...piega p-10's..used....89db efficient with bass to 19hz +/- 2db..great ribbon mid/tweeter.$12.5k when new
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Used B&W Silver Signature 25's go for around $3000-$3500. They were $8000 new when they came out in 1991. I have a pair that replaced a pair of Dunlavy SC-IV's.
I've been looking to replace mine for a couple of years now. I thought that with the newer technology, like you, I could find something better in the $4000 - $5000 range, so I wouldn't be taking much of a loss.
I still honestly haven't found anything that has made me want to jump up and sell mine and buy them. I've been looking extremely hard, driving three hundred miles in any direction (like just wanting to buy a new car whether you need it or not).
I've heard a lot of speakers that sound really good and that I'd like to have, but not one to die for. The Silver Signature is the Father of the B&W Signature 805, but goes down to 35Hz. It's crystal clear down as low as it goes with no boominess. I sounds as good at low levels as it does rocking your world.
There's three pair listed on Audiogon right now, two gray and one brown, check out the pictures.
I own a pair, so I am biased, but you can pick up a pair of Vienna Acoustics Mahlers for $4k-$5k used (retail is $9,800).
Here is a link to reviews of the Mahler. The Stereophile and Audio reviews are accurate. The Ultimate Audio review is too flattering (the speaker is not that good).
There are a gazillion other options at this price point, but the Mahlers are full range, image and soundstage very well, and sound excellent at both low levels and at incredibly high volume (each speaker has two 7" mid-woofers and two 10" woofers -- they can go really loud without distorting). They are efficient (90 db.), but need a quality amp and the right speaker cables (Kimber Select works great) to control the woofers. They have incredible bass and the wood finishes are of the highest quality (they are like fine furniture).
Swklein listed most of the speakers I would have included. As an owner of the Vandersteen 3A Signatures, I can highly recommend them -- they compete very well with speakers costing up to $5000 (MSRP). The one other speaker I'd add to the list is the Magneplanar 3.6's, which are a superb speaker if you have the right room for them, and a fairly powerful amplifier (200 wpc minimum).
I think that if you can swing a pair of used Merlin VSM or Coincident Total Eclipses, you really will be hard pressed to beat them.
On the new front, you may want to wait for the word to come out about the new $5000 Fried Studio VII at CES 2005 in about a month and a half. I am a part owner of the company, but pride myself on being objective and even recommending other speakers. You will not find another speaker in its price range that will be able to offer you what this speaker does - REAL TL bass and midrange alignment, first order series crossovers, low Qts drivers, mirror imaged drivers, and are made right here in the USA (Pennsylvania). The speakers are incredibly easy to drive, sound exceptionally open and spacious, go really low and tight, and image like no large three way speaker has any right to. Although I am opposed to it, I fully expect that once the company has a foothold in the marketplace, you are going to see the prices ratchet up considerably - I prefer offering great value and making things up in volume. Get to them early if you can.
I have a pair of Dali Helicon's. They sound great even at very low listening levels. You should be able to find them used or new in your price range. I have the 800's but depending on how big your room is even the 400's could do. I've listened to some Dynaudio S5.4 lately. Very good sounding speaker too. There you could also go with the S3.4 depending on the room. I would audition all of them if you like a neutral sounding speaker. The Dyn's need more power though to bloom.
I'll give another vote for the Dali Helicons (the 800s in particular). The Helicon 800s retail new for $5900/pr. and are worth it in my opinion.
Also if looking used, I would keep an eye out for the Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signatures. They retail new at $5500/pr., but used you should be able to find them around $4,000.