Speakers - Your "Safest" Choice

Hello All: Many of us have limited access/ability to audition multiple speakers brands. That got me to thinking- If one had a budget of $20K max, a solid state amp rated at 125WPC, and listened to all varieties of music (primarily rock, pop, folk), what speaker(s) would you be most willing to recommend to that person and feel confident they would be happy with the purchase?


I'd spend $1000, go the NYC for a few days, listen to speakers, then buy a pair of $19,000 speakers...otherwise the best I can come up with is few seem to actively dislike Vandersteen, though many don't particularly like them...there is no totally safe brand or model...



+1!!!! Road trip!


No way, unless you know your tastes and the major speaker house sounds should you consider buying speakers like that on a guess.

If you are going from something like $5K speakers and go to $20K speakers, then you are really likely to be really happy… but it is really likely you will be far from getting the sound quality that match your tastes.

Call audio places, have a detailed talk to the owner / head dude / guru explaining your system and tastes. Make an appointment. They should come up with two or three choices of speakers and use electronics roughly the character of your system and have it set up when you get there. I would dedicate two or three hours per shop. Expect to have your head swimming… but if you spend most of the time listening to music… not listening to the speakers… then one should emotionally grab you… that is what you want. Speakers with nothing but details and slam are great to show off, but typically you’ll get bored with after 45 minutes… every time you listen.


For what it is worth, I am a Sonus Faber fan. I have upgraded twice, and if again I’ll go up another level. My values are natural presentation and musical.


As mentioned by others, if I was going to spend 20K on a pair of speakers I would not do so unless I auditioned them first, unless it was a pair of PS Audio FR 20s (+- 20K), and that’s only because I am familiar with their voicing and have auditioned them. At least to me, speakers are a very personal thing, nut much different than clothes or furniture. People will make suggestions based on their level of experience and taste, and not your own. No matter what suggestions you get, unless you try them yourself you don’t really know and would be taking a gamble. I would maybe try some from vendors that will give you 30 days or so of in-home trials, but you’d likely be responsible for shipping one way or both.

"I'd spend $1000, go the NYC for a few days,"

Planning on sleeping on the subway? 😉

No way subway !!! There are quite decent under $200 hotel rooms in Manhattan 

Let's assume no road trip. What I was trying to get to is the speaker that you or others think are a "crowd pleaser" (for lack of a better term)....

I can't picture a trip to NY for a "few days" including airfare, hotel, transportation and food for under 5 K.

Would certainly be nicer for 5k but if your goal was to audition speakers, totally unnecessary 


jl35: Aren’t the speakers themselves unnecessary?  Logic tells me that most able to spend 20K on a pair of speakers would likely be traveling first class, staying at a 4–5-star hotel and eating in nice restaurants, not including drinks and entertainment. Not to sound snobbish, but I know I would. 




jl35: Yes, they are nice.  I asked the salesman that I deal with at PS audio to let me know when their bookshelf speakers came out.  If they're as good as the FR 20 or 30, I'd love to give them try and maybe buy another set of speakers I definitely don't need! 😉

Well, looked at the very specific individual level, it's a fools game.  You can't know for sure.

But if you want to take a more rigorous look at the question, where you can come to some justified conclusion about the ODDS of someone hearing pleasing sound from a loudspeaker, then you can look to the research often cited by Floyd Toole as which scientifically helped determine which characteristics in speakers most listeners tended to prefer. 

And then you'd be able to winnow down a selection of speakers that measure in the ways that predicted most people would like it.  For instance Revel Salon 2 speakers would meet that criteria.

If you are near some dealers, they might be able to provide some in house demos, for a price.

Otherwise, I think you are limited to manufacturers who can sell a pair with a time limited return policy.

I think Zu and Magnepan offers this, and there are probably a few others.


Assuming no road trip.


Sonus Faber —- musical / natural.

B&W - slam with bright details. If you like Rock only, this is your speakers. Best paired with McIntosh electronics.

Wilson - Holographic sound stagers great detail

Magico - really fast and accurate… you better have a Boulder amp or big Audio Research system or they will sound terrible.


Ok. Sorry 125wpc is not specific enough to recommend ribbon or electrostatic.

Typically speakers first and then choose the other electronics to best support the speakers.


A general rule of thumb 35% investment on speakers, 15% on streamer, DAC, preamp, and amp. Each must be carefully chosen to be best of class, synergistic and catering to your taste and venue.

My recommendation contemporary used Sonus Faber Serafino. Natural and musical sounding in mid sized rooms. Why, I love the natural, musical quality… they capture the perspective of real music, not over emphasizing details or bass… correctly rendering music. With Audio Research electronics almost all music is captivating and emotionally compelling. Of course they may sound like sh$t to you. 

What’s your main bread and butter for music type. You mentioned rock first? What kind of rock? Hard rock, metal. Everyone says a good speaker is equally good at everything and I’ve found especially on the higher end that is BS! That’s why I’ve kept my Focal 836w over much more expensive speakers over the past few years.

The Sonus Fabers I have heard I don’t think would do any justice to rock if that’s your bag. haven’t heard them in a bit so dunno. YMMV. 

Focal Kanta 3, Revel 328 Be, both easy to enjoy and comfortably under $20K.  
These I know, and are “conventional” types. Ohm Walsh 5000 or Magnepan MG 20.7 are choices for certain types of rooms and listeners. 

I would never spend $20k on a pair of speakers BUT if I had to, I’d get the Alta Audio Adam for $17k. I heard both pairs at AXPONIA last year and again this year too (I think). What I WOULD do if I had $10k to spend, is buy the Tekton Moab AND Claytion Shaw’s new Caladian open baffle design and I’d still have lunch money left over.


How about a pretty economical trip to the Florida expo in February. (For me about $800, flights, hotel, tickets to the event, 1 free for my beloved…) then go talk to madman Greg of Volti Audio, have a listen to what he brought to the show. After a good listen there, head to other rooms and compare. I’m fairly confident you’ll head back to see Greg. His passion is infectious, his creations are amazing. Yes you can call me a devoted fan, or fanatic… but I’d put my Volti Razz up against anything south of $20k, they are that good to my ears.

I can't picture a trip to NY for a "few days" including airfare, hotel, transportation and food for under 5 K

Drive (if you're close enough); then if you happen to find speakers you really like, you can take them back with you (and save on shipping).

Don't stay in Manhattan. NJ, maybe. Look for unpopular dates and for deals. Even in Manhattan, you could stay in a Pod for ~ $120/night (incl. taxes & fees).

Eat street food (or bring something along).  You should be able to get a panful of rice rolls in Chinatown for < $5. Big Tray Chicken at Spicy Village (Chinatown) < $20, enough for 2. 

I would think you could have an enjoyable experience for about $250/day. Frugal, but not spartan.

Hi, $20 k is in the perfect range of the OMA ´s Fleetwood Deville SQ. They are beautiful, not to big , floor stand speakers that sound very musical with the tiniest details and amazing voices.I truly suggest giving them a listening demo before making up your mind, I love them and could listen for hours as the speakers disappear and the musical magic is all around you.

@OP - The suggestions for B&W, Sonus Faber, Wilson and Focal and Magico are all on the money.

A pair of Wilson Sabrina Xs is in your budget range. Some people are put off by their diminutive size, but they sound bigger than they look.

My personal preference would be between Wilson and Sonus Faber but you should really try to hear comparably priced models from all of those firms.

First of all, you do not necessarily need to audition speakers if you know exactly what it is you are looking for. I bought $45,000 speakers on design and reputation alone and could not be happier. 

For $20k there is only one speaker that will blow most people away if they have not heard them before and that is the Magneplanar 20.7. 125 watts will do OK but they do best with something like the JC 1+. They are very easy to deal with. Because they are line source dipoles there is far less room interaction. They will sound excellent even in the worst of rooms. Their ribbon tweeter is arguably the best tweeter ever made. They are also very imposing and will impress the hell out of your friends. They produce a much more lifelike image than any point source speaker and dialed in they will disappear almost as well as a line source ESL. I also think they are handsome in Walnut and Black. If I had no room for subwoofers these are the speakers I would buy in a heartbeat. 


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Those who plan to spend $20k on speakers won't have the money to buy groceries for a year, let alone subway ticket. Hitchhike to NY, sleep with the homeless and pan handle for subway ticket money. 

I’d get powered ATC SCM40’ ($12K), sell the amp, and pocket the difference.

You can buy some great sounding speakers for a lot less than 20k... but I have to say you need to find a way to listen to them in person first. Find the closest place that sells high end equipment and go there. Make sure they sell many different brands first.

There are way too many associated variables to warrant an absolute answer. A perfect speaker for one person's application might be unlistenable to someone else and his application. Maybe that is why there are so many choices and so many different approaches. Exclusive of the cost, if there were a perfect speaker, there would be no need for any others.

Definitely agree with the Sonus Faber and Revel recommendations. I’ll also throw in Dynaudio. I feel like Dynaudio are one speaker that you almost can’t not like. They sort of ooze out and surround you and draw you in. Whereas some others (like B&W) jump out and grab you. I find Dynaudio to grow on you more and more the more time you spend with them. That said I have SF Sonetto in a second system and Revel Be in my theater setup and can’t go wrong with either…

Borresen X3 or X6 they are an amazing choice 

Marten Oscar Trio really good too 

Wilson Sasha DAW used or Sabrina used too 

You are save with those choices 

Do consider posting more information, like the rest of your system in detail and the size of the room and so on. Your original question is a bit too open ended to get truly useful responses.

In a forum like this personal preference varies so much. If you don’t audition speakers your choice might be just OK for you, or even worse, unenjoyable to you. You are not optimizing what your $20K will buy.

I recently went through the speaker auditioning process. I live in a major city with 5-6 brick and mortar hifi stores. Some speakers were very "technical"... lots of precise detail, thrown in your face, Many people like that sort of thing and it is impressive at first listen. To me, some of these type of speakers are not very musical and may offer up a sound that would not keep me in my chair for hours and hours of listening. Also speaker performance is often very dependant on good matching of upstream amplification and sources. Additionally ,much of the genres of music you enjoy are not that well recorded or mastered for the "air bud" crowd. Unforgiving speakers won’t help you enjoy listening to that. In the end, I didn’t buy what I thought I would when first going into the process.

The " safest choice" for you maybe to buy buying used. You will likely find speakers just a few years old for way less $$$ than new, which will allow you to either spend less or get something better than what $20K new would buy you. If you don’t ultimately like them, can sell them, get your money back, and look for another pair. Although many sellers are unwilling to ship large speakers, many 2nd hand dealers will.


What 125/wpc solid state amp do you have.?  How loud do you listen?  All makes a big difference. Can you handle big, heavy speakers? 

around 20K

brand model price
Qln Prestige Five 17500
Qln qln prestige five 17500
Rosso Fiorentino Audio Voltrerra 2 17500
Monitor Audio Platinum 300 3G 17900
Acora Acoustics SRB 18000
Martin Logan EXPRESSION ESL 13A 18000
Paradigm PERSONA 5F 18000
Perlisten S7T 18000
Sonus Faber Olympica Nova V 18000
Tekton MATRIX LS 18000
Vandersteen Quatro Wood CT 18000
Devore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 18503
Fyne F704 19000
B&W 800 Series 19001
Diapason Karis WAVE Limited Edition 19082
Perlisten AUDIO S7T 19185
Vienna Acoustics Liszt 19495
Marten Parker Trio 19500
Magico S1 MKII M-CAST 19600
Wilson SabrinaX 19700
ATC SCM50ASL 19734
Tannoy Kensington 19800
YG Ascent 19800
Usher BE-20 Diamond 19990
Canton Reference 2k 19995
Salk BePure 2 19995
Vienna Acoustics The Kiss 19995
Salk BePure 3 20000
Triangle Magellan Quatuor 40th Anniversary 20000
Triangle Magellan Quatuor 20000
Trenner Friedl RA 20198
Totem Element Metal V2 21000
Kharma ELEGANCE S7 22000
Usher td-10 22000
Harbeth M40.3 XD 23000
ProAc K10 23000
Amphion Krypton3 24000
Dali DALI EPICON 8 24000

Here are some recommendations of speakers I've heard at audio shows or have consistently great reviews. Some are sigificantly under $20K.

Dynaudio Contour 60: These did everything right. Goreous sound.

Goldenear Triton Reference: To my ears these sound about as good as any 6 figure speaker you can find.

Revel Ultima Salon: I haven't heard these but they are widely considered to be one of the best sounding speakers ever made. They turn up on the used market fairly often.

Joseph Audio Perspective 2: These sounded good from the moment I entered the room and got better when I sat in the sweet spot.

Paradign Persona 5F: They did everything well.

Rosso Fiorentino Fiesole II: These sounded amazing. I would love to hear the next model up - the Volterra.

One of my main conclusions from attending a few audio shows is that the price of speakers and their performance are not well correlated. I think somewhere around $20K is the sweet spot and it seems to take multiples of that figure to see a big improvement in sound. The MBL 101E Mk II sounds incredible but it is $90k. I think the best speaker I've heard is the Von Schweikert Ultra 11 which costs over $300k. There are a whole bunch of wonderful sounding speakers in the $20k range.

for all around capability i confidently recommend floor standers from proac or vandersteen as being safe bets to please pretty much universally, within any reasonable price range, up to nose bleed price levels (this doesn't mean other brands will not...)

i am leaving out panel speakers, which to my ear can be even better, but they require more of the user and the room setup to do their magic

I meant this question to be taken hypothetically, but for those that have asked: my current system consists of Audio By Van Alstine DVA M225 mono blocks and a Primare Pre35 preamp. Main sources are a  Yggdrasill DAC (Less Is More) with Audiolab CDT9000 transport and a Music Hall MMF 7.3 turntable/Ortofon Bronze cartridge.

YG Acoustics Ascent, just under $20k new.  

The previous model Sonus Faber Amati Tradition is available around $22k new.





pretty much every $20,000 speaker is getting mentioned now...all are very good, but for  $20K you really should get what like best, not a safe bet that you won’t dislike them...Are you actually looking to do this, or is this just a question of curiosity ??

More could be on this list, but I can only list speakers I have heard multiple times in person

Revel Salon 2 Ultima - $15,000 (On sale $10,000 off at Upscale Audio right now)

Joseph Audio Perspective 2 Graphene - $20,000

Fyne Audio F1-1.8S - $18,000

Fyne Audio Vintage 10 - Used $20,000

Tannoy Kensington - $18,000

Sonus Faber Olympica Nova III ($15,000) or Nova V ($18,000

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All of the advice about auditioning speakers before you buy them is valid IMHO. Seems a fool's errand to not do so. 

Something else to consider: Why not buy "pre-owned"?

Now, think of the speakers you could acquire for your $20K! And as you'd be buying privately, you most likely would have the opportunity to go and audition them. Why take on the initial devaluation simply for the "privilege" of being the first owner?

Anyways, good luck on your search!

Happy listening.