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Advice needed: classical music, budget ~$30k

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I am a newbie looking for speakers for classical music (from instrumental to opera) via streaming. I currently only have headphones: the Raal SR1a's, which I very much like as headphones go. I have a budget of approx +/- $30k.

Unfortunately, I cannot do much in terms of room treatments due to factors outside my control. I understand that some would recommend I therefore give up on speakers altogether, but I've decided, perhaps foolishly, to press ahead, and hope that DSP can make the speakers a pleasurable experience. I have two room possiblities: one about 16x14x8 and open on one side to a larger room that runs perpendicular to it; and another that is 23x17x8 with some glass and a vestibule and dining room that open off it it. I gather that big rooms are normally better for things like sound stage size and bass, so I am guessing I should go for the bigger room?

I've done as much reading as I could on ASR, but am a bit overwhelmed. (I've also read through the other thread of someone with a $30k budget.) My audition wish list includes:
  • KEF Blade Meta 2
  • KEF LS 60s
  • Genelecs (is a sub a big help for classical besides organ pieces)
  • Dutch & Dutch 8C (which I've been told is a bit punchy for classical)
Unfortunately, I don't know anyone in the area who has the D&D or LS60s. I know also there is a wide range of prices here: I am prepared to go to $30k or above if I feel it is worth it, but am still figuring out if it is worth it.

So my questions: What other speakers do you think should I be looking at? What other factors should I be considering?

Much thanks for your help!
 

Keith_W

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Hi. I listen only to classical. In my opinion, any speaker + system + room combination which is linear and free from anomalies will do well with classical. Well, a combination like that does well with all types of music really, but especially so with classical because it interferes with the tone less. In addition, I value dynamics which is the ability to go from soft to loud without any distortion or clipping, and ability to play soft passages without sounding muffled.

As with all music, most of the sound is in the midrange between 200 - 800Hz with anything below 200Hz and above 800Hz providing icing on the cake. This has lead some classical music enthusiasts to focus on systems which only do the midrange well, which IMO is a mistake.

As for your room, the size and shape of your room determines where the Schroeder frequency cutoff will be. As wavelengths get shorter, the behaviour of the sound wave in the room transitions from resonance to reverberation and must be dealt with separately. You can read more about it here and here. In a larger room, you presumably sit further away from the speaker so you turn the volume up. You usually get more reverberation which you then need to deal with. The Schroeder frequency also goes down, meaning the room modes occur at lower frequencies and a greater proportion will be reverberation. Take a look at this graph (copied from the first link):
Fig13_Scaling.png

(In this graph Fc refers to the critical frequency where wavelengths transition from behaving like a wave to more like a ray).

Your first step in building a system for classical is to choose your room. Then you choose your speaker to match your room, and then electronics to drive your speaker. I don't know about the specifics of your situation e.g. what your wife thinks, whether you have freedom to hang room treatment, etc. but if it was me I would choose the bigger room. Note that if your room is very big it might reverberate for a long time and you will need to deal with this with physical treatment and not just DSP.

I too have a main system and headphones for listening to music. It is a different experience - headphones are better for "analytical" listening, e.g. when I want to really hear what that cellist is doing when buried in an orchestra, or when I am reading the score whilst listening to the performance. But nothing beats the realism and physicality of loudspeakers. It is a more tactile experience - you can feel the music in your chest. For me it is simply more pleasurable. Nice comfy sofa, no need to be tied down by a cord, glass of wine and some cheese ... you get the idea.
 
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Thank you for the response, Keith_W. In terms of headphones vs speakers, yeah, I really miss the physicality of speakers. The headphones have many wonderful things about them, including precision, but I really miss the physicality of music, especially of larger works, romantic warhorses, opera, etc. The headphone experience seems very far from the "real thing" for such music.

Thank you for the explanation of the Schroeder frequency and the links to more in-depth explainers. I'm still reading, but if I understand you correctly, in big rooms, reverb is more the big problem, and in smaller rooms, it is room modes. Is one easier to deal with than the other, esp via DSP? I don't think I can get away with much, if any, room treatments in either the larger or smaller room, so I'm mainly reliant on DSP coming to the rescue. Also, how should I think about rooms that open off the listening room? Both my choices open onto adjoining rooms: the smaller room opens onto a larger room that runs perpidicular to it; the larger room has a vestibule and a dinning room off it.

So many variables! I appreciate the help.
 

617

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The KEFs will have a wider dispersion and potentially more enveloping sound at the expense of specificity. The D+D are cardioid speakers, meaning they don't radiate very much to the side. They are not unlike horns in the sense that they will have a more focused sound, but will not have the output capabilities of a horn.

I would also look at the Neumann KH 420, and even the JBL M2 if you want something big.

In terms of technology, the Genelec 8361 is probably the most advanced; it has a radiation pattern which I didn't think I would ever see outside a laboratory ten years ago. It is, I would imagine, loud enough and low enough to satisfy most listeners. The KH 420 is a more traditional 3 way design but it is an exceptionally refined one.

This might be heresy to some but the quality offered by all of these speakers (the LS60 are not quite in the same league) is so good that I'd consider looks as much as anything. The professional speakers offer some adjustment of tonality according to your room.

The 8361 come in a white finish which is quite beautiful, and the 8341 model comes in a raw aluminum finish. I personally think these speakers are beautiful but the subwoofers they sell to use as stands are pretty austere.
 

ahofer

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I am a newbie looking for speakers for classical music (from instrumental to opera) via streaming. I currently only have headphones: the Raal SR1a's, which I very much like as headphones go. I have a budget of approx +/- $30k.

Unfortunately, I cannot do much in terms of room treatments due to factors outside my control. I understand that some would recommend I therefore give up on speakers altogether, but I've decided, perhaps foolishly, to press ahead, and hope that DSP can make the speakers a pleasurable experience. I have two room possiblities: one about 16x14x8 and open on one side to a larger room that runs perpendicular to it; and another that is 23x17x8 with some glass and a vestibule and dining room that open off it it. I gather that big rooms are normally better for things like sound stage size and bass, so I am guessing I should go for the bigger room?

I've done as much reading as I could on ASR, but am a bit overwhelmed. (I've also read through the other thread of someone with a $30k budget.) My audition wish list includes:
  • KEF Blade Meta 2
  • KEF LS 60s
  • Genelecs (is a sub a big help for classical besides organ pieces)
  • Dutch & Dutch 8C (which I've been told is a bit punchy for classical)
Unfortunately, I don't know anyone in the area who has the D&D or LS60s. I know also there is a wide range of prices here: I am prepared to go to $30k or above if I feel it is worth it, but am still figuring out if it is worth it.

So my questions: What other speakers do you think should I be looking at? What other factors should I be considering?

Much thanks for your help!
Revel F228be or 338be.
 

Keith_W

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Thank you for the explanation of the Schroeder frequency and the links to more in-depth explainers. I'm still reading, but if I understand you correctly, in big rooms, reverb is more the big problem, and in smaller rooms, it is room modes. Is one easier to deal with than the other, esp via DSP? I don't think I can get away with much, if any, room treatments in either the larger or smaller room, so I'm mainly reliant on DSP coming to the rescue. Also, how should I think about rooms that open off the listening room? Both my choices open onto adjoining rooms: the smaller room opens onto a larger room that runs perpidicular to it; the larger room has a vestibule and a dinning room off it.

Re: your small room. If whatever it opens to is advantageously angled, the reflections will hopefully shoot off away from your room and you will have much less reverb to deal with. You might be able to encourage this by placing a V-shaped piece of furniture there. With reverberations, you either want to absorb it or make the path so long that by the time it reflects back to your ears it is significantly attenuated.

Room modes are easier to deal with DSP, provided you aren't unlucky and happen to be sitting in a wide null.
 

Waxx

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I did advice a guy with a similar questio about a year ago, and a known classical musician. He was moving from B&W 800D3 and old Quad 405 power amp and a Quad 33 preamp. I installed (active) Neumann KH420's in his house and he could not be happier. We tested some Kef's (he did not like any of them), Genelec (the 83xx series sound good but look ulgy), Kii Three BXT (to lifeless he said) and ATC (again lifeless) as he wanted neutral speakers. The Neumann gave all he wanted, and after 5 min listening to some of his classical recordings the speaker was sold. They also measure very good in the tests done here.

He also wanted a preamp and dac so the then new MiniDSP Flex came in handy. This was just after i've read the test here and that is what he bought. So for about 1/3th of his budget (30K€) he got what he wanted. And the rest of the budget is spend on the room acoustics (because like said, that is often te limiting factor). He was already aware of that, that his instrument did not sound that good in that space, but it did in the concert hall and rehearsal rooms he works in. He hired an acoustician to fix that room, for his instrument but also for his listening setup. The works are almost finished and i'm invited next weekend actually to go check it (and reprogramm the Minidsp room correction to the new room as that guy is an older tech noob).

And those Neumann's, and it's precestor, the Klein & Hummel brand, were and still are the favorite monitor speakers for a lot of sound engineers who do classical music. In the time i did assist recordings like that they were as standard as Schoeps microphones are in that section of the recording industry. You hardly see something else. So i strongly recommend to check and listen to them if you are into classical music.
 

MarnixM

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Personally I’m only listen to Jazz and Classical; the latest both symphonic music as opera. Especially for the dynamics and spatial impressions I’m a great lover of dipole speakers. An extra effort to find and optimise the spatial position of the speakers in the room (in particular enough backroom) but after that to my opinion most suitable for classical music; at least no colouration by speaker enclosures. I must state that I don’t have experience with DSP. I use Magnepans togethers (over active bi-amping) with sealed subs.

I can’t see from your member info where your from, but recently I had a private demonstration off several speaker products of the Dutch Daudio brand. I was in particular impressed by their full range S2-model. Some of my female soprano’s and mezzo’s (f.i. Christa Ludwig) where present “in the room”….
 

cputoaster

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Had the same problem, no room modifications accepted, needed a certain WAF. I really like the Genelecs (white 8351b in my case) with two (diagonally placed) subs (white Arendal 1723 S1) for listening to classical (mostly orchestral and piano) and jazz. Room is 60m2 with one side of glass and an open doorframe to the hallway and open stairs to the upper floor, no treatment, so pretty bad. I think the even radiation pattern help DLBC to correct many room problems. Seems noticeably better than the two passive full-range speakers I had before. Btw, the Arendal support even helped me place / configure the subs and looked at the Dirac config / REW result measurements via video call to make sure its as good as it gets.
 

Digby

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KEF Blade Meta 2

  • KEF LS 60s
  • Genelecs (is a sub a big help for classical besides organ pieces)
  • Dutch & Dutch 8C (which I've been told is a bit punchy for classical)
My feeling is that the KEFs may be too small for reproducing dynamic orchestral music. Coaxial drivers are also not to everyone's taste, they want you right in the sweet spot. If I had $30k, then I'd be at least seeking to listen to speakers in person first, preferably in your own home, if not at a shop.

If a speaker doesn't click with you, no amount of measurements is going to change that. All speakers are imperfect, but the imperfections of one may be less onerous than another. You may be happy with any number of expensive speakers (this will be the coming retort from some), but if you are spending that much money, then I imagine you want to be most happy with the speakers you end up with. That would be my approach.

You can't test all speakers, true, but for me I'd want a taste of a few different ones before putting down that kind of money.
 

FeddyLost

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There are few questions that you need to answer for yourself before starting to shop loudspeakers
1) do you have some aesthetic limitations like WAF?
(because most studio monitors with good bang-for-buck looks too "industrial" for standard house)
2) do you need to recreate experience of being in a live concert hall or you can allow some "simulation" regarding "size" of performance?
(it will lead us to midbass woofer size since 6" in big room will not imitate big orchestra really well with any sub augmentation)
3) what are the limits of physical treatment of your rooms and why?
(IMO for classics you'll need good diffusion and relatively long reverb and physical diffusors with good room design better than DSP)

Regrding your rooms - you can post here some plans for opinions, but I'd call some acoustician, because you'll need one for best result anyway.
I'd go for bigger room because for good soundstage you'll need volume and LR symmetry, but without plans it's just speculation.

Regarding speakers - you'll need to check mains in personal listening and unless your room is perfect, you have good chances of finishing with multi-sub solution.
If you have aesthetical preferences of standard passive towers, you can check Revels, Paradigms and Perlisten.
 
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I have KEF R7's in my big, asymmetrically open, and untreated room and I love them. I don't have any "sweet spot" issues at all; the R3's have been shown to have 50-ish degree horizontal dispersion. I don't toe mine in at all and I get a huge soundstage in multiple spots on my couch.
I do cross them at 80 Hz with a Power Sound Audio TV2112 and feel like the bass response and dynamic range is perfectly fine but I've never had bigger than 6" mid-woofer drivers in my space so maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.

Obviously I can't speak to the Blade 2 Meta's specifically but I think the underlying KEF design/engineering principle would work well for your space. But my next system will be probably be Genelecs with a miniDSP crossing to two of the biggest sealed PSA subs I can get so...I think you're in a position where it might be hard to go wrong with that list.
 
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Thanks, all, for the responses. Lots of good info here. I will add the Revels, Neumanns, Kef R7z, and Magnepans to the investigation list. Thanks to those who suggested them.

To answer some questions and return some comments:
  • @Dialectic -- I am located in SoCal, but far enough away from all the shops in LA that they are a special weekend trip.
  • @Laserjock - I haven't given multichannel much thought. My impression is that there isn't a ton of classical released for it. I take it I should be thinking about it? Why do you think so?
  • @FeddyLost - 1 & 3) For WAF, I can get away with basically whatever speakers I want. It's room treatments that are the problem. I might eventually be able to get some, but for now, it is a no go, or at best, very minimal 2) I am not quite sure what you are asking about concert hall vs simulation? is that what other people refer to as being immersed in the performance vs listening to it through a window? I'm not quite sure what either of those questions means--my sense is that I want the immersive/concert hall experience,
  • @Digby, a narrow sweetspot doesn't bother me. It will just be me listening. Why do you think the KEFs would be too small for orchestral dynamics? (And just the ls60 or the blades too?) I would love to try speakers out in my space. Unfortunately, however, several of the options like the D&D and maybe even LS60 are not available locally. Are dealers generally pretty happy to setup at home listening if they are local?
  • Why @cputoaster didn't you go with genelec subs? In general, I'm very interested in the genelecs, but the monitors (and less so the subs) don't appeal to my aesthetics--I can probably get over that if they are good enough.
 

Kal Rubinson

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@Laserjock - I haven't given multichannel much thought. My impression is that there isn't a ton of classical released for it. I take it I should be thinking about it? Why do you think so?
It's my thing and I have thousands of classical MCH recordings in my collection. The new rise of Atmos etc. may signal a renaissance of classical MCH.
 

cputoaster

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  • Why @cputoaster didn't you go with genelec subs? In general, I'm very interested in the genelecs, but the monitors (and less so the subs) don't appeal to my aesthetics--I can probably get over that if they are good enough.
I managed to get a pass on the white version of the monitors, but the subs also needed to be white and looking shiny to fit in. Also, I used the sub comparison table on ASR to find subs that are not huge, but precise, sealed and with power down to a low frequency. The good reviews helped. As I need DLBC anyway because of the bad room, I did not need GLM support. Btw, I also use the setup for Atmos movies (with another 8351b as center and 4 more Genelecs for surround/ceiling). Never tried it for classical listening though, maybe in the future.
 

Laserjock

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It's my thing and I have thousands of classical MCH recordings in my collection. The new rise of Atmos etc. may signal a renaissance of classical MCH.
@ClassicalSpeakers if you’ve never heard a good MCH mix, you’re missing out.
I wish SACD and DVD-A were still around and then there’s some BluRay Audio too.
 

617

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With your budget, it may be worth booking a flight or taking an overnight trip somewhere where you can listen to a bunch of these speakers. D+D and Kii are newer brands but Genelec and Neumann are pretty ubiquitous among professionals. Neumann is owned by Sennheiser. KEF is one of the biggest speaker manufacturers out there and popular with home installers, although their new speakers may be hard to demo. You probably should check out the JBL M2 and 708, both are very popular recording monitors, and Revel is also one of the bigger providers in the home market. Focal is another popular monitor provider, although they are a bit more traditional in their design approach. If you want a more unique offering, check out musicelectronic geithaine.

Bring your favorite music and make a weekend of it. You should be able to figure out what you want pretty rapidly. All we can do here is tell you what the state of the art is; you have to figure out what you want. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd be happier with a smaller solution like the LS60, or the 8341 and some subs, for example.
 
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