upgrading speakers in very large room

Hi, all, my first post on your excellent forum, on which I've been lurking for the last few months. The below is humbly submitted, with apologies for a long-ish, perhaps tedious "what's better?" post. I'm inching my way into to the high-end, and am betting a lot of folks on here have been where I am now. Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
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I recently moved into a loft apartment. A classic loft, completely open, no walls, 13-foot ceilings, 1500 sq feet. My living area/listening area is about half of that. Before I moved in, I worried that it would be an echoing, reverberant mess. But it's actually not too bad. The ceilings, which are barreled, have some kind of textured treatment, which seems to help a lot. I've also got a number of GIK Acoustics panels up, and the furniture, curtains, bookshelves, and record shelves help, too. I'm waiting on a wool shag rug to be delivered.

I've been running Klipsch Forte IIIs, and they sound... not bad! They struggle, however, in the lower octaves--perhaps not surprising--but they can produce some good volume otherwise. I temporarily hooked up my HT sub--a basic 12" SVS--and it improved the bass response considerably.

I'm now considering a pair of Rhythmik 15" subs, to be run stereo (XLR) from my ARC preamp. I think these will really fill out what the Fortes can't do in this room. Rhythmik actually suggested two 18" (!) subs, but I think that might be a bigger pair of boxes than I want to deal with.

I've also considered REL, but they're maybe pricier than I want to go. I'm leaning toward Rhythmik for 1) their good rep 2) their value over other, dealer-distributed brands and 3) they don't use DSP in their amps. (I'd like to keep my chain all-analog.)

I'm mostly bouncing this plan off the group, but also would love to hear thoughts about other speakers that play well in big rooms, as I'm considering upgrading from the Fortes. (I probably will keep the Fortes as a secondary pair though.) I figure I'll be in this loft for about two or three years, and, well, what better time (not to mention Covid hi-fi madness) to mess around with some stupidly large speakers! I'm considering the following. Budget is up to $10K. New or used.

Klipsch.jpg


--Klipsch La Scala: Perhaps the natural upgrade path from Fortes. (Though there seem to be some out there who would have it vice versa.) I've seen some new La Scala B-stock and a fair number of restorations/rebuilds out there. Hard to know about the workmanship in the latter.... Note: I've not heard the La Scala, but I like the Klipsch sound generally. I don't quite have the corners for K-Horns, unfortunately.

--Magnepan 3.7i: A very different approach than the Fortes, obv. I heard a pair of Maggies--Timpani's, I think--a few years back; blew me away. I've got the space, could be a great time to own a pair. Q: A dealer (not of Magnepan) told me that panel speakers don't play well in large rooms. True? False?

--Focal Kanta No 3: I heard a pair of Sopra No 3 that really impressed me. They're a little out of reach, budget-wise, but I think I can get that great, Be tweeter and imaging in the Kanta.

--Magico S3 (used): They're certainly in the higher-end of the budget. I'd have to stretch. I demoed a pair and was impressed by the silky, controlled top end, but maybe a little unmoved by what I heard as a slightly restrained feeling. I often find that I have an emotional response to my Fortes--despite them being obviously less refined--and I might miss that in something like the Magico. Or maybe not. Maybe it was a so-so demo.

--B&W 802 (used): I think these can be had readily on the used market. The super speakers of ten, fifteen years ago? Again, I'm definitely not opposed to used.

--Harbeth: Maybe 40.1's? Harbeth are a big question mark for me, as I think big floor-standers will do best in my room. But a lot of people's whose tastes I dig on this forum use Harbeth.

I listen to all genres, though prioritize small-group jazz. I'm not buying for just that genre though. I'll be looking at new power amps (perhaps a Parasound JC5 or ARC Ref 75SE) at some point. I currently run the Forte's off a pair of Schiit Aegir. I'm well aware that most of the above speakers will want more power.

Here in Chicago, I can demo a lot of stuff and have been doing just that. But obviously my room is going to sound a lot different than most dealers' show rooms.

Anyway, would love to hear some feedback on my plan to add the Rhytmik subs, plus any thoughts/suggestions on good speakers to fill this big-ass room that might be a solid upgrade from my Forte's. Thanks, all.

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Analog: Garrard 401 with Artisan Fidelity stainless platter and bearing / Technics SP-10 MK2 / GrooveMaster 12-J and Jelco 850L and 850M arms / SPU #1E, Koetsu Black Goldline, and AT ART-9 carts
Digital: Schiit Yggy DAC / BlueSound Node 2i streamer
Pre: ARC Reference 40 / ModWright PH 9.0 phono stage
Power: Schiit Aegir (x2) / Quicksilver SET Mono (x2) / AES (Cary) SE-1 300B
Speakers: Klipsch Forte III
Interconnects: Blue Jeans Cables
 
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I'll chip in briefly to second (third?) the recommendation for horns. A mid-sized horn (or bigger) will fill up your ~750ft2 space with lifelike sound (lower mids to highs, at least) and dynamics; the equivalent in conventional dynamic speakers will an arm & a leg or two, and will requires additional amplification to boot (so more expenditures). I lived briefly with Avantgarde Duos set up in a largish room (~100m2 -- 1000ft), and the results were very good.

IMO, open baffle speakers, while magical, are complex to drive correctly (multi-amplification) -- and you need very large ones to fill your space (the large Linkwiitz come to mind).
Finally I agree as above that planars will struggle to fill your space.

Horns: two tricky matters: a) good horns are costly & b) getting the bass right. For b) I am sure Duke and others here can help you out... :)
 
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I have never heard optimal active sub integration just yet .
Better is to buy a fully well integrated system.
Preferably a large full range speaker
 
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These are for sale. They are in VA. They are in the $20k price.

If thats too much, get a setnif Pure Audo Project Quintet 15 with horn. I run the trio. Fantastic speakers for the $. Under 10K. With 8 x 15" woofers, they will fill the room with scale.
 

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Thank you sir! Unfortunately the ones I've been writing about in my little forum are going to clock in north of your cost target.



Good horns will do four things which imo are advantages in your situation:

1. They are directional enough that the direct-to-reverberant sound ratio will be pretty good even in that big room, and that's good news for clarity.

2. Their reflections will sound very much like the direct sound, which is good for timbre and clarity and preventing listening fatigue.

3. They have a wide enough coverage pattern to give you a wide listening area.

4. Significantly better ability to fill that big space than comparably priced cone-n-dome speakers, especially when augmented with subs (if needed).

I agree with Duke that horns are probably your best bet. I've been using Avantgardes (Unos, then Duos and now (from today!) Duo XDs) and they are great in my 945 sq ft listening room - with low ceilings which doesn't help.

I'd advise against panel (specially electrostats such as Martin Logans) unless they can be placed fairly close to the wall behind them as half their energy is projected backwards. They also need a silly amount of amplifier power. Harbeth 40s are great but possibly not ideal in your large room. ATCs possibly good, though I didn't like my Active 50s in my earlier 320 sq ft room - I wanted to push then back another 20 ft - this may be possible in your room but wasn't in mine.

Back to horns and Duke's points. They are very directional so much less fussy about side and back walls - probably good features for you. Avantgardes are very sensitive (104-107 dB) so will work well with your existing amps. The current Duos and Mezzos (and earlier Grossos) use twin 12" drivers, so subs probably not required even in your room. The latest XD version includes some form of DSP, although I've not had a chance to play with mine yet. My experience with DSP has not been good, so best option is to get a good and accurate speaker such as AGs in the first place.

Pre-current Unos and Duos are still amazing speakers and are worth sniffing out used - you're unlikely to find good Trios within a sensible budget and (in my view) it's are a flawed design anyway. Most used AGs will have twin 10" (although the Grosso has 12" but is rare), but they do offer as much bass as most of us want and subs can of course be added later if needed. If you don't care for the "scaffolding" that supports the mid and (in some versions) the top horn tubes, there are alternative support methods that look much better - see my avatar of 2006-vintage Duos. AGs look a bit crazy and probably that's good in loft-style rooms! I love them. Peter
 
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Thanks for the suggestions, all! And for the warm welcome @Ron Resnick !

A lot of love for horns here. I wish I could get ears on some Avantgarde's, as they seem the natural step up from the likes of Klipsch. As far as I can tell though, there's only one North American dealer? Americansound up in Canada....

Also curious about the Pure Audio Project stuff and have previously been in touch with them. They look really great. I'm slightly hesitant, as you really can't hear them anywhere, but I do think they have a generous at-home trial process.
 
There have definitely been some drool-worthy horns mentioned on here. I'm having fun doing further research.

Btw, to those who've mentioned Cornwall IV, why would they be preferred over the La Scala? Thanks again.
 
Three thoughts for the topic:

1) listening: Yes not very many options for this anymore. I would go so far as to say it might not be important. If you commit to a path (looking like horns) you can always change caps /resistors/even drivers...if the base topology and cabinet design is sound. This is the journey...

2) Eurodyn / Klangfilm / WE, if bought well, can be bought and experienced with little depreciation imho. Cheap education?

3) If this is a 'phase' you could do FAR worse than a pair of Danley SH50 or SH60 and a couple Danley tapped horn subs. Presuming C19 doesn't kill all PA, easily resold later...
 
Hi wbass,
Welcome, this is a great forum and the range of experience here is is also great and helpful.

On the Maggies I’ve had 3.7s and have 20.7s and heard a range of setup for both in rooms of varying sizes but not quite as large a volume as yours. While if you added subs and were happy to go big on amplification they could maybe work (depending on your music preferences and preferred listening levels) but you’d just not be hearing them at their best. One of the things that shifts them into their zone is if they energise the room so more medium dedicated spaces are where I’ve enjoyed them the most.

Harbeth 40.2s do love space to play. Mine have been in larger open spaces and worked beautifully. A mate had his 40.2 anniversaries in a room not as tall but a bit larger than yours and they came to life with 250 watt Bricasti Monos. One of the best times I’ve heard Harbeths.

I play my 40.2s now in a medium size room with a 48 watt SET and that is the other best that I have heard Harbeths sound.

So in the end tho if you like how horns play music (not everybody will) then horns would be the way I’d go given your room. I play my pap horns most of the time. I’d get plenty of listening time in on horns to see if they are what will float your boat. Music choice is variable and horns themselves in terms of characteristic spirit and nature have great variability.

I use the 40.2s for sharing with others and just great in an open space when eating or enjoying the company of others or even when working. Ideal to add to the quality of everyday living.

The horns and Maggies are more 100% sit and listen and be completely involved and engaged and concentrated in being in the sound (especially the Maggies) and just being in the music (especially the horns).
 
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Hi wbass,
Welcome, this is a great forum and the range of experience here is is also great and helpful.

On the Maggies I’ve had 3.7s and have 20.7s and heard a range of setup for both in rooms of varying sizes but not quite as large a volume as yours. While if you added subs and were happy to go big on amplification they could maybe work (depending on your music preferences and preferred listening levels) but you’d just not be hearing them at their best. One of the things that shifts them into their zone is if they energise the room so more medium dedicated spaces are where I’ve enjoyed them the most.

Harbeth 40.2s do love space to play. Mine have been in larger open spaces and worked beautifully. A mate had his 40.2 anniversaries in a room not as tall but a bit larger than yours and they came to life with 250 watt Bricasti Monos. One of the best times I’ve heard Harbeths.

I play my 40.2s now in a medium size room with a 48 watt SET and that is the other best that I have heard Harbeths sound.

So in the end tho if you like how horns play music (not everybody will) then horns would be the way I’d go given your room. I play my pap horns most of the time. I use the 40.2s for sharing with others and just great in an open space when eating or enjoying the company of others or even when working. Ideal to add to the quality of everyday living.

The horns and Maggies are more 100% sit and listen and be completely involved abd engaged and just concentrated in loving the sound and being in the music.
Thanks, Tao! That's a great range of experience, and very helpful for me to hear, especially another practical warning about Maggies. Even though I'd only be using maybe 1/3 of the square footage as a listening area, moving air is a concern.

Interesting to hear about Harbeth, as well.

I think where I'm leaning is to start with subs, then build on top of them, as most (if not all) speakers *might* benefit from the extra oomph down very low. I'm tempted to step right up to the Cornwall IV now, but, then again, I'm trying to make bigger, smarter steps in my upgrades, not just increments. So, perhaps, if I add subs to the Forte III's now, I can start doing some more patient inquiries into the world of boutique horns. Duke's offerings look interesting, among others.

Funny, but no one has really sung praises of the Magico or Focal or B&Ws I mentioned in the OP. A lot of horn fans here, it seems!

I know the Forte IIIs are not as refined as many offerings, but they do have an immediacy that I really enjoy. In particular, voices and drums sound *very* live and and in the room. Spooky sometimes. I played drums semi-pro--very semi!--for a while, and I know the sound of a snare drum, and I've never heard anything but the Klipsch sound exactly like a real snare in a room. I'm thinking, specifically, of Philly Joe on Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm section.

That said, demoing the Magico S3 (MK1) and the Focal Sopra No3, I was equally impressed by the imaging, the depth of stage, the coherence, and overall refinement. Very silky, very much drawing you into the music, though in a different way.
 
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...I think where I'm leaning is to start with subs, then build on top of them, as most (if not all) speakers *might* benefit from the extra oomph down very low. I'm tempted to step right up to the Cornwall IV now, but, then again, I'm trying to make bigger, smarter steps in my upgrades, not just increments. So, perhaps, if I add subs to the Forte III's now, I can start doing some more patient inquiries into the world of boutique horns. Duke's offerings look interesting, among others.

Funny, but no one has really sung praises of the Magico or Focal or B&Ws I mentioned in the OP. A lot of horn fans here, it seems!

Hi...I am a huge fan of Wilson and also like Magico and Focal. Its just that to do justice in your room, for your stated $10K target, and to suit some of the observations you have already made about sound...I (and it seems others) went with horns like Classic Audio.

I think the Wilson X1/Grand Slamms would be sensational...but they tend to be at the 20K range (plus...or minus).
 

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