned….

  11. Seriously, you’ve never heard of Talon? Khorus, Firebird, any of these ringing a bell? Their stubby pyramid enclosures should be instantly recognizable to most audiophiles familiar with high-end speakers. Their new Phoenix is getting some attention from the big mags (Neil Gader’s best at CES), but the Thunder-Hawk monitor and sub combo hasn’t been talked about that much.

    • Dimly. Again, speaks against the mainstream instant lust-inducing requirement. πŸ˜‰

  12. If it’s lust inducing, it’s probably Italian πŸ˜‰ It’s Sonus Faber for me. Even a non-audiophile can appreciate the magnificent finish.

  13. How about Von Schweikerts? I love my VR-4 Gen IIs. Definitely full range. Their new VR-44 are going to be at RMAF, and they have pricier options as well.

    • Von Schweikert is good stuff, but do you think it’s lust-inducing enough?

  14. Starting with the list, Genesis’ best products by far are the successors to the Infinity IRS – the big towers. The 5 series is good, but it’s just not in that same league. The Confidence C4 is a very nice speaker, but probably not in the true elite league. The Marten I’m sure is good.. but.. the equivalent Tidal is probably better. The Joseph Pearl is nice, but haven’t we been there, done that? From what I’ve heard about the TAD, exceptional detail and clarity, maybe a bit sterile.

    The Sony, I’m sorry, but you aren’t going to get lots of eyes reviewing a Sony. Aside from the badge problem, it’s designed to have its cabinet ring “sympathetically” with the drivers, similar to the DeVore flagship. Cabinets shouldn’t move, period.

    Everybody and their grandmother reviews Magico, as impressive as they might be, you should try and get something that isn’t on the cover of TAS every month. Rockport yes, absolutely. Andy Payor is a genius, and his speakers don’t get anywhere near the amount of coverage that they should. The Sasha W/P I feel like is old news at this point. S/F speakers seem to be limited in terms of genres they are any good with. The Tannoys I know have a bit of a cult surrounding them, but elite reference class? Come on, let’s be serious here.

    Not on your list but worthy: NOLA Metro Grand Reference Series II. Verity’s Sarastro II I think has increased from $39,999 to over $40K now, but the Amadis should be in your price range. Quintessence Acoustics NEVER gets talked about by anyone, and they definitely deserve an audition. Albert Von Schweikert has the new VR-44. Talon’s Thunder-Hawk would also be really cool to read about, they haven’t gotten much press since their takeover and relaunch. ProAC K6? Everybody loves ProAC, but you don’t hear much about their flagships. Eggleston’s Savoy Signature is a bass monster (-3db at 18Hz) but unfortunately the price has gone way up to $55K. The Andra III is nice but it’s been covered, and it’s not in the same league as Rockport or Tidal.

    Evolution Acoustics’ MM MiniTwo deserves your attention.

    So: Rockport, NOLA, Tidal, Verity, Quintessence, Talon, Evolution Acoustics, and ProAC, probably in that order.

    • I agree about the Rockport. TIDAL is great, but the speaker in that lineup that I really want is the Contriva Diacera, and that isn’t in the cards. I don’t have much experience with NOLA or Verity, but both get praise and both have their followings. Never heard of Quintessence or Talon, which pretty much rules them out for this exercise — the brands need to be instantly recognizable. Evolution Acoustics is interesting, but I don’t know anyone who has them and has kept them. ProAC is great, but they’ve already indicated that they’re not interested in working with me.

    • I love the TIDAL brand! Love it. I do like the Piano, and it is in that range, and it is a great speaker, but there are others that tend to provide a bit more in the value department, at least at that price point I’ve arbitrarily sketched out. But to be honest, I’m a huge fan of the Contriva. HUGE fan. And that Diacera tweeter. It may be weird, but I have a suspicion that if I got the Piano, I’d spend too much time pining for it’s larger sibling. Which I most definitely can’t afford.

  15. You room is also an important factor to take into consideration …
    If you are going with some Westminster Royals for instance, you better have a good sized room.

  16. See if you can get a hold on the new Avalon Compas: all the naturalness of the original Eidolon, but than with added ‘balls’ and off course the lack of distortion (silent background) we’ve grown used to with current superspeakers.

  17. Hansen THE PRINCE E just about fit into your budget and are truly a world-class reference speaker (utilizing their own proprietary drivers, composite enclosure “construction” — organic free-flowing as opposed to panel construction as many on your list utilize) and of course 1st order crossover technology — which are the least restrictive when it comes to sonic truth! Unfortunately the price was just raised to $42k the pair… Still?

    • You know I’m a big fan of Hansen, Wes! I just wonder if they’re mainstream “enough” to be instantly recognizable and lust-inducing. πŸ˜‰ I really need to spend more time up in NY, it seems.

  18. Prior to purchasing the Philharmonic Audio 3s I was seriously considering the Salk Soundscape 10s. I decided on the Phillys as they have the same design concepts and the designer of the Phillys did the crossovers for the Soundscapes.

  19. I know this is hugely silly, but I’ve always wanted to read a real review of the B&W snails. I’ve never seen a real review, just anecdotal notes on a few forum posts. Probably impossible to get a hold of, but I am curious.

    • Me too! πŸ˜‰

      I’ve never seen them live and in person ….

    • They’re very good, but do they make you sit up like Pavlov’s dog and begin to salivate just by thinking about them?

      • I’m not sure any speakers would have that effect on me. Now if you were to install them in a McLaren F1 flanked by two bikini clad super models in the passenger sits that would be a different story. But wait, these Coincident don’t fit in an F1! I guess I’m not a true audiophile…

  20. Hanson, Vandersteen 5 or 7, Evolution, Legacy, Analysis ribbons, PSB Syncrony 1, Sound Lab stats, GR Research Super V, Green Mountain Audio are some others.

    • All good suggestions. Any of them instantly make you salivate and compelled to read every single word that might possibly reference them? πŸ˜‰

      • Vandy 7, Sound Lab, Evolution Acoustics MM3, and latest from Roy Johnson at Green Mtn.

      • The Seven is a bit out of reach, as are the Evolution MM series, unfortunately. I think all are now/recently over $40k ….

      • I did not include the Whisper — my bad. Should have been on there and wasn’t. Total oversight.

  21. At that price range, you’re in the ballpark of a Westminster Royal or a Kingdom Royal. They may not be for you, but you might owe yourself some auditioning time.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. RMAF12: Rockport Avior! | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

Comments are closed.