David vs Goliath (and request for speaker advice)

TL;DR: It’s all about speaker-room interaction dammit (and speaker-amp synergy)! What speakers should I buy?

Chapter 0: Intro

I’ve been a Naim - Dynaudio user for the past 10 years, but unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve ever been truly satisfied with my HiFi system. Following many years of upgrades, tweaks and moving speakers around, I still can’t get no satisfaction or enjoyment of my system. Following some chance events, I ended up with some spare equipment that I set-up in a friend’s place… and then I finally saw the light! So please bear with me for a lengthy post over this HiFi trip!

Chapter 1: B&W vs Dynaudio shootout

When I decided to build my first HiFi system I was completely clueless (as it turn out). So what follows is a list of what not to do when getting into the audiophile world… Mistake1: my main requirement for speakers was to get a pair of floorstanders that would keep me company forever (even if they might have been a bit large for my then current living room). Obviously if the speakers don’t match the room it will always be a mess… Anyway, following discussions with friends who knew a thing or two about speakers and online reading, I ended up auditioning B&W 683 and Dynaudio Excite X36. The Dynaudios sounded more “exciting” than the “dark and muffled” B&Ws and they looked better, so Dynaudio it was. To complete the system, I got a Nait XS (1st gen) and a DacMagic 100. (Mistake 2: When comparing speakers, the electronics were completely different to the final Naim choice)

Chapter 2: Entering the rabbithole

Not being content with my system and getting listener’s fatigue pretty often, the sane thing to do was of course to get a FlatCap XS and Naca4. Can’t say I remember much difference to be honest. Anyway after a few years I moved to a bigger place. Being in Belgium, the room layout doesn’t help much really. There is a (non-functional) fireplace on the front wall, where the HiFi and the TV is located, between the speakers. On the right side there are windows and on the left a big opening to the dining room (pretty much of equal dimensions). So, no first reflections from that side. Ceiling is 3 meters high. To cut a long story short, the imaging was always (and still is) pretty bad, with a completely flat image and no sense of space.

Cue more upgrades, such as a pair of bass traps (not enough to have an impact of course), Fraimlite, SN2, Allo Digione, nDAC (I don’t recall at what order by now) to make the sound less bright and more bearable. In the end I bit the bullet and accepted that it’s the speakers. So, in search for something less bright and less overpowering, I decided to go for stand-mounts. After auditioning a few Dynaudios and ProAc, I found the dark sound that I was looking for in the C1 Platinum. I even demoed them at home and of course they sounded much better than the X36. Of course they were bloody expensive, so I waited patiently until I got a good deal on a second hand pair. Success (or was it)?

Even though the sound was now less fatiguing, it still wasn’t satisfactory. Still no 3D image and the music is not engaging. To put it simply, I am rarely drawn in by the music… Solution? Let’s demo some more black boxes! Thanks to my friendly dealer, I demoed a 250DR directly into the SN2. Surely there was more power, but not so much control (that’s why they are called NACs, remember?) Then followed a demo of a 555DR on the nDAC. Surely that would solve all my problems, no? Well, blimey, I couldn’t hear a single difference! Even more blimey, I did hear a difference by trying the PowerLine that was with the 555PS into the SN2. More bass that is. So naturally I got one when the right opportunity showed up on the second-hand market. Add the customary Isoacoustics GAIA III, HiLine, Naca5, Musicline Netzleiste PLUS and you’ve got the full Monty at an appreciable cost.

Of course, several REW measurements and speaker relocations have been made. The room suffers from a terrible mode at ~45-46 Hz, and no amount of room treatment will tame that realistically. So I am now using a (sacrilegious I know) DSP cut at that frequency to make sure it doesn’t make the sound too muddy. Clarity did improve, but the sound remains lifeless and congested, for lack of better descriptions. Several times I’ve thought to throw away everything, get some crappy digital speaker and call it a day…

Chapter 3: The enlightenment

With all these upgrades, my trusty old Nait XS and DacMagic 100 was still here and there was no financial benefit to sell it really, as I had bought it new just before XS 2 came in the market, so the second-hand price was pretty low (Reminder to self: never buy new HiFi again!). Anyway, in a strange turn of events, I ended up buying a pair of second hand B&W 685 for pretty much peanuts. And recently a (pretty much empty) living room of a good friend became available to place my spare equipment. So there I go, spreading the equipment on the floor, connecting a Chromecast Audio as a source (imagine all this jitter via the optical connection, the horror! :scream:), and roughly placing the B&Ws in the room (on appropriate stands of course). First trial, hmmmm, not that great really. Let’s get rid of the toe in and set them firing straight. Press Play on Spotify (mp3 quality, even more horror! :scream:) and… blimey square, cube and so on… Finally, I hear a 3D image and sound with spaciousness. Instruments that float in space and are not stuck on the speakers. And sound that is actually fun to listen to… And with a system that is 7.3 times cheaper (in official prices) … Bloody acoustics…

The main difference with that room is that it has no openings (once you close the doors), slightly irregular shape and a ceiling of 3.5 meters. Reverb time is huge (RT60 = ~900ms) vs mine at ~450ms, but it seems not to matter. You just play music and enjoy it! Of course I can notice some limitations in the “finesse” or detail of the speakers, but again it doesn’t matter. The sound is much more open and I feel confident that if I start upgrading the components on this system and in this room, the improvements will be much more obvious. So why is that? Obviously, the symmetry of the reflections helps a lot to establish the image. But in my system I can never get this clear rhythm that you get from the drums to get the music going…

Chapter 4: Solve the mystery

Being an engineer, of course I should follow a methodical approach to get to the root of the problem. So over to my friend go the Dynaudios. Time for some measurements first. In terms of frequency response, here are the Dynaudios (toed in) at my place (orange line), the Dynaudios (Green) and the B&W (blue) at my friend (no toe-in there). The curves have been SPL aligned by REW at 500Hz, 4-octave span. You can see how bad my room acoustics are! B&Ws also seem flatter overall. Their lower LF output is actually a blessing as it doesn’t excite the 47Hz room mode that much. They are also front ported which seems to make the in-room placement easier. I didn’t spend any time to optimise the Dynaudio position, which seem to be more picky for extracting the most out of them.

Let’s play some music then. Comparing the two speakers back-to-back, it’s obvious that the Dynaudio is a more “adult”, mature speaker and you can feel its authority. Definitely darker in tonality, it is missing some spark of the B&W. More importantly, though, it is missing the PRAT! I can see it’s potential to convey many layers of information, however they all fall on top of each other and in the result is completely unengaging! 10 times more expensive speakers and yet so disappointing result. And it clearly has to do with how the drums are emphasised in the B&Ws and give so much rhythm. It’s clear to me now that the Dynaudios need a much much better front end to show what they can do.

Final trial: the B&Ws at my place. No optimisation of speaker placement, but still, the shortcomings of the room are obvious: no special 3D image and the right speaker is always a bit more obvious. However, the PRAT is there! I keep playing song after song and they are all so enjoyable. I’ve never felt “We are the champions” and “Another one bites the dust” like that in my whole life!

Chapter 5: Epilogue

So where does that leave me now? Life is too short to waste it with music that you don’t enjoy. And I am not going to spend an infinite amount of money to make the Dynaudios sing. So, as much as I am attached to them and their lovely engineering and quality, they will have to go. Of course, the question is, with what to replace them. Based on my newly found wisdom :innocent:, it’s clear that I should go for a more modest stand-mount, which is much more forgiving in terms of room placement. I don’t want a bright sound, but I do want a speaker that knows how to jam and throw a party like these lowly B&Ws can do. Obviously I will need to audition a lot at my place to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. But any pointers from you guys would be great (especially if you managed to read up to here)! I am curious about the Sonus Faber Sonetto, which look great and are front ported. Of course, the current B&Ws could be an option to try, but now they are rear ported so not sure if they will be as flexible with room placement. Any other suggestions?

In terms of front-end I think I am set for life with the current system… Not planning to change anything apart from a Powerline here and there. So, the speakers should not be too demanding for the SN2. Once I reach that stepping stone of speaker Valhalla, probably a REL subwoofer will follow to complete the trip. Ahh, and a new house with better acoustics! :joy:

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I really had to get it off my chest. Cheers!


Please could we have a 100, or fewer, word executive summary?


NEAT Acoustics Motive SX2 or 3 with properly terminated NAC A5.


Neat Motive SX2 worked really well for me. OK I now have PMC Twenty5.23 but the Neats were good with my Nova and SN3.

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As a humble evolutionary biologist, the answer to your conundrum is obvious. You are overspeakered and undersourced. Get shot of the Allo this and Allo that. Get an ND5XS2 and use it with your nDac. As for speakers, try the PMC twenty5.21i. I’ve recently bought some and they are excellent. They can do the chamber music and they can boogie like a bastard when required. They will match your Supernait fine, are ideal for your room size and easy to place. You don’t even need statistics and charts.


It seems to me that fundamentally you have a speaker problem - and you know it.

To me, getting the speakers right - meaning right for the individual’s ears and taste - is the key to musical satisfaction (sacrilege as that may be to followers of the “source first” creed). From your description it seems to me that the speakers you have had have simply been wrong for you. Far more than any other component the speakers set the character of a system, every model of speaker sounding different*, in general far more so than differences between other components. (The source of course has to be of at least a reasonable standard though with digital these days that is not difficult, while the amp does need to be able to drive the speakers at least adequately. )

People on here can make suggestions, as can friends who “know a thing or two about speakers”, but they don’t have your ears nor are they likely to truly know your taste in music presentation. Your best bet is to go to several dealers and listen to all the speakers they have in your price bracket (and include secondhand and ex-dem because they increase your buying power. If the dealers don’t have your model of amp take it with you so you can be sure that you will be hearing as well as it will drive them. For what it’s worth, as someone who would never be happy with speakers having a curtailed bottom end, and preferring as neutral a speaker sound as possible, the speakers I found that worked best for me were transmission line: And that approach for bass has stood the test of time over three subsequent changes of speaker. My present ones are PMC - but whether they would suit you is anyone’s geuss.

Once you find speakers that sound really good to you, on a range of music covering your musical taste, then if possible a home demo is highly desirable for confirmation, though then very possibly needing to find the best speaker and listening positions for them.

I note you have an n-DAC, which in term of general quality level surely must count as adequate, however DACs also have an influence on sound quality, and it is possible that its presentation is not to your ears’ taste. I haven’t heard it, but when I added a Chord Hugo DAC to an ND5XS there was, to my ears, a marked change, with the sound becoming more natural. Different DACs can also have quite an influence on factors like soundstage.

*The first time I did a “shoot out” of 13 different speakers, all around the same price (equivalent to about £2.5-£3k in today’s money), many the top model in a brand’s range, and all having had glowing reviews, I was astounded at how different they all sounded. Ten were so awful to my ears that I rejected them only part of the way into the first track. Another didn’t last much longer, leaving only two to try with multiple pieces of music, with the winner a clear leader.


By the looks of it all here have now discovered (graphs or not) that once, first and foremost, one gets the speakers right to their preference and room, the rest follows - it’s adjustment and improvement. Never easy to be happy with the wrong speakers.

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To my defence, I did start with a one-line summary :sweat_smile: :innocent:


So plenty of votes for NEAT and PMC as expected. I had indeed compared a PMC standmount to several Dynaudio once at a dealer and at that point it had seemed overly bright to me. But obviously I should revisit that in my space and with my electronics.
Thanks to all for the pointers!

There would be many speakers to fit your requirements, I would listen to as many as possible and for least disruption in your case I would may be draw a line e.g. such as the below to start with:

  • relatively higher sensitivity


  • nominal impedance 8 or at least 6 AND not/never dipping below 4ohm


  • I would say the stated (lower end of) recommended power on the speakers should be 25-30% of your Amp power


  • Listen!:slight_smile:

In terms of the source, you may allow me to follow a different logic. As I recently witnessed, a Chromecast Audio+DacMagic 100 is enough to show if I will be enjoying the speakers or not. For sure it can always be improved, but I think that at a level of Allo/nDAC, any change in source is about marginal improvements and possibly different presentation. And to be honest I haven’t heard any day-night difference so far among the different source components I’ve tried. It’s all been muddied by the speaker choice. Hell, I didn’t hear a single difference when using a 555PS on the nDAC! :scream:

So to cut a long story short, I understand that the choice my electronics probably give a relatively “dark” sound, which should be matched with a “medium-bright” speaker to give me a result that I like. Once this is in place, I can keep demoing and trying out different sources, but I expect marginal differences.

On the other hand, I know I need to keep an open mind free of bias. Hell, I could hear a PowerLine make a difference in my amp when least expecting it! :scream: But first things first.

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Now that has picqued my engineering curiosity. :innocent: I wasn’t familiar with the concept until now. Definitely one more reason to try them out in my room.

Apparently a number of people have found that when new, mellowing as they go through the genuine running in that happens with new speakers, though after that it some people still, IIRC, have felt the treble wasn’t their strength - but of course in part that will depend on reflectivity of the room, and indeed on personal preference. The higher model ranges seem not to get such comments (I haven’t heard anything lower than the Twenty-26, and didn’t feel that was a speaker for me).

This is helpful and makes sense. Interestingly, the Sonus Faber Sonetto that have picqued my interest, are OK in terms of recommended power (30W – 150W), but have a nominal impendance of 4 Ohm.

High sensitivy might not be a good thing practically, because at low volumes my SN2 balance shifts a lot to the right… :cry:

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ProAc D2R


This Sunday will be a speaker demo day, so let’s see what comes out :innocent:

I have used ProAc D2D, Ovator S400 and ProAc D30RS in similar systems as your own in the past with great success. If your dealer carries ProAc you may want to give a listen and a home demo. Good luck with your decision


If you like PRAT, then you are already got your foot in the door with Naim. I’m a musician so timbre is a big thing for me. Currently driving a pair of Spendor SP2/3R (Old version of current 2/3 classic) they are quite bulky, is not bad as an all rounder, I too have been on the journey of finding out what’s out there, I’m a classical trained musician but listen to Jazz, Blues, Rock and Electronics etc so Spendor for me is quite soft around the edges. I have auditioned Dyanudio Contour i20 which are very dynamic speakers, can’t fault the speakers, I auditioned them because I remember how much I enjoyed my mate’s old dynaudio. But they are still very soft around the edges, in terms of timbre, I prefer Spendor and Harbeth.
I second PMC for PRAT and if you are quite into drum sound, the tight snare sort of sound, PMC does it quite well, Proac is another one(D2S/D2R), however some of them for me are tuned too warm, so you probably want to audition them, preferably at your place. Not familiar with the B&W you were trying, I kind of fancy auditioning the mighty 805 D4, but I’m actually late to the naim party so I don’t know how Naim drives B&W. Recently listened to B&W 700 series at Bristol hi fi show and thought they are not too bad as all rounders, but then 702 are floor standers, my listening space is roughly the same as yours, I would stay with bookshelf, for me it’s much easier to get the sound right.


Thank you for the detailed feedback. I wouldn’t mind if the sound is slightly on the warm side rather than “in-your-face”, to avoid listening fatigue, as long as the PRAT is there. So I need to carefully audition, definitely at my place as much as possible. B&W typically doesn’t match well with Naim based on what I’ve read in the forum. So 805D4 might be hard to drive with SN3 and you end up in my situation of being “over-speakered”.

The 685 that I tried is an old entry-level model. It’s less than €200 for a pair in the second-hand market right now. But the difference in PRAT compared to the Dynaudio C1 was so huge and obvious to the point of being a joke! I tried “Another one bites the dust” with the B&W, and from the first seconds the rhythm was so engaging that I video-called my friend… and she confirmed it over the phone… :scream: Later on we listened to the same song via the C1s in person and, even though we could hear everything clearly, it was just so boring… As if the band wanted to get done with playing and go home… Really crazy.

I know that the C1s are probably one of the top stand-mounts ever made, and I was dreaming of them for so long, so this is really annoying. But it’s time to let them go and move on.

Hell, if my upcoming auditions are inconclusive, I might as well get a second pair of 685 for practically nothing, connect them and enjoy while searching :innocent:

It all depends what you want from speakers (i.e. how they present music) - and that may depend in turn on your musical taste. Some people want speakers to be “exciting” - even making “unexciting” recordings/music sound exciting, other people prefer speakers to present the music as captured in the recording, so, yes, a badly recorded/played piece of music will sound that - but a well played and recorded piece if music won’t have false exaggeration of some things, or other things masked and will sound exquisite.

The most commonly cited “exciting” sounding speaker in this forum is probably the Linn Kan. At the other end of the scale are ATC and PMC, at least the more serious speakers in their respective catalogues.