To Garrett Hongo,
I would like to first say how much I have enjoyed your articles and opinions. They are well written and honest and not full of the typical reviewer hype. I wanted to see if I could get an opinion from you. I am looking to upgrade to what I hope would be a permanent (20-plus year) speaker. Budget would be up to $30k but less would definitely be preferred. I'm writing because I'm hoping with your experience you might have a few recommendations for speakers that could survive young kids. I have always loved Magnepan-type sound but found their lack of oomph and narrow sweet spot a little off-putting. They are also not likely to go over well with my fiancé. I really like my current setup: Herron audio VTSP 3-A preamp and M1A amps, so they have to be 4 ohms or higher. I listen to all types of music. I've got plenty of time to audition but I'm not sure where to start looking. Any thoughts are really appreciated.
I've a few ideas for you, but your choice should partly depend on your room size, so I'll answer in categories and limit my recommendations to speakers I've listened to carefully. For a relatively small room (up to 8' x 15'), I very much like the Von Schweikert Audio UniField 3 ($18,000/pr. for current version), which I reviewed in its original iteration a couple of years ago. It's just wonderful with detail, midrange clarity, and clean bass response down to 25Hz. And the compact size and the fact it can be placed close to a back wall makes it so great for tight situations. At issue might be the separate midrange/tweeter box, which sits on sorbothane-like feet atop the larger woofer cabinet. A child can easily knock this over. For a warmer sound and a much more secure but still separate mid/tweet cabinet, I like the Verity Parsifal Ovation speakers ($24,995/pr.). These don't go as low as the VSA U3s, but they have a magical midrange and are easy to place in small rooms too.
For a moderate-sized room (up to 10' x 18'), I'm a big fan of the new VSA VR-44 speakers, whether Passive ($22,000/pr.) or Aktiv ($25,000/pr.) version. Since you've the Herron M1 amps, I'd say the Passive could be very well suited to your needs. These speakers, with cabinets both large and deep, are Albert Von Schweikert's response to the current revolution in speaker design, emphasizing high-resolution, transparency to source, control of cabinet resonance, and frequency extension. Another I like very much, of a more conventional size, is the Märten Django XL ($15,000/pr.). This speaker is capable of a very big sound but with fabulous detail and texture, able to scale symphonic music extraordinarily well and also render a lifelike sound out of the most intimate combo jazz recordings you can find. I also like the Wilson Sasha W/P ($29,400/pr.). It's been consistently great no matter what electronics I've heard it with. For large rooms, with your electronics, I like the Focal Utopia series of speakers. The Focal Scala Utopia III ($29,000/pr.) might do the trick. The sound is somewhat relaxed, but the music is presented in a way that puts you at ease rather than up on your toes. Other speakers in the Utopia line, which I feel better suited to the largest rooms, are all over $30,000 -- the Focal Maestro Utopia III ($49,995/pr.) and Focal Stella Utopias ($95,000/pr.). Good luck in your speakerquest! . . . Garrett Hongo