David's Search for New Loudspeakers

My search, which started in January of 1999, is over. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to most of the loudspeakers below. I finally chose theh Legacy Audio FOCUS. This system consistantly provided me with the most listening enjoyment and, with the help of the Step One processor, works best in my room.

Since then, I've added the matching center channel, sub, and surrounds (a pair on the sides and one in the back). I would prefer to have two dedicated rooms, one for audio, and the second for movies but that's not practical; a dual-purpose media room must suffice for now.

Most standard-def DVDs seem to have much lower quality audio than a typical CD; however, this system starts to make sense with some of the newer blu-ray releases.

Update: In June of 2010, I traded in my year 2000 FOCUS pair for the new FOCUS SE ("Sliver Edition"). Although I loved the old FOCUS, the improvements in bass extension and smoothness, microdynamics, and imaging on the new model are dramatic! So, after more than ten years, I'm still a happy Legacy Audio customer.

Loudspeaker Index

Dynaudio Contour 3.3 $7,299

Bass: 7.87" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 5.90" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 46.7" x 8.7" x 14.4" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.dynaudio.com/con33.html

"These are astonishingly natural and uncolored in their reproduction of music. Classical and acoustic instruments and voices sound particularly lifelike....the Dynaudios have the most effortless, convincing musical performance I've heard from cone-driven loudspeakers in your price range." - philipb023@aol.com

"After a year of auditioning i purchased a pair of Dynaudio contour 3.0's. There is another shop in Atlanta that carries Dynaudio. Check out the 3.3's and if they still have them, the Confidence 5's. The latter would be my choice if i could afford them. The Contour 3.0's work well in a smaller room, the 3.3's or Con. 5's would do well in the size you described." - slowrey@ioa.com

"If tight, accurate bass is a priority (not to mention phenomenal mid-range and hi's), I'd encourage you to give them a listen. The people I've spoken to regarding the 3.3's say that the 3.0 has even better bass response than it's more expensive counterpart. I listened to all different types of music through the 3.0's and suffice it to say I'm currently saving up for a pair." - Macwilly@btinternet.com

Durbin Acoustical Engineering DAE ES283 E $8,000

Bass: 9.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 2.00" dome midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 38.75" x 12" x 14.5" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/Lab/5799/ES283E.htm

"If you are interested in the Dynaudio 3.3 or 3.0, I suggest checking out the DAE website. Phenomenal Dynaudio sound, greater value." - dsh002@yahoo.com

"The ES283E is a phenomenal speaker. Even my old vintage rock sounds good on them. Of course the new recordings are better, with a sound stage and presence that get you involved with the music. I listen to music all the time, so speakers with no listening fatigue appeal to me. I can play these speakers at very high volume, and still don't have listening fatigue. My wife loves them too. At first she didn't want to spend the money, but now she won't listen to anything else." - dsh002@yahoo.com

B&W Nautilus 802 $8,000

Bass: 8.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 6.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 43.5" x 15.2" x 21.6" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.bwspeakers.com/nautilus800/nautilus802.html

"I have not heard the new B&W 802's but have been told by a reliable source that they out due the older Matrix 801!!!" - celtic@netdoor.com

"I had B&W 802 (Series II) and really enjoyed them paired up with the DNA1 Dlx. Then, I tried a pair a Martin Logan Request. In a word...WOW. I traded the 802s in. The 802 is a fine speaker and YOU are the final judge." - pinderz@aol.com

"I find the B&Ws a little forward in the upper mids/lower treble" - philipb023@aol.com

"I feel the SS25 is superior to the Nautilus 802's except in terms of low frequency extension and dynamics. Having said that I felt the 802's sounded somewhat anemic given their size" - kwickr@aol.com

Aerial 10-T $7,100
(including stands)

Bass: 10.70" cone woofer
Midrange: 5.30" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 41.5" x 13.75" x 19.0" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.aerialacoustics.com/model10t.htm

"I own Aerial 10Ts and I absolutely love 'em!!! You wanna hear tuneful and tight bass -- you should hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 6 Pathetique which is now playing. Definitely do give the Aerials a listen.

"I have had my 10Ts for at least four years and have not once longed for another speaker, even though I have heard many good ones. I have also heard the 10T with your amplifier, and thought it to be an excellent match. Oh yes -- you do want to also go with the stands.

"For me, it was love at first listen with my Aerials. Hopefully you will come across a speaker that does the same for you." - kennyb@mindless.com

"I was on vacation in Denver, CO when I stopped by Cherry Creek Audio to check out the 10T, I liked them all right but the bass was a little boom-ie the salesman informed me that the room was the problem. Then I had the salesman move the 10T into same room as the Dunlavys placing just inside of the Dunlavys using all the same equipment the 10T sounded the same I could not here any improvement in the bass." - rlf3812@ix.netcom.com

"...the Arials seem a tad polite" - philipb023@aol.com

"I auditioned the 10T's in DC and at Audio Solutions in Atlanta. Different electronics (Krell & Audio Research) same conclusion, from around 200-300hz and up they were spectacular, below that the bass seemed to lead the rest of the signal. A bit too much for the mix." - slowrey@ioa.com

Legacy Audio FOCUS $5,800
(in Rosewood)

Bass: 12.00" cone woofer (three)
Midrange: 7.00" cone midrange (two)
1.25" dome tweeter
Trebel: 4.00" ribbon tweeter
Dimensions: 55" x 15" x 13" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.legacy-audio.com/speakers/focuspg.html

"Only heard the Legacy at a trade show which isn't a fair evaluation, but they sounded good." - philipb023@aol.com

"I recently bought a pair of Focus in rosewood (one year old) from a dentist for $3800. I also bought the rest of his Legacy package with SilverScreen center and Studio rears. I bought them without listening first but I've not regretted the decision.

"The Focus are great and I think you'll be impressed with the clean bass as well as the detail in the midrange and highs. I have not listened to the other speakers on your list but can't imagine that they could be better than the Focus. I think you would have to spend at least twice as much to get a better speaker." - richg63255@aol.com

"I own Legacy Focus speakers. I've never been fond of speakers with many crossovers, but these Focus speakers are different. They're clean, dynamic, efficient, and extended in both directions. Bass is well defined. Some people have complained that the bass was too strong for their rooms, but I've not had any problems (13'x32' family/kitchen). I do own a 12" Velodyne sub that I do not use (or need anymore) for audio, but use when watching movies. I have a HT system. The speakers are beautiful. I love them." - tommart@erols.com

Hales Transcendence 5 $5,990

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 5.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 40" x 11" x 17" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.halesdesigngroup.com/transcendence5.html

"I've just spent the last 18 months listening to many loudspeakers in this category. By far, the most musical speaker I heard at this price point was the Hales Transcendence 5. They had an absolutely delicious midrange and very good overall performance. They sounded stunning powered by BAT electronics. If I hadn't chosen to spend more (B&W 801 Nautilus), I would have likely purchased the Hales." - jdleosco@hotmail.com

Meadowlark Audio Heron HOTROD $5,000

Bass: 7.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 3.50" cone midrange
Trebel: 0.75" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 44" x 10" x 15" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.meadowlarkaudio.com/Heron.htm

I listened to these at Sound by Singer while on a while on a business trip in New York City. Sound by Singer usually gets a bad wrap in on-line reviews as being very unfriendly, etc. I worked with a guy named Dave and found him to be extremely helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, and accommodating. If I go this way, I will definitely give Dave a call.

Dunlavy SC-IV/A $7,999

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 5.50" cone midrange (two)
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 72" x 12" x 18" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.dunlavyaudio.com/products/sc4a/sc4a_info.html

"It's been a while since I've been in that market, but I'd be surprised if the offerings at that pricepoint from Dunlavy weren't competitive. Your price may fall between the SC-III and the SC-IVA, but I'm sure you'll want to consider one of them." - hunter@work.nlm.nih.gov

"I was very impressed with these speakers the bass was very tight & clean and the over all this speaker was very musical. If you have not listen to the Dunlavy you owe it to yourself. My short list is now B&W Nautilus 802 and the Dunlavy IV/A." - rlf3812@ix.netcom.com

"I would strongly urge you to get a pair of Dunlavy SCIII ($3000 street) with the Paradigm Reference Servo-15 sub with the X-30 crossover. ($1250 street) This combo will outperform your 3 choices. You will get pinpoint imaging, neutral midrange and a deep tunefull bass. Your McCormack DNA-1 will mate very well with the SC-III." - tdas@esri.com

"Although most of the speakers mentioned have good qualities, you owe it to yourself to audition the Dunlavy line, I started with a pair of SC-IV two and half years ago and I decided to let them go when I got the opportunity to buy a pair of SC-V's at a good price. I listen to blues, rock, new country and musicals and I am still in awe of what these speakers produce especially at high listening levels. Good luck.

"PS. I purchased both pairs used, they come with a 5 year warranty and Dunlavy is very good to deal with." - lat@air.on.ca

JM-Lab Electra 920 $5,000

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 5.00" cone midrange (two)
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 43.3" x 12.8" x 15.75" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.focal.tm.fr/jmlab99/electra/anglais/e920.htm

"I will like to recommend the JMlab Alcors, which is listed for $10,995.00, but I have a demo pair in mint condition with full five year warranty for $6,995.00, shipping included. This speaker has a 12" woofer, two 5" polykevlar, phase plug, 1-1/2" edgewound coil and a tioxid tweeter 1-1/4" inverted dome, 3-3/4" magnet, phase plug. This a very musical speaker. Let me know if you need more info." - AYOMA@email.msn.com

Thiel CS-6 $7,900

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 4.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 50" x 13" x 18" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.thielaudio.com/THIEL_Web/Pages/cs6.html

"You might add the Thiel CS3.6 to your list. Very much worth the audition. It has very tight (heart stopping) bass and superb detail. And it even falls below your price range. I think the present retail for standard finishes is $4,300." - machare@geocities.com

Waveform Mach 17 $6,995
(factory direct)

Bass: 12.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 6.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 42" x 23.5" x 16.75" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.waveform.ca/mach17.htm

"If you are not aware of the Waveform Mach 17 you might consider it @ $6,995. We have a customer in Atlanta, GA who has 2 systems and is also a great classical music lover. Take a look at our site. We will also be in Chicago for the HI-FI show and if you are serious about spending this amount of money that should be on your plan for the middle of May." - jotvos@waveform.ca

"I ended up buying the Waveforms after listening to numerous speakers. After all said and done, I liked the Mach 17's speed and accuracy combined with its totally uncolored sound enough to buy it. They can be a little hard to audition but contact John Otvos and I am sure he can arrange something. The six channels of amplification may or may not present a problem to you. The Mach 17s with all Bryston amplification still cost me less than the B&W 802 with a Krell FPB 200 (the second choice) and the sound is significantly better in my opinion." - janhavi@home.com

Paragon Jubilee/JEM $5,850

Bass: 9.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 6.50" cone midrange
Trebel: 0.75" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 43" x 15" x 18.5" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.paragonacoustics.com/jubileejem.html

"Jubilee/JEM are speakers with a broad frequency response (excellent high- and low-end extension) and a vast dynamic range. That its own sound was at the absolute minimum indicates ultra-low distortion and neutral, accurate cables. The high frequencies were clear but not hard. The midrange was light and delicate -- neither thin nor thick, neither cold nor hot. Sound quality and warmth completely depended on other equipment and connections. The midrange/bass had quick response and crisp, muscular sound, benefiting the reproduction of piano and percussion music as the beat emerged very clearly. In comparison, the beat from the 802S3, which we are accustomed to hearing, suffers from a slight drag defect." - HiFi Magazine - Hong Kong

Joseph Audio RM50si $5,999

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 5.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 46" x 13" x 20" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.josephaudio.com/product.rm50si.html

"I've not heard the Joseph 50si's but from the little' I know from second hand, they could be wonderful. The newer and cheaper 22si and 25si also sound promising." - rneill@my-dejanews.com

"Listening to the RM50s on the Jadis JA 200s, we enjoyed an open, appealing and airy presentation. ... The lower, mid and upper bass were entirely commendable, delving deeply and maintaining fine control, tonal color and pitch definition. ... After auditioning the RM-50s with the Jadis JA 200s, the Graaf GM200, and the Transcendent T8 OTL, I've got just two words to say about them: Highly Recommended." - Jonathan Scull's Review of the Graaf GM200, Stereophile

Note Perfect Symphony $7,500

Bass: 10.00" cone woofer
Midrange: 5.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 43.3" x 13.8" x 18.7" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.noteperfect.com.au/npsymp.html

"It's time I set pen to paper to tell you how pleased and happy I am with the NotePerfect "Symphony" speakers. Without doubt, these are the best speakers I have heard. Previous speakers I have owned (Magneplanar, Duntech) do not compare - nor do various brands (Castle, Mirage, Monitor Audio, ProAc, Quad) auditioned at the recent Melbourne HiFi Show. None compare with the NotePerfects - either in musical performance or value for money." - Mike Kontor, Leading Edge Audio

Avalon Arcus $6,995

Bass: 8.50" cone woofer
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 37" x 9.5" x 13" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.avalonacoustics.com/arcus.htm

"I just purchased a pair of Avalon Avatars. I run them with Classe CA-100/CP-45 and CAL Icon HDCD CD player. Great bass and wonderful mids. You should listen to the new Arcus. It is almost the same speaker but is ported at the bottom for even better bass. Enjoy." - cumo@aol.com

ProAc Response 3.8 $7,200

Bass: 7.00" cone woofer (two)
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Links: http://www.audiosolutions.com

"Missing from this list and worth considering are ProAcs, Merlins, and Josephs. I should think the ProAc 2.5's might suit your taste." - rneill@my-dejanews.com

Merlin VSM-SE $5,950

Bass: 6.50" cone woofer
Trebel: 1.00" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 42.9" x 8.6" x 10.5" (H x W x D)
Links: http://merlinmusic.com/vsm_se.htm

"Missing from this list and worth considering are ProAcs, Merlins, and Josephs." - rneill@my-dejanews.com

Audio Physic Virgo $5,390

Bass: 8.00" cone woofer (two)
Midrange: 5.00" cone midrange
Trebel: 0.75" dome tweeter
Dimensions: 39.4" x 6.3" x 16.3" (H x W x D)
Links: http://www.aanvilaudio.u-net.com/ap_virgo_1.htm

"David, one other speaker worth a listen is the Audio Physic Virgos. I just bought a pair for $5400 and I LOVE them. They project a wide soundstage, and image very well. The bass doesn't go way down below 30Hz but it is extremely accurate and detailed. They play extremely well with jazz." - tantonucci@aol.com

"I would only add the Audio Physic Virgo as another candidate. It has its own quirks, but is worth an audition. If you value pinpoint imaging and transparency, the Virgos are the champs." - janhavi@home.com