Adding Warmth and Balance with McIntosh 2105

Hi. I am currently running a McIntosh MC-2105 solid state amplifier, Primaluna Prologue 3 preamp, and Graham Slee phono stage with some excellent, budget-oriented speakers, the Energy RC-10s. I realize that my speakers are not as good as the rest of my system, though I think they are a great value for the ~$350 I paid for them. I am posting to get some recommendations for different speakers I could try with my system.

Right now my system excels at soundstaging and dynamics. My listening preferences consist mostly of rock, including some rather heavy stuff, and old jazz like Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, and Django Reinhardt. My girlfriend uses my setup to listen to experimental instrumental music, which I think is called "ambient" music by some folks.

With the system in its current state, there is very good separation of the instrumental components of the music and resoundingly clear highs. The dynamics of the music are simply exceptional. Sometimes it makes me feel like I am riding on the edge of Janis Joplin's guitar. However, the output is certainly lacking a sense of balance, and at times the output, though sounding big, also sounds a bit compressed. The instruments are separate from each other, but it sounds like the musicians are playing on a very small stage where they have no personal space.

I tried my uncle's Totem Arro speakers with my setup, and I was disappointed with the results. While they certainly provided a slight improvement in warmth and imaging, the output they produced was resoundingly boring (especially with my old jazz records), and the highs seemed a bit veiled. Gone were those exciting dynamics I get with my Energy speakers.

So I'm looking for replacement for my Energy speakers that will retain their dynamic spark but will introduce more balance and more neutral (though not boring) highs. I have heard that B&W pairs nicely with McIntosh, but I simply do not have the money for the 800 series, and several folks have tried to steer me away from the 600 series, calling them bloated and shrill. Others have recommended Vienna Acoustics or Sonus Faber Concertino Domus to me, but I'm afraid they'd suffer from the same deficiencies as the Totem Arros.

I would appreciate any recommendations you could offer. I am a full time doctoral student so my funds are kind of limited right now, though I have some equipment I could sell to purchase the right speaker.

I don't think you need to spend a ton of money, but I do think you would be happier with a subwoofer in your system as described. Note that you were unsatisfied with both your current loudspeakers as well as the (very nice) Totem Arros that you tried. These speakers you are talking about have in common a lack of deep bass. Adding a decent sub (or even two) to your current bookshelf speakers or other small monitors will make you much happier with perceived soundstaging and the overall musicality of the presentation. If you like rock music, I can't imagine you'd ever be pleased with small monitors with no bass, but the sub will also improve your jazz listening. You mention a tight budget, and so this is a much more cost-effective solution than trying go with full-range speakers. Good luck.
I would take $1700 and spend
$1000 on used JL F110 sub and
$700 on used Thiel CS2.2s
This will blow away anything less than 10K
I would not say I am unsatisfied with my current setup. It sounds great in many respects, but I think it could be improved substantially by the use of something that provided better imaging and improved highs compared to the budget Energy speakers. The Totems are nice in theory, and sound great playing smooth jazz with my uncle's Luxman receiver, but they fail miserably with more dynamic music. They are what I would call staid speakers.
Take a look at the PSB and Paradigm lines. They are both well engineered and are a substantial value.
Good recommendation on the Thiel 2 2s and the JL sub by Vernneal but also consider the REL subs (perhaps a pair of REL Storm IIIs) using the hi-level input.

Good luck.
Thank you for the information and recommendations. I must admit I am a bit skeptical about the subwoofer recommendations. A common stereotype is that rock music is all about loads of bass. I don't really want to add more bass to my setup. I am happy with the level of bass output produced by my small energy speakers. Like I said in my post, what I'd like to add to my system is better imaging and more neutral highs. With just about any speakers, my McIntosh amplifier is already bass heavy and quite dynamic. Adding even more bass would exaggerate the lack of balance (skewed toward bass and highs) that I already seem to be hearing in my setup.
Try out PMCs. Not a 'warm' speaker, but very well balanced, uncolored, and fast. I've heard them with Mac (among others) and its a very good pairing IMO.

I listen to mostly rock - classic rock, metal and alternative. I run Audio Physic Yara Evolution Bookshelves. Fantastic speakers. Very similar to PMCs when I auditioned side by side, but the APs were fuller sounding to my ears. All APs I've heard have the same house sound.

Some people have said the Green Mountain Audio speakers fit this music well. I haven't heard them, but am intrigued by them. Europas come up from time to time.
A used set of Vandersteen Quatros could work
(((Like I said in my post, what I'd like to add to my system is better imaging and more neutral highs. With just about any speakers, my McIntosh amplifier is already bass heavy and quite dynamic)))
A used set of Vandersteen Quatros could fit your requirements.
One of the unique features of the Quatro speakers is allowing to optimse the Bass peak overload one speaker/at a time precisely where the event or room interaction occurs.
Imagine someone gave you a 26 thousand $ pair of the best mini mons in the world and you still had a 12 db bass peak just in the left ch at 82 HZ what would you do?
When rooms overload it is that event that competes for our attention with our ears trying to hear the rest of the works in the mid range. Many folks still believe they must settle on a mini speaker most with limited bass or pregnant mid bass intentionally boosted to make you believe its there pulled back mids and jacked up highs for balance. When all they need for better imaging and more neutral highs is a high performance full range speaker that deals with room interaction.
Cheers Johnnyr
I use a McIntosh MC206 amp. A trait of McIntosh is in your face forward with plenty of power. A sub is not just for bass. Done right it can smooth and extend the highs of your main speaker system. There are many good subs JL, REL, Velodyne, and Def. Technologys to name a few. See if you can borrow a pair. A budget speaker cable that is that images well is the ANTI CABLE
I second the PMC recommendation. The new i series has very easy to listen to highs but they do not sound rolled off. Just really well done.

I can't say what the older series' highs sounded like, since I've only heard the i. The + series (before the i) added a soft dome tweeter, and the series before that had a metal tweeter. When the + series was introduced, you could actually upgrade to it if you wanted to change the metal tweeter. As far as I know, the + and i tweeters are different. Reading online reviews, many PMC users did not think the metal tweeter was too bright, but unless you hear it I guess that's one risk with a metal dome.

Anyhow, PMC mids are full, with great instrument separation that makes it easy to follow each individual part. Bass is deep but tuneful. Overall it has a nice, wide open and balanced sound with fantastic resolution. I also listen mostly to rock and the i series does a bang up job with that genre.
Has your 2105 been serviced yet? If not, I would take care of that before changing anything else.