Best $2000-$3000 full range speaker?

I realize that offering advice on such an open-ended thread isn't for everyone, so below is some background. Too much? Probably. I'm a chatty feller; it's an occupational hazard.

First, I don't live near any hifi stores and don't often leave my mid-sized midwestern town (I have 2 small kids and don't like traveling), so my chances for auditioning equipment are zip. The closest cities are Minneapolis/St. Paul, and they're not that close.

Second, all my friends think I'm crazy, because none of them can understand spending $1000 on an entire system, let alone spending that much on a low output moving coil cartridge (I love my Dynavector).

Third, I'm not expecting a consensus on what a good 2k to 3k full range tower (could be towers; don't have to be) speaker is. I want some suggestions that I can research and ogle on-line. I'm in it for the journey, so if I buy some speakers based on your recommendations here (and I probably will) and don't like them, I'll sell them here and start over. Fine with that. Totally fine.

Fourth, I'm not that picky . . . yet. But as Steve Martin said, the ear grows sophisticated pretty fast. But I'm not ready for a moonrock needle and a googlophonic system yet. I'm a newbie, but I'm well on my way to addiction. Sometimes walking down the street I'll see a car and think, "I wonder if Acoustic Zen Adagios would look good in that finish?" Do other people check the Speaker-Full Range classifieds 5 times a day? I hope I'm not the only one. (And I'm sorry for bumping up the number of hits on your ads.)

Fifth, I started my Adventures in Audio with a small, fairly inexpensive system (although it was a lot more than I've ever paid for anything that I couldn't live in, or at least drive) for my small office (about 8 x 8). In here, I now have a pair of SET mono amps (Wright Sound), an MFA Magus preamp, and Reference 3A De Capo i speakers. I like the sound of this system very much - lots of air, amazing mids and highs, and decent bass, although a bit thin.

Sixth, I want a different sound for my big living room (35'L x 15'W x 8'H with hard wood floors and not much furniture). This is my family of four's living room, and my system is down at one end, firing across the short width of the room, not down the long length. It's not ideal, but unless I finish off part of my basement (I'm not handy), it's my listening room for now.

Seventh, I'm not looking for the perfect speakers for me, just a good, well-balanced pair that will sound better than the ancient Klipsch Heresy speakers that I'm using now. But don't get me wrong; I like the Klipsches, but liking them too much can suck all the fun out of an audiophile's life. There are too few speakers to try. Work your way up to the Kornerhorn and you're done. Also, the Klipsch speaker is not a subtle speaker. That said, I like the clarity and punch in the mids and highs, but I want more bass.

Eighth, I listen to a lot of soul, funk, jazz, reggae, Afro-beat, and rap, so bass is important. No pipe organ, though, and not much symphonic or orchestral music. Very little classical (or baroque) music, except for those beautiful Mozart pieces for cello, and who doesn't like those?

Ninth (!?), I'd rather go used on Agon than buy new. I'm totally happy trying equipment out and re-selling it here. And I'll build the system around the speakers, but it will be an SS system. I don't want tubes in my living room near my kids. And no massive electrostatic speakers, either, so thanks to the Maggie fans in advance. Some day I'll try them, but I like speakers that 3-year-olds can't push over.

Here's my short list right now. Somehow, none of them seems quite right, but maybe I just need some warm words of encouragement.

Gallo Reference 3.1s. (I read a review - on 6 moons, I think - that says they're giant-killers and well-balanced in every way. I have some negotiating space here, but WAF is low. My wife says they're speakers that are trying too hard to look like people. I showed her some of the Cabasse speakers online. Bet they're creepy at night.)

Acoustic Zen Adagios (Why Mappa Burl? Pink wood with knots? This must be what a speaker designer thinks that our wives will like.)

Vienna Acoustic Strauss (Too warm in a bad way? Too muddy in the bass? There's a pair on Agon now for $2350. Tempting.)

Coincident Super Eclipse (Hyped too hard by Arthur Salvatore?)

Talon Ravens (Tombstones? The WAF factor matters, and she thinks they look a little cemetery-esque, but there might be a little wiggle room here.)

Sonus Faber Grand Piano (Is that pleather on the tops and backs? They'd have to sound really great if it is.)

Amphion Xenon (Impossible to re-sell? Does anyone know about this speaker?)

Joseph Audio RM25si (surprisingly unprepossessing for a speaker with such a high MSRP -- lacking in bass?)

Dynaudio Contour 3.3 (WAF is fine, but not too exciting for me - Generic Tower Speaker Version 1.1)

This post got a little out of control. If you're still with me, thanks for reading, and thanks for any suggestions.

I buy into your approach - buy it and try it. If you are going solid state with such a big room, you better be getting a pretty big and powerful amp.

The speakers you mention I am familiar with - all good:

Gallo - YES, if they can rock your space
Vienna Acoustics Strauss - YES - pair them with some Swedish electronics and you will smile
Acoustic Zen Adagios - YES
Dynaudio Contour 3.3 - YES

Used speakers you haven't mentioned that I think would be good for this application:

-Totem Forest (maybe big enough sound for this size space)
-Revel F30 or F32 (will rock you)
-Any of the larger Focal/JM Lab 800 or Electra series (bright, tight and just about right)
-Vandersteen 3A Signature (not the highest WAF on the planet, OK, they are actually kind of homely, but just close your eyes and listen [with your 200 plus watt amp and excellent source(s), of course])
-Spender S8
-Any larger speaker you can swing from ProAc

If you can't find something you like used here are some new speakers you could try:

-Vandersteen 2ce Signature II (Very Good, same caveats as 3A above, but more accepting of fewer watts)
-Focal Chorus 826V (very good speaker for the money, efficient)
-Rega R7 (just real, real nice)
-Usher CP-6311 (unique looks, big sound)
-Epos M22i (well rounded sound - average looks)

Good Luck.
i endorse many of knownothing's picks (i'm a big focal/revel/rega fan); i'd also consider the psb synchrony, von schweikert vr2/vr4jr and vmps rm30. good luck.
drive to mpls and check out audio perfection and hi fi sound and others. its still one of the better stereo towns in the u.s., and you'll get good advice and helpful service(you betcha)....hear a variety of choices (new and used)....
I also like the Usher 6311,which I have just replaced with the Opera Secondo.Not as big sounding,but more detailed.There are so many good choices,but you won't know until you get them into your room.If new,allow time foe break-in!
You don't mention the electronics other than they will be solid state for the living room. My advice is whatever speakers you get pay attention to the amp that is going with them and match/ choose wisely. For solid bass from a full range speaker in a big room you will want a good high current solid state amp (that doubles down) and I defintely recommend a tube preamp to go with it. There are plenty of quality tube preamps with the tubes unexposed to curious kids.
Some of my favs in no particular order (assuming proper amplification to drive each to potential, which will vary):

Focal Profile
OHM Walsh
I would echo Jaybo and advise you to make a day trip to the city and hear a few before you buy. If you really don't want to do that then try to work out a deal with a dealer that will let you try some in your home for 30 days.
And if you can't find a dealer that will work with you you may look at direct sell companies,e.g. Zu, Legacy etc.
i have the adagios in the mappa, not pink but a nice golden glossy finish, and really love them with tubes. for around 2k used, you would have a hard time beating them.
I am going to suggest the Castle Howard S3, not because
I am a happy new owner (And I am as of yesterday) but
because I think they match your requirements in every department.
I have a similar size room, and they are incredible.
Super tight & deep bass, with a very warm, musical &
open sound, that will not only sound great with music, but
also HT.

By design, they are "something different" as you mention.

I think they are one to consider given your preferences. I think they are the one to get me off the merry go round.

Oh, did I mention the heirloom build quality??

Good luck.
Klipsch, used K-Horns or Belles is the way to go. Your room needs a 'gig' sound and nothing does it better then Klipsch. Buying them used and they are in your price range. Easy to sell off if you don't like the sound. Yes, I have had the K-Horns and only sold them off when I downsized my room. They need 'big space' and go great with tubes and vinyl.
Thank you all for your responses and suggestions. I'm doing some on-line research.

The Totem Forests have been recommended to me a number of times. Do they have enough bass in a big room without a subwoofer? I was hoping to avoid that route, and I could certainly try them without one and then think about adding the subwoofer later. I guess I've been thinking that a three-way speaker would generally have fuller bass than a two way.

I've been intrigued by some of the side-firing woofer speakers, like the BC acoustique A3 (which are a little out of my price range) or the Audio Physic Virgo. I haven't heard much about these speakers, only read good reviews of them. I've read enough reviews now that I mainly look for what doesn't impress reviewers. If a speaker gets a glowing review in every category, then I want to hear what Audiogoners think of it. But if it falls short in any significant category for a reviewer, then I imagine that the speaker is, in fact, weak in that area. What I mean is that reviews tend to be a bit over-the-top, so if a reviewer takes the time to address a weakness, then I assume that it's a pronounced one.

Knownothing, you mentioned Swedish amps for use with Vienna Acoustics speakers. Which amps? And Foster_9, by "doubles down" do you mean bi-amping or just a large (200 watts or more?) amp? Right now, I'm using a 35-year-old McIntosh 2105 amp (105W x 2) and a similarly aged Mac C-28 preamp, but I'll be switching those out for amps that work well with whatever speakers I buy. The 2105 has plenty of power for the efficient Klipsch speakers, but I want to move into the 21st Century with my amps, and I'm guessing that I'm going to need more power. Is there danger in having too much power, say if the speakers are pretty efficient (above 90db for 1 watt at 1 meter?)
Klein_rogge 03-10-10
And Foster_9, by "doubles down" do you mean bi-amping or just a large (200 watts or more?) amp?

I mean an amplifier that doubles in power as the ohm rating of the speakers is halved. Example: 200 watts rms @ 8 ohms, 400 watts rms @ 4 ohms. In other words, a high current amplifier.
Try to check out the new Kudos X2's for $2495...
I second the the adagios...i have a hard time trying to think what would replace them without spending alot more and for the prices on agone its hard to beat(imho)
Maybe a pair of Devore Super 9 - some input from a parallel thread:

Devore Nines

Of the speakers you listed, the Ravens are the only ones that are truly full-range, going down to 20 Hz. I have a pair of Raven Cs, and they are just amazing. Easily the best speaker I have had in my system, and one of the best I have heard. They are actually 2-way and image like small monitors.

I was dubious before I heard them, and was worried that the midrange would suffer from having just a 10" woofer and a 1.5" tweeter. It doesn't. They are seamless top to bottom, and fast, with awesome bass. They compare very favorably to Talon's 40K firebirds, which I have heard in a very nice system. If you haven't heard true full range speakers, you will be in for a surprise. They reveal bass which is simply not present in most other speakers.

They are quite heavy (>150 lbs each), and impossible to knock over, unlike all slim floor standers. The are also not the best looking speaker of your group.

The Vienna Strauss are also fine speakers-- I was actually the original owner of the pair on Agon right now. They are not warm in a bad way at all, and overall very nice speakers to listen too. Completely non-fatiguing. Bass is decent, but in no way full-range. They are also difficult to set up correctly (probably owing in part to the side-facing woofers). This might be an issue for you because it sounds like one speaker will be in a corner, and the other in the middle of your room. But it can be done with a listener, and somebody to move the speakers.

The Strauss are also beautiful speakers. If you didn't know, both the front and back panels (and about 1" around the sides) are piano gloss black, while the rest of the body is black ash-- a very nice effect. You can also use the spikes in a 3 or 4 spike configuration, which is a feature that I really like. However they are tall and would be easily knocked over by children.

I have heard the Gallo Ref 3.1s in several systems, and while they image very well, I thought something was missing from the mid-range. The bass also was not impressive, but I have not heard them in the active configuration which supposedly really improves the low end. Also this was when they first were introduced, and I think some improvements have been made? Of course many others seems to like them much better.

The newer Sonus Grand Pianos I heard at a dealer, and was not impressed. I also have heard some of mid-range Amphions at a dealer (not the Xenons, they had already been discontinued), and personally would stay away from them.

I have not heard the other speakers on your list, but would love to try a pair of Adagios. But I can't imagine them competing in the bass category. Also it seems like it would be hard to go wrong with just about any Dynaudio Contours, as long as you have the amplifier power.

I listened to the Totem Forest extensively in a room that was about 20 x 25 x 12 with hard surfaces everywhere and they were wonderful - nearly full range and able to go very loud with only modest amplification. I would think a high current amp with about 150W would be able to drive them in your room at volumes and with bass presence and control that would satisfy for music. With that said, they will not provide the same kick a really big box with one or more big drivers can provide (Vandersteen 3A Signature for example). For HT purposes, I think you pretty much have to have one or more subs, no matter what speaker you use.

Swedish amp = Primare. Very nice combination.
Knownothing, I agree that most speakers require a sub for HT, but not necessarily all. The Talon Ravens certainly do not need a sub, except perhaps for a very hard-core HT system.

I used to have a 5.1 channel system with NHT T5s for the mains, and these also were fine for HT-- probably because they were 4-ways with an active external crossover, and required separate amplification for the woofers.

For this reason, I would suspect that the Gallo Ref 3.1s in the active woofer configuration (claimed response to 22 Hz) might also be OK with many people for HT (although I have not heard them in this configuration).
Merlins are great and the support is first-class,good luck,Bob
Your post is way to long to read. Why can't people be more to the point. I can only recommend go listed to some speakers at a good dealer or people you know.
If I was buying in that price range, the Vandersteen 3A (there is a WAF issue = perhaps, depends on the W)are the IMHO the finest full-range speakers you can buy, but you will need 100 watts of power and if you go tubes, that can get expensive. For a bit less than full range I would go with Merlin TSMs or used VSMs (pretty full range) or Harbeth HL5s. My 2 cents.
I went on a similar quest, albeit for a smaller room. I listened to PSBs, Dynaudios, Audio Physic Virgos, and a number of others. I also bought a pair of Druids. About a year into the process, I went and checked out the Gallo 3.1s, ordered a pair that day and never looked back. I use the reference sub amp with them (my musical tastes are similar to yours). I highly recommend them.
out of all of those, i'd go with the joseph audio rm25si's

the sound is incredibly non-fatiguing and seductive
Tannoy System 15's and K'horns are probably worth considering..both can play at absolutely extreme levels without breaking a sweat...the 15's are obviously a bit more forgiving with placement issues but are dead neutral and revealing to an almost absurd degree. They're both probably about as close to 'live' as you can get without spending many orders of magnitude more $.
Look into the Omega line of speakers. There is a pair of the Max Hemps for sale here on the Gon, and another pair for sale over on Audio Circle.
They sound good with tubes and SS gear.
I reluctantly had to sell my pair of Alnico XRS Super 8's. Can't wait till I can re-buy them when this economy thing turns around.
I have heard the exact pair of Max Hemps that is on sale on the Gon. They are mint and sound superb! And no, they are not mine.
Devore Nines, a little above the budget but worth it

No affiliation with the seller
Thanks again to everyone for your responses and suggestions. I've been researching all of them. I'm still very interested in Acoustic Zen Adagios and might wait for a pair to become available.

I'm curious about members' experiences with the Genesis company, though. There's a pair of G500s for $2900 and a pair of GVs for $3000. The reviews are mostly positive, although I read a couple of claims that the separately amped woofers never integrate well with mid-range and tweeters. True? I like the looks of both of them a lot, and my wife says she could live with them. They're not towers, but that's fine. Would they outshine the speakers that have been mentioned above or simply be different? In what ways?

I should add that I only use my speakers for a 2-channel system, no Home Theater. I teach film classes, so it makes sense that I would put the money into HT, but I really prefer seeing movies in the theater or in a dedicated film classroom.

Thanks again. I await your thoughts.
Salk? -- check out AudioCircle for their forum.
Thanks for your responses, all. I wound up going in a slightly different direction and buying a pair of Hyperion 938s. It was those or a pair of the Acoustic Zen Adagios, which were highly and frequently recommended. The Adagios seem to be available often, at least right now, so I decided to try the Hyperions, which don't seem to show up as often. I haven't received the Hyperions yet, but should get them next week. Thanks again for all your suggestions. If the Hyperions don't work out, I'll be buying some Adagios or Vandersteen 2CE sigs or 3A sigs.
Good luck. Hope you love the speakers.
DeVore Fidelity 9's or the Omega Alnico XRS Super 8's.
Castle Howard S3! It killed similarly priced Usher and Tyler speakers and offered the grace of typical British sound.
Mirage OMD 28, selling now for I think 2600 per pair must be one of the best deals out there. I consider them the best bargain of my entire system, and built everything around it. And it is a full range speaker, much more so than most other speakers I've been seeing in this thread.
So, Klein, how do you like your 938s?
Klein - I use 838s in unforgiving combination of Rowland 102 amp (class D) and Benchmark DAC1. Everything sounds just right. Tons of detail, great imaging, lots of dynamics and absolutely no brightness. Sibilants are very clean and natural and midrange is beyond believe. Bass is not only powerful and very well controlled but also has right sounding attack and decay. It might be related to speed of woofers (lack of suspension). Midrange drivers are really strange - with no suspension and ferrofluid damping (6.5" driver). I also admire speaker integration. Transition from tweeter to midrange (or midrange to woofers) is so seamless that I cannot really pinpoint the speaker.
In the 2-3K range
Used I would consider:

Thiel CS2.2 $900 & JL 110 $1100 used prices(small/mid size)

Thiel CS2.3 $1400 & JL 112 $1600 used prices(large room)

check out B & W speakers also
Klein - It should be 938s (Hyperion HPS-938).
Thanks again to everyone who responded. Getting the Hyperions up and running turned out to be a real hassle. One of the bass cabinets arrived partly smashed - even though the speakers were in their original boxes, shrinkwrapped, and palletized - and both woofers were literally broken in half inside. I finally got a new cabinet from Hyperion a couple weeks ago and am now running them with a Bryston 4BST amp and a Rowland Capri preamp.

They sound pretty good to me, but the drivers don't seem as well integrated as they could be. The tweeters and mids are fine together, but the bass cabinets sound like separate speakers rather than part of a whole.

Part of the reason that I'm hearing them this way is because I got tired of waiting for Hyperion and bought a pair of Vandersteen 3a Signatures in the meantime. The integration in the Vandys is the best I've heard, and the bass is incredible. So right now I'm switching back and forth between the Hyperions and the Vandys (lots of fun). They're totally different sounds, with the Hyperions sounding clear and incredibly resolving, while the Vandys are much more laid back and not as forward as the 938s. But the Vandys can sound a little veiled to me sometimes, and the Hyperions can sound a little bright. So I'm tweaking elsewhere and trying to get both pairs dialed in.

Thanks again, all, and if anyone has any tips on tweaking the Hyperions or the Vandys I'd love to hear them.

Klein - I'm surprised that you find Hyperions bright. My 938s are never bright in spite of unforgiving combination of Benchmark DAC1 and Rowland 102 (class D), that was unbearable with Paradigm speakers. Give them more time to play. As for cabinet damage - I had the same misfortune but with upper cabinet. Shipping company was paid for "on the pallet" delivery but it came without a pallet.

I have my 938s bi-wired with Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun. One cable goes to woofers while the other goes to tweeter. Midrange is connected to tweeter with Audioquest gold plated copper jumpers (6" wires). According to reviews Hyperions are very sensitive to connection. Try different combination.
Appears you've made a choice, so best of luck with it. Had I seen this thread earlier I would have mentioned that I picked up a used pair of Infinity MTS in your price range and they are alot of speaker for the money. They do everything you are looking for and the bass is probably unable to be duplicated at anywhere near the price. Others have reported some QC issues, so it's something to be aware of - but all said they're pretty cool...