Depending on your priorities, the Spica TC50s (and maybe TC60s) are some of the best small inexpensive speakers out there. What they won't do is play at very high loevels, play with top-shelf dynamics, or give very deep bass or vary high highs. If you can live with these limits, what thye will do is give a better balanced tone across the board than just qabout anything at any price; very good resolution; excellent imaging and soundstaging; a very natural and non-fatiguing sound; and they will sound at least good no matter what you use with them, or how you position them (mine are currently sitting directly on the floor). They will allow also reward you with improvements in sound as the rest of your equipment improves. It actually makes sense to use very expensive gear with them, because unlike many inexpensive speakers, they will let you easily hear any improvements elsewhere in the chain. But again, they are not party speakers, and if you blow them, you have a problem. I have read that the tweaters are available again, but not the woofers.
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My personal favorites are the Alon Petites.
New they sold for $1k. If you can find a pair of them used, they are an absolute steal. I just put a system together for someone who had no experience with audio using the Petites, a Yamaha receiver, and a desktop computer, and it even blew my mind. Seriously, the system sounded better than it had any right to sound. This system also impressed one of my good audiophile friends from Oakland (who is very much into tubes). He was blown away.
The possibilities are endless. I bought my girlfriend a pair of used Spica TC-50; and I echo the sentiments of Honest1 - they are special and an amazing bargain. I have Celestion sl-700 in one bedroom and Rogers LS3/5a in another bedroom; both are excellent and (with patience) available used and in your price range.
When you say bookshelf speakers, are you merely referring to the size, because placement is very important? I have a pair of Spendor S3/5 that are very nice, but they wouldn't sound as good in a bookshelf. The Spendors play well about four feet away from the back wall. The Linn Tukan, which was purportedly designed to placed within a few inches of the rear wall, might be a better choice if the speakers were placed near the back wall or in a bookcase.
I own a pair of B&W 602 S3 speakers. These can be purchased used for about 600.00 Oddly enough that's what they also cost new. There's a reason. They're a great value and they are a nice bang for the buck. Most other speakers brands devaluate by a third in a matter of months. They sound great (for 600.00) and don't need much power as long as it's quality. I'm told these were the last of their breed to be built in England. Frankly, to me, they sound a lot better than their current replacement in the B&W line-up. I use them as rear surround speakers now but when they were my mains I enjoyed them every day. The good news is that there are loads of great speakers in your price range. My last suggestion is that you buy something that's used and in great condition. Quality well cared for used gear is as good as it is when it's new except that it's already broken and except for the 602's, usually a lot less money.
Good luck. ps If you go this route, stick with the S3 version.
As far as new "bookshelf monitor" speakers go, I wouldn't buy without at least listening to a pair of NHT Classic Model 3's.
About the only 3-way in this category, and note the aversion to parallel sides to avoid standing waves.
3-ways have advantages in power handling and more uniform dispersion because each driver gets to operate in a more ideal frequency range for its best bandwidth, dynamic range, and dispersion. And in spite of having two crossovers, transparency is evidently not a problem with this speaker.
The Silverline Minuets blew everybody away at the NYC HE Show using a garage sale CD player and a modestly powered Monarchy DAC/Integrated (so I guess you'd have lots of amp options with these speakers). That modest system managed to physically put a standup bass fully in a good-sized room that you would have expected from a good 3-way floorstander. Everybody's jaw was on the floor, so if you want to be amazed they're probably worth a look if in your price range. I'd also consider Epos.
New AER Pisces MkIII - about $300. You must have good stands too.
You can drive them by Dynaco 70 or any other low power tube amp (20 - 50 wpc) - and you are in heaven! No subs needed.
Try some Chineese based on EL84 tubes...
Solid state.... I don't like cheap solid state...may be NAD, some British electronics - again 50 wpc is enough
All good responses. I have a pair of Focal Chorus 806V's that are some of their smaller "bookshelf" speakers and love them.
I also play lossless music- FLAC/SHN off my hardrive through a Linksys Music Bridge and it works excellent. My amp is an ancient Audio Research D-90 Tube/Solid State hybrid with their SP-12 Pre-amp. Also use a Bob Carver
D-8 Dominator Subwoofer that is perfect size for my room and really sounds excellent.
All in all I'm very happy with my system and highly recommend the Focal speakers and Bob Carver Sub. Hard to not like.