Standmount speakers for people who dislike any brightness?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by back2vinyl, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    London, UK
    Could anyone suggest some small-to-medium size standmount speakers that would be suitable for someone who can't stand any kind of brightness or harshness? I'm looking for a few ideas so I can shortlist them and then go and have a listen.

    Whenever I read reviews of any speakers, there's nearly always a reference to a touch of brightness at some frequency or another and that immediately rings alarm bells for me. Maybe it's just the currently favoured method of presentation and there's no market for a downward-sloping frequency response, even though tests have shown that most people prefer it.

    At present I'm using four ATC SCM11 speakers in a multichannel configuration with a subwoofer (4.1, with a phantom centre). They are very fine speakers indeed and I admire them enormously but they are no good for my ears - they are mercilessly accurate and if there is any touch of brightness or harshness in the original recording, it's like having knitting needles poked in your ears. As far as I can make out, the frequency response is stone cold flat and while that may be perfect for the recording studio, I don't think it's well suited to a domestic listening environment, or at least not for people who want a more forgiving response.

    Any suggestions? New, not second-hand. One size up from the smallest bookshelf speakers - not great big things because I have a subwoofer for the bass.
  2. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Connecticut, USA
    Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1. I own them and don't find them bright at all. There is a thread on them here I was reading yesterday where somebody said the designer specifically made them to not be harsh or bright.
  3. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    Pioneer S71-B if you can find them. Very soft in the treble. Too much for my taste but no brightness at all. Build is excellent.
  4. Balthazar

    Balthazar Well-Known Member

    I'd probably try some method of EQ to tame that top end on the offending recordings before replacing 4 speakers.

    Are you experiencing this via all your sources? Even when using your turntable and EAR phonostage? What percentage of recordings overall? What specific recordings? Are you experiencing this via 2 channel, too, or just when multi?

    If you decide to replace, the BBC inspired speakers (Stirling, Graham, Harbeth, Spendor) tend to have the downward sloping frequency response, but you'll want to try before you buy.
    anorak2, basie-fan and pdxway like this.
  5. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Six months ago, I went through a similar search for my primary system. Despite purchasing the least harsh/bright speakers I've ever auditioned (Spendor SP2\3s), I still suffered from listener fatigue once in a while. I finally solved the issue by switching to a different amp and putting up additional room treatments.

    That might not work for your situation, but it's something to consider. All the British speakers I've owned or used, to include Epos, MA, Harbeth, Stirling Broadcast, and Spendor, have been finicky regarding amplifier synergy. While my Yamaha amp initially sounded brighter than the Parasound it replaced, it turned out to be less fatiguing over long listening sessions.

    It might be worth trying a passive equalizer like the new Schiit Loki. There's no shame in using EQ to take an edge off your system and save a boatload of £££ versus new speakers.
    Dennis0675, sfoclt, fogalu and 2 others like this.
  6. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Bristol, UK
    Some 2nd hand Dynaudio Contour 1.1 ?
  7. gryphongryph

    gryphongryph Well-Known Member

    Faroe Islands
    Had the same problem and went with Graham Audio LS 5/9, problem gone.
    Even the voice of Van Morrison sounds full and lovely;-)
    bhazen and Shiver like this.
  8. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds Yo mama so fat Thanos had to snap twice.

    New York
    I’ve got PSB Platinum M2’s (their last made-in-Canada flagship line) which should be affordable on the used market now.
    Look at that graph. You could play billiards on it.
    cdgenarian and black sheriff like this.
  9. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Guru Junior is a favorite.
    bhazen likes this.
  10. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    London, UK
    Keep 'em coming!

    Yes, Spendor is a name that has come to mind. I'm thinking of these

    Spendor Class 3/1

    but they're a new model and I can't find much information about them.

    Yes, I am experimenting with EQ but that's not so easy with three different sources.

    Yes, all sources, including turntable.

    Two channel or multi. It's about half of all recordings - basically, anything with a lot of high-frequency content is extremely challenging and anything without it is beautiful. So if you listen to a woodwind concerto, it's lovely, but a string concerto can be very challenging, or anything with prominent strings eg Handel's 12 Concerti Grossi on the BIS label. Same with rock - anything a bit bright like all the Genesis SACDs is very difficult. All the Talking Heads DVD-As are unlistenable. But then Minimum-Maximum by Kraftwerk is absolutely fine. The best way I can say it is, if there's any kind of brightness or harshness there to begin with, it will be unlistenable, but if it's beautifully recorded or doesn't have much high frequency information to begin with, it will be fine. Unfortunately, not much music is beautifully recorded or lacking in high frequency information.
    926am likes this.
  11. layman

    layman Forum Resident

    New York, NY
    I would tend to lay blame for harshness with your amp rather than your speakers. Budget receivers typically produce a lot of odd and high order harmonic distortion that sounds harsh to the ear. I would try to borrow a good tube amp and experiment with your current speakers. I see from your profile that you are using an EAR phono preamp. EAR makes excellent tube amps as well. Why not try one of these.
  12. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Oregon, USA
    I am sensitive to brightness/harshness too. I struggled with brightness/harshness issue of my Paradigm Studio 10 for years. I tried KEF LS50, but I still prefer my Paradigm for its sound stage in multi channels setup. I tried big speakers with tamed high, but then I found those to be missing details. :realmad:

    What I found in recent month is that my Paradigm pairs well with Parasound a23. Many songs that made me cringe before are listenable. I have tried AVR over US$1000 from Yamaha, Pioneer, and Onkyo and those were not helping. I have tried digital integrated amp from Peachtree and NAD and did not help. I have tried 120 wpc amp from Emotiva, no dice. Finally I found a good match in Parasound a23.

    So, I think instead of just switching speakers, you can also first try using the preouts of your avr and connect the outputs to external amps like Parasound a23 or tube amp as someone else suggested.
    JNTEX likes this.
  13. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    St.Louis Mo.
    What cables and interconnects are you using?
  14. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    DeVore Fidelity 3XL. Nice and smooth on the top end, without any noticeable roll off. Very efficient as well, so they work with almost every type of amp.
    Dax_Frost likes this.
  15. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    London, UK
    The worst thing is vocals, and especially problem vocals. For example, here's a very short clip from Taj Mahal's Phantom Blues. To my ears, there is a sharp nasal twang to Taj's voice which has never bothered me before but which makes me cringe when played back through the ATC SCM11s. (Listen especially to the word "do" 8 seconds in.) It's something to do with complex sounds, like strings or brass or vocals, at frequencies in the upper presence range, around maybe 4 kHz to 5 kHz.

    Clip from Phantom Blues

    I'll see if I can record some sound coming out of the speakers tomorrow.

    I don't rule out the amp but the Anthem MRX 520 is not a cheap receiver and Anthems have been much praised on this forum. The thing to do will be to go to the ATC dealer with some problem tracks and see how they play on the dealer's setup.
  16. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Oregon, USA
    Hmm, I played the sample with my phone using a cheap headset and it sounded pretty bright. Not sure changing speakers is a good choice if the song is bright to begin with.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  17. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    SF Bay Area, USA
    You could try inexpensive felt rings around the tweeters, they will help a little with imaging by absorbing some of the higher frequencies to reduce diffraction. By experimenting with size and placement, you may be able to filter the output to your liking without getting new speakers. You could also try adding some small series resistance to the tweeter circuit via the biwire connectors.

    Sometimes it's enough just to rotate the speakers more off axis, or even tilt them back a few degrees on their stands to change the balance and radiation pattern. Depends how bad the problem is, and where the offensive frequency range lies. Is it the same with and without the grills on?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
    JimSpark, sfoclt and The FRiNgE like this.
  18. sturgus

    sturgus Forum Resident

    St. Louis Mo
    I would take a look at the smaller Vandersteen 1C's. I know they are floor stander's but they take up no more space than a bookshelf with stands. They might be just what your looking for. Worth a listen.
    macster, BD2665, bhazen and 1 other person like this.
  19. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    how many hours on the ATCs? i have read that they can take up to 300 hours for the treble energy to round off.
  20. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    St.Louis Mo.
    I think you aught to consider switching some inand out to see if it helps?
  21. noladaoh

    noladaoh Forum Resident

    I have the ATC SCM11v2 and do not have a brightness issue. I use a Line Magnetic integrated and the sound is fantastic. I would think about different amplification and cables.
    bhazen and Manimal like this.
  22. Erik Tracy

    Erik Tracy Meet me at the Green Dragon for an ale

    San Diego, CA, USA
    I've listened to the Harbeth P3ESRs at home courtesy of a demo/loan from a local dealer.

    Quite polite even with SS amplification. Corroborated by a high end roll off as measured by Stereophile
    Mike-48 likes this.
  23. recstar24

    recstar24 Forum Resident

    Glen Ellyn, IL
    Stealth 8's (or 6's if you can find them). The excellent bass gives the speakers a nice, warm, full tonal quality but they are still clear and detailed. They are powered monitors and with active crossovers, the EQ options are excellent, with treble and bass options to fine tune your balance.
    Brother_Rael likes this.
  24. Rentz

    Rentz Forum Resident

    i'm not alone in my brightness sensitivity! :goodie:

    i've got some kef q100 and they sound great until you've been playing them for a few records then its like sticking razors in your ears.
    some days i think i preferred my cheap pioneers.
  25. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    Audio Note J or K models are not very bright and sound quite good in other respects. The Classic Spendors are also fairly free of excessive top end shrillness. ProAc speaker would be candidates too.
    bhazen likes this.

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