The best ever standmount/bookshelf speakers Period?

captain73 -- Wed, 06/16/2010 - 16:50

Don't ask me why I want a bookshelf speaker in particular, I must have issues or something. I've always owned either bookshelf or stand mount speakers. For some reason I can't bear the thought of having a pair of floorstanding speakers, i find look very intrusive things to have on a room. Like I said I must have issues!
Wilson Audio Duettes, Magico Mini's, Sonus faber's Guarneri Memento, what are the very best small standmount speakers out there? 

B166ER -- Wed, 06/16/2010 - 20:52

Whats the best colour in the world?
Whats the best size in jeans?
Whats the best seafood?
Whats the best God?
Whats the best letter?
Yes, I'm being snarky. There is no best, theres just you and your opinion.

$$$ does NOT equal better sound.

financespeciali... -- Thu, 08/05/2010 - 12:19

My B&W 803s sit on top of subs in a recessed room. Does that make them stand mount speakers?


Ded Frag -- Fri, 03/25/2011 - 00:26

OK' "Best" could cover a multitude of sins so lets just think about a standmount that, if given an acoustically decent room to strut it's stuff in, gets closest to the real thing. In that light my vote is still for the Elac BS 243 by a long shot. The cabinet appears to be inert, the ribbon tweeter sounds like it belongs with speakers that cost silly amounts of money and the transmision to the mid/woofer is seamless. I don't know what that mid/woofer is made of but it sure looks and sounds like no other I've stumbled across over the decades. I heard them on the end of a Luxman C-600 preamp and M-600 power amp in a medium sized properly damped/defused acoustic. How they'd respond with less power I don't know. Possibly that may be the only drawback of an otherwise astonishingly successful design.

Atul Kanagat -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 08:41

Right on. Especially the $$$ = quality part.
Do check out the Usher Be-718's (Tiny Dancers). Could save you a lot of money. And it is a terrific loudspeaker, front ported for flexibility in placement.
Full disclosure: mine is not an objective opinion; I had a hand in the development of these babies. But really, they are very good.

lenwfl -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 10:21

I heard the Raidho Ayra C1.0s and Pioneer TAD's at the 2008 RMAF and thought they were in a short list of best at show for their respective sizes.


Mr Plus -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 21:59

The TADs need one heck of a bookshelf! They are excellent, though.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

lenwfl -- Fri, 06/18/2010 - 06:01

The one's I heard were bookshelf speakers (kind of):-)


JLeeMD -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 11:43

Dynaudio Confidence C1s!  Great all-around speaker with notable bass extension- perfect wide-bandwidth solution if room dictates standmounts.

bosell -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 21:53

 In many ways, the SF Extrema was the best there ever was. I regret selling mine. It is a music lover's speaker with no excuses bass.

Carl Marchisotto -- Fri, 06/18/2010 - 16:39

Since Atul posted his comments I would say I can put my 2 cents in--
Nola Micro Grand Reference  $14,000
Dedicated stand                         $1200

majesticgiraffe -- Sat, 06/19/2010 - 19:35

How does a NOLA micro grand reference compare to a Maggie 20.1?

Robert Harley -- Mon, 06/21/2010 - 11:37

I think the short list of the greatest monitor-sized speakers of all time (cost no object) must include the Sonus faber Extrema, the Celestion SL600 (the silver edition with voice coils wound from solid silver wire), the Magico Mini, and the TAD CR-1.

hoganbo -- Tue, 06/22/2010 - 20:52

Green Mountain EOS and EOS HD

Ded Frag -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 17:20

Whenever I've heard either of these to my ears they have a tilted up mid-range and very little bass with some obvious resonances around 150 Hz or so. Imaging though I thought spot on.

Rick D -- Sat, 03/05/2011 - 11:18

How about my favorite, the ATC SCM active 50 loudspeaker. About the same size as Spendor 1/2's yet a built in amp and outragous ability.

Dallas2122 -- Sun, 02/24/2013 - 16:20

One monitor not reviewed by Tas is the New Marten Duke-2 which is night and day better then their very good prior model
Now using the latest Accuton ceramic drivers, and a new Xover and Mundorfs best Silver Gold Oil capacitors and resistors
Ay $8500. It is a absolute steal and IMO. Will compete very well with any monitor up to $25k including Magico I find this A Very involving loudspeaker and one I plan on buying soon ,with quality subwoofer toy have a reference full range loudspeaker.

Jonathan Valin -- Wed, 06/23/2010 - 02:02

To Robert's list I think I would add the Rogers LS3/5a, which really started this ball rolling.
I haven't heard the TAD CR-1s in my room yet (they are on their way), but, as Alan and others have noted, at 101 pounds they are mighty large for stand-mount speakers (plus they are three-ways, not two-ways). Of course, at 80 pounds the Mini II isn't exactly a small fry either. Plus each of its stands weighs 120 pounds! (The TAD stands weigh a measly 32 pounds each.)

Though B166ER has a point--"best" is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder--from my personal experience thus far I'd undoubtedly cast my vote for the Magico Mini II. It was a game-changer. It will be fascinating to compare it to the CR-1, especially since the two have not sounded remotely alike at trade shows. 

As for B166ER's flat assertion that (more) $$$ do not equal better sound...that isn't always true, although it sometimes is. It depends on how you spend the dollars.

TD160 -- Thu, 06/24/2010 - 22:32

The ADAM AUDIO Tensor Delta standmount can be considered to be the first compact speaker in the history of hi-fi that is interesting even for those who seek to combine the easiness and implicitness of foils with the resources of a dynamic speaker. Do not buy till you hear this speaker!

sacduser -- Sun, 06/27/2010 - 22:15

I'd add the Pro AC Response 1 SC's for their breathtaking imaging.
But I'd agree with JV.  BBC LS3/5a's are mandatory on this list. They have endured the test of time.  After 40 years, They still sound right in a way no other small speaker can.  that's saying something in a system driven by product redundancy.

I have a pair and am betting this classic will outlast newer mini monitors for the next 40 years.

gstarr -- Sun, 07/18/2010 - 16:47

For jaw-droppingly great sound the Marten Dule speakers are extraordinary.  While they have a high list price (MSRP $8,500 + $1,250 for the standws--if you wish to get them), I would still call them a great bargain for the quality of sound you get. I have heard them along with various Harbeth, ProAc, and Zu bookshelf models and the Dukes just flat-out produced the best sound I have ever heard from any bookshelf model, not to mention better than most sub $20,000 speakers.  Obviously they don't plumb the deepest bass, but Marten also makes an excellent suybwoofer which would make an unbelievable combination.

Ricardo37 -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 14:36

Magico Mini really impressed me. In Europe it's by far the most expensive of them all (without the stands it improves). I've found the continuity unique.

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 16:21

 Between you and me and the lampost, I think the Magico Mini II (with stand) is the single best speaker I've reviewed in the last ten years (allowing, of course, for the frequency-response limitations of a two-way). Though the M5 is the best full-range speaker I've reviewed, when all is said and done it isn't quite as seamless as the Mini. What a wonderful bit of design and engineering.

Ricardo37 -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 16:28

I just mention the stand because they alone are most expensive than any other monitor that I know of (except TAD's ... maybe ...). This seems odd, despite ...

Jonathan Valin -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 16:35

The stands are pricey, no doubt. But have you seen them? Good Lord, they weigh 130 pounds apiece, are CNc-milled of aircraft-grade aluminum, and provide a platform that is more stable than that of any other speaker stand I'm familiar with.

Ricardo37 -- Fri, 07/23/2010 - 16:56

Yes, I've seen (and heard the result). Really impressive stuff. That's why the "... despite ..." at the ending of my previous comment. Nevertheless It's an truly impressive sum. I was told that they cost (almost?) the same as the speakers itself.
Returning to the issue, Magico, for me,  is actually one of a kind, despite the Q5 didn't erase my M5 memory ... but I've only heard them (all) at shows ...

Maurice DeGardin -- Sat, 07/24/2010 - 21:19

how stupid do you think we are - you can't just pop in using a different username every few months, praise your own product, and expect everyone to believe you. hiding behind a proxy server is clever, but when you use the same proxy server multiple times then it's still easy to trace the ip addresses that were connected to it, and lo and behold - they come from oakland each and every time.
i think you make great speakers and can actually agree with jonathan valin that the mini 2 is the best compact speaker that i've ever heard, but i'd never buy from you. if you want respect, let others praise your products honestly and stop with the games.

Ricardo37 -- Sun, 07/25/2010 - 11:15

I won't mind being from Magico :-))) ... but I'm just a Portuguese music lover who as not anything with audio industry (besides buying from them).

I won't mind of having Magico speakers too, but I just can't afford it. They are out of my league.

jlg -- Sun, 08/01/2010 - 09:08

 Anyone heard the Tidal Amea Diaceras?  At $43000 a pair, if they're not among the best something is wrong...

Robert Harley -- Mon, 08/02/2010 - 15:27

I have not heard of the Tidal Diaceras. At the last CES, Tidal brought their huge flagship.

gstarr -- Mon, 08/02/2010 - 15:57

I'd certainly not pay anymore than $10,000 for a pair of monitor speakers.  If a speaker designer can't design a world class monitor for less than $10,000 they should be in another business.  The best monitor speaker I have heard is the Marten Duke. They cost between $7,000 and $8,500. The drivers in the Dukes are the best and latest that Accuton has to offer. They give solid response down to about 40 Hz. Marten even sells a subwoofer called the Ellington that fits below the Duke, like a Wilson Watt Puppy scenario. Of course, they will work great with any top quality subwoofer, although with the Ellington, both the Duke and the Ellington will be precisely time aligned. 
I think I am going to be buying a pair as their sound is just so glorious.

staxguy -- Fri, 11/12/2010 - 23:46

Hmm. I live at "The Ellington," and have had computer servers "Ella" and Basie (web dev, and backup)! Maybe I should look into this "Jazz" stuff!

While I can't say the BEST, I can say the _worst_ speakers I've ever had/heard were made by me. 3-way car stereo drivers in a tiny box.

Marten's "Duke" looks a bit like an "ugly" cartoon character, when seen in wood grain. (one eye, a wide "scream" mouth), but may sound ...delightful.

highenduser -- Thu, 08/05/2010 - 11:34

If you can live with the max volume constraints, subwoofer requirement for fullrange and a relatively nearfield listening position the NHT M00's are untouchable due to the flawless midrange (simple 4.5" paper driver in a cast aluminum enclosure without a port). They have a simple internal class a/b amp - ignore the ridiculously low price and use as good a source as you can. I have owned many speakers and prefer these over anything including Vandersteen, Celestion, Quad and even ATC. Skylan stands work well as does NHT's S20 subwoofer. (not verified) -- Thu, 08/05/2010 - 12:03

Totem Acoustics Mani-2!!  If you can't afford $30K for Magico Minis or $37K for TAD CR-1s, try these $5K/pr giant-killers.  They fill my 19' x 27' listening room with beautiful sound, and may have the best midrange in the business.  They have 'knocked the socks off' of some very discerning audiophiles and reviewers who own much more expensive floor-standers.
The Mani-2s need high power (I'd say 150 W/ch minimum) to really sing.  And in-room roll-off is at about 40 Hz, so you'll probably want a sub.  But even if youi CAN afford $30K, you owe it to yourself to get a listen to the Mani-2s.
Full Disclosure:  I have no affiliation to Totem Acoustics and had no hand in designing the Mani-2s.  But I've owned a pair for over 15 years & I LOVE 'em.

dhodapp@columbu... -- Thu, 08/05/2010 - 13:36

I love my Coincident Triumph Signatures, powered  a Will Vincent ST70 FX2 tube set, MAC MX-112. Just fantastic in a 15 X 20 room.

financespeciali... -- Thu, 08/05/2010 - 21:00

I have the best speakers in the world. i have not heard yours, but I know mine are the best because I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night. BTW: The Rogers are OK in a very small room, for which they were designed, but the world has changed and there are some improvements in the last 30-40 years.


Ohjoy -- Mon, 09/13/2010 - 13:21

Spendor ls35a, Celestion sl600si, Aerial 5b's, Sequerra Met 7's just to name a few.
Spendors ls35a's (better then the Rogers in my opinion) tonally excellent, not transparent at all, and soundstage is not great but hell they are so very musical.
Celestion sl600si:  tonally very good, excellent soundstage and transparency.  Somewhat electronic sensitive, sound really nice with Spectral amps.
Aerial 5b's: tonally very good, very good soundstaging and pretty good transparency.  Pretty electronic sensitive, must have enough power to make them come to life.
Sequerra Met 7's (have to say have not heard the latest versions) Still to this day one of the best soundstages I've ever heard.  Tonally all over the board lol but when driven with just the right amplifier can be pretty magical. 

Kevin LaTour
35 years hi-end audio video enthusiast

Tawaun da bomb -- Mon, 10/18/2010 - 19:35

  I would say i have a heard a lot of monitors,and even very popular expensive 1's,but the 1 that floats my boat best is the Dynaudio Confidence C1,and they may infact be the very best speaker i have ever heard,and its certainly the best I've heard in a average normal room.
The rest of the list breaks down like this for me:
Joseph Pulsar-I want some more time with this speaker,i feel they have the capability to challange the C1's.
Usher Be-718-this is a amazing speaker for the money and far beyond.
Totem Model-1 Signiture-a difficult speaker to setup,but when the system is right they are pure magic.
Pro Ac Tablellite 8-what a soundstager,they can really really disapear and throw a huge soundstage.
Fritz Audio Carbon8- this speaker does atleast everything very good,and all for $1750!
Spica 50's- i just love the way these play music.
And last but not least,the Usher S-520 this lil speaker is already a global living legend that challenges things statement speakers do,its only downfall its size,output and price,but Usher just came up with a brilliant Wilson Watt/Puppy theme,and you can tell the exucution took a lot of thought and it was done without taking anything away from the S-520's abilities.What was already a iconic freak of nature for its price,for $1170 shipped from Usher usa is a very formable speaker regardless of price and size now,to think that its a even bigger value than the Be-718 is astounding and worhty of all time greatness a great mini and a fulrange speaker all in 1,hey did i say price was 1 of its weakness's well maybe not anymore!

staxguy -- Fri, 03/25/2011 - 00:58

After listening to the Focal / JM Lab on an all-Bryston system (BCD-1 cdp, BDA-1 dac, ??? pre, and pair 28B-SST2 amps - 1000W+), I had a chance to audition the Focal Twin 6 be quite by accident at a local pro-audio department of a decent music store:
Listened to in real near-field mode, head quite close and almost between the speakers, the "bookshelf" monitors sounded to my ears so much more interesting than headphones, and quite resolving on Mark Levinson / Red Rose Music's first SACD/CD (CD layer). My reference for phones is the old Stax Omega 2 and SRM-007t combo, and what impressed me with the Focal in this near-near field arrangment over the Stax and other ear-"speakers" was the out-of-the-head imaging, and the tonality was not bad at all, IMO.
It was quite a chance from the larger Focal / Bryston hi-fi rig, admittedly, but still sounded like music! :)
The last time I noticed music like this was on a decent YBA / 805 setup, years ago, playing just the right Jan Garabek track, that literally brought me close to tears, how beautiful it sounded: very much what we might aim for with our hobby.
There are a few models up of "bookshelf" monitors above the Twin 6 in the Focal Professional line (all actively amped, of course - class AB on top, and "BASH" mid and bass), including the SM9 2/3 way and the SM11 line which includes a special center channel model for the theatre mixer, and a sub as well. There's a sub in the SM6 line, and a smaller Solo6be model as well (one mid vs two), along with some CMS "value" line, as well, which has a few models.
The Twin6 Be, while not the top model of Focal's professional offerings, does sound quite a bit more interesting than your typical pair of cans, I would say, and is my 2c for a interesting (if not top-rated) "best ever" standmount / bookshelf speakers entry, since I wasn't able to audition the SM11 series (around $7000-8000 each, but including internal amplifaction), which might be something of a contender.
If I remember correctly, the B&W Silver Signature was a bit of a standout bookshelf speaker, when introduced, and, if I am not mistaken, did Joesph Audio once have a model, Pearl, not Pearl 2, that was stand-mount, and had amazing bass response for a tiny true bookshelf loudspeaker, or am I thinking of another contender?
Now that I've heard the mid-model Focal pro speaker, I'm interested in checking out their top model, in a sub-sat system, to see how that pans. (pun intended - they're clearly monitoring ready!)
I will say though, that what a difference decent material makes in evaluating a system. Magic only really began to happen on the Bryston / Focal Scala rig, when I put on the Mark Levinson mastered / recorded SACD/CD disk. Even on the Focal Twin6 Be monitors, the same thing happened, with the inital hip-hop track sounding aneamic, likely how it had been recored.
Resolving gear rocks, but only rolls with some 'phile oriented disks, I'm beginning to re-remember. :)
On the Focal / home line, I guess the Diablo Utopia or the Viva Utopias would be their real contenders for the standmount gig, but I could not help but admire their active speakers, as they are so cute, and cheap, by hi fi terms.
Cheers, Staxguy -- Sun, 02/19/2012 - 21:42

B&W PM1's and they are a bargain!  You can all go home now:O)

MrAcoustat -- Sun, 09/09/2012 - 08:18

My choice is the Sonus Faber Extrema.


majesticgiraffe -- Sun, 09/09/2012 - 13:13

Raidho C1.1 is supposed to be very involving. I heard the C1.0 with Moon in San Fran and didn't do it for me. Image height was about two feet off floor. Miniature.

SundayNiagara -- Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:37

You need to hear the C1.1s.

majesticgiraffe -- Mon, 09/10/2012 - 13:08

any specific electronics?. I heard the C1.0 at Audio Vision San Fran and he used Moon and it was not good...listened to nola with same system and liked it better.....hmnn

SundayNiagara -- Mon, 09/10/2012 - 15:42

I'll have to ask the dealer what amp he was using, but he was using a dCS? front end and Nordost cables & power distribution devices. Sounded mighty good to me.

SundayNiagara -- Tue, 09/11/2012 - 07:56

Musical Fidelity integrated amp.

Keladrin -- Mon, 09/10/2012 - 10:30

This is the $10.000 question, not least because any loudspeaker you buy will interact with your room in a different way and require optimum placement to get the best out of it and you could well end up spending $10,000 on something that is marketed very successfully, stands up well in the reviews but actually offers nothing special. The answer depends very much on what you value in a speaker.

Loudspeaker technology has not moved on anywhere near  as fast in fundamental development as the back-end technologies, although the manufacturers would like you to think it has and the loudspeaker to a large extent dictates ypur listening experience (along with the room). 80 year ago we had the 78 record feeding a basic valve amplifier and driving the moving coil loudspeaker. Today we have the digital source driving the advanced solid state amplifier driving  the, you guessed it, typically a moving coil loudspeaker.

What has changed in loudspeaker design – new technologies like electrostatics and dipoles, advances technologies allowing full-range drivers and arrays of such, hybrid designs of the above. This is where the sound quality suddenly takes a leap forward. You have to marry more than one basic technology to get the best of both world, however.

The capability of the cabinet has taken a leap forward with the advancement of computer simulations but what drives advancements in the whole industry is the advancement of the driver (sorry for the pun). As for the best standmount speaker out there –  I would advise the individual to think a bit out of the box (no pun intended) and try fundamentally different technologies rather than a re-run of something that is essentially exploring the dead-end in sound reproduction/technology a little further.

majesticgiraffe -- Mon, 09/10/2012 - 13:10

what does out of the box look like for you? as in a specific make/model you eschew?

Keladrin -- Tue, 09/11/2012 - 05:34

Speaking literally there are several out of box designs that are worth considering - dipoles and electrostatics. The rationale behind the dipole is that it fires an equal amount of energy backwards as forwards and is one of the few rare designs that is able to actually focus bass below 80Hz by virtue of the rear reflection cancelling out the edges of the forward projection - you get a controlled dispersion bass beam that some say preserves all the acoustic and imaging information.

Electrostatics can be closed or open at the rear. An exceptional design that has recently arisen is a full-range array in a transmission line - still effectively a box if you like but a rather clever one and these have recently been understood and perfected. They effectively allow very tight and extended bass from quite a small driver - you can only really effectively do it with full-range or an array of such. I have heard such an array and the result is one of the best I have heard. Imaging, coherence and bass extension is simply unbelievable considering the elegance of the design. You effectively have a single chamber open box with a tuned port. Not really suited to a standmount but you can imagine the standmount equivalent I am sure - drop the array and make it bass reflex.

Its really not the make of speaker that's important only the fundamental design - you have to think outside the proverbial commercial box as well! As for an example of some companies that are developing loudspeakers along the lines I mention: Linkwitz Lab (dipoles), Acoustic Insight (full-range), Janszen (closed box electrostatic), Quad (open panel electrostatic) come to mind.

Keladrin -- Tue, 09/11/2012 - 07:23

Some perceptive observations but It really depend what is meant by 'level' - price or design level (the two don't readily equate). There is theoretically a massive improvement that can be made to loudspeakers as even what are considered 'the best' by many will degrade the signal several orders of magnitudes more than 'the best' amplifiers so there is the definitely the theoretical possibility of 'better'. The fact is you won't close the gap significantly using conventional speaker technology. As an example electrostatics solve the issue of frequency smoothness, distortion, imaging, transient response and coherence (to some extent) but they have to be married with more traditional technology to give the bass dynamics, and that doesn't come cheap.

There are cheaper solutions but these again are moving away from the traditional multi-way moving coil loudspeaker with crossover (this is actually a design dead-end). Think Active speakers for a start.

fsg1948 -- Tue, 05/07/2013 - 08:19

I think everyone forgot about Raidho C.1.1

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