Speaker selection


New member
Username: Tommmas

Post Number: 1
Registered: Dec-16
Hello everyone,

This is my first post here and any help would be much appreciated.

I've recently inherited a Rega P1 turntable, a Cambridge 540A amp and Cambridge 540P phono pre-amp and I wonder what you would suggest for speakers within a budget of $300 to $500 AUD, and any other advice you could offer to maximize the performance of this equipment.

Thanks very much in advance for any input and happy new year.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18337
Registered: May-04

It's very difficult to suggest speakers for another listener. It's even more difficult to suggest an audition of a speaker which may not be easily located in your area.

Apparently, the AUD is still undervalued somewhat which can raise the cost of what I see have available here in the US. Many US or British products simply won't be in your area due to their cost after shipping.

That said, the amplifier you have is capable of driving most any speaker in your price range. I would put far less weight on (and money into) the speaker itself and, since good speakers in your price range are not going to be large cabinets, save enough for high quality stands and cabling.

The speakers will perform as well as intended when you give them the support systems they deserve. It is not uncommon to place as much as 2/3 of your money into stands and cabling at this time with the idea the speakers can be upgraded in the future but the stands and cables are intended to stay and to serve that future upgrade.

Find a local independent dealer with good audition facilities and listen. Realize what you will perceive from any speaker in any shop will be highly influenced by their room. Speakers work into the enclosure of a room and when you bring the speakers home, they will sound slightly different since you have a different room. Make sure you understand the dealer's exchange and return policies before you buy.

I would say, if you are in a shop that doesn't mention cabling and stands, you're in the wrong shop. But we have to make do with what we can find nowdays. Stands and cables are available on line.

What you should be looking for other than just speakers is a shop which offers good advice. Telling you why stands matter is important IMO. Explaining how to best set up your speakers in your room will go a long way towards your enjoyment of your system and your music.

Do not become impatient and do not buy just to have some speakers.

Consider how long you might own this system and put in the effort to make it work. The Rega and Cambridge components are budget busters in the sense they can provide very musical performance at a very low cost when they are supported by a high quality set up.

Learn and ask about proper speaker set up. I can guarantee you one thing, if you simply plop the speakers where they fit, you will not be getting the best from your system.

What cartridge is on the tonearm?

What shape in the stylus in? You don't want to ruin your LP's with a worn stylus.

What music genre's do you enjoy?


New member
Username: Tommmas

Post Number: 2
Registered: Dec-16
First of all; thank you so much for your detailed response. I have found your advice most helpful and will keep it in mind and not rush my decision.

Now to answer your questions; Last week I fitted a new Ortofon om10, replacing the rather worn stock om5e which was a noticeable improvement. As for music genres, I really listen to a bit of everything, my partner is a classical violinist and played guitar in psychedelic bands and we enjoy a lot in between. I realise that is not helpful but to suggest that I would require versatility.

I am presently using an old set of pioneer S-Z81D speakers that were my fathers, they sound ok but I felt this would be the area most needing improvement.

Also my partner has just mentioned an old amplifier of hers, a Technics SU-V3 integrated amp made in Japan from the early 80's. It is in Tasmania and we are in Victoria, so it would need to be sent over the sea for me to even know if it is worthwhile, do you know anything about this piece of equipment?

I really do appreciate your help, I was really pleased to find such a considered response this morning.

All the best.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18338
Registered: May-04

"Vintage Technics" is "old Panasonic". Panasonic/Technics was not a well thought of line against even other mass market products from, say, Kenwood/Trio or Sansui. Their more expensive direct drive tables are well thought of but for many listeners a well thought out belt drive such as the Rega will be more musical.

There would be no logic I can see to having the Technics when you already have the Cambridge.

The newer component (the Cambridge) is far more in line with the musical ideals of the Rega. I would place the ideals of the Rega as a commitment to the musical source with as little between the recording and the listener as possible. Simply, what is in the groove, or in the bits, is what you will hear.

If you and your partner are familiar with making music, you should have some idea of what makes music interesting and unique. When I sold high end audio, I always asked my clients whether they went out to enjoy live music. Most said they did not.

When I then asked how they were going to judge what I was about to demonstrate, their comparisons were either to their car audio systems or to some unknown values which they had in their head but could not explain.

For most of these clients, their priorities were simple; tight bass, clear mids and clean highs.

That, IMO, was like asking the restaurant to give you eggs which are not too runny but not too dry and not too dried out around the edges and kind of circular in shape. In other words, they had nothing they could pin their choice on and they were reacting to the immediate sound of whatever I switched to.

Particularly if your tastes run to a wide variety of musical genres, I would suggest you seriously consider what music is.

First, it is temporal and it relies on time to develop its ideas and to play with those ideas. The Rega is quite good at portraying these temporal, time based concepts.

Second, music is ideas which are expressed as a language. The language is nearly universal while deeply individual.

Listen not for "tight bass" but rather to the playing out of the performer's ideas. What are the performer's reasons for playing music?

Tight bass is OK as an objective quality but tight bass is a well known value sought by inexperienced listeners and tight bass is a matter of how the designer has aligned the driver with the enclosure/cabinet.

It is described as a "Q" value (or bass alignment) and it involves trade offs with other values. Designers know what Q values - or bass alignments - sell in a showroom. Therefore, tight bass is not a great ideal for buying a speaker, only for selling a speaker.

There is a term in high end audio which refers to PRaT. Pace, rhythm and timing are the musical values and they are displayed quite well through the Rega and the Cambridge. If you are familiar with creating music, these should be values which you can identify as you listen.

Given the fact the speaker will engage each room differently, these are musical values which you can perceive as opposed to audio values you can hear only when the speaker is set up in "this" location. Move the speaker and those audio values will move with them and the result will be a slightly different sound quality in the new location.

I always suggested to my more serious clients they develop their listening perceptions to key into what makes a "music system" as opposed to what makes an "audio system".

Audio changes constantly and what is good audio today will likely not be of value in the future unless the component or system can also produce musical values. The Regas and the Ortofons are lines which have proven over the years and decades they can produce music and dispense with the rest. Take your buying cues from those same values.

The OM-10 is now a thirty year old cartridge design. It is a low mass cartridge with relatively high compliance. At the time of its design, most tonearms were lower in mass than the Rega's. This makes the physical match between the Rega tonearm and the OM cartridge somewhat less than ideal.

The OM Ortofons became a generic give away cartridge with many tables which employed arms far more like the Rega's than not. Low mass, very high compliance arms are rare today.

Combining this cartridge with the Rega arm will result in slightly less than perfect tracking of the LP groove. While the OM's were good sounding cartridges which had a generally neutral presentational style, they can be bettered today when you use a medium mass, medium compliance arm such as the Rega's.

This is not anything to be changed immediately as the OM-10 matches well in character with the rest of your system. It is well suited to the Cambridge in tonal values in that it is somewhat laid back and neutral in tone while the Cambridge house sound is somewhat ... emphatic.

When the OM stylus wears out, I would though suggest you invest in one of the newer cartridges available. The new and current Ortofon line would be a good choice.

To wrap up this post, I can't tell you what you will prefer as far as musical presentation goes. We all have our own ideals of how music appeals to us as individuals.

I would, though, suggest you listen not for tight bass but rather for music and what goes into the construction of music. You should want a speaker which preserves as many musical values as your budget will allow.

Make your choices based on which system/speaker presents music in a manner which is as presentationally familiar to your mind as live music can be.

The basic sound of the system will change with each room and the position and set up of the system within that room. Therefore, ignore that. Your perception of musical values is what you need to identify and bring with you to the showroom.

Reag's own speakers do that. So too will Spendors and Harbeths though none of those lines will be in your price range. If a dealer has one of those lines, however, ask first to listen to music through one of those speakers to get an idea how music might sound through a less expensive system

Does that help?


Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 3405
Registered: Oct-07
When asked, I generally recommend buying the speakers and amp TOGETHER after audition. In-home is of course the BEST place for such listening and you can experiment with speaker setup (critical) at that time.

Buying speakers 'after the fact' can be successfully done, of course. The above advice is good, but perhaps a little much for a newbie. TAKE YOUR TIME.

I agree about specific recommendations.
At your price point, the market is VERY competitive. Listening to several speakers will help clear up Jan's advice. Some 'got it', while others simply WON'T

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18339
Registered: May-04

"When asked, I generally recommend buying the speakers and amp TOGETHER after audition. In-home is of course the BEST place for such listening and you can experiment with speaker setup (critical) at that time.

Buying speakers 'after the fact' can be successfully done, of course. The above advice is good, but perhaps a little much for a newbie."

Since the op has the Cambridge amp, buying the speakers and the amp together is unnecessary, if not impossible. Dragging the amp to the shop is also beyond what should be required to determine whether any particular speaker is well suited to the Cambridge.

As I mentioned, the Cambridge is capable of driving virtually any speaker in the op's price range. Hopefully, any shop worth buying from would advise the op as to an outlier which would be unsuitable for use with the amp. I believe even B&W has caught onto the idea you can't sell a $300 speaker which requires a $2,000 amplifier to drive it.

I'm afraid home auditions are largely a thing of the past. Unless the shop knows the client well most will not release a product with a simple credit card hold. If the return and exchange privileges are well agreed upon, home auditions are still possible. Asking for the loan of the shop's floor model over a Sunday (if the shop is closed on Sundays) might be workable with the understanding the op intends to buy something but would like to hear the speakers in their own system. You can only ask.

While the idea of listening to the music rather than the system or the individual component may be a new idea to some, it is actually a rather old concept which predates the path to "High Fidelity" audio components. If fidelity ultimately did not mean "to the source", then it meant nothing. If lines such as Rega, Ortofon, McIntosh, Linn, etc were not successful at portraying music, they would not have been successful for all these decades in the high end audio market.

Unfortunately, audio has drifted away from such quaint ideas of fidelity to the musical source and into (IMO) fringe and uninformative ideals such as imaging and soundstaging. "Detail retrieval" has supplanted the more musical concept of the individual performer's nuance and stylistic dimensions as the ideal for audio performance.

IMO detail, imaging and soundstaging are all artifacts of the recording process and have little to nothing to do with the performance of music in real time in a real world venue. Of course, I may be considered quaint in that I still listen to historic (mono) recordings for the music and I do not seek out only those recordings which show off the system. I always tried to get in a mono recording or two in my demonstrations just to make that point.

Suggesting the op concentrate on the musical performance rather than the audio performance is, IMO, a very quick and simple test for what is good - or not - in any component. No special set up is required in the showroom and no comparisons need to be accommodated between competing systems. Walk into any audio shop and within a few minutes you can ascertain whether a component or speaker might appeal to you.

There should be no confusion if the client finds two prospective purchases in two different shops. No need to hear each on the same amplifier or with the same music even. Once the idea of how music is made is understood, there should be little confusion as to which is the superior component for the buyer.

As I said, music is first and foremost a temporal language. Any performer should understand that concept. Any well versed listener should also.

It has a beat and how the performer manipulates "the beat" is of primary concern in communicating the ideas behind the music. If the system/component cannot inform the listener of that intent, then the listener should take a pass on that purchase IMO.

Nuance is the slur, the slide, the hammer on and the pull off of a note. It involves the breathing techniques and the ability to sustain a note along with the hard to soft attack of each sound. It is the communication between performers in an ensemble as they create music together.

Each performer addresses these musical values in a different manner and each successful system should, IMO, indicate the individuality of each performance. Any system or component which lacks such an ability to portray personal musical expression should be ignored.

If the system or the speaker or the component gets in the way of the music, it will always get in the way of the music and the system will ultimately be fatiguing and uninteresting as it develops a one-ness of sound which overrides the individual performances.

In the most basic sense, and certainly in a budget restricted purchase, the midrange should be the first concern of the listener. It is an old saw which suggests the system must get vocals right before anything else.

In a multi-way speaker (one with more than one driver per enclosure), the crossover point between the bass and the treble drivers will typically fall in the middle of the vocal range. Getting voices right is therefore of particular difficulty for many budget oriented speakers. Adding more drivers only complicates the difficulties. Simpler is better when a budget is concerned.

When I first began selling audio in the 1970's I would include two very well known voices in my demonstrations; Elvis and Sinatra.

It didn't particularly matter whether my interpretation of each voice matched that of the client, just that the client could say what they were buying was, in their opinion, correct in the presentation of those two very familiar voices. From there we moved on to other aspects of how the music was being portrayed.

I would, therefore, encourage the op to take along to any speaker audition a few albums they know well. Include performers and vocalists you feel you know well. Ask for a time when they can be left alone with the system to simply play music. This is typically best done in the middle of the week and most afternoons. It is impossible to ask a shop for this amount of time on a weekend.

If the op's partner plays, or even just has played an instrument, listening to the music, not the system, and paying attention to the nuances of a performance should not be that difficult in my experience.

There are potentially many budget oriented speakers which can succeed at this test and it may be more a matter of selecting which is best for the op's listening room. Once again, I cannot stress the importance of good set up to the success of a budget system.

Money spent on accessories is typically money well spent if the desire is to extract the highest degree of performance from budget line components.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18340
Registered: May-04

The current Elac (old name, new company) line of speakers has been drawing considerable attention lately;

The designer, Andrew Jones, is well known for his work with TAD and is equally well thought of for his earlier budget oriented Pioneer designs; s_Designed.html

I've personally not listened to music reproduced through either speaker. They may, however, be a starting point if they are available in your area.


Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 3406
Registered: Oct-07
Heard the ELAC speakers at T.H.E. Newport in '15, I think it was.
Good stuff and a company with a real history.
My brother had the ELAC Benjamin Miracord TT WAY back when.

And yes, Andrew Jones knows his stuff and doesn't design 300$ speakers needing 2000$ worth of amp.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18345
Registered: May-04

"My brother had the ELAC Benjamin Miracord TT WAY back when."

That's not exactly something to brag about.


Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 3407
Registered: Oct-07
WT Heck? It worked well, was quiet in operation and with the proper cart, good-to-go.

I always thought it was Too Complex and it made lots of changer-type noises when cycling.

I went the DUAL route for my first TT and it was nice, lasted well and was replaced by something I regretted almost from the start. I had the last of the 1209s, but wish I'd ponied up for the 1229(?). The full-size platter provided better record support and as it turns out, still has a small following today.

In those days, I wasn't in the loop enough to know about other choices for TT.
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