Q: I have a 25-by-25-foot listening room with a high-end sound system. I've had my system for many years and would like to upgrade. I currently have Avant Garde RX20 speakers, and the amplifier is a Simaudio Moon model with a separate preamplifier but with 100 watts per channel. Is it possible to upgrade everything and improve the sound quality without spending over $10,000?
A: You have fantastic high-end electronics, and there is no need to replace them. The place where you will find the biggest difference is the speakers.
With most speakers, I would recommend more than 100 watts per channel for a high-end system in a large room, but making smart speaker choices will reduce your need for amplifier power. One way to get the most out of your amplifier is to get high-efficiency speakers. Another is to get speakers with built-in powered subwoofers to handle the bass. It is the bass that requires the most power from the amplifier, and when the subwoofer has its own power, the 100 watts from your amplifier will be devoted exclusively to the midrange and treble. In this case, 100 watts will be more than enough even for very high volume levels in your large room.
I have an ideal recommendation for you. I have long been a fan of GoldenEar Technology speakers and soundbars. I've written about how the $1,000/pair GoldenEar Aon 3 bookshelf speakers sounded notably better than some $28,000/pair towers that were being demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was so impressed that I ordered a pair of Aon 3s before I left the GoldenEar demo room.
GoldenEar's Triton Tower speakers have played to similarly enthusiastic reviews. The flagship GoldenEar model, the $8,498/pair Triton Reference, has been compared favorably to speakers costing up to $100,000 per pair. The Triton Reference has a subwoofer built into each speaker and is extremely efficient, so it will make the most out of your 100-watt amplifier. I've heard of people using tube amps rated as low as 15 watts with them.
You can get much of the Triton Reference goodness in GoldenEar's less expensive towers. The newly introduced $5,998/pair Triton One.R takes what GoldenEar learned in making the Triton Reference and brings it to a slightly smaller package.
Or you might even want to check out the $3,498/pair Triton Two+ speakers, which have been compared to speakers costing $50,000 a pair. I think even they will provide a spectacular performance in your large listening room. The bass can shake the walls, the midrange is tonally rich, the treble is beautiful and airy and the entire musical performance is seamlessly put together.
You probably are wondering how these speakers can be compared favorably to speakers costing in the tens of thousands. It is a reflection of both GoldenEar's technology and the overhyped, overpriced nature of the high-end audio marketplace. Most of the very best audio gear is far from the most expensive, and I make it my mission to help you find it.
GoldenEar (goldenear.com) sells only through authorized dealers, so you can listen before you write the check.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.