Small, High Quality Speakers

She says you can buy new speakers. She doesn’t care that much what they cost. But they do have to fit on shelves in the living room. The space question is non negotiable. No problem!

Our industry has worked hard many years to produce serious, smallish speakers. I’m not talking about toys like 6” tall computer speakers. I’m talking bookshelf speakers that sound substantial.

Back in the 70s our first small, fine sounding speaker was the LS3/5A from the UK. Several vendors were licensed to make them. We sold the Rogers version. It was pleasant, albeit boxy. The biggest problem with the speaker (4.5” 2-way) is that people wanted more than what it could produce. As the volume went up, the reliability went down. You had to wake them up, but also had to be careful not to over drive them. There are still various LS 3/5A clones available today. I’ve heard several current versions and while perfectly pleasant, they still suffer from the issue of- it takes a real amp to wake them up and you have to be careful not to over drive them. Their bass response and power capabilities are not acceptable to me. We can do better.

As the profile evolved, we got into bigger bookshelf speakers that delivered more bass, and more box. Meaning, while you added bass, the sound got “chesty” or thumpy. For good old rock and roll, perhaps acceptable. For classics and jazz… not so much. They all had aluminum dome tweeters which were brighter than they were neutral. There were some successful offerings over the years. But we still yearned for super smooth top end with resolution- and substantial bass response and power handling.


————— Aon 3 ———— Aon 2

Today we have speakers that are more efficient with much better bass response. Also, the high frequency balance of what we have today is dramatically smoother, less grit on top.

The first two speakers I’ll mention are 2-ways made by GoldenEar. Both use ribbon tweeters and are distinctly NOT bright on top! Aon 2 uses a 6” woof, Aon 3 uses a 7” woof. Both have side firing passives and ribbon tweeters. These are modest profile speakers with cool cosmetics- that are the most successful of their ilk. If you appreciate smooth, not biting sound, GE is something to audition.

GoldenEar Aon 2 $ 800pr: 12h, 8w, 10d
GoldenEar Aon 3 $1000pr 14h, 9w, 11d



Bryston Mini A Black

Mini A




Model T mini

Mini T

Going bigger and stronger is Bryston. These still qualify as bookshelf speakers. Bryston makes 3-ways that produce a more muscular, powerful sound. The Mini A is indeed small enough to call “small.” The Mini T is a full sized shelf speaker. While we can’t call it small, it clobbers any other bookshelf speaker we’ve ever heard and it might just fit on your shelves with a little work! If you can make room for it, please do!
Stereophile has measured speakers for many years- about 500 of them. The Bryston Mini T is the most FLAT sounding speaker they have ever measured, regardless of size or price point. Think about that for a minute. There are many $20-50-100k on up speakers that aren’t even close in neutrality to the Brystons! For pianofiles like me, the top end of Bryston is exquisite- “Steinway True.”

Bryston Mini A: $1300pr: 15.5h, 8.5w, 8.25d
Bryston Mini T: $3400pr: 22.5h, 10.5w, 10d