There are two sets of speakers at about $600 per pair that win the marketplace.
Magnepan MMG: $600 per pair
Magnepan has had a program forever that serves as an “appetizer” at a fine restaurant. Their unabashed goal is to hook you with the entry model so that in due time, you’ll want to buy bigger/stronger models. One taste and … you’re hooked!
MMG is the appetizer. At about four feet tall and 15” wide, MMG gives you a nice slice of what the Maggie technology can offer. The panel presents a more life sized image of a guitar/vocal, for example, compared to a cabinet attempting to depict that same sound stage. Maggies offer the last word in detail and resolution of music’s ceaseless nuances. For $600pr, if ever a speaker was under priced, it’s the MMG!
Elac F-5: $560 per pair
When you don’t have the room or aesthetic blessing to run Maggies, you’re going to go to a cabinet. In the Elac F-5, there’s no better cabinet value for around six bills!
At 38”h and just under 8” wide, F-5 occupies a modest footprint in your room. But there’s nothing modest about the sound at all. F-5 can be a beast with a nice amp and good source material!
Elac starts with a silk dome tweeter purveying a very warm, smooth balance. There’s nothing harsh or tinny about the Elac sound.
The 5” midrange element is Kevlar with ultra responsive Santoprene rubber surround material. It’s strong, yet nimble. F-5 rounds out the bass with two more 5” woofers, also Kevlar/Santoprene.
Housed in a strong, heavy cabinet with internal H bracing to assure rigidity, F-5 sounds competitive with speakers running $3000! Yes, it really does!
F-5 is quite the unique speaker in this range in that it will reward you for using the best electronics possible. Most $600 speakers don’t have much capability, so amplifier differences only reveal small changes. Not so with F-5. Treat them right and, they’ll reward you.
How to do that?
Power Amp: Emotiva A-300, $400, 150×2
Since both pairs of speakers I’ve recommended in this system have such a high ceiling of performance, I want to make sure you don’t short change them with a puny “engine.” Emotiva is the mid priced amplifier king in this day and age. The quality and QUANTITY of what Emo provides for the money is flat out unchallenged on today’s market.
A-300 pumps out 150×2 into 8 ohms, and 240×2 into 4 ohms. Both the Maggies and Elacs are 4 ohms- so you’re running just under 250×2 for $400!
A-300 has blood and guts. It uses no short cuts. The transformer is 360Va, Filter Capacitance is 30,000uF, and it uses 8 bipolar output transistors (think cylinders). At 31 pounds the A-300 is a brute that can get much more out of great speakers like Maggies and Elacs than anything else you’ll find at remotely near $400.
Grip and control equal power and majesty. Both these fine speakers will sound beautiful and punch hard when driven by the likes of A-300!
Preamp/DAC: Emotiva Stealth DC-1 $500
To enable you to run a wonderful power amp into great speakers, we need a preamp. Why not kill two birds with one stone by using a phenomenal preamp/DAC on one chassis?!
DC-1 begins life as a 24/192 DAC. Using Analog Devices DACs, DC-1 is competitive with some of the fanciest DACs in our biz, at a fraction of the price! We sell a good number of these as stand alone DACs. But DC-1 offers much more.
The DAC portion of DC-1 features inputs of USB, XLR, Optical, Coax and BNC. My math tells me you can run your computer and four other digital sources. But there’s more! These clever guys even provide a set of RCA analog inputs for an SACD player or perhaps phono (with RIAA). The inclusion of the analog input makes DC-1 a legit candidate as a stellar, affordable preamp.
The outputs include not only the typical RCA outs, but also XLR outs!! And… it just so happens the XPA-200 above has XLR ins! Nope, we’re not joking here. For a grand you get a preamp/DAC, and 150×2 fire and brimstone power amp, that runs in the XLR (as well as RCA) domain! This, my friends, is absurdly stunning value!
And yup, it comes with remote control too. So while DC-1 isn’t made to hook up a hundred and one sources, it can accommodate what the vast majority of us need without breaking the bank.
Your source can be your existing CD player. Just run digital out into the DC-1. Or, run Sonos into DC-1. And… run your computer into the USB input. And… if you’re spinning vinyl, run your table into a high quality phono preamp (we have an excellent choice for under $100). And… you’re still not out of inputs.
Kimber Speaker Kable
Round your system out with a little Kimber Kable and away you go. Kimber Kable is braided to provide smooth, RFI free sound.