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?