New Speaker search has begun, and it's interesting to say the least

Over the last week i’ve had the chance to demo two possible speakers to accompany my Supernait/CDX2 in my new home. The first, the Spendor A5r ex-dem model at a dealers and the other, Totem Hawk preloved. On both occasions Naim electronics were used. During the first, my own equipment was used in the demo room, and the Hawks were partnered with a 272+250. I’ve had a budget of €2000,- in mind with the intention to like and buy something not new, but with the option to demo with Naim first, albeit in another setting. I am looking for speakers that sound as easy to the ears, but have a way to convey more up tempo rock/metal and dance music with a little more spice compared to my previous Sonus Faber Concerto Domus speakers with which i’ve parted in november.
On both occasions, i went home with experiences of other speakers which far surpassed both intended budget and expectations sound quality wise. This writeup is both intended as reflection on the experience and as a way to gain some advice on where to go next.

First up, the demo at the dealers, which for reference purposes connected the ATC19s first. I was expecting some accurate studio quality sterile sound but was absolutely blown away by these speakers. Tight, rhythmic, capable of extracting detail, tone and emotion on most of the records i took with me. It didn’t take long for me to get into the music and get my foot tapping/head banging. (snare)Drums and voices have never sounded as good as i heard from these speakers that day. If i had to name anything of a downside, they didn’t go very deep nor punched the gut as much as i’d like (possible need of a quality sub, upping the budget even more). Also after some Foo Fighters and Slipknot, listening fatigue started to kick in. Not a good sign in a moderately sized and pretty damped environment compared to my listening/living space which is approx twice the volume (95m3) and less damped.
After a short break for lunch, The spendors were up. i really wanted to like these and they sounded good, not at all small, but dull in comparison, which made me enjoy them less and had me going trough the tracks faster. I had high hopes for the sealed bass loding, but after the ATC’s maybe not the best demo.
After these, the owner hooked up some Elac monitors (AS61) for some middle ground. They impressed, especially with outright loudness on heavy metal and dug a little deeper. The loading of the bass though caused some detachment on low notes in reggae.
The owner of the store was very kind and patient, and did get my bugetary issues at the moment. Eventhough, he offered to trial de ATCs at home, of which i’m still in doubt if i want to make use of that excellent service.

On the second occasion, i went to a private owner’s home to listen to a mint pair of Totem Hawks including claws. We even discussed price beforehand and we agreed to a price which would allow me include a preloved HiCap2 in the budget. I was welcome to come and listen without obligation to buy. A true naimee at heart! We had a great meetup!

I was expecting a lot from these. Totem Rainmakers are among my favorite speaker/systems i have ever heard (withing the confines of a demo with cambridge equipment). Unfortunately, i found these to be shouting at me fairly quickly. They were surefooted though and sounded good at moderate levels! Sure enough, i discovered this was not for me. But i did ask him to connect his newly bought speakers. Preloved Harbeth M30.1s with custom metal stands. Now these sounded absolutely sublime, and i didn’t feel these speakers were slow or overly warm. They were very, VERY listenable. and they imaged like crazy, as good as the ATCs, maybe better in that setting, but that could be the 272.

To sum up. Went to listen to small Spendor and Totem floorstanding speakers and went with the experience of ATC and Harbeth monitors to blow me away! Nothing has sounded as good as these two short of some very expensive Gamut system i once heard.
From what i believe, both speakers are at both ends of the spectrum sound wise, both are at around twice my intended budget new and rarely come up 2nd hand. I need my pair to be in Black Ash/Oak to fit my livingroomstyle. Maybe natural Oak or Zebrano if dark enough.

Now, the dilemma. I do have the option to up the budget, though i’m not quite sure if i really want to. Never have i spent that much on a single piece/pair of equipment for all of my current equipment is either ex-dem or trade in. Also, my options for positioning to get the very best out of some designs is limited as the speakers need to go quite close to the rear wall (free of side boundaries though)
I have a gut feeling that if i’d spend that much, it must tick all my boxes.

My next steps for now: I’ve seen a pair of Trade-in Ovator S400s at a dealers within budget which i could check out and I have a demo lined up next week for a pair of trade-in Linn Ninka’s which are way way cheaper and could be used as intermezzo at worst if they sound good.
Also I would love to hear a pair of Naim SL2/Allaes/Arivas to fit my placement requirements. Though these rarely come up in black. Neat is on the radar too, heard Momentum 7is once. Preferably that level at least.

What would you do?

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Is it the SuperNait 1 you have? That one benefits strongly from a HiCap. It is the biggest upgrade I know.

Ovators work well with the SuperNait, however the are marmite. I do like them (& have them), but others don’t.

There was a pair of black Allaes at Hawthorne in Seattle, the last time I looked.


Hi @SmauGii, you will find that folk here tend to be in favour of speakers they use themselves, have owned in the past or enjoyed on demo. I am no exception, so as a relatively recent ATC convert, I am unsurprised by most of your findings regarding the SCM19s and have a few points you might like to consider. Firstly, with respect to positioning, entry level ATCs including the 19s are closed boxes and this makes them more forgiving with regard to placement in the room. Secondly, all ATC speakers are very revealing of source. I don’t know Foo Fighters or Slipknot, but listening fatigue is not something I associate with ATCs and certainly don’t get with my SCM 40s. But if you have a lot of less than perfect recordings that transparency might be rather less of a virtue. You will also need to budget for stands with the 19s and good ones can make a difference. Finally it might be worth mentioning that I think Simon in Sussex runs ATC 19s and had, perhaps still has, a CDX2 in his system.



Lovely write-up!

I don’t know the particular speakers you’ve heard, however you are going about it the right way, and with limited budget secondhand is very sensible. The speakers make the single biggest difference to the character of the sound, and can make or break a system, or make a difference between being “yes that:s pretty good” and “this is the sound for me!*, regardless of how much things can later be improved.

I love the ATC midrange unit that is in their models 40 upwards (I use it in hybrid speakers) - in some reviews it has been described as the best midrange unit ever - and I know that in the 19 they’ve tried to achieve close to it with the mid-bass driver. You can get the older style SCM40 on eBay for £2k or less, and there’s the nicer current version at £3k. The 40 would certainly do better bass than the 19 (though for me I suspect I’d want the 100 or 150). ATC speakers are pretty bulletproof, and I understand their support is excellent.


My personal experience is: demoing speakers anywhere other than in my home and in the room where they will be located is exceedingly useless. While one can listen to 3 sets of speakers and hear differences in the dealer’s room, even those differences will be ‘different’ in your own home.

I only do in-home demos of speakers. Period. I know that for many that’s impossible, and for some (me included) it obviously limits the possibilities to those speakers that can actually get, one way or another, to your home.

The last time I auditioned speakers . . . at the dealer I found one pair to be exactly what I wanted (Devore X) and one pair (Magico A3) to be a bit boring. I brought home the Devores to demo. Crazy boomy bass that I could not tame. Returned them, tried the Magico at home. Brilliant; ordered those.

Moral of the story is, “If you can demo in your home it will be well worth the effort.”


If you can try the new Neat range taking over from the momentum range - they are very good

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Fully agree ATCs are stunning speakers, I home demd scm 19 but did a slight lack in bass extension could have lived with it but … always there.
Steve at Doug Brady suggested home dem scm40 was a bit reluctant at first due to price and size.
Steve did say the foot print and cabinet size is no different once 19s are on stands against 40s he was right, 19s were about 35mm taller.
I’m glad he suggested 40s for home demo wow unbelievable, stunning they are so revealing. The bass extension was there in my living room not booming or out of control just the right amount.
If bass is there it’s there, stage depth is very detailed and deep. I know it’s a very much used term but the speakers disappeared completely great stuff.
Regarding the original post they are brutal in revealing poor recordings they are after all a monitor this was Billy Woodmans sole objective. We all have naff recordings in our collection the Atcs will reveal warts and all. However feed them a good quality recording they are sublime.
Perhaps the op could look at used Atc scm 40s perhaps…
Ps mine are still on order good things take time

Last year I was almost certain I was going to demo, then purchase a pair of Neat Ultimatum MF5’s from my local dealer. I went to his house for the demo, which went ok, but I was not blown away, so was not sure what to do. He mentioned that he had a pair of Harbeth P3esr’s in the other room waiting for another customer to pick up. I asked if he could give me a quick listen, sure he said, and set them up in the same room as the Neats. Ten seconds in, I was in love with them, for their size they were just incredible. I see why you liked the Harbeth sound for sure. Unfortunately they were spoken for, and I went in another direction.
One day I will own a pair of Harbeth speakers, for sure.
I have a photo of the Neats, but did not take one of the Harbeth’s.
I say do some more demo’s, but hold out for that special one that just sounds right.

I have a pair of M30.1 boxed up and possibly sold. I enjoyed them for a long time and yes, it is very unlikely that listener fatigue will set in. What they do, they do very well, what they don’t do is scale up to complex music and more noticeable (in my room) is they don’t have much deep bass. I was looking to get or at least try the dynaudio heritage special. I was having a long and indeterminate wait for a pair and found a pair of confidence 20’s for slightly less than the heritage special. I’d see if you could hear or pick-up a pair of used contour 20 or 30. or an even older model, the pricing on used make for a possible bargain.

I have had Harbeth 30.1s and loved them, particular for their mid-range (which is what everyone says). However, they definitely need space (as do most Harbeth speakers, I think), so I would be very wary of buying them in your circumstances.

Wow, great replies over night! Thank you all. I’ll try to adress some of the details.

First off, my system indeed consists of a CDX2 and a Supernait 1. Versatile system with the digital inputs to do double duty as TV audio system.
If at all possible i’d like to add a HiCap to the Supernait at one point. Very likely to trade in my modest vinyl rig (Stageline N/ProJect Carbon/Ortofon 2m Red) on that deal for i’m not sure if i’ll be using that in my new living. Also i’m inclined to jump on a NDX2, trading in the CDX2 if the oppurunity comes up.
Currently i use my secondary speaker system from my office which is a Dutch made Driade, passive SUB/SAT system (2,5way filtered). Not at all bad!

Musical tastes vary from Reggae, Folk to Rock with the occasional outburst to Punk / (nu)Metal / Hardcore (yes, the electronical dutch variant :stuck_out_tongue: ) when i feel like cranking it up. It’s this last area where i’m paying most attention at the moment, for i felt my old speakers did not quite do that the way i wanted them to. They wern’t bad at it, just not satisfyingly fast enough.

The way i go about to demo speakers: I first album i always put on is Gentleman - MTG Unplugged. Greatly recorded awesome reggae vibes with a very strong instrumental intro followed by a rhythmically driven opening track. I’m all into the strong dynamics and horns in the intro and the way the opening track is seamlessly connected with the percussion kicking in followed by the bassline and vocals. If this sequence does not get me into it, nothing will. It’s a great test for the speakers capability to connect with me.

With this, the ATC SCM19s had me hooked and i went on listening for the album until track 6 before i realised i could listen to it all. It was also with this album i noticed i was filling in the blanks in the bassline mentally. Nonetheless, the connection was strongly there, and continued to be there when i fired up a small scale Knopfler (an evening with) live rip.
I use Hell Freezes over by the Eagles for sense of space and timbre (Hotel Californa) and play my favorite track for emotion (I can’t tell you why). After the obvious good stuff, the speakers had me air drumming on Foo Fighters/Slipknot, Punk and Metal respectively. Great stuff, but with the record quality dropping (very loud mastering), it also became tiring. Not harsh or anything, i just felt fatigue kicking in.

I do have a fairly big CD collection and to be brutaly honest, most of it isn’t badly recorded but would not be catagorized as audiophile recording quality. I need my system to be able to play my music. Both casually in the background and full frontal listening with the ability to crank it up every now an then. This is where my doubts start and eventhough i’d absolutely love to hear any speaker in my own environment, the intended budget keeps me from trying the ATCs in home, let alone the bigger and more expensive SCM40s. I feel i would take advantage from a willing dealer if i’m not really ready to spend.

The Harbeths were just a more relaxing listen but to make any more comparison would be a foolish effort. Just a great experience.

I’ll have a call with the dealer to see if i can arange a demo with the ovators next week.

Have never heard any Dynaudio’s but from what i’ve read, they need a lot of rear space or the bass will bocome bloated. This would be a dealbreaker. Though i’d love to hear a pair of contour 1.3mk2s of 1.8s for i love the looks on those :slight_smile:

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I’d get the s-400’s

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Kef’s don’t get a lot of love here but I’ve owned a few and I liked them, ProAc’s would probably hit the sweet spot but may not fit your budget, D2R would be the ticket. Harbeth are easy to listen to but a bit boring, but I haven’t heard the newest versions. Dynaudio Special 40’s are great and preloved should be in your budget. Good Luck


I would 100% concur with your comments regarding the special 40s and Supernait combination. I used the 40s with an SN3 and they worked brilliantly.
However, it was only after auditioning them for a second time I realised how good they were as on first listening they sounded a little reserved.

Sometimes the ear needs to calibrate. Best example of this was when I bought my piano: I started with the one I was interested in and it sounded ok, but not an instant hit. I then went round the shop trying the other models and only then when I returned to the first one did I realise how good it was and bought it on the spot.


These work very well for the music he specified indeed.

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:slight_smile: I did the same many years back. I still have to find a better piano. Schimmel 130T

I wondered about suggesting 40s to the OP, but quite apart from price IMO they really need more than a SN to drive them well. I’d say 250DR at minimum. A 300 would be even better.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy your SCM 40s when they finally arrive and have years of listening pleasure ahead.


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snatch the s-400!