Sweet sounding speakers?

A couple of years back I chose to buy a pair of PMC twentyfive 21 speakers after comparing them against Monitor Audio Gold 100 stand mounts. I enjoyed the speed, the tight bass and the ‘truthful’ detailed sound and imaging compared to the more warm and fluffy MA Golds.

My hearing continued to deteriorate so that earlier this year I very much looked forward to a fresh hearing test with uprated hearing instruments being prescribed. In early September the new aids were fitted and these, being more modern devices, were able suddenly to restore to me a range of perception in the treble which I had not known had been missing for a long while.

The immediate outcome was that the speakers now seemed very harsh, hard and screechy, making a lot of treasured music files no longer a pleasure to endure. This happened mostly with classical repertoire, especially if played on period instruments, and even to relatively modern recordings such as Angela Hewitt’s 1998 set of the Well Tempered Clavier on Hyperion. So, not a matter of poor recordings revealed to be such by tip top electronics and ‘monitor’ speakers.

Aware of the fact that the brain compensates for the gradual loss, and indeed the sudden gain, where hearing acuity is concerned, I spent the next 6 weeks waiting and hoping for the edge to wear off this new vinegary hearing environment, but this did not happen. So in desperation I have had to embark on a quest for speakers which are more bearable in the treble, offering that combination of spacious soaring highs without the rasping acidic violin and plinky plonky dissonance in mid range piano harmonics which are being served up to me currently. You can see how well I have absorbed the necessary techical vocabulary in my short membership here I hope?

So on the recommendation of two separate local dealerships, thus far I have heard Fyne Audio F501SP versus Sonus Faber Sonetto 3, with the latter offering the required sonic sweetness but in a very, erm, Italian physical package. Secondly I have heard Audiovector R1 Signature stand mounts, which were impressive audibly and also a very nice piece of Danish industrial design. These easily beat the Harbeth P3ESR on appearance, sound and pricing to my uncultured and artificially aided ears. I was sorry about that because I had expected to be impressed with them.

Since when I have been pondering whether to spend more on the R3 Signature Audiovector floor standers, given I could then dispense with a subwoofer due to their greater capability down to 26 Hz. Or something else? ATI? Proac? These latter two cannot be heard just now unfortunately as the only local dealer cannot offer auditions until after January due to refurbishment.

So I would very much welcome suggestions of any other candidates offering a sweet treble and costing not more than £4k or so. If, indeed such exists?

I’m afraid I can’t help but will follow this thread with interest as you have described my problem perfectly. My ears have deteriorated and classical music violins and complex choral music e. g. Spem in alium are now painful. Other music sounds brilliant.

For the record, as this may partially answer one of your questions, my speakers are ATC SCM 19s

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Tannoy

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It seems like you already found the speakers you want and are only put off by this. What does it mean?

Thanks, it does indeed. I infer that the top end on an ATC tweeter can be found to have a certain searching quality for those whose hearing has been artificially improved in that area? Apologies for my reference to ATI rather than ATC, which of course is what I meant. ATI are a prominent manufacturer in an entirely separate hobby of mine, that of marine reef aquaria, hence my slip of the mind and finger.

Proac remains a possibility perhaps?

The concentric horn tweeter in the Fyne Audio is the current and more recent embodiment of the Tannoy one before their takeover and the subsequent breakaway of their technical staff, I understand?

The F501SP was distinctly more shouty than the SF Sonetto 3, much to my disappointment, as the Fynes are a very nice looking speaker.

I should have added that in the second audition, after the Audiovector and the Harbeth I briefly listened to a Spendor A7 but found that also to have a relatively hard treble. Assuming that particular tweeter design is common to the Spendor A range then that is another no go marque for me. The D7.2 is too expensive for me.

There are as with all speaker manufacturers a wide range of models and drivers. I own the Legacy series and never found the treble being hard or harsh. Not even close. Not shouty either. But I have read some models in Tannoy range being brighter (Kensington for example) so which one Fyne resembles most of in the Tannoy range I don’t know. My former Harbeth SHL5 Plus on the other hand gave me fatigue very quickly. My Tannoys never. A friend of mine had same issues as you (and me) and got Legacy Cheviot. He adore them. Never tiring to the ears. Recommend you listen to the Legacy series if you can.

I’m trying to be polite and not resort to impugning or demeaning national stereotypes. I love the design of Alfas but I drive a BMW.

The SF Sonetto range has an inescapable Italian flair and flamboyance which might not sit easily in our rather beige and elderly interior. There is a lot of brightwork on view and horizontal stripes on the walnut veneer version.

To be more prosaic, even that array of 4 drivers only gets you down to 42Hz, which is matched by the Audiovector R1 in a neater and much less flamboyant package. The Sonetto 5 (V?) gets down to 38Hz but at the cost of another £1k and a much bigger cabinet with a front to back meaurement of lots and lots. Well 409mm actually. For the same money the Audiovector R3 has a much nicer physique and countenance, and with range down to 26Hz (from fewer, smaller drivers) dispenses with a subwoofer.

I’m open to further suggestions precisely because last time I listened to only 2 alternatives and possibly chose the wrong one, though with my old hearing aids it did not sound that way at the time.

@Slamdam many thanks for those observations but my room is not big enough, my wallet is not big enough, and at 5’6’’ I’m not big enough to countenance those heavyweights, lovely though they undoubtedly are to hear.

My wife Phonak Audéo hearing aid has an accompanying app where you can change various features. Is that an option on your new aids?

I see, I wasn’t sure if you meant that or sloppy work :wink: I get that, I heard the Olympica Nova III with 282/250 and it was exactly what you would be looking for. I chose differently eventually because I preferred a more revealing calibration in the end, but I can completely understand if someone falls in love with the SF’s silky sound. It was among the top 2 choices in my speaker audition. But its luscious design was also a bit of a hurdle for me, my room being very clear and modern.

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It’s another enthusiastic ATC recommendation from me. With a NAP250DR on board, you already have the necessary muscle…

Good luck.

C.

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I’d be wary of focussing overmuch on specs. The specs for my ATC SCM40s give the bottom frequency at 10 Hz above my previous speakers, but they have a much fuller, richer and tighter bass in my room. I think auditioning, at home if possible, is by far the best way to choose speakers. Incidentally I’d beware of older ATC models. A few years ago ATC made a switch in their tweeters from SEAS to a new in-house designed and manufactured tweeter. Some reviewers found the earlier model to be rather harsh with certain recordings, whereas the new tweeter is one of the glories of the range, in my opinion and that of others.

I really do hope you find a set of speakers which restores the pleasure in listening to Angela Hewitt. Prompted by your post I put the Bach on and, whilst not at all screechy, her Steinway in that earlier recording was definitely not as sweet as the Faziolis she played in later recordings. If you do want a solo piano recording to use for auditioning, I strongly recommend her recent album “Love Songs”. Playing her new Fazioli, this is a wonderfully moving disc, a lockdown project, and with one of the finest recordings of a piano I have ever heard.

Roger

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Mine are Signia ones. Previously I had Siemens and before that Phonak. Looking at the instructions it does mention an app can be downloaded, so many thanks to you for that heads up.

The audiologist did add an alternative ‘music’ programme at the time. When I asked what it did she explained that it apparently removes a portion of the extra ‘undue influence’ or artificial boost that the main programme provides to help remedy defective hearing, but in her experience most users can’t hear sufficient difference to make it seem worthwhile and end up not bothering with it. I have tried this setting many times and tried to do an on/off test, but as it’s the same subjective brain on the end of it I have to agree that I can’t hear much difference.

The other test is that I have also listened to the same source material on cheaper speakers and through much less exalted electronics (Unitilite into Arcam Muso speakers and Denon DRA F101 into Denon bookshelf speakers) using these new hearing aids and found that the sound is much more forgiving. So it’s definitely the PMCs I fear.

Hmm. As the SCM19s are about 9 kg over the maximum recommended for my slender Spectral single upright stands (and with multi upright stands already ruled off limits by my wife) this had led me to lust after the SCM40s. But it will be into January before I can hear these locally.

I recommended ATC in general, not ATC SCM19s specifically.

I’m a happy ATC SCM7 owner.

I listened to a pair of the Audiovector R3’s and a pair of Ovator 300’s, the Audiovectors did not do much for me, slightly bright and clinical compared to the foot tapping Ovators.

Not sure what path your hearing is taking, but you could see how a pair of Ovators, if you can find them, would work.

@peakMan Thank you Roger for those insights which I will bear very much in mind. I have read similar paeans of support for the ATCs before, but specs do at least give some initial basis for comparison. I have also watched/listened to many Youtube vids of these speakers in action, but of course only through my mean but sweet enough sounding Denon bookshelf speakers.

By coincidence, this afternoon I was listening with rapt attention to Angela on her Fazioli playing the newer recording of WTC, courtesy of the Presto Music website. I’m definitely going to treat myself to the full 4 CD set just as soon as I have found the speakers to do justice to her artistry. I have a compulsive admiration for the artist and the composer and most days I will listen through 3 or 4 of the preludes and fugues until I feel I have had my fix. I’ll certainly have to listen to Love Songs.

Noted Christopher, thanks. Given my hearing loss I expect that I would need to wind the 7s or 11s up a bit more to get the SPL I need. Or at least turn up the gain on the hearing aids. Not a problem, provided the treble is sweet enough.

Thanks for that. I’m guessing I have to rely on Naim electronics to provide the foot tapping regardless of the speakers on the end of the wires? Last week I heard 4 speakers in all and the R1s were in no way bright to these imperfect ears, and much less so than the Spendors and Harbeth. You do you as the Americans say, whatever that means. As the R3s have the same tweeters I would have expected to hear the same smooth and silky response. We’ll see.

My hearing is taking a downward path unfortunately, at the age of 76 it can only get worse. But I can’t afford to change speakers every time I get a new set of aids.

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Hello
I have the Audiovector SR3 floorstanders, with the 250DR and they are excellent - I preferred them to similarly priced PMCs.
I also have the sub from the same range and only use it for AV. So to answer one of your questions, I don’t think you”ll need the sub for bass. Indeed, much of my taste in music is bass / rhythm driven and I couldn’t be happier - they are great speakers.

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Quad Electrostatics, I suggest, given your sad hearing loss.

Any model from any decade, just as long as they are properly serviced, and in good condition electronically.

They are just so much clearer, purer even, than any box design can ever aspire to be.

(Naim knew that electrostatic speakers were the way forward when they had Guy Lamotte - designer of the ARO - trying to build the legendary Naim FL1 electrostatic. Sadly, it was not to be, and I fear that their time has passed. I asked Paul Stephenson years ago about trying to revive the FL1 idea, and he smiled ruefully and swiftly changed the subject!)

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I remember the Opera Secondo speaker as sounding rather sweet but with my amp at the time only at low volume, there wasn’t enough grip when the wick was turned up and the bass went very soft but with a 250 I’d wager that wouldn’t be a problem. That was the original version, there’s been a couple of revisions since but maybe worth investigating if there’s a dealer within range.

Good morning Mr Confirmation Bias. Lovely to see you. Do have a seat. Would you like coffee?

Thanks for confirming what I suspected from reading specifications and listening to its little brother the R1. Now I definitely need to go back to the dealer (in Belbroughton, Worcestershire) for a further listen.

Yes, hearing loss is sad but inevitable for most. My wife of the same age still has hearing like a bat but this is one aspect of the genetic lottery where I have lost out. Nevertheless, my immediate dilemma is a result of sudden hearing gain rather than loss, which has revealed to me that I can’t live with the harshness of the PMC tweeters. Explains why they brought out a revised version a matter of months after I had bought mine new.

Electrostatics might have many virtues but I can’t explore them as I know we simply don’t have the wall space in our shared multi use lounge, sadly.

Intriguing. The same dealer where I will have to wait to hear ATCs and Proacs also stocks these (Audio Affair in Birmingham). An American reviewer states that these have “a high wife acceptance factor”. Who says they don’t do irony over there? These are huge. They weigh 45kg each. And me a little old bloke weighing in at 10.5 stone in my socks after a good fill of lasagne. I thought the SCM40s were heavy enough to contemplate at 31kg. I will certainly ask to hear them when I manage to arrange to audition at this dealer.

Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contribute so far. Appreciate it.

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