Advice for bookshelf speakers

It is time for me to consider getting some new speakers and I'd like some advice.  This is a secondary system where I watch movies the majority of the time but I still like the speakers to sound good on those occasions when I listen to music. I need to replace my left, center and right.  The speakers I am replacing are KEF XQ1s and an XQ2C.  I can live with just a left and right if the manufacturer does not make a center channel.  These will be driven by an AVR, not separates and will have a sub to pick up the lower frequencies.  I have some WAF dimensions that need to be adhered to: 9"-10" from the back wall, no taller than 17" and the left and right tweeters will be 55" apart.  I would prefer there not to be a precise sweet spot since we sit in various areas on the oversize couch facing the speakers.  I'm not really too hung up on budget.  Somewhere between $2-4K total would be where I would like to be.


Given the above, I was thinking about sealed or front vented.  I don't think rear vented would be good for this situation but I could be wrong.  I have only done internet viewing and no listening.  I have looked at Salk's website and have also thought about ATC and ProAc.  I've also looked at Ascend (too narrow of a sweet spot?), Fritz (rear vent), Watkins Generation 4 (are these vented?) and others and just wanted to bounce it off this group. Thanks in advance.


Easy answer, as I had very similar requirements.  I found the Paradigm Atom bookshelf speakers to fit the bill.  The white ones are especially attractive and they also make a matching center channel.  When I first got them, my main speakers were in transit back to the factory for some overdue upgrades.  During the 8 weeks for updates and shipping both ways across the country, I used the Atoms as my main speakers.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good they are!  In fact I liked them so much, I ended up buying two more pairs for side and rear channels!  Truly a fantastic bargain in the high end world of expensive speakers.   I listened to some very expensive top end speakers and frankly, these Atoms give them a damn good run for their money.  In some ways, they actually bested the big boys.  I do believe the Atom is a giant slayer in the world of speakers.  I noted they are on sale at most places right now, too; so it is a good time to pick up a pair.  And, when my main speakers came back, the Atoms went moved to the home theater, which is why I bought them. 

The Usher Mini-X Diamond is definitely worth a hard look.  The looks give them high WAF, they’re front ported, and they use the top diamond tweeter from their $28,000 flagship TD20 speakers, which is quite amazing given the sub $4k price of the Mini-X DMD.  They’re also not hard to drive so should work fine with your AVR, and Usher speakers sound incredible.  I’d stay away from ATC for this reason as they really need some power to get the best out of them.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.

Sonner Legato Unum may be a bit over budget but we’ll worth a listen. 


+1 on Paradigms and their Founder  40B's are more expensive, but higher quality. They are 15% off now on sale.


I would consider the Paradigm Founders 40. 

Used they go for $1700ish. New +$1K. Not sure how

close to wall they can be set.

I own the Fritz Carerra 7BEs but they need to be out further than your

WAF tolerances.

AudioNotes Speakers are designed to set against or near the back wall.

I heard a $6k Hemp model at a recent show and the sound was wonderful.

Keep us posted please.




A pair of Vandy VLR's would do the trick. I think there are a pair for sale here on Audiogon.

You can get the Vandy center channel used, too.

Add a Sub 3, and I bet it would give your main system a run for the money.


@fuzztone has a good idea with the Sierra-2EX V2. I have the tower version of those speaker and they're an amazingly quick and musical speaker. Good call.

Are you stuck on new? 

Something pretty efficient and with a voicing/warmth of its own sine you will powering with an avr. Prob break the WAF rule but Tekton bookshelves would be good in that situation. Nothing is going to sound outstanding until you part with the avr. That are just not made for high fidelity 2 channel. 

the Salk and ATC you are looking at would probably be a pretty bad match with an AVR IMO. 

@mofojo - I am not stuck on new at all. I have Tektons and separates in my main system and there is NO WAY those pass the WAF :-). Thanks for the input on the AVR matched with Salk and ATC.

@hilde45, @fuzztone - aren’t the Ascend Acoustics speakers rear ported? I would be concerned about that port so close to the wall but am I worrying about nothing? I believe the Paradigms are rear ported as well.

I need to look at the other recommendations. Thanks, all. Exactly the info and recs I was looking for!






I always recommend Fritz.  Call him and tell him your application, he can make sealed or recommend a model that would play well sealed or ported. 

I have a pair of Ascend Sierra 2EX and they did not play well at all close to walls. I now have some Fritz Carrera’s and they are MUCH,MUCH better overall ((while also being more expensive) and also can play closer to walls. 
However, that is really close so I also advise that talk with Fritz. 

You should check out the Falcon Q7. I’ve owned them and they are an outstanding sealed woofer bookshelf type speaker. You can get them in kit or factory built.

They are sold factory direct only and there is no VAT charge if shipped to USA. I received them in less than a week after my order was processed. I doubt you would go wrong with them. They are as good as any small standmount speaker that I have owned including Harbeth, Spendor, KEF, etc.

Best speakers I have heard for $4k are by a French company called Atohm.  All of their drivers are designed in house.  Great soundstage, great imaging and since you have a sub you will be extremely pleased.  They have a unique setting on the back where you can adjust the sound to 3 different variations depending on your room and amplification. Recently demoed Totem, Harbeth, Spendor, Trenner and Friiedl and found the Atohm to deliver the best sound.  By the way you can also get stands for them very inexpensively if your needed that as well.  They also make a matching center channel.

if interested can connect you with a phenomenal dealer.  PM me.

Good luck and let us know what you decide on!


Buy what you want beg forgiveness later from wife. Amphion argon 1 or 3. And Amphion also makes a center channel called the 5C.  Great bookshelf’s and easier to drive than proac. The new Andrew Jones Mofi speaker amazing too but is big get that! 

you will need an amp too! Emotiva makes a great 3 channel class D amp. Amphion loves class D and will have good synergy. 

@pennfootball71    Have you personally heard the Point Source 10? The hype over this speaker is ludicrous considering the numerous amount of established speakers available under $5k. Has anyone even considered the possibility a prototype Point Source 10 was used at the Capital Audio Fest?

@dlm110 They are rear ported. However, this may not be a deal breaker. I used to think that front porting made a big difference to placement, but that is not true.

"For all intents and purposes there is no appreciable difference between a rear- and front-ported speaker. They both do the same thing – use the energy created by the woofer when it moves backward (or ’in’) to enhance bass response. The practical issue with a rear-ported speaker is how the energy coming from the cabinet interacts with the boundary behind it. Energy waves bounce off the nearest boundary (for our purposes we’ll call it a “wall”) and interact with the direct energy from the front of the speaker. This interaction may result in either a dip or boost in energy at certain frequencies that will make the overall sound in that frequency region muddy or inarticulate.

There is a school of thought that says rear-ported speakers should never be placed near a wall, and if you are going to place your speakers near a wall you must always use front-ported or closed-box designs. This is simply false. Are there a few things you can do to optimize the performance of a rear-ported speaker near a wall? Of course, but superlatives are always suspect, especially when it comes to audio."

Steve G --- 3minutes on Front = Read:

IF you mix brands, I bought this Klipsch Center Channel , soundss very nice. Importantly, NO REAR PORT


It is very efficient, thus you want efficient L/R. Your AVR will adjust volume, but within limits.

Prior center channel was a Bose, little guy fit prior smaller height setup. but very successful, less efficient, works with more typical medium sensitivity


surprisingly good, very small, place to allow top vents near front to work.

................................. btw, IF you skip center channel speaker, and listen to a program with center channel content, that content will not come from just L/R unless you change your AVR to 2 channel mode.

Focal kanta 1 and the Kanta center channel would be worth an audition. Good luck !

@dayglow yes I heard the PS10 mofi speaker at capital audiofest. You can beat them but you need over 10k to do that for a YG Acoustics bookshelf. They are a solid 8/10 for any price range. You need deep pockets to beat them.

Consider Elac. I'm quite happy with them in my home theater setting. The money saved will go towards the monitors in my quality-listening room (Sonus Faber Electa Amator, 🤞).

Gotta go with @soix with the Usher Mini-X Diamond speakers. I think they'd be superb if just using two.

I'd consider higher end Elac monitors if doing three across. For the money they are nice. I use the basic Debut 2.0 five-way system in a TV room and enjoy them, and they were cheap ones....

Nice pair of Dynaudio Evoke 20 over on USAudiomart.  I push s pair of Evoke 10s with my Denon AVR and I like the way they sound and look.  EVOKE line also has a center channel 

 Buchardt Audio S400 MkII speakers might fit the bill. They can be placed near the wall as they have a rear passive radiator and not ported; I have mine are about 1 foot from the wall. Great little speakers, $2,000 per pair, 45 day test trial with $100 restocking fee. Love mine paired with a Denafrips stack (Iris DDC, Pontus II DAC, Hades pre-amp, and Thallo amp)

Forgot to mention before that the Usher Mini-X DMD speakers have a matching center with the same drivers including the diamond tweeter despite the misleading “BE” in the model name…
But if it was me, the Mini-X is so good at imaging and dispersion I’d start with just the two front speakers and see how that works.  Unless you’ve got someone way off axis I can’t imagine the two stereo speakers not being more than fine.  Just filling in the gap of my info from before.  And again, best of luck. 

For your use I think Polk l200 or R200 would be a good choice. With a matching Polk center.

you might want to check out the XTZ Spirit 4 - checks all your boxes:  size, placement, sound - watch Andrew Robinson's review, he preferred them to the Buchardt S300, as do i - outstanding clarity & soundstage - they also have a matching center Spirit 8

As a US distributor, we moved from our Rogers LS3/5A to a MUCH more accurate & transparent near-field monitor.


Usher SD500 DMD (needs lots of break-in time)

As an aside, Fred is a very high quality individual

JBL L100s.  They sound great powered by any crappy amp and, at least, JBL says they are bookshelf speakers and you can smash them against the wall.  You will be delighted!

Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 EX. Absolutely wonderful and the EX version has solid bottom end. Even better is the BMR Philharmonitors, but size may disqualify them. They’re even better than the Sierras, and that’s saying a LOT.  If you can afford them, Dynaudio Heritage Specials.  Prolly have to spend $5500 for used, but resale value is assured.

JBL L110 is a fine, well-balanced speaker, a real sleeper - sometimes available for just a few hundred bat skins.  I keep at least one pair around for temporary use (trailer trip, special occasion at kids house…).

Can't help with any real-world suggestions (neither of my favorite 2-ways would work well with an AVR) ... but I totally agree w/OP's comment about sealed/acoustic suspension possibly being better close to a wall.

My home office system is space constrained, with ~12" between the back of the speakers and a front wall + picture window. Sealed speakers are affected less by proximity effects than ported ones (have had multiple examples of both here).

So my vote is for sealed, not ported speakers.

If you can find them, consider Reference 3A de Capo's. 15" high. Huge sweet spot (mine are 58" apart), high efficiency (92db). They are rear-ported; however, mine are about 18" from the rear wall if you can finagle that 

BTW, ATC just drastically reduced their US prices.

SMC7 down from $1999 to $1349.

SCM11 down from $2899 to $1999.

SCM19 down from $4799 to $3249.