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Seeking recommendations: Best active speakers for $10k/pair? (Would also be offered for measurement.)

echopraxia

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If I were to hypothetically buy the best pair of speakers for $10k/pair, what would you recommend? If I did, I certainly would offer them to be loaned for measurement here if Amir wanted to measure them.

The top two I’m eyeing are the Neumann KH420, and Genelec 8361A. These both seem to have fantastic measurements, but the latter is probably a bit closer to perfection at the expense of less bass extension and sheer power.

I care very much about bass quality and capability, which is what would bias me towards the Neumann. But I’m also very interested in reliability, and it seems Genelec has perhaps the best reputation here.

My KH310s have become probably my favorite speakers I have. Interestingly, I think it’s mostly because I find their bass quality for music to be superior in ways that’s hard to describe vs anything else I have. I run the KH310s without a subwoofer. No matter how I try to cross over my other speakers with a subwoofer (or without subs), the crossover range or lower end of the speakers range always sounds wrong or missing the tactile and auditory crispness I hear from the KH310. The range after my Rythmik subwoofer takes over sounds wonderful, but the range of frequencies while transitioning to the subwoofer never seems to match the qualities I have grown to love so much about the KH310 without a subwoofer. (Edit: Originally this upgrade was inspired because I thought I’d have to wait months due to Covid for a subtle bass rattle noise to be fixed from one of my Neumanns, only I have later discovered after moving the Neumanns to another room that they are fine — and instead there was loose material nearby that happened to resonate at just the right frequency when a speaker near it was playing.)

For this reason I’m very tempted by the Neumann KH420, though I think it probably would overkill in terms of SPL capability. I’m also very tempted by the Genelec 8361 since it seems more likely to be a true sound quality upgrade from the KH310 (rather than just a version with even more and deeper bass capabilities), and because of Genelec’s reputation for top reliability and longevity. But I also wonder/worry about a porter speaker in case it really is the unique sealed nature of these Neumanns that give them the bass character I love so much.

Maybe there are also other excellent options out there I should consider. I’m not fully decided on whether I would buy speakers in this price range yet, but I’m considering it.
 
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napilopez

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#2
Any reason the D&D 8C aren't on the list? The Cardioid bass quality alone does it for me, and since you already have subs you substantially deal with their biggest flaw, which is output capability.

For me in particular they dealt with problems in the upper bass that I've found difficult to deal with
 
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echopraxia

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Any reason the D&D 8C aren't on the list? The Cardioid bass quality alone does it for me, and since you already have subs you substantially deal with their biggest flaw, which is output capability.
This looks like a good option as well. I will do more research to understand it’s pros and cons. My understanding of the Genelec coaxial is their only weakness is perhaps bass SPL (at least the smaller models, maybe less so for the new 8361?), and the KH420 I would expect to have an abundance of bass depth and power but probably not quite the sound quality perfection on par with Genelec coaxial. I need to learn more about the D&D to understand where on the spectrum between these two it lies. Please feel free to post any recommended reading links.
 

Blumlein 88

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napilopez

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This looks like a good option as well. I will do more research to understand it’s pros and cons. My understanding of the Genelec coaxial is their only weakness is perhaps bass SPL (at least the smaller models, maybe less so for the new 8361?), and the KH420 I would expect to have an abundance of bass depth and power but probably not quite the sound quality perfection on par with Genelec coaxial. I need to learn more about the D&D to understand where on the spectrum between these two it lies. Please feel free to post any recommended reading links.
Sure thing! With the disclaimer that I'm a reviewer and D&D sent these to me to review, I posted my measurements here on ASR.

In particular, I'll point you to my spin:
8c Spin (1).png



The polar map down to 200 Hz:

8c Horizontal Contour (1).png


And perhaps most importantly, their in-room response compared two to other speakers that show very common issues in my room:

8c Room.png


The bass response on 8cs is just on another level without any of the fiddling and careful sub tuning needed on other speakers.

You can, of course, use good bass management to mitigate these issues as I do for regular listening, but in my home and to my ears no other speaker's bass has ever sounded as good as the 8Cs did pretty much out of the box (once I input the distances to my walls in the app). Frequency response aside, I think this is in part because of how the 8c's use your front wall to enhance the bass response rather than detract from it.

Lots more measurements in that thread.

Edit: Of course, they aren't as established as Neumann or Genelec, so I don't know how that'll affect reliability. I had one issue with the board on one of my speakers that was promptly fixed (but again, I'm a reviewer). But at least they seem to be good at addressing issues from what I've seen on other threads/forums, albeit slow with the software updates.
 
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echopraxia

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This bass design sounds like exactly what I would want. That in-room measurement comparison is very impressive, given that bass issues seem to exist in every room. Makes me wonder now why more speakers don’t use this design for their bass drivers. I will keep researching but this does sound like a top contender. My only concern remaining would be reliability/longevity, which is hard to predict other than long-lived brands with a reputation.
 

napilopez

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This bass design sounds like exactly what I would want. That in-room measurement comparison is very impressive, given that bass issues seem to exist in every room. Makes me wonder now why more speakers don’t use this design for their bass drivers. I will keep researching but this does sound like a top contender. My only concern remaining would be reliability/longevity, which is hard to predict other than long-lived brands with a reputation.
Yeah, it's mostly these and the Kii Threes. I hadn't mentioned them because I thought they were over 10k last I checked, but it seems they've gone down.

Also worth noting D&D came out with a 'Studio' version of their speaker that uses MDF instead of oak, only comes in black, and doesn't support Room, if you want to save some bucks. It's why I included them here - normal version is $12,000ish
 
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Blumlein 88

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richard12511

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How loud do you listen? If you don't listen super loud, the 8351 actually measure better than the 8361.

I know you say you don't want subs, but 2 speakers + subs will always sound better than just 2 speakers. You just have to spend the time to integrate them properly.

If you're dead set on not having subs, I would recommend the D&D 8C. However, I would bet that the Genelec 8351b + 2 properly integrated ID subs would sound even better.
 

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I consider myself at Neumann brand champion, at the moment. I own a pair of KH420’s and wouldn’t trade for anything I’ve heard so far. Regardless of price.

They have best bass I’ve heard in a full range speaker. I replaced a pair of active ATC 150’s that needed the ATC 150ASL active subrooder, altogether a sizeable commitment. It just missed that bass punch, with 3 x 15” drivers It didn’t do it. I tried big JBL horns, klipschorn’s, Meyer sound, looking for that elusive kick. The ATC‘s can be loud and clear but feeble for the lowest octaves. I still like ATC it’s a bulletproof product. I have 50’s and 2 20’s making the 5 in my 5.1 They just don’t have integrated full range sound that the KH420 offer.

How good is the bass on the 420’s. It is so good and well integrated that I decided not to keep the 2 KH805’s I bought with them as they were literally redundant .

I’ve heard the K ii’s, nice but no bottom, and thus the BXT.

I’ve never heard the D&D, but the company is too new and to far away for me to put my money there.

I highly recommend an audition and would love to have amirm to test them.

good luck in your search.
 

richard12511

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Any reason the D&D 8C aren't on the list? The Cardioid bass quality alone does it for me, and since you already have subs you substantially deal with their biggest flaw, which is output capability.

For me in particular they dealt with problems in the upper bass that I've found difficult to deal with
Really curious about your opinions on cardioid bass, as you've heard way more loudspeakers than I have. My experience with cardioid subs is limited to the pro environment(QSC, Yamaha), but so far my experience has been somewhat negative. The best sounding bass I've heard has generally been from 4-8 well placed omni subs, and the cardioid setups I've heard have paled in comparison. You're the second or third person though I've seen that seems to really like cardioid bass, and I've come to really value your input. You seem to have a lot of experience.

I definitely see the advantage of cardioid subs when you only have 1 or 2 and you're forced to place them up front with the mains. However, I've never been as impressed as I have been with the omni 4-8 sub setups I've heard where the subs are placed strategically all around the room. What's your opinion on this?

I've never heard the D&D 8c, but I really want to. They're on my short list of end game music speakers.
 
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echopraxia

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Thread Starter #14
How loud do you listen? If you don't listen super loud, the 8351 actually measure better than the 8361.

I know you say you don't want subs, but 2 speakers + subs will always sound better than just 2 speakers. You just have to spend the time to integrate them properly.

If you're dead set on not having subs, I would recommend the D&D 8C. However, I would bet that the Genelec 8351b + 2 properly integrated ID subs would sound even better.
I usually listen 70-80db and occasionally push it a bit further. Maybe 90db occasionally and I’m not sure if I ever reached 100db for any sustained time, nor would I want to. But when I do push it further than 80db (C-weighted), its usually with more bass heavy music (30-100hz or so, not necessarily deep sub bass).

Regarding with vs without subwoofers, the KH310 is the only system I’ve had that I can’t seem to match or exceed by my other speakers with a good subwoofer. For example, Revel F206 + Rythmik F12 will produce vastly more deep bass with absolutely nothing lacking in quality. So in that respect the KH310 loses. But no matter where I set the crossover or phase of the Rythmik + Revel, I can’t get the crossover region to sound as “right” as that range does on the KH310 with no subwoofer.

However a second factor is that I’m actually quite happy with how the Neumann KH310 works for my home office setup. I have tried a subwoofer setup there, and I find that a lower cutoff of 30hz works quite nice to give just the right amount of bass for most of what I listen to while working, without distracting by rumbling the vents and door handles like a subwoofer might at times :) Not that I would complain much if a single speaker unit did that too, but I appreciate the somewhat smaller and more compact setup you get out of a pair of stereo “full range” speakers as well, for a home office setup.
 
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echopraxia

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I consider myself at Neumann brand champion, at the moment. I own a pair of KH420’s and wouldn’t trade for anything I’ve heard so far. Regardless of price.

They have best bass I’ve heard in a full range speaker. I replaced a pair of active ATC 150’s that needed the ATC 150ASL active subrooder, altogether a sizeable commitment. It just missed that bass punch, with 3 x 15” drivers It didn’t do it. I tried big JBL horns, klipschorn’s, Meyer sound, looking for that elusive kick. The ATC‘s can be loud and clear but feeble for the lowest octaves. I still like ATC it’s a bulletproof product. I have 50’s and 2 20’s making the 5 in my 5.1 They just don’t have integrated full range sound that the KH420 offer.

How good is the bass on the 420’s. It is so good and well integrated that I decided not to keep the 2 KH805’s I bought with them as they were literally redundant .

I’ve heard the K ii’s, nice but no bottom, and thus the BXT.

I’ve never heard the D&D, but the company is too new and to far away for me to put my money there.

I highly recommend an audition and would love to have amirm to test them.

good luck in your search.
This is one thing that makes it so tempting to me: I already have the KH310, and there Is something about its bass that I prefer to almost anything else. If the KH420 is like that and even better, I’d be very happy with it.

But, other speakers like the Genelecs are appealing because they seem to promise even better quality outside of the bass frequencies at least.

And the D&D 8c seems to potentially offer the best of both worlds. However the main difficulty I have with D&D would just be how new and unknown the brand is. If I buy a Genelec or Neumann for $10,000, I can be reasonably sure many years from now I won’t be stuck with a $10k paperweight. With D&D, I just don’t know. If the company doesn’t last, I can’t even know if replacement parts would be possible to acquire should something fail.
 
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echopraxia

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I wouldn't spend 10k on speakers. I'd spend 2-4k on speakers and another 2-4k on subs and another 1k on a minidsp SHD or SHD studio to drive them all.

In-speaker DSP pales in comparison to what Dirac can do.
I understand this route and have tried it, and still find e.g. the Neumann KH310 is better tuned and somehow higher fidelity sound across mid bass frequencies than anything I can achieve with this approach of manually tuning subwoofer crossovers that generally sweep through that critical bass to mid bass region.

I want a simple stereo set of two speakers that I can buy that sounds amazing without a ton of tedious hand-tuning, and takes less space and fewer pieces than two subs, two speakers, and several MiniDSP unite with a massive tangle of power cables and signal cables sprawled everywhere.

In other words, I don’t want to engineer an integrated speaker system, I want to buy one. The Neumann KH310 actually achieves this for me fantastically well, aside from deep sub bass extension. For my office setup, it’s nearly perfect. But I’m curious to explore potential upgrades, especially now during the time when one of my KH310s has to be sent back to fix a rattle it seems to have developed. (Edit: Ironically, it turns out an object on my desk is what was rattling when resonating to a particular bass frequency... silly me. Well, at least this restores even more of my confidence in brands like Neumann and Genelec for their reliability.)
 
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richard12511

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I usually listen 70-80db and occasionally push it a bit further. Maybe 90db occasionally and I’m not sure if I ever reached 100db for any sustained time, nor would I want to. But when I do push it further than 80db (C-weighted), its usually with more bass heavy music (30-100hz or so, not necessarily deep sub bass).

Regarding with vs without subwoofers, the KH310 is the only system I’ve had that I can’t seem to match or exceed by my other speakers with a good subwoofer. For example, Revel F206 + Rythmik F12 will produce vastly more deep bass with absolutely nothing lacking in quality. So in that respect the KH310 loses. But no matter where I set the crossover or phase of the Rythmik + Revel, I can’t get the crossover region to sound as “right” as that range does on the KH310 with no subwoofer.

However a second factor is that I’m actually quite happy with how the Neumann KH310 works for my home office setup. I have tried a subwoofer setup there, and I find that a lower cutoff of 30hz works quite nice to give just the right amount of bass for most of what I listen to while working, without distracting by rumbling the vents and door handles like a subwoofer might at times :) Not that I would complain much if a single speaker unit did that too, but I appreciate the somewhat smaller and more compact setup you get out of a pair of stereo “full range” speakers as well, for a home office setup.

The crossover thing can be treated with timing. I would get a minidsp 2x4hd and spend considerably time messing with delays. If you listen at 70-80db, the 8351 is a better loudspeaker than the 8361. I would go with the 8351b + minidsp hd + dual subs(quad subs is even better). For 70-80db listening, I doubt that any system(regardless of budget) would sound better.
 

napilopez

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Really curious about your opinions on cardioid bass, as you've heard way more loudspeakers than I have. My experience with cardioid subs is limited to the pro environment(QSC, Yamaha), but so far my experience has been somewhat negative. The best sounding bass I've heard has generally been from 4-8 well placed omni subs, and the cardioid setups I've heard have paled in comparison. You're the second or third person though I've seen that seems to really like cardioid bass, and I've come to really value your input. You seem to have a lot of experience.

I definitely see the advantage of cardioid subs when you only have 1 or 2 and you're forced to place them up front with the mains. However, I've never been as impressed as I have been with the omni 4-8 sub setups I've heard where the subs are placed strategically all around the room. What's your opinion on this?

I've never heard the D&D 8c, but I really want to. They're on my short list of end game music speakers.
Not that experienced :); I've only been 'seriously' testing speakers for about a year or two. Just lots of 'dense' experience in that I've extensively measured every speaker that's come through my home and have had many speakers here at any given moment.

Unfortunately, I can't really comment on the comparison you describe, as I only have two subs at most in my system.

I would imagine that once you have enough subs to basically eliminate room issues, more subs is better.

That said, with the 8c, imo their advantage is in versatility. If you want to reposition your speakers or listening spot with a normal mains+bass system, then you have to go through the calibration process all over again. Not necessary with the 8c (you can of course use room correction for further refinement, but the improvement was minimal in my experience). Moving to a new room/home? Setup takes 5 mins once connected. And they're (in theory) just as good in a small room as in a big one.

The 8C's other trick aside from cardioid down to 100Hz is that below 100Hz the 8c takes the distance to the wall behind them into account to properly time the response from the rear firing-subs so it integrated cleanly with the forward radiation, with directivity largely being matched by virtue of the wall reflection. The fact that they work best when close to said wall is a pleasant bonus.

When I reviewed them, I just described the bass as sounding 'correct' in a way I'm not sure Ive ever quite been able to get from other speakers with two subs. It was quite noticeable to me as someone who listens to a lot of deep-bass heavy music. YMMV.
 

napilopez

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I wouldn't spend 10k on speakers. I'd spend 2-4k on speakers and another 2-4k on subs and another 1k on a minidsp SHD or SHD studio to drive them all.

In-speaker DSP pales in comparison to what Dirac can do.
This also just isn't practical for many people. Works in my current home, did not in my previous one.
 
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