Recommendation for low to normal level listening a 13.5' x 21' x 8' room

Appreciate your advice on speaker selection and what I should spend proportionate to the rest of my system.  Recently retired and moved to Atlanta, I am restructuring my system, going from 2 systems to 1. Dedicated listening room measures 13.5' x 21' x 8', is carpeted and will have diffusers and absorptive panels.  I listen mainly to jazz. I would like to make this speaker purchase my last.

I've owned Bohlender Graebener and currently own Eminent Technology LFT8B hybrid planar speakers, also own Talon Raven C.  I like the sound of the Talons and the openness of the ETs.  However the ETs aren't as refined a sound as I'd like (the Talons are more so).  Neither speaker is particularly alive at lower volume levels, and more engaging lower level listening is one of my goals.  I like a natural sound that is non-fatiguing.  While imaging is nice to have, it is less critical to me than the overall sound.  I want openness and as I age, the top end needs to be present and not rolled off but not over emphasized.  I also like enough base response that the sound is balanced.  Finally, I want a enough of a dynamic sound to accurately portray the music as it has been recorded.


The rest of my system includes:

Chapter Audio Chapter 2 amp

Cary SA_200.2 Moon version amp (with volume control)

SAS Audio hybrid tubed line stage preamp

Classe CT-SSP processor

Eastern Minimax phono stage

Musical Fidelity A5 CD

Metronome tubed CD player

A number of mid-fi turntables including Technics SP15, Yamaha PX2, Lenco 75.  I also have a very cool  massive 16" transcription turntable from the old CBS radio station in Chicago that is a future project.  Cartridges are on the low end (Denon103 and Hana) and I plan to upgrade.

Mosscade Saturn 12 subwoofer

I intend to sell off what I won't keep to help fund my purchase.  My budget is $5K - $10K and I prefer pre-owned to get the biggest bang for my buck.  I have my eye on a pair of pre-owned SoundLab Majestic 845, but I have never heard an electrrostat and there doesn't seem to be a dealer within a reasonable drive of me. Also I'm not sure if my room would be too small to optimize the 845s and I will do most of my listening within 8' -12' of the speakers. I also am considering Maggies and I will be auditioning an Acoustat 2+2 locally.  

I recently listened to Klipsch Forte 2s and Belles.  I liked the Forte's base and the midrange of the Belles.  I did not care for the top end of either as it seemed recessed and lacking air.

My electronics (except maybe the Chapter 2 amp) aren't the highest caliber so I'm open to any suggestion to maximize my sound.  I don't have unlimited funds to churn thru equipment until I find what I like and I am frustrated with the lack of opportunity to audition the equipment I've researched that seems to be what I'd like.  So, your input will mean a lot to me.  Thanks in advance.




For less than 10k, you can get a pair of Wilson Watt Puppy 8. They rival the clarity of electrostatic, space of a planar and have dynamics to the point where a subwoofer is definitely not needed.


My system consists of W/P 8, driven by Gryphon Diablo 300. Super transparent and dynamic regardless of volume (from really low volume to volume that is similar to a live performance)

In any event I would insert a Loki so you can create your own loudness EQ curve. The nonpurist way to more musical enjoyment. You can accomplish this with at least one DAC but I see that you  have eschewed that route.

Avoid listening to ESLs. You might never go back.


Goldenear Trition 1.r -New are $7500 a pair and really like tube amps. They have a power bass driver system so you can get good sound at low levels plus if listening really low you can turn the bass volume up on them for that listening session.

-I’ll second the Cornwall mk4’s or another similar design like some JBL horns and many others. Horns just do low level listening better then any other design I’ve heard.

-Second option is an Open Baffle design maybe like the Pure audio project or the many other designs. they can get really close to the immediacy of horns and the lower level enjoyment but do better in other areas like sound staging and coherency.

- another option to consider; Full range driver system, like the Pear Acoustics Sibelius. Voxative, Cube Audio. these can be wonderful if done right as these three seem to have pulled off. I like the sound of the cube divers they do midrange and bass better then others I’ve heard. rather stunning IMO but not cheep. soundstage with these is second to none. 

I’m considering the Sibelius and Cube Audio speakers right now as well.

Triangle. Buy the model in your price range. Paper drivers come alive at very low volumes. Tube amp friendly (mostly). Great for jazz and vocals. 

You might enjoy making the trip to Nashville one afternoon and hearing a few options in my studio. I primarily carry horns and field coil dipoles, both of which sound right up your alley.




I have a similar room and tastes. Focal Aria 906 speakers have been just fine. I did find that the preamp and amp mattered. With the wrong ones, for example, the top end was too bright. But I finally landed equipment that gives me the sound you describe. So I take it that the Focal Arias do a good job of presenting what they are given.


Sonus Faber, either stand mount or floorstanding, the best you can afford, new or second hand if you don't want to stick with ESL or Planar.

@lorenc1 How much room can you afford to give between your speakers and the wall? If 5’ or more, your thought on Magnepan is not a bad one. If less, consider Scansonic MB-5B. They have the tonal balance and openness of a Raidho (both were mostly designed by Michael Borresen) and cost significantly less. The challenge with these speakers is that they require excellent electronics, and as you pointed out, your amps are not of the highest caliber. If I were you I would sell in or trade both of your amps for something that can meet the current delivery needs of both speakers. Both Maggie and Scansonic can sound bad if not done properly, but they can also be the best speakers for the money and shine as well as their paired amps allow them to.

In full disclosure I am a Scansonic dealer, but before I became one I purchased an MB-6B, which replaced my previous Wilson Yvette. I since upgraded to Borresen Z3 Cryo. I also personally own a pair of Magnepan 1.7i. 

you should listen to the monitor audio platinum 200 ll and 300 ll, very natural sounding three-dimensional and a i r y and spacious the sound just envelops the whole room.



+1 used Olympica 3 perhaps.


After pursuing ethereal sound with exotic and expensive amps I concluded that the reason so many dynamic speaker systems are on the market was because the technology lends itself to realistic and coherent sound reproduction.

After years of attending symphonies every other week and listening to acoustic music I made the connection between Sonus Faber and natural, musical, sound reproduction. I bought a used pair of SF Cremona to test my hypothesis… within a week I ordered the brand new SF Olympica 3… from the first batch that was then “on water” on a ship, on the way. Some ten years ago, I now love Sonus Faber Speakers. They simply do everything well and look fantastic as well.

I now own SF Amati Traditional. Being retired… I now find it hard to tear myself away for my system, even after hours of listening. See my systems… under my UserID.

I am a big Maggie fan, if you have a good room and amp for them, and it sounds like you do. JBL has been on a roll lately, and the S3900 would be a nice fit in your room. The 4 X 10" woofers will move a lot of air, while the horn mids and highs will deliver the dynamics. Monitor Audio has also hit their stride, and even the modest Silver 300 7G (which i have, as they fit my room and budget), has spectacular midrange and dynamics, even at low levels. The Gold and Platinum series  are simply more refined implementations of their design philosophy and furniture skills.

I 3rd the horn recommendation, also @glennewdick expresses a lot of good options. Also remember the Cornwall 4’s are a different animal compared to their predecessors. I use a First Watt Sit 3 that is also popular among Cube Audio fans.

As an alternative to the Majestic 845 or Magnepans, check out the Janszen Valentina P8. This is a hybrid electrostatic speaker. Probably hard to find used, but pricing for new speakers does start at under your $10K limit.  Made in Ohio, sold direct. 



Thanks, all, for your thoughtful input.  I am digesting your recommendations and will look to audition whatever is locally available.

I heard a pair of Klipsch Forte IIs and really liked them but for the top end sounding a bit recessed.  I imagine the higher quality dynamic speakers will all sound good as well.   I have seen the Watt Puppies are Sonus Fabers noted in a quite a few threads in the past so I'll try to hear them for sure.

I am seeing what I consider a huge contradiction in the original statement. "Normal to low-level Listening" I consider Normal to low-level listening to have peaks into the 70 DB range as if you intend to even hear the quiet parts this is demanded. Also, I know I made exceptional speakers that have reasonably good Lows of around 50Hz easily achieved from 8" woofers; I seldom even get the desire to turn on my Sub. Considering that most Bass is a matter of what a certain instrument sounds like at that a given low freq, and how a particular selection is mixed, I ENJOY hearing what the studio intended for me to hear instead of some theoretical sound I am forcing into the system. By the way, I never had a graphic equalizer connected to any system I have ever owned and my current receiver is set to bypass the tonal controls. With this in mind, I HAVE learned that there are a number of pieces that I have found totally inadequately mixed, and am satisfied looking for better, rather than trying to override and artificially correct the studio's inadequacy.

4th recommendation for Cornwall IVs. I mostly listen to jazz atlow levels an these are a fantastic speaker for that.

My room is very similar to yours.

I have 4 way highly efficient horns/15" woofers similar to Klipsch others recommend, but that has nothing to do with enjoying music at low volumes.

It is easy to drive inefficient speakers at low volume, also nothing to do with enjoying ...

You need exactly what we all do at low volume listening: Boost Bass and Boost Highs to compensate for human hearing preference for mids at low volume.

Fletcher Munson analyzed and EQ curves (equal loudness) were determined long ago to automatically and progressively engage that EQ as volume lowers.


The Feature was horribly misunderstood because it was stupidly called ’LOUDNESS’. It is sadly omitted by modern equipment.

This Chase RLC-1 Unit implements Fletcher Munson EQ automatically and progressively at low volume listening



I have several, and my friends have added them to their systems, for ALL of it’s Remote Features with no detriment to system quality.

Note specs: 105 db S/N. You simply cannot tell it is in-line, (I/we have tried so many times, it ain’t there, yet it is). but You get Remote Volume/Mute/Balance/Bass/Treble as well as automatic bass boost as volume lowers below ’low normal’ (no boost engaged).

If others never listen at low volumes, it is still a great way to add remote features to equipment without remote volume ...

I was pleasantly surprised by how much better my current speakers are at low volume listening. 

After over forty years in this hobby, within the first five minutes of listening to my current speakers at home even the family exclaimed. I realized just how horribly inept I was at discerning speaker presentation.

They were suggested by many far more experienced people but they greatly exceeding my budget. Making a point to listen to them at audio shows and boutique retailers I concluded they seemed sleepy, lacking the bombast of many less costly brands.

Close to a decade of unsatisfied auditions and trials with other speakers had past. The manufacture upgraded their cabinet, crossover and some of the drivers yet maintained their outward appearance. Reminiscent of when the V8 MGB was introduced they didn't even put a scoop on the hood. 

The upgrade put them even further out of my budget but the once barren used market for the standard Avalon Acoustics Eidolon began to sprout. It'll soon be fifteen years and like my favorite longboard, I don't even bother.

Hope you find it, best of luck.

3rd for Sonus Faber. Relaxed presentation, very musical, amazing at low volume as well.

Have you heard of Super Clef Elite TL from Speaker Art? 

The late Bob Gross of the fame Clef and many other's.

I've been building his speakers using is old stock parts and cabinets. Building his crossover using his schematics I got from his wife. Super Clef 3's and the Clef TL are truly amazing speakers. 2wy using a 8" with 1" Scan Speak tweeters. The TL goes down close to 22hz. 

The recommendations for Klipsch, JBL, larger speakers that are tube friendly, and paper drivers, are good recommendations all.  I think in that arena the Klipsch will get you some of the dynamics you are looking for even above others in that ‘genre’.      To add to these, if you can audition (I think there was a dealer in Atlanta at one point, not sure if still there) I would try to audition some Tannoys.  Great at lower levels.  Also the Devore Orangutans might be a good one to audition if possible.  You might want to build your room out first though, depending on the carpeting, liveliness of the room, etc, some speakers may sound dead, too bright, or ‘just right’….  With this type of sonic goal and these types of speakers I would be careful not to over dampen the room.

Recently, I completed a speaker build for a customer/partner/friend. It was the Orfeo model designed by Tony Gee of Humble Homemade Hi-Fi. Hate the trade name but let me get right to it. The drivers used in this model are from Scan Speak, and low level listening was among the most impressive that I had ever heard. In fact, I have an order to be filled at least for the mid woofers at this moment. I must admit, it was the mid bass that I couldn't get over. I felt like I had missed out on a lot with many other speaker builds.  Also surprising to me was the fact that the sensitivity is rated at 87db/watt. I was using a 50 wpc amp to break them in. 

 One piece of advice, don't overdrive your room with too big of speaker. Too much is too much. My room is very close to the dimensions of your room.