Big speakers in small room at moderate volume levels

My office is 11’W x 10’L x 9’H and is where I can listen to music for the next few years. I have a toddler and, for now, he has commanded the big spaces in the rest of the house. I have auditioned the Magico A3 and wanted to buy it but that was before I was relegated to the smallish office (I was expecting to move to a bigger room). I have removed the closet doors in this office room. The removal of the closet door gives me another 4 feet of depth to this room, though for only 1/2 width of the room. I can sit unobstructed 8 feet away from the speakers before I hit the area where the closet ends (so near field listening).

I currently I have KEF LS50 with Peachtree Nova 150. It is good and I can listen for the whole day without fatigue. I listen to FM, digital files on ROON, and my Sony SCD-1 SACD player. I want a bigger sound so I am looking at bigger speakers. I also do not want to use a sub since I am not a fan. I will also upgrade the NOVA 150 to the NOVA 500 in Spring 2019 and use with the LS50’s in a bedroom.

I came to the conclusion that my tastes would be best served by one of KEF Reference 1 or Magico A3. I was thinking that I would use the Lyngdorf 3400 in this room but I am having seconds thoughts on this now (some A’gon comments that it maybe a little dry). I am interested in solid state AB units like the Hegel H590 and Mark Levinson 585 to drive the speakers. I have heard the ML 585 and it is a fatigue free sounding unit that was a joy to listen to. I have not heard the Hegel H590 yet (but have heard other Hegels with KEF) and I am in the process of getting an audition of the H590. I have also discounted the class AB Micromega M-One 150 (with MARS room correction) because I do not want a cooling fan blowing in the room.

I must mention that I do not listen that loud when I am working and when I am working very late at night the volume is very low. The Mark Levinson and A3 combo was very good at low volumes during my demo but that was in the dealers perfect large room.

1) Am I making a mistake foregoing room correction with the 2 integrateds I am considering? Should I go with the Lyngdorf and A3 or KEF Ref 1, though I have never heard the Lyngdorf?

2) Will the Magico A3 work in this small room at moderate volumes WITHOUT room correction or will I subject myself to headaches and fatigue?

I am going to ask the dealer selling the A3’s this question when I am ready to buy but i wanted to ask on A’gon first to get some feedback. I doubt I could get the A3’s into my room for a trial but I have not asked the dealer yet.

I think (not 100% sure) the KEF Reference 1 with a non room correcting amp should work in my office space but I would prefer to buy the Magico A3 for the office. I have plans to buy another KEF model once my kid is a bit older and I can kick him out of the big room.
Big sound at low volume in a small room is an interesting subject. You like Magico/Levinson so why not ? Room acoustics will not play big role at lower volume and near field listening, still it will play some role.
in this case all you need is sensitive big speakers at least 100db with 15inch woofers and tube amp
Consider Full range Vandersteen Quatro CT.
 The speaker is easily adjustable right where you're in room bass peak is.
 The speaker is outstanding at all volumes, works with many decent electronics.
we offer a local 300 dollar in-home audition setup included up against a comparison to any competitors speakers..


That sounds interesting. I have actually heard the Vandersteen Treo CT a few hours after I had heard the Magico A3, but at a different dealer. Richard Vandersteen was actually there that day giving some talk but I missed his talk because I was so enamored with the A3 at the other dealer. The CT sounded great when I heard it. I did not know about the Quatro CT.

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Depends on speakers. I have JBL 4367 in a very small room - about 22 sq.meter - but the sound is great. 
In my office cellar I have my second music room which is of similar size to yours. I have large Proac d100s L&R - a Proac d80 center and left  & right surrounds, with my first EBS Proac speakers (bought 70's!) as rears as I cannot bear to get rid of them as they are so good. I power with Bryston 4Bsst2 and Threshold s1000s - all very meaty.
My point is that this is all rather big for a small room - but the quality brings so much more to the table (or in this case sofa) and I consider this to be much more preferable to small, and what others may consider to be more "appropriate" speakers and set up. Every time I have gone bigger and better I have been pleased
@tatyana69 / @alex_bolonikov  In the small room do you limit the volume so you do not get fatigue? From the replies I see here, I am starting to think a large speaker may work if I keep the volume down.  
The Vandersteen Quattro Wood CT speaker also seems rather interesting and I need to do more research on this. I do not need a large sweet spot in the office system since it is only myself that will listen there. I also do not move around much while I "work".
Klipsch Cornwalls and tubes, have used this combination in several small (12×12) rooms over the years, sounds great at low volumes,  but can get very loud if you feel the need. Put them in the corners tied in slightly. 
I suggest that you determine the frequency response of your room. One way is to buy a record or CD with slow sweeps and announced frequency. The best way is to buy a used signal generator from an electronics test equipment company.

I have a lower ceiling, and a larger but a similarly proportioned floorplan, and multiple large speakers. I find that the best listening position for soundstage is in the centre, but the best for frequency response is in a corner. I am never fatigued by the sound, just a little frustrated sometimes.

For what it's worth.
Some tubes and high efficiency speakers should do. Tubes to me are always non-fatiguing and high efficiency speakers always work well with them. You should be able to attain a nice low listening level with them. Good luck. 
I listen near-field in a 14' x 14' x 8' room to older Tannoy FSM  speakers.
For those unfamiliar with the FSM, each speaker has two 15" woofers, one coaxial. Weight 180 lbs Ea. Size-formidable. I use an Audible Illusions Preamp with a Cary Tube Amp. I prefer listening at 65-70 dbs (per my free app phone tool).
I find the speakers will boom bass if not pulled out 30" or so
from the back wall. I roll them back after use. I am quite pleased
with the sound. 
Interesting thread. I’m curious why so many people say HE speakers with tubes would work so well in a small room. Why is that? 
Why are you excluding your son from listening to the best system in the house?
I had owned in a similar room 
Harbeth 40.2
AZ Crescendos 
Gamut M7
All working perfect.
I do enjoy big speakers at low volume as well.
I recently auditioned the Magico A3’s with the Vitus RI-101 integrated. That amp is a big improvement over the old RI-100. Some of it’s virtues is it is quieter, better balanced and has a better volume control than the old model. What that translates to is more natural/organic and musical sound, and wonderful inner details. Paired with the A3’s, you can listen at modest listening levels and still get satisfying bass and focussed images across a broad sound stage. Vitus has good synergy with Magico.
2 answers here to earlier questions:-
My office music room is indeed for music. I have a Lexicon 12MCB running Logic 7 which is superb at splitting key signals into genuine surround from a 2 channel source i.e. Bryston bdp2 and record deck.
There is no fatigue from volume. I thought that might be the case as often the volume needs to be decent to get the full information of the music out there, but I find I can identify the optimum volume to satisfy all round. And in principle the better the speaker the better for detail so it all helps in an odd way.

I also have 3 subs in the small room all running at rather low volume and low frequency. This is NOT an overkill as it gently raises the flow of sound  and improves substantially. I can certainly notice the difference if  I forget to switch them on - not necessarily because of more bass, although that would be obvious , but for the sound quality (flow?) just raising itself to a new level.
Keep what you have and get a small sub, or get two (even better).  Your room is too small to worry about getting the system to be loud enough.  You will, for the most part, be listening "near field", so the LS50s will be perfect;  plenty of sound pressure for your room size and wall reflections will be less of an issue.  Depending on what low frequencies produce excessive resonance in your room, you may want to consider DSP.

If you just "like" big speakers, and don't like subwoofers, you will never be happy until you pack a pair of Klipsch horns into the corners.
@glupson I need to keep the office closed because I am remotely connected to a lot of live production software systems. My 2 1/2 year old kid loves to come over to my desks and click the mouse on the computers. The KEF LS50 system was his system until my recent move. I sold my other system which was previously used in the office. He will get the LS50 back once I get a new office system.

@lancelock Thanks for the recommendation. You sold me the Benchmark AHB2 amp which I loved and recently sold. I may buy that back again once I get the new system. The TAD and KEF Reference 1 are likely going to be huge improvements on the LS50. Do you use the TAD ME1 in a small room?
@kahlenz The KEF LS50 sounds real good in this room but there are limits to this speaker. My audio memory of my A3 demo keeps bugging me that the LS50 is a small speaker and the sound could be fuller. I do not dislike subwoofers. I like them integrated buy a designer into a floor stander. Saying that I have read that the Lyngdorf 3400 is rather good at integrating a sub.

So far from this thread I have gather a lot of useful info. I have the following items that I want to do next.

1) I will definitely check out the Vandersteen Quattro CT
2) I will check out the TAD ME1. I have a "local" dealer who carries this speaker. He also has the LS50 and KEF Reference 1. I do like concentric drivers (also had an Thiel SCS4 a few years ago)
3) I will try and get the A3 into my room on a demo basis.
4) I will see if I can get a demo Lyngdorf. Adding DSP to the sound is a big question mark since I have not heard it. There is also software based DSP which I have read maybe not as good as the Lyngdorf but I can research this more.
5) The KEF Reference 1 is my safety net speaker for the office and should work without room correction. if I go that route I will then end up with 3 KEF models in the house, not much variety there.

@yyzsantabarbara I have the TAD’s in my living room currently. My living room is a horrible room to get good sound out of speakers with the L shape and all glass on one side but they still sound wonderful. The listening room at CAF was set up better and they did sound better. The room was probably 16’x 18’ if I’m guessing. I was drawn back to this room four times during the weekend. At the end of the show I bought his demo pair.

I also have a pair of Janszen zA2.1 in a 14 x 14’ room that sound spectacular. Unlike most electrostats they are not dipoles so you can almost put them up against the wall. These can leave you longing for more bass so I have a pair E110 subs that work great.

I'm not sure what "full" sound is.  More bass?  Wide dispersion?  Small monitors with well integrated subs can sound plenty "full".  Timing issues regarding when the sound pressure hits your ears are a tough argument for me to swallow.  Separate subs that can be moved around can even be an advantage in cancelling room resonances.  The lower frequencies are fairly non-directional as the longer frequencies pressurize the entire room.  The mid and high frequencies, which are more directional (the sound pressure from the drivers hits your ear before the reflected frequencies) are coming from the same size drivers as a bigger speaker.  Big speakers are, well, bigger, and have the potential to be louder.  Small speakers are easier to integrate into a room, will likely create more stable stereo imaging, and are probably going to be loud enough.  If you have a big room, and like loud music, get bigger speakers.

The Magicos are great.  They will sound better than your LS50s.  You will probably want to invest in some acoustical room treatments, or DSP, to tame the room resonance frequencies.
I may have to downsize/downgrade next year. Is the KEF Ref 1 a worthy replacement for my JBL 4367? Reason for downsize... can’t play loud bass anymore in the new apartment.
In a smaller space, as Fritz to make you a custom build with a single ScanSpeak mid/woofer.


The LS50 is nice for what it is but as you may know, they need quality power to sound good. The KEF Ref 1 is just OK as I remember. If you are willing to spend Ref 1 money, take a very serious look at the Harbeth SHL 5. I've heard them twice in the last two days. Just so good with a Luxman 509X, Marantz SA - 10, Nordost wiring. Also heard with a nice TT and phono pre (Clear Audio + Luxman phono). This is a very musical setup on both digital and vinyl. I've never heard a speaker in this price range that is better. And IMOHO, it is much better than the Magico A3 and I've heard the A3s two or three times. The A3s didn't even make the list with TAD and Wilson and now Harbeth.

I've heard the TAD ME-1s many times (last time around a week ago) and they are stellar but are also 2X greater cost compared to the Harbeths. 
Another vote for a serious listen to Vandersteen Quattro CT :-)
tuneable for the room in the Analog domain
not many are
i am biased, own 3 pair along with other stuff....

your mention of listening fatigue has me a bit intrigued.... how loud are you listening and how are you measuring that
flat in the near field with low distortion should not be fatiguing....

enjoy the search !

@ kahlenz What I mean by "full sound" is the the LS50 compared to both the A3 and KEF Reference 1 do not have the same size soundstage and depth. The separation of the instruments was also better with the bigger speakers. I was able to visualize the performance way better with the A3 and KEF.

One examples is the TASH SULTANA Blackbird track from FLOW STATE. When I hear it at home with the LS50 it sounds great because the music is awesome. However, when I heard it at the dealer with the A3 it was like TASH was wailing away on the guitar in front of me. I was at her recording studio and felt emotionally connected to the performance.

Same thing with Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. When I heard it on the KEF Ref 1 it was almost like when I saw Floyd live in Toronto years ago. With the LS50 it sounds great but it does not take me back to that show.

So maybe the Full sound I say is not a good technical audiophile term. I guess I am referring to my emotional reaction to the tunes.

With regards to subs, I have a small room and a lot of computer equipment (super quiet) and I do not want to add subs to add to the collection. I also do not want to learn how to integrate subs into my monitors. 
Yes, Harbeths are amazing.  I have been accused of being a fanboy, so I won't say much about them other than I bought a pair (P3esr).

Those SHL5s would sound excellent using the amp you have.  I doubt that spending $10k for an amp would improve the sound much.
The TAD ME1 manual suggests closer wall side and front wall placement than KEF suggests for the R1. I heard the ME1 in that suggested spot at a show. The bass was lumpy as expected from that small speaker, but to be fair others in the room expressed they liked it. Despite that I really, really like its is smooth, graceful presentation and tonality without it crossing over in to being boring and frustrating. Not a particularly high resolution speaker, but neither is the R1. The R1 - you may find - blows out the LS50 for every nickel of the $6500 premium. I am interested in hearing your thoughts between the TAD and the R1. How interesting that a dealer carries both KEF and TAD and has those models in stock.  Your room dimensions are subject to difficult bass problems with mid and HF more easily solved. It is hard to project your success or understand placement restrictions, especially with the A3 and any three-way. Hopefully your dealer can help you test it.  Speakers I know first hand do well in small rooms are the Wilson Sabrinas and YG Carmels (both versions), and JBL 4367, but they themselves are fat.  
@d2girls I love the new KEF speakers. I have heard the KEF Reference 1 sound awful and also excellent. It was bad when firing into glass windows at a dealer. Headaches ensued  and it was rather unlistenable. Then at a show, it sounded great in a largish room driven by Wyred4Sound Class D monoblocks. 

Once my kid is older I hope to buy the KEF Blade for the downstairs living room. The KEF Ref 1 has a slice of the Blade sound. The Ref 1 is geared towards smaller spaces. My small office space maybe a little on the border of acceptability.
@tomic6011 My current LS50 and Peachtree is NOT fatiguing. However, in the past I have had bigger speakers in various room sizes, Thiel SCS4, Revel Salon 1, NHT 2.9. These speakers overloaded some of the rooms  and gave me headaches. Now the amps I was using at the time were not considered the smoothest so that could be a factor.

One thing that I realized was that I had my head very close to the back wall in the bad sounding situations. I was reading the Vandersteen setup manual today for the Quattro CT and in it it stated to add some dampening to the wall behind your head if the head is close to the wall. My current office has the same positioning where I am sitting right next to a partial wall. No fatigue with the LS50 but I was thinking with a bigger speaker it would be deja vu again.
@pokey77 I was reading some of your posts recently. I thought I read you had bought the TAD ME1 and TAD electronics. I was assuming from Excel Audio in Newport. I was thinking of going to some audio store in LA and checking out something in the Harbeth line last year, but there are so many models so I dropped that idea. I will take a drive down to LA and check out the model you listed.

I have had a lot of different amps on the LS50 over the past 5 years.

Bryston 7B-SST
Bryston 4B-SST
Parasound A23
Benchmark AHB2 (the best so far)
Peachtree Nova 150 (mix of the Bryston and Parasound and my 2nd favorite)

@ohlala If you look at pokey77’s statements above on the KEF R1 and the TAD ME1. It seems to me he preferred the TAD by a significant margin.

@pokey77  I found a Harbeth dealer in Ventura, CA and I happen to be going to Ventura in 2 weeks. I have contacted him tonight to schedule a demo.
I'm near the Biltmore and have been using KEF Ref 1s driven by Ayre KX-5/20 preamp and VX-5/20 amp in a near field setup.  The source is usually Roon files played through an Ayre QX-5/20 digital hub.  The KEFs are supplemented by a pair of Velodyne HGS-10s low-passed at 40 Hz with a 6 dB/octave slope by a SMS-1 bass manager that also does acoustic room correction.  If you want to hear this setup, you can PM me
@dbphd1 Thanks for the offer. I have heard the KEF Ref 1 almost a half dozen times at dealers and various local shows. So that is why it is on my initial list for this difficult small room. I think it is one of the great ones I have heard (for a smallish speaker and price).

My issue was whether the R1 would not overload my room without DSP. My guess is that it would not. I imagine you have a bigger room than the room specs I listed in my initial post.

To summarize again since this thread is getting a bit long, the room is 11L x 10W X 9H (+ opened up closet space, 4L x 5W x 9H). I am only 8 feet from my current LS50 and my head is directly beside a back wall that opens up to the closet space.

I will add some dampers to the back wall when I get a bigger speaker.
Just emailed the local Harbeth dealer and he is backordered on all the Harbeth models but in mid-January when new stock arrives I can do a home demo with the SHL5+. He suggested the 30.2 may be a better fit in my room over the SHL5+ but that home demo will tell me if it sounds right for me.
as extravaganza said, a pair of Klipschorns. End of story. They work well with Peachtree amps too.
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@ianrodger32 I am not a fan of horns. I have heard them a few times and they did not work for me. The Peachtree amp is a temporary amp for the office. I will upgrade the Peachtree to the new Nova 500. It will then go along with the KEF LS50 to a bedroom or family room.

A new integrated is destined for the office along with speakers.

The following integrated amps are on my short list.

1) Mark Levinson 585 (or the newer lower powered variant due out in Spring 2019)
2) Hegel H590
3) Luxman 509x
4) Lyngdorf 3400

These amps are overkill for the office but I will eventually move the integrated from the office down to the living room to power my future big rig.
IF you make it to LA
you are very welcome to stop by Condo in Carlsbad and hear Treo CT, my ears are 28” off back wall ( I use a Leica Disto for everything!!! )
in my room crunching that down actually effects bass more than treble
i think you will find unique carbon tweeter to be sweetly transparent no fatigue
of course Randy in Santa Monica have the full line including Quattro as do Sunny in Covina
Both big rooms but you could request a near field listen for sure
certainl some back wall treatments could be quite good,with any speaker you pick
i use Lambvin in Oceanside as shipping often equals product price. They have full range of treatment products
thanks for musical reference, will give that a listen in my nearfield setup to attempt to identify with your baseline
comfortably numb I am fluent in already


I have heard both the 30.2 and the SHL5+ and for the minimal cost to move up to the SHL5+, it is a no-brainer. They are much much better than the 30.2s.


In my opinion, the Harbeths are in a different class compared to the Klipshorns. I heard Klipsch for the first time over 30 years ago and most recently in the last six months and several different models. The SHL5+ is sublime and the horns are dynamic but nothing sublime about horns.


BTW, I've also heard the equivalent Graham LS5/9, which is similar to the Harbeth 30.2 and the Harbeth is very significantly better.

And to beat a dead horse: Harbeth SHL5+ and Luxman 509X - delicate, beautiful, dynamic. Just an excellent  synergistic match created by these two.
@tomic601 Thanks for the invite and info on Lambvin in Oceanside. I was wondering where I would go for something like that. I heard the Treo CT at Sunny’s a few weeks ago after my demo with the Magico A3. Too many people in the CT demo to really hear it.

@pokey77 I am looking forward to the demo of the Harbeth, especially in my home. I emailed a dealer of the Lyndorf and he also happened to be a dealer for Harbeth. He told me that the Harbeth and Lyngdorf sound good together and he just recently sold that combo. This dealer is out of state so I would only get the Lyngdorf from him (if I go that route). The local dealer who will allow for the home demo of the Harbeth thinks my room is too small for the SHL5+. So that is why I revisited the DSP room correction. I want to fit the largest speaker I can in this room.

The Luxman 509x is something I have been eyeing for a long time. There is a thread started by me on this even before it was released for sale. My only 2 issues are if the speaker is too large it may not work in my room (without DSP). Though it does have tone controls (something to investigate). The other minor issue is that I would need to buy a DAC.


Alright, hope your demo goes well.

I've heard the Treo CT and the Quatro Wood CT. Treo was with McIntosh MA8000 + digital server and the Quatro Wood was at Randy's in Santa Monica with Ayre Integrated and DAC/server. For me personally, I think that the Harbeth/Luxman combo is a lot more musical.

The SHL5+ really isn't much bigger than the 30.2. If you can get both delivered to your home, you can decide if the 5+ is too big. The combination of the tweeter and super tweeter in the 5+makes for a very sweet and delicate sound. I was very surprised at just how much better the 5+ is compared to the 30.2.

I've wanted to hear the Lyngdorf but never had the chance. I know Grannyring (Bill) likes it a lot.
Another vote for TAD  me-1s. I additioned them recently thinking about putting them in a small room and was quite impressed. Also, lots of favorable reviews if that means anything to you. Dynamic, revealing, and sound great in near/midfield. Only go down to about 50 Hz or so, anything more in that room is going to be a total crapshoot and might muddy everything up. As a former 5A owner, I think Vandersteens are great speakers, but don't think the the Trios or Quattros would work well in a room that small. IME, all of Vandys need some space from the walls and distance from the listener so the drivers can integrate.  Harbeth would probably work to, and Gene Rubin is a good guy, very different sound than the TADs.
@paullb I am looking for a bit of a different sound from the KEF because I already have the LS50 (will never sell it) and I hope to buy the KEF Blade 2 (if my lottery ticket hits). So I am trying to avoid buying the KEF Reference 1 and try something that is real enjoyable. Something I would like to listen for a min of 8 hours a day. I am going to go to the Harbeth audition with the hope I love it and buy it. I want the Harbeth to play something like CHINATOWN by Thin Lizzy to really move me. 

I am also going to try to see in the Luxman 509x will work with the Harbeth. One way to do that is to see if the Harbeth will work with my current Peachtree NOVA 150 in this room. If it does, then I do not need the Lyngdorf and can try the Luxman.

I was thinking about both the Vandersteen Quattro and TAD ME1 and decided that they are not something to persue. The Vandersteen because of the size and weight. I will post some photos of my office. Too much stuff already in it. The TAD because, after reading some reviews, its seems like maybe a better version of the KEF Reference 1. The R1 is much cheaper and will make me happy if I go that way.