• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Good value monitors for precise classical music listening

cestx

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
23
Likes
4
After spending a good month selecting in vain for appropriate passive speakers, I think that I need outside advice to continue even before scheduling auditions.

The intended application:
Not entertainment but rather precise and professional listening to classical music in a 18 sq. meters bedroom.

Here are the entry requirements with decreasing preference:
(1) The speakers should be good for high quality FLAC recordings of classical music of all genres, including solo piano, solo violin, solo flute, concerts, symphonies and organ.
(2) The speakers should reproduce the recording precisely without "improving" it.
(3) The speakers should be made from non-toxic materials for as long as this does not compromise the sound quality in the sense of (1) and (2). I consider toxic any plastic (PP being the least evil), plywood-type materials (MDF being the least evil) and any glue.
(4) The speakers should be the cheapest among those which solve the problem.
(5) The speakers and all their parts should be made fully outside of the PRC.

It seems that I am looking for something one would call "monitors" with closed cabinets which confidently reproduce frequences up until 26kHz at least. I also hope that I can focus on bookshelves and that the entire system, including the amplifier will cost me not much more than 2000USD. Given the market reality, I do not believe that the requirement (5) has any hope to be satisfied so I mention it as a wish at the end. The same holds of course for glue and MDF in the construction of the cabinets. I have not decided on the material of the tweeters as there are so many conflicting views on this. I am not 100% sure that I need passive speakers.

For now I shortlisted the following models:
KEF Q150
DALI Oberon 1
DALI Zensor 3
DALI Spector 2
CYRUS OneLinear
FOCAL Chora 806
ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
OPERA Mezza
AQ Wega 52
WRS MM6
PHONAR Veritas m4.2 NEXT

There are definitely many more options to consider. Could someone kindly help me to make a choice by sharing his or her thoughts about the models listed above or pointing out other options? How do they compare with each other from the point of view of my entry parameters?
 

XpanD

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 7, 2018
Messages
122
Likes
122
Location
Netherlands
Is the "closed cabinets" comment a firm requirement? I'm unsure on current pricing, but if you're looking at sustainability these come to mind:

https://www.genelec.com/raw (see also https://www.genelec.com/sustainability, https://www.genelec.com/production-and-supply-chain in particular)

You wouldn't have to worry about the amplifier side of things (just need a DAC with volume control), and Genelec consistently tops the charts here when it comes to measurements. They also come with a few boundary adjustments for helping manage the more common issues with ports. (and the ports are well-integrated, no farting or the like)

(there's also the normal painted models if you need something that stands out a bit less, they still have the same insides)
 
Last edited:

alex-z

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
632
Likes
1,143
Location
Canada
The material of the tweeters is irrelevant to consumers. That is something chosen in the design phase, and the overall sound of the speaker is managed through the crossover. The idea that all drivers of a certain material have a sound signature is a myth.

Getting good quality sound requires a good quality room. $2000 speakers in an untreated room is a waste of money. If your room has no treatment, I would say spend 30-40% of your budget building some DIY absorption panels to help correct that problem.

High frequency reproduction is a marketing statistic, nothing more. By the time you turn 20, hearing over 17000Hz is already rare. The real challenge in audio is getting linear response from 20-12000Hz, the range we hear reliably. Anything above 12000Hz is a welcome bonus. The bass region is the trickiest, not only due to those pesky room modes, but also the sheer volume of air movement required. 4x increase per octave dropped.

My recommendation is therefore a pair of KEF Q350, a Topping PA5 amplifier, an SVS PB-1000 Pro subwoofer, and a miniDSP 2x4HD + UMIK-1 to integrate the speakers and sub properly, plus apply room correction. That will be about $2000, if you buy the Q350 for $500 a pair, a common sale price.

If you need money for room treatment, change the amp to the $80 Aiyma A07, and the speakers to $300 KEF Q150.
 
Last edited:

fineMen

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Oct 31, 2021
Messages
635
Likes
218
The material ...
Very reasonable advice, indeed. I would advertise to buy subwoofers that would allow for an elevated cross-over to the KEF350 like 150Hz or so. You'll notice the enhanced clarity for sure. But that would need two smaller subs to be used in stereo mode.

I'm not sure if a room treatment is that crucial. Especially for the cost mentioned.
 
Last edited:

tuga

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 5, 2020
Messages
3,472
Likes
3,577
Location
Oxford, England
The idea that all drivers of a certain material have a sound signature is a myth.

They may, indirectly, due to in-band (and thus audible) break-up resonances.
 

tuga

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 5, 2020
Messages
3,472
Likes
3,577
Location
Oxford, England
1) The speakers should be good for high quality FLAC recordings of classical music of all genres, including solo piano, solo violin, solo flute, concerts, symphonies and organ.

Some of the models you've listed are not really suited to orchestral or organ music reproduction unless you don't mind the limited low-frequency extension or a subwoofer can be added.
 

Soniclife

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
4,188
Likes
4,907
Location
UK
If that includes electronics components, it is virtually impossible.
And don't forget to include the other parts of the supply chain, no delivery vehicles using those parts, or advertising webservers, or tools used to build the speakers, the list will be endless. Now imagine trying to apply that rule to everything to buy, I doubt you can buy anything.
 

Chaconne

Active Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2021
Messages
100
Likes
162
I can't help thinking what a speaker designer would think if he were handed the original post as the design brief for his next project. Would he immediately draft his letter of resignation or wait until he caught his breath?
 
OP
C

cestx

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
23
Likes
4
Some of the models you've listed are not really suited to orchestral or organ music reproduction unless you don't mind the limited low-frequency extension or a subwoofer can be added.
Thank you! Could you elaborate on this please? Orchestral (especially) and organ music is essential for me. I have sensitive ears. It would be rather disappointing to spend $1000 to only discover that I can really listen to solo instruments only. I think that it is not so difficult to reproduce solo music. Even my smartphone can do this pretty well. Orchestral music is a real challenge.
 

Steve Rogers

Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2022
Messages
72
Likes
65
The price is not realistic for your requirements so you need to change them. For example, give up on the low frequencies for the moment or get headphones instead of speakers. Have a look at this thread and read some of the reviews linked to understand what you can get for your money:

 
Last edited:
OP
C

cestx

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
23
Likes
4
The material of the tweeters is irrelevant to consumers. That is something chosen in the design phase, and the overall sound of the speaker is managed through the crossover. The idea that all drivers of a certain material have a sound signature is a myth.

Getting good quality sound requires a good quality room. $2000 speakers in an untreated room is a waste of money. If your room has no treatment, I would say spend 30-40% of your budget building some DIY absorption panels to help correct that problem.

High frequency reproduction is a marketing statistic, nothing more. By the time you turn 20, hearing over 17000Hz is already rare. The real challenge in audio is getting linear response from 20-12000Hz, the range we hear reliably. Anything above 12000Hz is a welcome bonus. The bass region is the trickiest, not only due to those pesky room modes, but also the sheer volume of air movement required. 4x increase per octave dropped.

My recommendation is therefore a pair of KEF Q350, a Topping PA5 amplifier, an SVS PB-1000 Pro subwoofer, and a miniDSP 2x4HD + UMIK-1 to integrate the speakers and sub properly, plus apply room correction. That will be about $2000, if you buy the Q350 for $500 a pair, a common sale price.

If you need money for room treatment, change the amp to the $80 Aiyma A07, and the speakers to $300 KEF Q150.
Would going down from Q350 to Q150 actually reduce the sound quality? I came to the opposite conclusion after browsing reviews of these speakers online. Q350 seem to be a little bigger than Q150 and some reviews state that their bass is a little better too. However, I am not sure whether they made this conclusion based on blind listening or on specs because some other reviews claim that Q150 sound better. In any case, looking at the specs only suggests to me that subs are required for both Q150 and Q350 and then the sound quality should be more or less the same. So, I excluded Q350 in favor of Q150.
 

Webninja

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 8, 2018
Messages
403
Likes
437
Location
Los Angeles
Genelec or Neumann with subwoofer(s).

I think, if you’re near field, the KH80s plus a KH750 might be under $2k. For me I am fully satisfied with this set up, and find all types of music very enjoyable on this system.

If you are further away from the speakers, I think doubling your budget might be necessary with your requirements.
 
OP
C

cestx

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
23
Likes
4
The price is not realistic for your requirements so you need to change them. For example, give up on the low frequencies for the moment or get headphones instead of speakers. Have a look at this thread and read some of the reviews linked to understand what you can get for your money:

No, I do not want headphones. I am also skeptical about active speakers because I don't think that they will let me achieve the desired sound quality. Can you recommend some specific models of passives which would satisfy my sound requirements? I can give up on the low frequencies but only for as long as this does not make orchestras and organs unbearable for my sensitive and critical ears. I am not sure that this is possible and expect buying subs.
 

Sancus

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 30, 2018
Messages
2,502
Likes
6,379
Location
Canada
Listening distance? SPL requirements? Location? In the US I would recommend the Sierra LX if you're staying passive. Focals have consistently done well in reviews here so the Chora 806 are probably fine speakers.

To reproduce low organ notes satisfyingly you'll want a sub, the alternative is massive floorstanders with multiple 12" woofers or something but that's not very bedroom compatible.

For actives, KH120 + an Arendal 1961S or SVS SB1000 depending on how dedicated you are to the budget. I have KH80s, and personally I don't think they put out enough mid-bass to be used as mains further away than 1m even with a subwoofer so I'd go a step up. I don't love the KH750 or other overpriced studio subs(Genelec), but they do make things easier.

You say "closed cabinets" but then list many ported speakers so I assume this isn't a real requirement. If it is, the only thing I can think of that's known-good and in budget is the Arendal 1961 bookshelf. They are good with a sub though.
 

lherrm

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 1, 2020
Messages
203
Likes
357
Location
Reunion Island
I am also skeptical about active speakers because I don't think that they will let me achieve the desired sound quality.
What makes you think that a superior design (active) would not let you achieve the desired sound quality ?
Unless you desire a worse sound quality.
 

Steve Rogers

Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2022
Messages
72
Likes
65
No, I do not want headphones. I am also skeptical about active speakers because I don't think that they will let me achieve the desired sound quality. Can you recommend some specific models of passives which would satisfy my sound requirements? I can give up on the low frequencies but only for as long as this does not make orchestras and organs unbearable for my sensitive and critical ears. I am not sure that this is possible and expect buying subs.
If you want a flat response in that budget actives are your best bet. In link i gave you read the reviews for the more capable ones because they all have trade offs (spl, hiss, connectivity etc). Then go, listen, compare.
 
OP
C

cestx

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2022
Messages
23
Likes
4
What makes you think that a superior design (active) would not let you achieve the desired sound quality ?
Unless you desire a worse sound quality.
I tried a cheap and old pair of active speakers and they made really bad sound, most noticeably were crackling and popping. I suspect that the reason may lie in the electric cable. Also, I acknowledge that so many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on passive speakers which also require separate and compatible amps and cables. I suspect that they do this because the sound is cleaner in the passive design. Am I wrong?
 
Top Bottom