Best speakers for classical music under $4000

michkhol -- Thu, 03/18/2010 - 15:58

I'm looking for speakers for my BAT VK55 modded with V-Caps. I'm looking for soundstage, imaging, dynamics, neutrality, speed -  everything that matters for listening to classical music. The $4000 cap does not mean I want speakers exactly for $4000, It's because I'm looking at Living Voice Auditorium and Focal/JMLab Elektra 1007 Be, but I will gladly settle for less if I like it. I have a subwoofer (Fathom 112) so bass-shy speakers are ok. The room volume is approximately 3600 cu. ft. (20x20x9) Any opinions?

michkhol -- Mon, 03/29/2010 - 16:23

There is no such speakers.

jack d ii -- Mon, 01/16/2012 - 16:51

John Dunlavy designed and built great speakers for classical music reproduction. They are relatively efficient, time aligned and phase coherent plus they are big enough to give some sense of orchestral scale if you look at the SC IVs and above. Used price usually around $2500..00

 Jack D II

Ayahuasca (not verified) -- Mon, 03/29/2010 - 22:15

Totem Forest

firedog -- Tue, 03/30/2010 - 12:30

 Get a pair of used Sonus Faber Cremona M Auditors. Superb balanced, well integrated sound, great soundstage - and if you have the Fathom Sub, you are set.
The original Cremona Auditors (no "M") are also very good, but not as good as the "M" - but can be gotten for under $3000 used.
They aren't super efficient, but if you don't want deafening sound levels, they'd be suitable.

michkhol -- Tue, 03/30/2010 - 16:47

88 dB at 4 Ohms - I don't think I'll get dynamics I want. I tried my amp with Monitor Audio P100 (similar spec) - not impressive.

Jonathan Valin -- Tue, 03/30/2010 - 15:09

 You might want to give a listen to the Magnepan 1.7.

michkhol -- Tue, 03/30/2010 - 16:42

Thanks, but I have cats. I guess anything looking like a scratch post is out. Though I'm very curious to listen to them.

Josh Hill -- Fri, 01/13/2012 - 12:25

If you do a search, I've seen some posts from people who have successfully dealt with the Maggie/scratching post problem. (I'd pass along their tips, but I don't remember what they are.)

thotdoc (not verified) -- Fri, 04/09/2010 - 11:13

Do you know if the Atma-sphere M60s have enough power to make the 1.7s come fully to life? I do not need ear shattering loudness, but I like to feel the music physically.

Thanks..and thanks for monitoring the blogs and taking part.


Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 04/09/2010 - 14:14


The Atma-Sphere OTL amps, traditionally, have a wonderful sense of timbral richness and three-dimensionality, and I'm sure that they would sound great with the 1.7s up to a given point on the loudness scale. The question is whether that "point" is loud enough for you (and the music you listen to). I think you'd have to try the M60s out with the Maggies in your room with your music at your usual listening levels to find the answer (or, if this is impossible, take the M60s to a dealer show room and try them out on the 1.7s with your music at your usual listening levels). I can tell you from my experience that the 1.7s do sound more realistic, as all Maggies do, at somewhat higher SPLs, though their loudness "sweet spot" is rather narrow. Below it, they do quite well (better than previous Maggies) on dynamic scale but don't sound quite as "there" as they do at their best; above it, they start to compress dynamics and grow brighter and more aggressive in the upper mids and treble.


thotdoc (not verified) -- Mon, 04/12/2010 - 10:22

Thank you for taking the time to answer me.


brian -- Sun, 04/11/2010 - 15:38

Atma-Sphere M-60s can do well with them, but you might want to use a pair of Zero autoformers. One of my customers uses about the same combination with 1.6s to good effect in a small room, along with an MP-3 preamp.

Atma-Sphere dealer disclosure.

Brian Walsh
Essential Audio  ~  Chicago area ~ 773-809-HIFI (4434)

greetnertall -- Thu, 09/29/2011 - 04:05

I am interested in finding speakers best suited for classical music listening. I seek clarity, balance, and resonance. Any recommendations would be more than appreciated.
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Josh Hill -- Fri, 01/13/2012 - 12:32

For the ultimate in clarity, I'd look at stats. For balance, Maggies. The Quads are a superb choice for a classical music fan who doesn't need to listen to Mahler at Row A levels. But it's hard to make a real recommendation since you haven't mentioned a price point, your options depend very much on what you can spend, and on the size of the speakers you can accommodate and where you can put them (dipoles in general are are fussier than monopoles about room placement, but not as fussy about room acoustics).

Amandela77 -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 16:49

Hey, brother. Missed you on my last trip to the Queen City. Hope all is well.


Noli (not verified) -- Mon, 04/05/2010 - 17:53

the BAT VK55 works very well with the Harbeths C7es3s. I tried that combo before & its very lovely.
Harbeths are great for classical, jazz music.
Good luck

michkhol -- Fri, 04/09/2010 - 06:59

Thanks! I'll give them a shot.

Nicholas.Bedworth -- Fri, 04/09/2010 - 02:34

Used Usher Be-718s for $1500. Keep the remaining $2500. You'll be very, very happy with them. I'm using them with Odyssey Kismet monoblocks and the results are quite amazing. Even without the subwoofer, there's floor-shaking bass; with the Fathom, you should be in great shape. Real-world Be-718 sensitivity is something like 85 dB, so 170-200 WPC will be good. I'm using them in a similar volume with excellent results.
Regarding the Cat Problem, well, I'm using aluminum tube speaker stands that are too slick even for the sharpest claws.

Nicholas Bedworth  
DigitalDirect Media Services, LLC    Text/voice 1.808.372.2883 (GMT -10)   nicholas [dot] bedworth [at] digitaldirect [dot] com (nicholas.bedworth@digitaldi)

cmalak -- Sun, 04/11/2010 - 19:10

michkhol...just wanted to make sure you were aware of these deals at Music Direct on JM Focal's 1007Be and 1027Be: (above your budget but fyi...)
The Harbeths mentioned above and the Devore Gibbon 3XLs should also fit the bill and match your BAT VK55s. I think the Usher Be-718s will be a bit too much for your BAT amp (unless you are willing to change your amp as well).

michkhol -- Mon, 04/12/2010 - 14:12

Thanks! I tried my BAT with the 1028Be and was not impressed. As far as I heard, Focal tamed highs a bit more in the xxx8 Be series. I even tried the BAT with the smallest Utopia speakers and heard unpleasant ringing. I was not just me, there were several people in the room, they all heard it. I think Focals in general require more power than I have despite their good sensitivity.

staxguy -- Sat, 09/24/2011 - 18:01

I've been unimpressed with Focal's in genereal, listening to the lastest Focal Scala Utopia on Bryston 28BSST2's (plenty of power: 1000W @ 8ohms), and other new-line gear, and not hearing anything that good.

BKG (not verified) -- Thu, 04/22/2010 - 18:31

My Klipsch Forte IIs are absolutely wonderful for classical music.  Too bad they are no longer made.

Nuance (not verified) -- Sat, 06/05/2010 - 23:39

 The Salk Sound HT2-TL's are the best speaker I've heard in that price range.  In fact, nothing comes close.
They dig into the high 20's, which is very impressive IMO.

Cam -- Mon, 06/07/2010 - 15:59

Have you looked into ProAc?  I think you could get a set of new Studio 140 Mk2's for your budget.  I have the 140s and they have great sound for the price range - particularly in terms of imaging and dynamics.  Their newer models in the Response series are also now much more efficient than previous designs - maybe you could pick up a pair of used Response D18s for your budget?

sacduser -- Sun, 06/27/2010 - 22:20

If you need timbre to be reproduced accurately with as little cabinet and driver colouration as possible,  so as to enjoy the tonal qualities and blends of orchestral instruments, I'd recommend BBC inspired loudspeakers such as the Harbeths.  If not the M40, the M30 would be tops for the purpose.  Or you could also look at their venerable C7. 

mikeyg -- Wed, 07/14/2010 - 17:26

Vandersteen 3a sig

Nicholas.Bedworth -- Wed, 07/14/2010 - 18:21

@ mikey... Just got the "diamond" tweeters for the Be-718s from Usher. They are transformative, and make an already high quality, and inexpensive (especially used) speaker even better. With a Gotham subwoofer, you will be very pleased.

Nicholas Bedworth  
DigitalDirect Media Services, LLC    Text/voice 1.808.372.2883 (GMT -10)   nicholas [dot] bedworth [at] digitaldirect [dot] com (nicholas.bedworth@digitaldi)

boisty -- Sun, 07/18/2010 - 18:38

How does one go about getting the new "diamond" tweeter?  I have the BE-718s and would like to explore this.  Thanks!!

RanaKabir -- Sun, 07/18/2010 - 20:53

The best speakers under $4K that I have found ARE the Maggie 1.7s.  Cat owners will of course have to declaw their cats (and if the cats are indoor cats then this sloution would be worth exploring) since the 1.7s are very special indeed.

Rana N. Kabir
CEO, ENDS Technologies

nisha2kothari -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 08:06

In my opinnion, the nicest speakers I have ever heard were B&W Nautilus 802s. Alas, I can't afford them. Notably, I owned a pair of DM 604s for about a week. They were the most disappointing speaker purchase I have ever made.

Thanks you for sharing a wonderful info with us.

It was great to read your blog and got much of knowledge through the comments which i wanted since from many time.

Hope to see your more and more info later on also.

Audio Production

Video Production

gunner -- Mon, 06/13/2011 - 07:19

First had Totem Arros, then I upgraded them to Totem Forests bi-amped ....okay, nice but only open up at juiced up volume level that was fatiguing after a short while

Hence I sold off both sets of the Totems and now have REGA R9s in the same bi-amped kit .... a BIG BIG Improvement in EVERY category by a quantum leap IMO: improvements also agreed to by my audiophile buddies for what it's worth. Again, it is a matter of taste .....

gunner -- Fri, 01/13/2012 - 11:38


this question is analagous to asking "how long is a piece of string?"
Answer: it depends!

The point #1: what does the amp and CDP mfg use as speakers in their show demos? Try to find out and go audition that first iMO

The point #2: the quality(ies) and features of your kit will determine which speakers match up best. I've since upgraded to REGA ISIS valve cdp and REGA OSIRIS integrated. The output is startlingly different (much, much better in all phases with the same speakers: REGA R9s).

CONCLUSION: This leads back to point #1. Let your ears do the choosing but please do try to piggy-back on the amp/cdp manufacturers's choice to demo which speakers they use ..

Happy hunting!

HiFiSoundGuy -- Wed, 07/20/2011 - 10:03

    The latest  new improved BOSE 901's sounds pretty damn amazing with classical music !.... "Right up there among the finest sounding speakers on the market !"

Zach -- Wed, 07/20/2011 - 12:28

 Magnepan 1.7

anil@audioexcel... -- Fri, 07/22/2011 - 02:05

Try the Legacy Audio Classic or the Definitive Technology Mythos STS. Both are excellent !

johnlewisgrant -- Thu, 09/08/2011 - 17:13

I'm 58 years old and have been a stereo nut all my life.   Started with Kef Reference 104s, explored much in between, ended up with ProAc Response 1SCs and American-made powered speakers called Mackie HR 824s.   The 824s were, BY FAR, the best of the lot, although designed as sound monitors, not as home stereo speakers.   That just means they were designed with pure accuracy and flat response in mind, not looks or marketing. 
But I recently found something MUCH, MUCH better than box speakers: ribbons.  American made ones available; the biggest company is Magnepan.   Their MMG mail order (yes you read that right--"mail order") literally destroy everything else out there.  Caviat: you WILL need a subwoofer.   But for under 1 grand US you will have speakers that are leaps and bounds ahead of the old technology.  
You can use an old-fashioned typewriter or you can get a word processor.    That's the difference.   
Distortion and flat frequency response are a SOLVED PHENOMENON.   The only thing holding back this technology is marketing and inertia.   It is SO much better.... save the bass end.... which it WILL do .... but at added cost if you want to do it with ribbons.   So get the SUB (old technology) and fork out 500 US on the Magnaplanars (MMG), and you are better than the best.  
I really mean it.

drewbitsko -- Sat, 09/24/2011 - 07:21

I think you could get a set of new Studio 140 Mk2's for your budget.  I have the 140s and they have great sound for the price range - particularly in terms of imaging and dynamics.  Their newer models in the Response series are also now much more efficient than previous designs remove skin tags

staxguy -- Sat, 09/24/2011 - 17:58

Hi, right at your budget would be:
The KEF XQ40 ($3999):
which is quite house and wallet friendly.

Around your budget, I've listened to the quite good (but not great) Linn Magic 140 ($2995) and Linn Magic Isobarik ($5600):

Both of these should be quite nicely drievable by your BAT, and a "nice enough" speakers, from even a hi-fi salesman's persective (within budget). When I listened, I wished I had already owned a pair for the past 25 years (of course an impossibility), but I was looking for something more in the Magico Q5 ($60K "superspeaker") landscape lately.

For way less money  (I've seen a pair for $650 on trade in), the Castle Howard S2 in Mahogany are quite a nice pair of classically focused speakers, with oodles of spaciousness for an enjoyable listening experience. You'll be hard pressed to find similar for under $4000. They are quite impressive to look at also, and less than a "cheap/value" pair of speaker cables, lately. :) I'm sad I didn't buy the pair I saw, even if only to keep in storage for later. They're a good deal.
The Magnepan 1.7 and 3.7 would two good suggestions to listen to, before buying. I've only heard the 1.7 on a NAIM stack, and it did some things quite well, but was compromised by a very small room and poor placement. The 3.7's are only on static display now, locally so I haven't had a chance to listen, but would hope they are decent. For amplifiers, I quite like Devaliet, but it seems you like tubes and such: that's your perogative.
The B&W 802 diamond are quite over your budget and are quite decent for classical music, some would say, but perhaps you might find a nice condition older Matrix Series 802 or 801 at under $4000 easily, and you would have the advantage of listening on speakers largely used for mastering classical music for quite some time. For rock music, I would suggest something like the old NHT 3.3 at the under $4000 level, used. Check Ebay and Audiogon, or you might just go with a nice, new speaker like the Magnepan or Linn at under or around $4K.
I was also going to suggest you entirely forgo speakers and go with a headphone like the Stax SR-009 which will give you more detail than more speakes can dream of, at any budget ($5200):

but that would necesitate something like the Woo Audio WES ($4990 base model/price) and while giving you pleasure, wouldn't really serve the interests of the household, unless you are the only one who likes listening to classical music - in that case, the extra $6K+ spent would be a godsend. :)

Being a bit of a headphone fan, if you have $1000 left in your budget after getting speakers, I'd really suggest picking up a nice pair of Audeze LCD-2 ($995) for late night listening:

That's all an aside. Checkout NAIM, Magnepan and KEF models. :)


Tonto -- Thu, 09/29/2011 - 11:33

Got a pair of VMPS RM-35's new a few year ago for $3500 and have been super happy with them.  Ribbon mid-ranges cover most of the classical music spectrum, built in sub-woofers in each, and bi-ampable.  The money I saved by cutting some over-priced speaker cables into four sections I used to buy a second (used) power amp to match the one I already had so the amps are right next to the speakers.  Take that you overpriced speaker cable marketers.

Jaybird -- Thu, 01/12/2012 - 13:24

I think the Vandersteen 3 Signatures are very hard to beat @ four grand,

anil@audioexcel... -- Tue, 05/22/2012 - 05:42

The new Legacy Audio Signature SE's are amazing ! Beautiful low ends (2 x 10"), great mids with the 4" ribbon and 7" silver graphite and sweet highs with the 1" ribbon. I don't think you will get more dynamics in another speaker at this price.

Keladrin -- Wed, 05/23/2012 - 09:13

Hi Michkhol,

That is the golden question but not easy to answer as there are simply hundreds of makes of speakers out there that all claim they are good and people will always say that what they have is the best. How do they know this – have they tested all the known brands out there in their living room? Of course not;  they tend to go on recommendations or that chance listening that went well.

I suppose what I did when choosing speakers is to look at the problems that a good speaker is trying to overcome and looking at the technology out there and weighing up the claims from a scientific perspective. I have the advantage of coming from a scientific background/family with a keen interest in all aspects of science (as well as music). My research started in the mid 70’s when I discovered a company called Jordan Watts that was making a metal cone full-range unit called the Jordan Watts module. This claimed to have solved many of the problems conventionally limiting sound quality in conventional speakers and on close examination the science did stand up.

It was also a completely different approach to the typical 2 or 3-way design out there. To summarise what I found the units were extremely ‘fast’ and produced transients like nothing I had heard before. The mid-range detail was superb as it was a crossover-free design. Bass was good down to around 40Hz but was limited a bit if you wanted an electronic bass-heavy sound that shook the walls. The treble was also very clean but dispersion was not quite ideal at the very top end. They certainly went high enough if listened to on axis. They had some limitations in the sensitivity and power output.

Over the years Ted Jordan has refined the design and the limitations have mostly been addressed, and there are some hybrid design out there that have combined the units with more traditional technology to give quite superb results.
What I have found is that sound quality (and not just the midrange), coherence, imaging, detail resolution and integration is just about unbeatable (and there is good scientific basis as why this is so).  The unassisted top-end can sound a bit ‘captive’ to some people do to lack of dispersion and the very bottom end, although plenty low enough considering cabinet designs, and loud enough for reasonable listening, can be limiting if you value  room shaking bass impact more than everything else and are using a design with just one of these drivers in the design.

Like electrostatic technology, it is not perfect in any sense, but it may well be good enough in the areas you outine. There are some designs out there using his latest drivers that you may well be interested in. This is Ted Jordan’s website if you are interested in following up the technology:

scipio777 -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 08:16

All, I live in Canada and I am starting to build what I hope will be a quality, mind blowing audio listening system...I don't care about HT, just listening to music the way it was menat to be listened to...I am not fabulously wealthy but I do make a pretty good monthly salary ($ 150,000 per-annum) would appear that the speaker is the main ingredient in assembling a high end listening experience...can anyone give me advice on which speakers I should go with ( my living room is 20x20x15) kids, no cats......any advice on compatible components would nott be unwelcome either

Josh Hill -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 16:39

Suggest you start a new thread, and give an idea about what you want to spend, since it's possible to put together a good system with $600 speakers but also possible to spend $200,000 on speakers. Not that you have to spend anywhere near that ridiculous figure to get superb sound or that I'd ever suggest it seriously, but there is a wide range. Also, you might want to say something about your musical tastes, since this has an effect on the speakers that might be most appropriate, e.g., if your tastes lean towards chamber music you might want to look at the Quads, but if you want to rock out dynamics would be more likely to fit the bill.

nirodha -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 15:04

KEF LS 50: check them out ... nothing more to say

scipio777 -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 15:35

I Googled the Kef LS50 speakers and it looks like they are a mini monitor speaker....I'm looking for more of a tower speaker...unless I got the wrong pictures...I am right about this??

nirodha -- Mon, 08/20/2012 - 00:21

yes that is true. I suggested them because of their quality and the fact that you have a subwoofer. But maybe you are right...the "gap" could be too big. Only one way to be sure...
Good luck!

dyl1dyl -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 23:38

 Used Magneplanar 3.6Rs. You'll probably have some extra dough to upgrade the stands to Myesound ones or soem other third party options as well as change the fuses and jumpers. They are IMO, without a doubt the best speakers for classical music at that price point. Seriously impossible to beat until much higher prices for classical music.

Speakers: B and W 802 Diamonds, Bose Lifestyle 35, Audioengine AP4 Bamboo
Headphones: Audeze LCD-3, LCD-2, Beyerdynamic T5p, dt880, AKG K701, Ultrasone HFI-780
IEMs/Earbuds: Westone 4, Mons

dyl1dyl -- Sun, 08/19/2012 - 23:38

 Used Magneplanar 3.6Rs. You'll probably have some extra dough to upgrade the stands to Myesound ones or soem other third party options as well as change the fuses and jumpers. They are IMO, without a doubt the best speakers for classical music at that price point. Seriously impossible to beat until much higher prices for classical music.

Speakers: B and W 802 Diamonds, Bose Lifestyle 35, Audioengine AP4 Bamboo
Headphones: Audeze LCD-3, LCD-2, Beyerdynamic T5p, dt880, AKG K701, Ultrasone HFI-780
IEMs/Earbuds: Westone 4, Mons

commsysman -- Fri, 12/14/2012 - 14:28

 I have a set of Vandersteen 3A speakers at one house, and a set of Gallo Acoustics Classico CL-3 speakers at the other one.
The Vandersteens are great, but oddly enough the Gallos sound just as good for only $1700!
They are rather amazing. Read the review in the July/August The Absolute sound for an interesting discussion of their unique features.

 Home systems, for reference; Audio Research LS-26 preamp and PH-5 phone stage preamp, OPPO BDP-95 player, Ayre C5-Xe SACD/CD player, Bryston 3B-SST2 amplifier, Vandersteen 3A speakers and Gallo CL-3 speakers, MMF7 turntable with Micro-Benz cartri

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