I know I'm opening Pandora's box, but . . . (looking for audio advice)

Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
I know I'm opening Pandora's box with this post because everyone has an opinion, but I'm in the market for some new speakers and I believe this is a good forum for advice.

Important details:
  • I currently own Focal Solo 6 Be's for music listening and I really like them because of how clean the mids and highs are, but they are nearfield monitors and don't have the soundstage, bass, or room-filling sound that I want
  • My main focus is music, but I want something that would also work well for movies
  • I listen mostly to ballads, pop, choral, and orchestral music (virutally no rap, metal, rock, or techno) and value very clean mids and highs, but having clean bass is important
  • I've heard Dynaudio Special 40s and was blown away by the soundstage, but found them to be a bit warm (at least compared to my very bright Focals)
  • I'm looking for a 2-channel or 2.1 channel setup (quality is more important to me than the number of speakers)
  • My budget is $5,000
I've gone back and forth between a few scenarios:
  • Save money by keeping the Focals and just add an SVS SB-3000 or REL T/7i subwoofer to get extended bass
  • Buy a set of passive bookshelf speakers and then start the journey of finding the right DACs/Amps/etc. to make them sing
    • RBH Audio, Kef, and ELAC are a few speaker brands that come to mind.
  • Buy a set of active speakers that are ready to go
    • Buchardt A500s and A700s (soon to be launched floorstander version) have caught my eye because they are beautiful speakers, the reviews are very good, and they can be purchased as a fully contained system with DSP, room correction, a source, etc. (https://www.buchardtaudio.com/products/a500-walnut-bundle)
Opinions?
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
I would try adding a subwoofer and go from there. The SVS SB-3000 is a killer sub, I doubt the Rel has its level of performance. If you find that doesn't do the trick for you, then look at other speakers. If you like a brighter sound, I don't think that Kef, RBH, or Elac will do the trick for you. But you could always EQ them to tip up the treble. Golden Ear might be the ticket for you, they are relatively bright. Or you could just get some Focal floor-standers.
 
Bucknekked

Bucknekked

Audioholic Field Marshall
I would try adding a subwoofer and go from there. The SVS SB-3000 is a killer sub, I doubt the Rel has its level of performance. If you find that doesn't do the trick for you, then look at other speakers. If you like a brighter sound, I don't think that Kef, RBH, or Elac will do the trick for you. But you could always EQ them to tip up the treble. Golden Ear might be the ticket for you, they are relatively bright. Or you could just get some Focal floor-standers.
When @shadyJ speaks of subs, its good to listen. He's a pretty good source. If you currently run those bookshelf sized speakers without a sub, integrating one will definitely change your listening experience. If you get a high quality sub, and the SVS suggestion qualifies, you won't have any wasted investment even if you choose to go ahead with a swap out of your Left and Right channel speakers.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
When @shadyJ speaks of subs, its good to listen. He's a pretty good source. If you currently run those bookshelf sized speakers without a sub, integrating one will definitely change your listening experience. If you get a high quality sub, and the SVS suggestion qualifies, you won't have any wasted investment even if you choose to go ahead with a swap out of your Left and Right channel speakers.
Well said Buck!

And I agree. You get a good sub in the mix and it'll cooperate with pretty much any speaker you end up staying with whether your current ones will do it or you move on to something else. Good, quality subwoofage is always underestimated. A good sub can help clean a system's sound right up.
 
S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
I believe @KEW has the Focals with Be tweeters too. He has quite a few speakers so he should be able to describe some direct comparisons to other speakers.

IMHO, unless the Focals are damaged, likely the subs are the place to upgrade. (Like a few people have mentioned already)

Good luck! :)
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
I can't imagine why you're equating the tiny overpriced Rel with the SVS. Different designs too. Odd two to choose from in any case, but SVS would be my preference. What gear do you have to integrate a sub with active speakers? Just how big a room is it?
 
G

Grandzoltar

Full Audioholic
Those Buchardt’s are very nice active speakers I have heard a lot of good things about them. They have posted measurements of the s400 the passive version. Thier design is neutral with wide dispersion maybe a slight inline in upper treble which for you is a good thing. But you could eq them to taste. The a700 may be a few months out still though. To integrate a sub with the Buchardt all in one system you need a wisa compatible sub or a wisa transmitter. The focal’s are still a great bookshelf. The svs sb3000 would fill out the bottom end in nicely.
 
B

BriReeves629

Audioholic
...What @shadyJ said! Although I am surprised he didn’t recommend two SB-3000 subs!
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
@Jonabrim It's a fun problem to have, isn't it? I am with others that replied about adding the subwoofer first and seeing where that leads you (though I disagree with others regarding the REL sub for a music-primary system as I think it would be a good option).

If you are used to the Focal Be tweeter and enjoy its presentation, going to a manufacturer like, say, KEF might be disappointing. Case in point (and would be something you may like to try for fun): I went to a Best Buy Magnolia to listen to the KEF LS50 and find out what all the hubbub was about. The salesperson first played some B&W speakers (the older CM line, not the newer 7 series) because, well, that is what he liked. We then switched to the KEFs and they sounded dark and closed in. They are not - it's just that the B&W tweeter was that much more elevated in compo. I'm not saying Focal is bright by any means - they just have a different sound signature. You asked me about my new Choras on the other thread ("official" review coming someday...) and the first thing that comes to mind is "lively" and pleasantly so.

That being said, and if you have $5K to burn, I believe the KEF R11 is one of audio's absolute bargains right now. They come within whisper distance of KEF's reference series, are big, bold and, as far as music is concerned (unless one is a pipe organ nut) no subwoofer required. Even though I would like to explore the Focal upper reaches, if I had the cash on hand, I would get the R11s and be done (for now...).

Also, I agree with your assessment of the Dynaudio Special 40: they are awesome speakers but can definitely sound polite until one gets used (aural break-in) to their sound.

Edit: Looks like KEf has raised their prices of the R11 to $5,500. Oh well, another dream dashed...
 
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T

TankTop5

Full Audioholic
I’ve got Special 40’s, I think if you have a dealer that will let you take them home for a couple days you will likely change your mind on the tweeters.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
I would try adding a subwoofer and go from there. The SVS SB-3000 is a killer sub, I doubt the Rel has its level of performance. If you find that doesn't do the trick for you, then look at other speakers. If you like a brighter sound, I don't think that Kef, RBH, or Elac will do the trick for you. But you could always EQ them to tip up the treble. Golden Ear might be the ticket for you, they are relatively bright. Or you could just get some Focal floor-standers.
Thanks ShadyJ! I wholeheartedly agree--you can't go wrong with a great sub. It's reassuring to hear that you're a fan of SVS. What model(s) do you own and what do you like about them?
 
Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
I believe @KEW has the Focals with Be tweeters too. He has quite a few speakers so he should be able to describe some direct comparisons to other speakers.

IMHO, unless the Focals are damaged, likely the subs are the place to upgrade. (Like a few people have mentioned already)

Good luck! :)
Thanks Snakeeyes! I just keep second guessing myself on having bought studio monitors vs. far-field speakers designed for a bigger room, you know? I'm just trying to find something that has the clarity of my Focals with the soundstage of far-field speaker.
 
Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
@Jonabrim It's a fun problem to have, isn't it? I am with others that replied about adding the subwoofer first and seeing where that leads you (though I disagree with others regarding the REL sub for a music-primary system as I think it would be a good option).

If you are used to the Focal Be tweeter and enjoy its presentation, going to a manufacturer like, say, KEF might be disappointing. Case in point (and would be something you may like to try for fun): I went to a Best Buy Magnolia to listen to the KEF LS50 and find out what all the hubbub was about. The salesperson first played some B&W speakers (the older CM line, not the newer 7 series) because, well, that is what he liked. We then switched to the KEFs and they sounded dark and closed in. They are not - it's just that the B&W tweeter was that much more elevated in compo. I'm not saying Focal is bright by any means - they just have a different sound signature. You asked me about my new Choras on the other thread ("official" review coming someday...) and the first thing that comes to mind is "lively" and pleasantly so.

That being said, and if you have $5K to burn, I believe the KEF R11 is one of audio's absolute bargains right now. They come within whisper distance of KEF's reference series, are big, bold and, as far as music is concerned (unless one is a pipe organ nut) no subwoofer required. Even though I would like to explore the Focal upper reaches, if I had the cash on hand, I would get the R11s and be done (for now...).

Also, I agree with your assessment of the Dynaudio Special 40: they are awesome speakers but can definitely sound polite until one gets used (aural break-in) to their sound.

Edit: Looks like KEf has raised their prices of the R11 to $5,500. Oh well, another dream dashed...
'Tis a fun problem indeed! Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As I hear more and more speakers, I'm starting to understand what people mean about their being different and not necessarily better (obviously some speakers are better than others, but after a certain threshold of quality, it comes down to individual preference). The KEF R11s look super nice and $500 is not a huge difference. The hiccup is that they would still need to be powered, which would require an additional chunk of change.

Having thought things through more, I'm realizing that I could go crazy trying analyzing all the options available for $5,000. There is no such thing as a perfect system and no matter what I get, I will probably always have a bit of "upgradititis," so it seems wise to me to find something that checks off as many boxes as possible and then just choose to be happy with it.

At this point, I'm leaning toward keeping my Focals and adding a sub as suggested by @shadyJ, then around July I think I'll order the Buchardt A700s. They have the following things going for them:
  • Every speaker they've made has received favorable reviews from die-hard audiofiles.
  • They can produce more than the full range of music (17Hz-40kHz), so even though they would probably benefit from a dedicated sub, they don't need it.
  • They're easily transportable (3.5" tall floorstanders)
  • They're really nice looking
  • They can work for both music and movies
  • They're part of a fully contained system where everything except the source itself is included. I can just turn those puppies on and start listening. :)
I realize that I will be coralling myself into one system vs. having separate DACs, amps, etc. that can work for a range of passive speakers, but I'm planning on keeping this system for the long haul so I'm okay losing that flexibility.

Am I being crazy? Your thoughts?
 
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Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
I’ve got Special 40’s, I think if you have a dealer that will let you take them home for a couple days you will likely change your mind on the tweeters.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Special 40s are legendary! I loved how expansive their sound is compared to my Focals (granted, they aren't a studio monitor so they should sound bigger).

At this point I'm leaning toward the Buchardt S700s. An engineer who used to work for Dynaudio helped with the speaker development and they seem to compare favorably to the Special 40s, plus they come with all the components included.
 
John Parks

John Parks

Senior Audioholic
'Tis a fun problem indeed! Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As I hear more and more speakers, I'm starting to understand what people mean about their being different and not necessarily better (obviously some speakers are better than others, but after a certain threshold of quality, it comes down to individual preference). The KEF R11s look super nice and $500 is not a huge difference. The hiccup is that they would still need to be powered, which would require an additional chunk of change.

Having thought things through more, I'm realizing that I could go crazy trying analyzing all the options avaialable for $5,000. There is no such thing as a perfect system and no matter what I get, I will probably always have a bit of "upgradititis," so it seems wise to me to find something that checks off as many boxes as possible and then just choose to be happy with it.

At this point, I'm leaning toward keeping my Focals and adding a sub as suggested by @shadyJ, then around July I think I'll order the Buchardt A700s. They have the following things going for them:
  • Every speaker they've made has received favorable reviews from die-hard audiofiles.
  • They can produce more than the full range of music (17Hz-40kHz), so even though they would probably benefit from a dedicated sub, they don't need it.
  • They're easily transportable (3.5" tall floorstanders)
  • They're really nice looking
  • They can work for both music and movies
  • They're part of a fully contained system where everything except the source itself is included. I can just turn those puppies on and start listening. :)
I realize that I will be coralling myself into one system vs. having separate DACs, amps, etc. that can work for a range of passive speakers, but I'm planning on keeping this system for the long haul so I'm okay losing that flexibility.

Am I being crazy? Your thoughts?
Nope, not crazy at all! I was sincerely considering active and had my eye on the Elac Navis. I was just not quite ready to hand the reins over to a speaker for amplification though it makes perfect sense to do so.

Buchardt is getting a lot of great reviews and the new powered ones look pretty awesome. Heck, I am sure even the A500 goes plenty deep!
 
Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
Nope, not crazy at all! I was sincerely considering active and had my eye on the Elac Navis. I was just not quite ready to hand the reins over to a speaker for amplification though it makes perfect sense to do so.

Buchardt is getting a lot of great reviews and the new powered ones look pretty awesome. Heck, I am sure even the A500 goes plenty deep!
ELAC makes some great stuff! I wouldn't mind owning a pair of white Vela BS 403s. :)

Yeah, the A500 puts out some solid base, let alone the A700s. They'll have 8 x 6" woofers for the bass alone. This should make them very accurate and produce plenty of bass. And I'll probably still get a separate sub from SVS just for that extra punch during movie watching.

I think there's a lot to be said to getting an active system that's been optimized by the manufacturer. Sure, there will always be some audiofiles who want to fiddle with equipment because they have the expertise, money, and time to do so, but I'm feeling pretty good about going with a system that's engineered by the manufacturer for optimal sound. Plus, with the built-in EQ I can change the sound signature as needed.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
'Tis a fun problem indeed! Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As I hear more and more speakers, I'm starting to understand what people mean about their being different and not necessarily better (obviously some speakers are better than others, but after a certain threshold of quality, it comes down to individual preference). The KEF R11s look super nice and $500 is not a huge difference. The hiccup is that they would still need to be powered, which would require an additional chunk of change.

Having thought things through more, I'm realizing that I could go crazy trying analyzing all the options avaialable for $5,000. There is no such thing as a perfect system and no matter what I get, I will probably always have a bit of "upgradititis," so it seems wise to me to find something that checks off as many boxes as possible and then just choose to be happy with it.

At this point, I'm leaning toward keeping my Focals and adding a sub as suggested by @shadyJ, then around July I think I'll order the Buchardt A700s. They have the following things going for them:
  • Every speaker they've made has received favorable reviews from die-hard audiofiles.
  • They can produce more than the full range of music (17Hz-40kHz), so even though they would probably benefit from a dedicated sub, they don't need it.
  • They're easily transportable (3.5" tall floorstanders)
  • They're really nice looking
  • They can work for both music and movies
  • They're part of a fully contained system where everything except the source itself is included. I can just turn those puppies on and start listening. :)
I realize that I will be coralling myself into one system vs. having separate DACs, amps, etc. that can work for a range of passive speakers, but I'm planning on keeping this system for the long haul so I'm okay losing that flexibility.

Am I being crazy? Your thoughts?
A well thought out self-analysis drawn to an educated conclusion I'd say! Taking away some of the lower frequencies and offloading them to a nice sub will let your Focals breathe a little easier and might open them up a bit too, once you have everything integrated and calibrated correctly. You might be surprised! After my main speakers, upgrading my subs was the biggest "wow" moment for me.
 
Jonabrim

Jonabrim

Audioholic Intern
A well thought out self-analysis drawn to an educated conclusion I'd say! Taking away some of the lower frequencies and offloading them to a nice sub will let your Focals breathe a little easier and might open them up a bit too, once you have everything integrated and calibrated correctly. You might be surprised! After my main speakers, upgrading my subs was the biggest "wow" moment for me.
I didn't even think of this. I'll definitely do some adjustments. What would you recommend as a good crossover point? 80 Hz?
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
I didn't even think of this. I'll definitely do some adjustments. What would you recommend as a good crossover point? 80 Hz?
Let me say first, very nice speakers! Looks like they claim down to 40 hz which is very respectable. I'd say 80 hz a great starting point. I think I read somewhere that one octave up from a speaker's F3 (80 hz for you) is s'posed to be the "correct" crossover point for a system, but there's a lot of "YMMV" in there too.
 

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