I upgraded my system from NAC 62 / NAP 140 to Atom HE and NAP250DR earlier this year.
I still have my 34yr old KEF 104.2 speakers, so time for a change.
I’m booking a session at a local retailer to audition speakers.
I’ve sent pics of my lounge and listening area and they’re going to call me later today to discuss possible options and book a demo of 3-4 different speakers - they suggested a price range between £5k - £10k which is fine.
Are there any tips for how best to audition speakers? or is it just a case of taking a few tracks on a USB stick an listening very carefully.
Final decision should be in your own home - which might be awkward but it’s the only way of telling
I have kudos Titan 808s and I heard various titans at shows (the only speakers I liked there) but it wasn’t until I had a set in my home before I could tell they were appreciably better than my SL2s
Hearing 808s at a show with better pre amp than I had (Statement v my 552) my system at home sounded better to me. But when I got the statement pre home the improvement was huge - the room plays a huge part in choice and you won’t know until you get a set of speakers home. Though you can make a good start at a dealer
I went shopping for new speakers for a 250 a few years ago. I can have space around the speakers, but the floor is bouncy, the music range is wide and there can be poor discipline over volume.
In the shop (an hour spent with 7 or 8 songs I know well and the same source and amplification as me), PMC Twenty5.24s were fun but not the last word in subtlety or stereo image and were a little uninteresting at low volume. The PMCs were beaten in every department by Neat Xplorers, which were so good that I have since got some for the holiday cottage, but the PMCs were more able to go fairly close to a back wall.
In Wimbledon, with a bouncy floor, the Neats were very good. However, to my surprise they were beaten by B&W 804s, which had none of the minuses my prejudices still associate with the brand. Both Neats and B&Ws are a good deal better when spikes are replaced by Isoacoustic Gaias.
If I were shopping today, I would try the Neats. The B&Ws have now gone up a lot in price, but an ex-dem set might be a good option too. I would also seriously consider ATC SCM 40s (though many ATC fans rate the active version more highly), plus ProAc and Spendor.
Imho, listening in shops can get you down to a short lit, but I would strongly agree with those here saying that a final decision requires hearing 2 or 3 possibilities in your system and in your own home.
For that money a home dem should be offered if feasible. If you can’t that happen make sure that the room size and shape is similar and the speaker positioning in the demo room is close to what would be possible at home. if your room means they have to be close to a wall then reflect this in the demo.
I’d also want to take most of my own kit-most Naim dealers would have an Atom HE and a 250, they are hardly too bulky to take yourself.
Listen to stuff you know well, but I personally hate the idea of ‘demo tracks’. Choose what you love, and what maybe you think your existing system does less well. Definitely take your own music in some format. Not all albums are the same, your favourite track might be from a remastered version for example. If you don’t usually have a usb as the file source just check at home this doesn’t change the sound.
Take your time, and go back a second time is not bad plan.
Definitely ask for a home trial if you’re in the UK, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a dealer who’s OK with that. If at the end of the trial period, you’re really reluctant to see the speakers go, that’s a good sign.
Also, don’t over-think things at a dealer audition. For example, carefully comparing how much sizzle you get on a particular cymbal crash on several different speakers is not the best way to choose, at least in my experience. Instead, take along a selection of tracks you enjoy and just see which setup gets you most involved with the music. If like me, you enjoy simply recorded acoustic music, see which one gets you closest to being in the room with the musicians. And finally, let your ears rather than the dealer’s or anyone else’s decide.
Thank you all for your helpful replies - some good points to bear in mind.
Just spoken with the dealer I’m visiting - The Audiobarn
They’ve recommended 4 speakers to listen to-
Audiovector R 3 Arreté
Kudos Titan 606
Focal Kanta N°3
No4 is a mystery atm - it’s a speaker from a Spanish manufacturer but he’s not allowed to tell me anymore atm - announcement due end of the week.
They will use Atom HE + NAP250DR for the speakers.
They strongly recommend demoing the speakers in my home too, so that’s good.
All set for next tuesday
My last purchase was unexpected new speakers and I went in looking for an amp.
At the dealers we played a mixture of things he thought would showcase the equipment and things I knew and loved. I found a few new tracks and artists I now have on heavy rotation so it’s often a good way to find interesting new music.
Once I had been convinced that the speaker change would bring a much bigger change than the amp upgrade they arranged to bring the (very large) speakers home for a seemingly indefinite home demo.
They took great pains to setup the speakers to best suit the room and I was afforded the great opportunity to do a direct comparison with my own speakers.
We played the same tracks we had played at the in store demo and it was easy to say that I was keeping the new speakers.
In summary. Demo in store to shortlist. Pick your fave. Go somewhere else if they won’t home demo or at least allow full refund if not satisfied and lean on an experienced dealer because if they suggest music to show you a performance difference, so long as it’s not a million miles away from your chosen genres you may get more out of it than a new set of speakers.
The dealer I’m visiting has nothing but excellent reviews, so they must be doing the right thing.
But of course they don’t sell every speaker available.
My intention is to see how I get on next tuesday.
If I hear something I can’t resist then it’s job done!
If not, then there’s another local dealer - Rayleigh Hi-Fi that are also close.
They did supply and fit a surround system for me back in the 1990’s and I thought they were extremely good.
So if I’m not convinced by a speaker next Tuesday, then I’ll book a demo with Rayleigh and take it from there.
Hi @pete84 Great dealer and an excellent selection for your kit. Hope you have a great day.
FWIW - your room etc - I have the predecessors to the Audiovectors with a 250DR - and they are excellent. I couldn’t afford the Arrete’s at the time but if you can stretch to them, this spec level makes a great speaker even better. The Audiovector speaker cable / grounding accessory, make good additions down the line. Both work well with Naim amps.
The Arrete was previously recommended to me by another member a while ago who mentioned that solo piano ( a particular favorite of mine) even at low levels was very impressive - so looking forward to hearing them on Tuesday along with the others.
The real test will be listening to them (or whatever I choose) in my weirdly-shaped lounge, and great that they’re very happy to arrange home demos.
If piano reproduction is important, you might want to try ATC, although the passive speakers that would match a 250 would fall below your price range! Billy Woodman, the founder and boss until he passed away last year, was a jazz pianist and set great store by how well the speakers reproduced the sound of a piano. To my ears, they excel at it.
One cheeky suggestion: you might ask The Audiobarn if you could try Atom HE into active ATC SCM 40s. Ok, I’m biased, but …
The ATC SCM50 SL (Classic) was suggested by them, but did say it performs best a reasonable listening levels which isn’t something I can do often.
They are also stand mount, and I’d would prefer floor mount due to my fly-catching dog leaping around the lounge in the summer months. In all fairness she’s never damaged anything …yet
I still have my Kef 104.2 Raymond Cooke series as well but they’re not getting used. I just can’t bring myself to move them on.
The problem with demoing speakers at the dealer is often there are other speakers in the vicinity of the speakers you’re listening to which can interfere with the presentation. As was said, you need to get them in your home for the real test. Easier said than done I know but hopefully you have a dealer that will oblige.