I am looking to replace a pair of 20-plus-year-old Canadian-made, two-way, standmounted Energy Reference 22 loudspeakers for my two-channel stereo system used mostly for rock, pop, blues, folk, and an occasional movie. I purchased these speakers used in the early '90s and I believe they retailed for about $900 CDN per pair in their day.
Here is what I like about these old speakers:
1) To my ears these speakers have a very smooth and non-fatiguing quality, almost sweet. In their day (late '80s/early '90s), I recall that their tweeter was well regarded.
2) Considering their moderate size, they can play rather deep bass frequencies. An old spec sheet indicates a low-end -3dB point of 28Hz, which seems quite impressive compared to the data listed for most of today's speakers, floorstanders included. I very much like that they can play so deep and, therefore, do not need a subwoofer.
3) They are fairly forgiving of room placement (wall boundaries, etc). Supposedly something to do with being front ported?
4) Despite my listening (living) room being on the smaller side (about 16' wide x 11.5' deep x 8' high (approx. 1500 cubic feet) and my sitting position being only about 8' away, these speakers don't overpower me or the room at sane listening levels.
For me, their main negative point is not being particularly sensitive at 86dB (which is probably a rather optimistic rating), given that they are being driven with a somewhat smaller 50Wpc Simaudio Moon I-1 integrated amp (100Wpc-capable for 4-ohm loads). My sources are a Simaudio CD-1 CD player and Oppo Digital BDP-95 universal player.
After writing all this background info, here are my questions:
1) Might anyone at GoodSound! or SoundStage! have any prior experience with these older Energy Ref 22s and have any advice on current speaker brands and models that might be worth investigating as suitable replacements, given what I like about these old speakers as well as my present amplifier and listening-room sizes? My price range would be roughly around $1000 to $3000 CDN (before taxes).
2) Given my room size and listening distance from the speakers, would floorstanding speakers possibly be too much? Would they likely overpower the room, or not have space to properly radiate their sound? Would stand-mount speakers be the better direction to pursue?
While I don't have any personal experience with your Energy speakers, I am glad they gave you such enjoyment over the past 20 years. It's nice when you find a product that perfectly fits your needs. Finding a high-performance replacement for them shouldn't be too tough, however, as speaker design has come a long way since you purchased these. Given your room size and desire for a near-full-range speaker, I think a floorstanding speaker would be your best bet. Your budget of $1000-$3000 CDN is a perfect amount to spend, with the $2000 CDN price point being a consumer sweet spot.
You mentioned you are fond of your Energy's smooth and almost sweet character. PSB's $2000 Imagine T loudspeaker might work well for you, as two SoundStage! Network writers were very fond of the larger T2, and the entry-level Mini bookshelf. While the Imagine T might be a little bass-shy for your tastes, PSB speakers are well-built, measure remarkably well, and one of our writers described the Imagine midrange as "smooth" four times in a single paragraph! Another option in the same mold could be Aperion Audio's $1800 Verus Grand Tower, which our editor-in-chief so favorably reviewed last year, comparing them to far more expensive speakers. Aperion's 30-day money-back guarantee, with free shipping both ways, is a risk-free possibility for you.
Beyond these, there are a few other speakers with different designs and strengths that I would suggest looking into: Definitive Technology's 8040ST and 8060ST, Focal's Chorus 826V, GoldenEar Technology's Triton Three (which I'll be reviewing soon) and Triton Two, and Monitor Audio's RX8. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many competent designs that could potentially fit your needs, but hopefully it will at least give you an idea of what's available. In light of your Simaudio integrated amplifier and Oppo universal player, however, I bet you'll be pretty satisfied irrespective of what speakers you wind up with. Let us know how your search goes! . . . Hans Wetzel