Best speakers for Classical music under 10k used

I currently have an upgraded pair of Thiel 2.3's that I have been happy with but am now ready to upgrade. I plan on listening to the Thiel 7.2 and the Wilson Sophias. I was wondering what others I should seach out? For 'classical' music only - big orchestra to solo instrument
Hstokar, I would highly recommend you consider Magnapan's MG -3.6s that are great speakers in general but really shine on classical, jazz, and big band music. If you could find a used pair of MG-20's, they rarely show up used for sale, it would also be a great speaker for you.
As a fellow classical music listener, I'd highly recommend the Eidolons (used prices right around $10-12K now) or the Merlin VSM-MX with battery B.A.M. (used prices around $6-8K). With suitable electronics (tubes highly recommended) and front end, both of these speakers will render harmonic overtones, low level detail and microdynamics in very musically natural way, with superb soundstaging. Both speakers are incredibly revealing and will benefit from the best electronics and front end you can provide them.
I just upgraded my Thiel CS2.3s to Linkwitz Orions. After listening to lots of models these were the only ones that really offered overall improvement IMO. However, the Orions are not easily heard as they are either DIY or sold direct fully built. LInkwitz has a list of owners who allow a private audition on their website @ I also listen primarily to classical music and the Orions are amazing. The only problem I had was the bass, as they produced some bothersome nodes in my room that the Thiels did not. The Orions have two 10" woofers a side as opposed to one 8" in the 2.3s. I tried some RealTraps and other fixes but the addition of a TacT RCS 2.0 room correction preamp made a huge difference. I cannot ever imagine having the need to upgrade again. This truly seems to be a "get off the merry go round" sort of speaker.

Tim McTeague
A local friend of mine is all about Classical music and he had tried many speakers including the Eidolons before he finally kept the Talon Firebirds w/ diamond tweeters. They can be found around your price range at this time.
The Sophias are an excellent speaker and a good value. However, I can think of no better speaker for the classical genre than the Harbeth Monitor 40. These are rarely available used but will set you back a lot less than a pair of Sophias--and will perform better. If you can stand their appearance (huge boxes) then this would be my top recommendation. Cheaper used and similar (but less revealing) are the Spendor SP100. I had a pair a while back--excellent speaker, one of the best I've owned. You might even consider the Harbeth Super HL5 which is a phenomenal value and can be gotten used for around 2.5K. It is less full range than the Monitor 40 but you won't miss much on the bottom and the coherence and instrumental timbres are faithfully revealed. I know that each of these recommendations are considerably below the 10K price point you set but I really don't think you can do better for classical music regardless of the money--why not put the balance into upgrading source and electronics?
As an owner of the Merlin VSM (MM version), I agree with Rushton. His desciption is excellent. I am amazed at what these speakers do for all kinds of music and classical has never sounded better in my system. Good luck with your search.

I listen to classical much of the time and also have played in our local symphony ,The Skagit Symphony, for the past 15 years Bass Trombone.I have the Martin Logan Quest Z's and paired up with great tube gear and a properly set up Analog rig,its very difficult to find anything any better unless you get the old Martin Logan CLS 2Z's But they are much harder to drive IMO.
I think ELS Speakers will show so much more macro and micro level detail that cone speakers just simply can't match.
I've yet to find a better speaker for full-throttle orchestral music than the Thiel 7.2s. They are excellent on solo and small classical pieces as well. A bit finicky, but magic when properly set-up with top equipment. I too had the the 2.3s prior to my upgrade. Good luck with your search and let us know what you decide upon.

I would say Legacy Whispers. They can be magical, especially with a tubed front-end. Lots of speakers, 95db efficiency, open air design, really nice. Can be had used for your price range if you can find them.
I'd also have to submit another vote for Merlin. Not only are they amazing for all forms of music thrown at them, they come with THE best customer service in the business. This can't be overstated or over valued; bobby palkovic, their designer, is a true asset to the audio community. You should give him a call at the merlin factory. Even if you are considering purchasing them used, as I was, he can offer a tremendous insight, as well as recommend other brands of speakers that might be to your liking.
I would recomend the avantgarde duo. you'll need a large room and a single ended 300b amp. a large room about 15' by 25' when done right it easily achieves concert hall sound levels. Most importantly, it throws an ubelievable soundstage. You can literraly place every instrument in the entire orchestra.
I am a fairly new owner (approx. 1 1/2 months) of a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C2's. These speakers, given top-notch gear driving them, will put out incredibly natural sound with very good soundstaging and depth. I'm currently driving them with Atma-sphere MA2 Mk2.3 OTL monoblocks (home auditioning, and considering purchasing these beauties with a big thanks to Siddh). The sound is achingly beautiful. The Dynaudios are another speaker with great detail retrieval and low-level resolution, yet with these OTL's, can play as loud as I would want them to. The C2's I picked up were a demo pair for $9.5k and they can most likely be had for less used.
FWIW My father minored in the pipe prgan in college and compossed music aswell, he listens to nothing but Classical and he loves his Legay Focus 20/20.
I've heard a lot of live small-scale and large-scale orchestral/classical music, and when I return home from a performance I often head straight to my rig for a comparison. I own Spendor Classics, and I'm always amazed at how close they sound to the real thing. Since Spendor has expanded their line, more dealers are carrying them, but note the different voicing/cabinetry/bass loading of the new S series. To my ears, the Classics are still the best. Check out this line if possible.
Depending on your room size and other components involved in your system, you should check out eletrostats and planars for your listening purposes. If you will be doing most of your listening from a seated position in a small to medium sized room the Quads would be a great choice.
If you want something with more adjustability, check out some of the Wisdom Audio speakers. I ran the M-50's for a few years and totally enjoyed the classical recordings (CD and DVD-A) that I have. The soundstage(width and depth)and the detail blew away my Dad who is an avid classical music listener and loves the "live" performances at the Hollywood Bowl. These speakers do need to be bi-amped but will allow for room abnormalites with the "active brain". I recently upgraded my speakers to the Rush and the clarity as well as the bass is unbelievable!
Good luck in your quest!
Hi McTeague,

I've been very curious about the Orions, but unfortunately it seems that it will be impossible to hear them where I live.

I'm a novice but I think there are three things that are important to good classical music reproduction: 1. Body- some might say bass, but its also how the bass fleshes out the whole. The bass should be articulate, tunefull, and when required, have that slam. 2. Clarity when things get nutty. Many otherwise fine sounding speakers creat a wall of undiferentiated fuzz when an entire orchestra plays complex passages at the limmit. I suppose that folded into this requirement by necessity might be an accurate rendition of what people call "timbre". 3. Musicality- a wishy-washy term I suppose, but I do feel the speaker should let the music carry the listener away, rather than create a merely analytical experience.

All of the foregoing is pretty abstract I admit, but I'd be grateful if you could put into words what you hear in the Orions, and why like them for classical above other contenders out there. Are there other speakers you'd compare them to?


I have had Wilson Benesch speakers for 2 years. Very satisfying for all types of music. I am mainly a classical lister. The WB speakers are coherent, still detailed and very dynamic.

The Orions, being active speakers, seem to just get louder as the orchestra swells. As much as I loved my Thiels they seemed to contrict a bit when things got loud. That may be due to the 1st order crossovers which put lots of strain on the tweeter. The Orions bass is really impressive, not just low down but in the sense of air pressure in the room. They have a very layered sound most likely due to being dipoles. They are very clean and lack the slight brightness that most Thiels seem to have. But, as noted, I had to invest in a TacT room correction preamp to get them to really work in my room. When I first set them up they did sound better than the Thiels but not as much as I had hoped after hearing them in Don Berringer's house (Linkwitz's partner). Now who knows how much better the Thiels would have been if I had used the TacT on them.

You have a lot of options if you're willing to spend $10k, but there are unfortunately few speakers costing less than $20k that can reproduce full-scale orchestral music without compression.

Assuming you have a large room and a powerful solid-state amp to drive them, I would suggest Vienna Acoustic Mahlers. I own Mahlers and Revel Salons, and listen to a lot of orchestral music. Like the big Sonus Fabers, the Mahlers have a warmth that gives body and life to stringed instruments and voices. They image really well and have an unusually wide and deep soundstage, which contributes to the realistic protrayal of a large orchestra spread out on a stage. They also have enormous dynamic range due to their use of two 7" midranges drivers (the same midrange drivers used in the Wilson Maxx II) and two 10" woofers. I actually prefer the Mahlers in many ways to my Salons, which are twice the price (the Mahlers cost $10k new and $4k-$5k used). Their name, "Mahler", was deliberately chosen and sums up their classical music abilities quite well.

If you are interested in learning more about the Mahlers, I suggest that you read the Anthony Cordesman review for Audio and Robert Deutsch review for Stereophile that are found on the website of Vienna Acoustics' U.S. distributor, Sumiko ( Both reviews are accurate and confirm my experience with the speakers.
Raquel - regarding the Mahler's...can you teel me how they compare to the Salons in both ultimate SPL capability and sensitivity? Thanks.

I have never run either the Salons or Mahlers with really high wattage solid-state amps, so I have never been able to find their dynamic ceiling. My guess is that the Salons have a slightly higher dynamic ceiling, because they use fourth-order crossovers. I also know a dealer who claimed to have heard the Salons run with 1,200 watt/channel McIntosh monoblocks and said that they can play at unbelievably loud levels. The Mahlers can go really loud, too, by virtue of having a lot of large-diameter drivers, but my guess is that compression would set in earlier with them than it would with Salons, as they use first-order crossovers (the result being that the drivers "bleed over" into the territory covered by the other drivers, i.e., also operate outside of their optimal frequency ranges). That said, when Audio reviewed the Mahlers, their measurements indicated that distortion components with the speakers played at 100 db. SPL were all well below 1%, even in the low bass. In any event, unless you like to play music at rock concert levels at all times, my guess is that the Salons and Mahlers both have all of the headroom you would likely need.

As for sensitivity, the Mahlers are 89 db. efficient, while the Salons are 86 db. efficient. In practical terms, this means the Salons require twice the wattage to produce the same loudness levels of the Mahlers. Bear in mind, however, that both speakers drop to below 3 Ohms in the bass, ruling out all but a handful of tube amps -- they require high-current solid-state amps to sound right in the bass.

The Salons and Mahlers are both fine full-range speakers. The Salons go a bit lower in the bass, and are definitely more neutral. The Mahlers image better with their first-order crossovers and have more slam, but are very picky when it comes to amplifiers, speaker cables and listening rooms, and have a midrange warmth that not everyone will like. Assuming they are used properly (high quality solid-state amp, careful choice of speaker cables, big listening room with speakers well away from rear and side walls), my opinion is that Mahlers are very high value at $10k the pair.
I should have stated for the record I have Innersound Eros electrostat hybrids, and for classicl the can amaze
I own the Nova Utopias which are fabulous, however, I just heard the Zingali 115 and they are spellbinding. Properly setup, I think they are one of the best speakers I have ever heard, at any price. There is a pair on Audiogon currently for under 10K, though I am not sure they are the most current version or not.
Although I have only a modest classical music collection, and am more focused on female vocalist music moreso than classical, I did attend CES 2005 and listened for days to many many speakers.

Although under 10,000 new, I thought that the Silverline Sonata 3s were very very impressive, even alongside speakers much more expensive than their list price of 7200 a pair.

I'd at least recommend a listen with your favorite classical music to see what you might think...
Zu Definition, $9,000/pr new. 101 db/w/m efficient, 300 watts power handling, 16hz - 20,000hz response. This speaker, and its little brother, the Druid, got me listening to classical music on a stereo again. Tonal accuracy is excellent, dynamic behavior can telegraph a full orchestra, yet solo presentation is nuanced, delicate, intimate, expressive and real. Honestly, I couldn't suggest another speaker under $10K new or used that can approach it, let alone equal it, for your application.

Thanks for all these great responses. I'm leaning toward the Thiel 7.2's as I've lived with the 2.3 for some years. Need to try many of your suggestions out. So far I have only listened to the Maggies 20.1 and Revel Salon. Neither worked for me. It is also rather frustrating as several of the suggestions above are not to be found in the NYC stores.
New update. Forget the Thiels. Have listened to many thus far. The Kharma line is OUTSTANDING (if pricey). Many more to listen to....
For classical & jazz & just about all instrumental music, especially piano, Kharma 3.2s are superb (far better than Vandy 5As, even considering the 5As prodigious bass).
NYC area.

Zu cable is coming next weekend the 16th & 17th of Sept. to Easton PA. This is roughly an 1 1/2 hour drive from NYC. They will be here with their full speaker line and you will have an opportunity to hear the Definitions in person.

See their website for info.

I also agre with 213cobra, the Zu Definitions are just amazing in this price range.I have had mine for almost 1 1/2 years & am completely enthralled with them each time I sit to listen.
Here is an online review from on the Zu Definition.

Unfortunately most (95%) of so-called high end speakers are very badly suited for classical music and practically if you are a serious listeners and do not just of spin audiophile’s classic pop (most of them, I would say 80% of them do). Thiel 7.2 is way out of game - this is typical hi-fi loudspeaker. Wilson Sophias are very ill-fated as well – the Wilson’s small speakers very problematic and thier older 6.x modules were way more interesting. Theoretically if you get old used Wilson 6.3 for near $6K then you might try to punch something out of them but it will be difficult. The small Wilsons will work more or less survivable ONLY in very specific rooms and ONLY very specific installed. It is very likely that they will not work in YOUR room, at least I never have hear any small Wilsons Sound acceptable, even if then were installed by the Wilson’s people. Still, I do believe that if the room conditions are right then the Wilson 6.3 might work fine. How fine it would be? Well, within the scale of $6K….
Zingali 115 are exceptionnal !
Better than all the other speakers mentionned here !