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The search for a new reference speaker – part 1

Dion Audio M123 monitor speaker

As previously reported in a short update video we posted earlier, we are looking for a new reference speaker. A reader pointed out to us that it might be fun to do a series on this search. Great idea. That’s what we’re going to do, because it’s also important for you to know why a certain speaker is our reference. So in part 1 we will write a short piece about what such a reference speaker should do. And why the Focal Sopra no1 has served as a reference for such a long time.

We purchased the Focal Sopra No1 immediately after our review. So we have had them for about five years now. And that is fine, because we like them very much. The Sopras do not only play nice; they also measure almost straight and are fairly easy to control. Although it is not advisable to connect them to a small tube amp. That is not possible. But even an average powerful tube amp will do.

Requirements

We’ve actually already outlined a bit of the requirements for a reference speaker. That’s not that it has to be the most musical speaker. Or has to play big or engaging. No. A reference speaker is a piece of equipment that can unerringly convey what we are listening to. Whether that’s an amplifier, source, cable or accessory…. the speaker must make the change heard. And that requires a few things. And some of them may be impossible to achieve in one box.

  • Transparency
  • Easy to combine
  • Fairly easy to place (because of space and sometimes change of room)
  • Neutral characteristic
  • Large frequency range

Looking at this list, the Sopra can tick off almost everything. The only thing is, it doesn’t go ultra-deep… but for a monitor it does. So that’s actually okay too. In addition, we have actually been in love with 2-way systems since the beginning. Perhaps even 2-way monitor speakers. The simplicity, purity, staging … there are 3-way systems that can do it too, but they are pretty scarce. Usually something is missing (your editor thinks). Integration from bass to mid. Space… phase… it’s just tricky. “There is no way like a two-way”….

Search

We have a few candidates standing in the office right now. But there’s a rebuild of the listening room in the way for a while. We are going to ‘sound proof’ the listening room so that we have less noise from outside. We’re going to do that by putting heavy insulation material between two sheets and putting that in the window frame. Heavy stuff we have already noticed. But anyway: it is necessary. And what is necessary just has to be done!

In addition, we also make the room a little nicer so it looks tighter on video and we tackle the electrics. Finally, we measure the acoustics again and make sure this is in order before we place the system back.

In the pictures you can see a few speakers that we have already listened to and measured. We haven’t had time to really listen or draw conclusions yet, but it gives an idea. Now we have in the video about the renovation and plans already mentioned that we are looking for new speakers. And also there some nice options have passed by from you. Think types from Dynaudio, Amphion, TAD, ATC and PMC. We will definitely be looking into it!

Two more weeks

We estimate the renovation will take another week or two. We’ll try to keep the review flowing and keep you up to date on the progress. When it’s done, you’ll be notified, of course! We also hope to hold another open door weekend after the summer, so we can welcome you in person to the editorial office once again. Would be nice!

7 Comments

  1. I suggest ATC SCM 50 SL These speakers have been going for a long time. They have resolution and will highlight each new characteristics of new components in the system. It is this talent which would make them such reliable reference speaker. Eg include a solid state preamp or tube preamp in the system the ATC speakers will reveal the particular sound of that preamp. Or as a standmount speaker the ATC SCM19.

    With the studio heritage of ATC with the accepted audiophile consensus that these speakers give such enjoyable musical message they better than PCB speakers when it comes to resolution and texture of instruments.

  2. Hmmm: No doubt several brands/models are worthy. However, for a brilliant, compact all-rounder, consider KEF’s Reference-1’s (3-way stand-mount): easy to accomodate/position; excellent technical performance including linear freq. response, high power handling, low distortion -able to ‘track’ the music signal is a unique/compelling manner (i.e. has the rare ability to easily distinguish one recording from the other) and finally presents a polite/benign ‘load’ to the driving amplifier.

    pj

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