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What speakers for £600?

Julian Cohen

Novice Member
So i'm looking to get a Cambridge Audio AZUR 351A amp from Richer Sounds, what are your thoughts on this? I am also looking to get speakers, Richer Sounds sell a lot of Cambridge Audio, Dali, Monitor and Tannoy, but I don't want to be limited by their selection. Are there better options out there by different brands? I do really like the idea of B&W as the factory is right next to me. Right now, Richer Sounds are proposing Dali Zensor 5 what are your opinions on these?
 

meshsmith

Novice Member
I was in a similar position to you recently, and was able (after a long search) to find a showroom in Cape Town that would let me demo various floor standers in the same room.

I tried out the Dali Zensor 5, the Monitor Audio BX6, B&W 683, Klipsch RF52II and some Paradigm, Boston Acoustics and Jamo models.

Of them, I found the Dali, MA and B&W best suited to my tastes - a flat sound that can be complimented by a "warmer" amplifier and a decent subwoofer.

The Klipsch and Jamo were a little too boomy in the bass. The Paradigm sets were very good, but both them and the Boston Acoustics models sounded slightly... shrill... in the vocals (bizarre, especially for the Paradigm which was certainly not a cheap speaker). Again, this probably has to do with my own biases - I prefer speakers that don't colour the sound too much, and prefer to tweak the EQ or play with a subwoofer myself.

Absolutely love the sound and aesthetics of the Monitor Audio range - great value, and I managed to pick up some BX6s for a good price (by South African standards...). They seem to displace the majority of the air out the front port, so you can also get them much closer to the wall without getting too bassy.

I notice they're slightly out of your budget (£649), but I can highly recommend them and their baby brothers, the BX2s (probably the most ridiculously impressive sub R5000 [£249] - bookshelf speakers I've ever heard).
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
First can we assume you are looking for Floorstanding speakers?

Next, what are the dimensions of your room? This will help us gauge the size of speakers that will reasonably fit in the room.

Music and movies, or music only?

The most common speakers in roughly the £500 to £600 range are -

£450/pr = Wharfedale Diamond 155 (2x 6.5", 37hz @ -6dB)

£450/pr = Monitor Audio BX5 (2x 140mm, 36hz)

£550/pr = Dali Zensor 5 (2x 5", ~36hz @ -6dB)

Here is an exceptional deal in an £850/pr set of speakers for £599 -

Superfi - TANNOY REVOLUTION DC6T FLOORSTANDING SPEAKERS (PAIR)

2x 6" bass with 34hz low response.

The Wharfedale Diamnond 157 is similar to the Diamond 155 but it has the addition of a midrange driver and a larger cabinet, but just a trace over your budget -

£629/pr = Diamond 157 (2x 6.5, 1x 5", 35hz at -6dB)

If you can push over £600, then consider the larger Monitor Audio BX6 with 2x 6.5" bass drivers and response down to 28hz -

£649/pr = Monitor Audio BX6

Others you might consider -

£499/pr = Mission MX5
£550/pr = Acoustic Energy 103
£499/pr = Boston Acoustic A360

The first three listed are probably the top of the list in this price range. Additionally the Tannoy DC6T is an exceptional bargain. But more than favorite speakers, you need to find a speakers that is suited to your personal taste in music.

The Cambridge 351A is a good little amp with 45/ch and the addition of a USB Port. But you would need to check whether that is a Media-only, meaning a USB Thumb Driver, or whether the port is a USB-PC, capable of connecting directly to your computer. The USB-PC is the most useful. Priced at £249.

How important is the USB aspect, bearing in mind that an external DAC could be added at a later date, though it is going to cost about £150 or a bit less for a small USB-only DAC.

In this price range, the following are the most common amps recommended.

£189/ea = Yamaha AS300, 60w/ch
£175/ea = Denon PMA720, 50w/ch (originally £350)
£240/ea = Yamaha AS500, 85w/ch
£299/ea = Marantz PM6005, 45w/ch, Optical/Coaxial DAC

As an example, assuming you actually needed a USB-PC DAC -

£189/ea = Yamaha AS300, 60w/ch
£_99/ea = Cambridge DACMagic XS (highly rated in the recent issue of Stereophile magazine)
---------------------------
£288 = Total

If you are going to get a Cambridge, in the long run, you are far better off getting the Cambridge 651A at £349. Yes that is more expensive, but a much better amp with 75w/ch and I'm pretty sure a USB-PC port. It definitely has USB, but I pretty sure it is USB-PC, but you would need to verify that it is not USB-media only.

Your original budget was £250 for the amp with £600/pr for the speakers for a total of £850.

Shifting things around a bit -

£450/pr = Diamond 155 (or Monitor Audio BX5)
£350/ea = Cambridge 651A (75w/ch, USB)
----------------------
£800 = Total

£550/pr = Dali Zensor 5
£350/ea = Cambridge 651A
----------------
£900 = Total

£190/ea = Yamaha AS300, 60w/ch
£150/ea = Cambridge DACMagic 100 (optical, coaxial, USB-PC)
£450/ea = Diamond 155 or MA BX5
----------------------
£790 = Total

£230/ea = Yamaha AS500, 85w/ch (£230 from Richers)
£150/ea = Cambridge DACMagic 100 (optical, coaxial, USB-PC)
£450/pr = Diamond 155 or MA BX5
--------------------
£830 = total

£230/ea = Yamaha AS500, 85w/ch (£230 from Richers)
£150/ea = Cambridge DACMagic 100 (optical, coaxial, USB-PC)
£550/pr = Dali Zensor 5
--------------------
£930 = total

As you can see there are many combinations that come close to your budget.

But you need to decide what features you really want and need. If the USB or DAC are not important, you can trim the price back considerably. However, a USB-PC DAC will allow you to plug your PC directly into the amp to play music. A DAC like the Cambridge DACMagic 100 will allow your PC to connect to the USB and your TV Digital Audio Out to connect to the Optical for movie watching. Still, that is of value only if you need those features. Don't reject an amp because it has feature you don't need at the moment, but do consider the other options, and set your priorities accordingly.

The 45w/ch Cambridge 351A and the Marantz PM6005 are good amps and will sound great, but the Cambridge 651A or the Yamaha AS500 have substantially more power and will take you much farther into the future with speaker upgrades.

Eating a big chunk of change, but there are a couple of stereo amps that have reasonable power (80w/ch) and they have a built-in DAC, USB-media, and COMPUTER NETWORK STREAMING.

They aren't cheap but when you figure the individual price of everything you are getting, they are actually relatively cheap. They don't have USB-PC, but with Network Streaming, you really don't need that. Both have Optical DAC inputs for connecting your TV Audio to the Amp -

Superfi - YAMAHA RN500 NETWORKED RECEIVER

Superfi - ONKYO TX8050 NETWORKED RECEIVER

Both are AM/FM Receivers, which is pretty worthless, but both will give you access to Internet Radio and a variety of streaming services like Spotify and similar.

£450/ea = Yamaha RN500 Streaming Receiver (80w/ch)
£450/pr = Diamond 155 or MA BX5
---------------------
£900 = Total

£400/pr = Onkyo TX-8050, ~80w/ch real power by a fair standard
£450/pr = Diamond 155 or MA BX5
--------------------
£850 = Total

Add £100 more for the Dali Zensor 5.

So, you have several options in or near your price range.

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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Julian Cohen

Novice Member
Thanks for the responses guys!

Sorry, I should have mentioned that these would be used for both Audio and TV/Movies. Does that make a difference to any of your recommendations?

So far, 2 out of the 3 have suggested the Dali Zensor 5 series, which I have heard and appear very good! I think I really need to try and get out and listen to some B&W 6xx's
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Thanks for the responses guys!

Sorry, I should have mentioned that these would be used for both Audio and TV/Movies. Does that make a difference to any of your recommendations?

...

I think it depends on the movies you watch. If you are into dialog heavy dramas, then bookshelf speakers might be the right choice. However, if you are more into Action movies floorstanding are a better choice.

If you spend £500 to£600 on bookshelf, those will be pretty impressive bookshelf speakers, a step up in quality from floorstanding at the same price. A speaker like the Monitor Audio Silver 2 or RX2 are going to have pretty good bass as well.

However, a floorstanding speaker in the ~£500/pr price range is still a very good speaker. I think you need to get out and hear a few speaker to get some perspective. However, don't make you decision based on a single audition of the speakers. Come back a second time on a different day and see if your opinion is still the same.

To some extent, it depends on the Size of your Room. If this is a small room, then, generally speaking, smaller speaker are in order. However, in a slightly larger, though still modest room, floorstanding like the Zensor 5 with 5" bass drives is not out of place. Speakers VS Room Size leaves a lot of gray area, a lot of room for personal judgement. There aren't exact standard, just general indicators.

Here are links to the Monitor Audio RX2 and the newer Silver 2 -

Hifix.co.uk - Monitor Audio RX2

Hifix.co.uk - Monitor Audio Silver 2

The Silver 2 is rated down to 40hz. The Silver 2 has a 8" bass driver so it should kick out some pretty good sound. The specs and driver size are the same on the RX2 models. Though the RX2 can be a little bass intense and are more fussy about placement. That's workable in an average size room, but more difficult in a small room where the speakers have to be place close to the walls.

The B&W 685-S2 is also a very worthy bookshelf speaker, priced at about £500/pr, 6.5" bass driver, response down to 45hz at -6dB -

Hifix.co.uk - Bowers & Wilkins 685-S2 Bookshelf (pair)

I would not discount the Tannoy DC6T, that is a very expensive speaker at a bargain price with deep bass response (2x 6" bass, 34hz) -

AudioAffair - Tannoy DC6T Speaker (pair)

Here is a link to a "What HiFi?" review of the Diamond 155 -

What HiFi? Review - Wharfedale Diamond 155

Note the Star Rating is low because of the cabinets, relative to sound quality the review is very positive.

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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