Looking for Best Speakers - Floor/Bookshelf

My KEF Q950 towers do double duty in my home theater and 2-ch stereo setups. They sound fine - very good, even - but I’m wondering if I can do better with dedicated speakers for my 2-ch stereo listening.

I tried a pair of KEF LS50 Metas and found them inferior to the Q950s - less presence, let assertive.

I’m willing to spend about $4,000 for a pair of speakers.

My audio chain is Lumin U1 Mini to Chord Hugo TT2/M-Scaler, which feeds (a) ampsandsound Kenzie Ovation and (b) Parasound P6 preamp/Parasound A21+ amp/SVS SB-3000 sub. My room is about 14x16 with a low ceiling of about 7 feet.

Musically, I really do have a pretty wide range of interests, but my sweet spots are acoustic-based music, classic rock and classic R&B.

Justin at ampsandsound had suggested the Kenzie Ovation could drive a nice pair of Zu Audio speakers.

Now, whether I let the Kenzie or the Parasound drive the speakers, what about these Zu’s? They seem very polarizing online - a real love/hate split, with the audio measurers being the haters. The 60-day return policy is a real attraction, as I’d need to hear them for myself.

If not the Zu, what would you recommend? Very open to suggestions. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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That’s a tough one man, I switched over from trying to be a headphone fanatic to stereo because I see the potential from a better system, initially I was with my AVR and using my home theater speakers for audio.

It’s really difficult to say what you will or won’t like, if you have any local audio shops I would try to demo what you may have in mind. I do see you’re wondering about Zu’s, I mean you can give it a shot, and honestly try not to shoot for the stars.

Everything is a factor, amps dacs etc.

But just like anything else, measurements CAN be very beneficial for room dependency and much more.

The only issue I would say is speakers are far more expensive than headphones so it’s a tough one, I currently went from 600 dollars per speaker to 2500, so 4 times the price did give a far better performance. Yet, after going to some demo nights, now that my area is virtually fully open, I am really in love with Magiko. Those speakers wipe the floor with mine, especially at low level listening but run for 13,000. I heard a few other brands as well, but nothing got my attention like those.

My point being is that I don’t know if something as close as double the price of what you currently own will do the job. But you’re honestly in a range where something cheaper or equivalent or a bit more may just be your flavor.

You must remember that coaxial design, 2 way, 3 way etc in addition also play a roll.

Honestly simply even, if possible, pulling speakers away from the walls as humanly possible makes a huge difference.

Lastly, if you got the option, and to my knowledge in wall speakers are also great if you want to avoid pulling the speakers all the way out.

I will add in a side note on my last paragraph, is I started doing some shopping around. Great way to waste money. I was in search for an amplifier, I was going to drop about 2500 to 3000 yet nothing really fit the script of what I was seeking. I bought a vintage denon flagship amp which wasn’t bad honestly, got a pair of kenwood mono blocks; those were better and I think eliminating crosstalk was something grand to experience.

I ended up getting another vintage unit, parasound hca-1000 and damn. My system is exactly where I wanted to be sonically. I mention this as you said you got parasound. So now I want to up the whole situation for something with real juice to power my speakers. So I got a pair of HCA-1500’s and running them bi-amped with my strictly stereo setup and I mean I am completely blown away.

It’s a learning experience, for me I learned class A is my cup of tea. This is why I’m suggesting you just see if something else might float your boat. Even in the same price range, unless you’re really looking to make some leaps.

On another note, I suggest demo’s cause those revel F328Be, at nearly double the cost of what I own now and has flawless measurements was not enjoyable to my ears. Honestly feel and will get tons of hate saying my speakers at home in non-acoustically treated room sound better than them in a proper room. Yet, that was the same room I heard the Magiko and those speakers are on another level. Even the bookshelf speaker which is 9k is far superior to my setup.

Sorry I love to ramble on, just don’t be fixated on one thing, whether it be speaker amp or dac. Give whatever you can a shot, even Zu’s, but try to get as many options as possible to make the right choice. You can’t demo everything

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Thanks for this - it really is hard to recommend or buy something without seeing how it relates to everything else in your chain. And agree, spending more, alone, won’t do it. I’ll have to try and see, I guess.

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To sound right and comparable to the towers, you will need sub(s) to get close to that tower sound. . Difficult to compare a tower to a stand mount speaker. Even with my Kef 201/2’s I still use a pair of Rythmik SE12 subs.

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I did have a sub combined with the LS50 and it didn’t do it for me.

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Like @HeadphoneNoob said there lots of variables at play with 2 channel systems. Room, system matching/synergy, etc. I am lucky enough to live near a couple of dealers and got to listen to some stuff before buying. I have the ls50s now but just ordered Sonus Faber Olympica nova 1. Another thing to note some things in your price range might be on back order. I ordered my speakers in August and still waiting.

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Do you not have any local audio shops? I know a few in my area do charge for demos, some are free. But it’s a money well spent. Would be worth it to do a two three hour drive to location that has a good variety of speakers.

If yes, make sure to take note of whatever equipment they use. Also play music you are familiar with, those dealers love to play these crazy demos

Also if you did per say find something you want that is out of your price range you can always search the used market for a pair.

I realize it’s hard to remember everything, maybe take notes. But surely something will capture your attention as standing out.

Edit: Also, from my understanding Zu and Tekton are basically somewhat on the opposite. Just like Zu it’s love or hate. If Zu isn’t working for you maybe Tekton is another similar considerable option.

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What amp you using to drive the LS50 ?

@cpp Ive never heard the LS50 or the Q950, but wouldn’t the Q950 be the better all around speaker already?

Also feel like the same company has identical sound signature, and I know you can’t really push the LS50’s, as they start to distort and sound gets super funky when the driver is having large excursion.

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Oh yes, A sub with a bookshelf gets you close, but I would rather utilize my towers over my bookshelf’s any day.,

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Parasound A21+ amp and P6 preamp.

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If you could push $6,500+ I’d highly recommend the Harbeth M30.2 XDs. They are one of the best speakers on the planet and worth every penny. They are also very well suited to acoustic, classic rock and R&B. I think your Parasound amp should have great synergy with Harbeths.

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They look spectacular, as are the reviews. May be beyond my budget but awfully tempting.

Paying for speaker demos???! That’s insane.

But you are correct @HeadphoneNoob that it’s necessary to listen before buying. I would add @Sturosen that you should try to listen in a room similar in size to where you will put your speakers. And be aware of any special room treatments at the store. Room treatment may profoundly change the sound.

Try to have a specific set of music you know well just as if you were going to write a review for headphones here. I used to bring cds or vinyl but that’s not always possible now. Spend enough time to understand what you are hearing.

Distrust any “buy this speaker” recommendation, even mine. You will note my recommendations are to listen to or consider a speaker, not to run out and buy.

I like Magnepan in part because their design does not make you pay for an expensive box. This is much of the secret to their excellent price/performance ratio.

Of course I am biased toward the speakers I just bought, but I did go through an extensive research and listening exercise before buying them in October of this year.

What happened with this thread??? I could have sworn that I wrote an earlier reply pointing out entry level EgglestonWorks, Harbeth Compact 7, and Maggie 1.7 with bass panel. Was stuff moved or is this a duplicate thread???

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Hey Man,

I would really recommend checking out Philharmonic Audio. The BMR floorstanders are within your budget, but there is also a cheaper bookshelf version.

I own the bookshelfs, and I think they are almost unbeatable in terms of price/performance in terms of new prices on speakers.

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Is that the one audioholics was preaching about? I think so, they had a live stream on them.

Like we said @Sturosen, everyone has put some great input, it’s really tough to get this down. I’m sure there are 100’s of speakers that I would like better than magico, but if you can’t listen you won’t know.

@pennstac, that’s been my experience at some dealers. I wouldn’t say it’s right or wrong, but they do dedicate someone to you specifically and you can try out any speaker they got. I went to soundandvisionSF, they do charge for demos and they literally have a fully dedicated audition showroom. I would say 50-75 pairs of speakers towers and bookshelf all which you can see, all lined up side by side.

Most other places only have select demo products, it’s very limited. That’s when demo’s are free

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This has been enormously helpful - so many variables, so many options, but you’ve given me a way to approach the search.

I own Aerial Model 9’s and they rock.
I would also suggest something used from Sonus Faber, or the sleeper company Vienna acoustics. Of course, there are also lots of models from Focal, and B&W to choose if you require new.

Currently on Audiogon…
Sonus Faber Cremona | Full-Range | Village, Texas 75205 | Audiogon

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Local retailers may not have any other option in this era of demo-local-then-buy-online. One audio store nearby dropped the bulk of its headphone brands because people would demo (for free) then find it cheaper somewhere else. Another local store refuses to carry Sennheiser because shoppers didn’t actually purchase them.

Many local audio stores carry speakers, but the bulk of the market seems to be in custom home theater design and installation. This involves labor hours, system integration, and complex profit models. The 2-channel stereo inventory is often mainstream (e.g., B&W, Focal, Klipsch, Jamo, etc.) or boutique fashion brands where price is no object. Some stores also crowd rear-ported speakers into the smallest space possible, ruining their sound and limiting the value of any demo.

Paying for a local demo of a specific setup might reflect a major improvement over the current state of affairs. It’s certainly cheaper than ordering by mail and paying return shipping and/or a restocking fee. The greatest value would follow from customizing a setup to simulate specific room sizes and tones (e.g., rearrange partitions, plus offer tiled, carpeted, low ceiling, high ceiling, etc.). This would require setup time before selecting equipment to demo.

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Well I’d walk right out. Overture in Wilmington DE is one of the nations largest high end dealers, will work with you all afternoon, has a wide selection of speakers up to the $200k plus range and down to affordable. Plus no taxes in Delaware. And they don’t charge. I’ve recommended them to many.

I’m also not the customer who shops local and buys online.

Magico doesn’t sell online. Nor Wilson Audio. Nor EgglestonWorks. I only find Maggies from real stores. Focal speakers - you see the cheap ones online, but prices seem controlled. Same with Vandersteen. Harbeth don’t sell at Crutchfield. Never saw Linn there either. If you’re shopping in the $3000 and under market, yes there is an excuse, maybe, for demos.

If they do as @generic hopes and really customize, maybe - IF and ONLY IF they credit that back should you buy from them. @Sturosen seems to be wanting to ford that little stream between the higher end of mass market and the entry of more serious hi-fi.

You, @HeadphoneNoob are right and I believe several others have pointed out that the mass market these days is in the home theater space.

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