With a small but dedicated listening room, it is both a bless and a challenge. I used to own a pair of Stenheim Alumine 2. I absolutely loved them, very open, transparent and honest. They were the best bookshelves I have owned. Unfortunately the lack of volume under 40 hz limited their use as I listen a lot of classical music.
My listening room is acoustically treated therefore it is suitable for a pair of midsized floor standing speakers. I did extensive research and narrowed down to the following candidates:
1. Stenheim Alumine 3
The Alumine 3 share the same house sound characteristics of 2 and with more bass info. The reasons I ruled it out are:1. cost. There was no used one on market and new one was above my price range. 2 Stenheim sounds a little too modern, and I now prefer a little romantic sound.
2. Kharma Exquisite Midi
I auditioned its bigger brother Exquisite Classique. They are simply too big for my room. But I really like the Kharma sound. Very musically and romantic sounding. If I had the room and budget I'd go with the Classique. I also heard the Midi in a different setting driven by Soulution 5 series amp. I was not impressed with that combo but think it probably would work in my system. I simply couldn't find a good used pair on market at the time.
3. Zellaton Stage
I had great hope for the Zellaton based on rave reviews. My local dealer has a pair of used stage and I immediately went for an audition. Well, to be honest, I was disappointed and cross Zellaton off my list entirely.
4. Vivid Audio Kaya 90
I was in Shanghai in the end of 2019 or 2018. At a high-end audio dealer I heard the Kaya 90 driven by Simaudio electronics and I was very impressed. The sound was rich and full with sufficient details. Macro and micro dynamics were good too. So I ordered a pair in 2020. Their size fit my room perfectly, and the bass performance is precise. I don't have overwhelming bass boom in my room. It is a significant upgrade from Stenheim Alumine 2.
Now I'd like to comment on the other part of my system:
1. I sold my turntable setup several years ago. I don't have many LPs and although I enjoy listening to vinyls, it requires a lot of work, money and time to get the best sound out of it and I simply don't want to commit to that at this point. So I am 100% digital now, and 95% streaming through C1. I haven't tried roon or other steamers but I am quite happy with C1's streaming quality.
2. FM 245 is the second FM Acoustics product I have. I started with a used and very old 800A. It only served me 6 months or so until one day it went bust and I couldn't find any one reputable to fix it in the US. It is sitting there collecting dust and maybe one day it will get in a audio museum. Before I bought the 245 pre, I use C1 directly in the amp. The sound was not bad at all. Clean, dynamic, and slightly digital to my taste. Until one I hooked the FM245 up, Wow, the sounds stage opened up, more layers, more details, more musical. I can heard more into the music. It is the characteristic FM sound, rich, full and yet fast and dynamic. I absolutely love my 245 and dream one day I can afford to upgrade it to a 255MK2.
3. It is almost impossible to find a used FM amp with reasonable price on the market. So I "settled" for a Dartzeel 108. Well it unexpectedly sounds very nice. I'd say it is probably less dynamic than FM, but at the same time very detailed, very musical. For the ongoing used market price, it is the best solid state amp that you can buy.
4. I used different brands of cables including Siltech (romantic sounding), Argento FMR (solid and musical), PAD (full and rich, maybe a little slow), etc.. Until one day an audiophile introduced High Fidelity Cables to me. I started with the CT1 Ultimate and immediately I was hooked. HFC is not like other cables where you trade off some benefits for some weaknesses. It has no weakness. It basically lowers the noise level and let more details come through. It is also very neutral and does't pose its sound characteristics to the system. I since upgraded to Ultimate Ref Helix and Pro. While I still have my Argento FMR cables and FM XLR, I feel HFC offers so much and elevates my system to a totally different level than other cables can do. I highly recommend them.
So where am I now? After 20 years of trial and error, I'd say I have found the sound I am looking for: rich, full, no loss of detail, dynamic and yet not fatiguing. It is like listening to live music.
Am I happy now? Yes. But .... as we all know there is no end point for an audiophile. My upgrade list includes:
High Fidelity Cables Pro Power Conditioner, Pro Power cable
FM Acoustics 266, 268C
FM Acoustics 711, 115, 118, 1811
haha, dream on....