Best bookshelf speakers


I’m building my first high fi system after being more of a portable audio person. I want to start with the speakers. Space is limited so bookshelf speakers are a must.

Preferences:
Balanced and revealing with a hint of warmth.
Midrange most important to get right over highs and lows
Timbre is super important - I listen mostly to acoustic music especially jazz
But I do need some bass as I also listen to some electronic music
Smaller is better but SQ is most important
A speaker that sounds good with different amps but also scalable with high quality sources
Wide sweet spot - I wont have money for a great amp at first but want them to be scalable for later

These speakers have caught my eyes - any thoughts on them?

Ascend Sierra 2s - Ribbon = dispersion limitations?
BMR Philharmonitor - See above. Also massive.
Buchardt S400/S300 - Wary of the sudden hype train and limited info
Silverline Minuet Grande - Limited info
Reference 3A De Capo - This caught my eye as a potential endgame speaker if I could blow up my budget a little. But concerns about BE tweeter as well as some potential snake oil stuff (cryogenic treatment (!?)), exaggerated sensitivity claims and wonky measurements put me off.

What else should I be looking at?

Edit: I could have sworn I had <$2,000 in the title... Anyway, my budget is 2k.

stuff_jones
Focal Aria 906 are really impressive for the money. Play every genre very well and not too demanding. 
I had the Sierra 2's. A wonderful sounding speaker and the RAAL is something special. No worries about dispersion limitations as it casts a wide field. A speaker well worth the money.
The Sierra’s are great, but won’t image as well as the BMR. 
 
The S400 is good, but not as good as the Sierra’s nor BMR, srill bests most other speakers around its price. 
 
For the Silverline, Stereophile measured a much cheaper speaker than that one a while ago and it was decent, it the Grande crosses a 1” tweeter at 3kHz with a 5.25” driver, which slightly alarms me. 
 
For the De Capo Be, I’d stay away. One reason they measure so poorly is because of the slope of the cabinet, which was done out of stupidity. That should never be done unless meant to be used on a desk. They do that to time/phase align the drivers, but that can also be done in the crossover and/or by physically having the tweeter sunken in (my speakers do this). 
How’s the realism of the timbre on a ribbon?

Also I heard the width of dispersion is ok but vertically the Sierra 2s are limited. True?

Any other suggestions?
You're going to be hard pressed to best the mid-range of the F cone in the Focal Aria 906.
Bass only goes down to 55 Hz on the Focals though. Can they manage without a sub? Do they have that famous Focal brightness?
Not bright at all. If anything they are slightly warm IMO. I'm sure this depends on your amplification etc. The bass they have is fairly impactful and good quality. I am crossed over to a sub however.
.I bought them cause of the good deal and I was just going to resell but I think I'll keep them. Also was kinda hoping they sucked so I could make fun of Kosst and his 936s. 
What about the Guru Jr? I like their tiny size, range and the fact that they can be squeezed up near a wall. Reviews are stellar too and the clip on youtube (I know I know) sounds really transparent and extended. 

But I can't find them for sale in the US. 
Ah. I had the Guru QM10 2 for a while. Big brother to the Jr. That is a really fun speaker. Wish I would have kept them. 
I agree with those that suggest the Focal Brand. I'd suggest purchasing the most you can afford within that brand. I agree there are other good selections that others have made.
A secondhand pair of LS3/5A's (Rogers, Spendor, Goodmans, KEF ... ). Available usually for under $2K. A true classic that will holds its value over time! Mine cost less than $1K (Rogers) and came from an EBay seller in Lithuania, of all places!
The LS3/5A was designed in the mid-Seventies by the BBC as a monitor speaker for use in the limited space of a recording van. Emphasis was on a coherent, natural midrange, particularly voice. I'll take them over ANY of the above listed! Falcon Acoustics is now making an exact duplicate - for considerably more money, of course!
The LS3/5A has the "magic"! The others above merely sound "good"!
Is the  LS3/5A overly smooth and rolled off on both ends like British speakers are (in)famous for?
Love my de Capos. I have the i model with the wood cabinet
these are great with a nice midrange. very realistic and efficient. i use mine with a 4 watt decware mini torii and it gets loud when needed in a 12x22 room
hard to find used these days but in the $1000-1300 range
I agree, LS35/a has the magic. What it doesn’t have is any bass or dynamics to speak of. For that reason I sold both pairs (eventually 😬) and went directly to Quads, then to Fultons and never looked back. 👀
Get a First Watt F5 amp to go with LS3/5A's and you'll be in Heaven! This is the combination I use with the Rogers.
Au contraire, Geoff! Long-term listening with the LS3/5A's is most satisfying! And I'm a Quad owner, too!
I had them long term. To each his own. I’m not saying they’re bad. They are not dynamic under any conditions. Dynamics are everything to me. And they have no bass without subwoofering. Enjoy.
Bass and treble response are fine and in balance with that fabulous midrange! HiFi News did a listening/measuring test of various iterations of the LS3/5A's some years ago. Worth looking up!
My JBL 4312's and 166's have plenty of dynamics and bass-slam - but you can't put them on a shelf! 
 Von Schweikert VR-1

Are these still available?
I'll throw in the Nola Boxer's.  Mine are the original one's and bought them here from a fellow member.  I've had them four years now and  they have made me stop looking for anything.  Very, very musical speakers that you can listen to for hours and enjoy.
For < $2k you can try Legacy Studio HD, https://legacyaudio.com/products/view/studio-hd/ . They have good reviews and legacy makes good speakers.
People are still talking about and recommending LS3/5a speakers 40+ years later. Says a lot.
As the happy owner of Sierra 2's, I'm not aware of any vertical dispersion issues.  
Focal hasn't made a bright speaker since they stopped making that Tioxid titanium tweeter. 

I power my 936's with a modified F5. You'll be very hard pressed to find a better imaging combo. 
Yep those Fritz may well be the best (I heard them at CAF, absolute top notch) if they would fit  I’d go for those if budget allows. Most any amp should produce beautiful music with those. An 8 watt tube headphone amp was used at CAF and the results were simply stunning! Note they are rear ported, if that matters.
If you check the fritz speaker site you will find other models that do fit in a $2000 budget that might also be worth some consideration.
@gsm18439  yes but it's kind of worrying that copies are still being produced today, not updates but exact copies as near as dammit.

Was that famous 1970s midrange that good that it can't be improved upon even now?

At least JBL claim to have updated the drive units on the relaunched L100 Classic.

https://www.jblsynthesis.com/productdetail/l100-classic.html



Fritz is an interesting option. Their only speaker under 2k with regular pricing is the Morel 6, which appears to be super warm and not too transparent. 

The used route is obviously better value but are warranties usually transferable? 
+1 for Fritz. Great value and well balanced. Top of the line parts for a fraction of other brand costs.

Last audio show I went to, I talked with a couple of recording professionals, both women, and Fritz was one of the few brands they would listen to. I agreed.

Best,
E
Another vote for the Nola Boxers. I have the Boxer 2's,and absolutely love them. They throw a huge soundstage,and dig deep for a speaker of this size.
     Good luck with your search!
             Ray
Sierra 2's are now 15% off.
Thanks everybody for the suggestions. The diversity of options and lack of consensus is a bit overwhelming!
If you consider how many 2-way bookshelf speakers there are out there available, between $100 and $2000 a pair, frankly it's remarkable you haven't had more diverse suggestions.  The number of overwhelming, and no one can heard more than a small fraction of them.
I think one good way to narrow down the field is just looking at those manufacturers using the direct sales model and offering a generous return program. 

For one, you're getting more speaker for your buck cutting out the middleman and I assume there's some correlation between speaker manufacture cost and sound quality, even if it's not 1. 

Also the return policy of course reduces your risk. Maybe buy a few and demo them at the same time and return the ones that lose out?

Who are the direct sellers? Ascend, Buchardt,  Philharmonic Audio... any of the other contenders using the direct sales model? 
You've got some great recommendations here.  I'll add the Joseph Audio RM7si, Silverline SR-17.5, and Amphion Argon 3s, all available used now.  Sorry to make your job harder, but these are all worth a look given what you're looking for. 

https://tmraudio.com/speakers/bookshelf-monitors/joseph-audio-rm7si-signature-bookshelf-speakers-che...

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis97fd1-silverline-audio-sr-17-5-monitors?refsource=hifishark

http://www.audioasylumtrader.com/ca/listing/Speakers-Stand-Mounted/Amphion/Argon-3S-Monitors/-home-v...

I wouldn't even briefly consider buying from a company that can't be bothered to stock and distribute their products through retail outlets. There's no reason to believe you're buying a better speaker that way. You're buying a speaker from a box company. None of those companies make their drivers. They just build the box and design a crossover, then buy everything else off the shelf. 
^ Cutting out a significant margin must mean more speaker for your dollar, all else equal right? If you shave off the retailers 40 percent or whatever, the consumer is getting those savings.

As far as criticizing direct sellers for not making their own drivers - That seems like criticizing Lenovo for not making their own CPUs. It's the final product that matters, right? 
I wouldn't even briefly consider buying from a company that can't be bothered to stock and distribute their products through retail outlets.

Because that's just so damn easy, it's a real wonder everyone can't do it.

There's no reason to believe you're buying a better speaker that way. You're buying a speaker from a box company. None of those companies make their drivers. They just build the box and design a crossover, then buy everything else off the shelf.

Buying direct or not is not really an indicator of anything, but I will say this:

To get to retail (which is oh so very easy) you have to charge 10x more than your drivers cost. So if you are buying $30k speakers, at BEST the drivers might have cost $3k. The markup is often higher. If they make their own drivers it's easily 20-30  to 1.

Fritz is a really good example of some one using nicely designed crossovers and cabinets with top of the line parts and charging you a lot less than 10x. Also, they sound really really good. 
By all means, please go spend as much money as you can on speakers. On the other hand if you have your own ears and prefer to spend the least you can for the same sound quality like I do, then Fritz and Tekton make a lot more sense.

Not that I like everything either maker puts out.
I know the BMRs are big but what you are describing is exactly what they give you at a price well below the 2k mark. Take the savings and put it towards the amp without sacrificing anything. I have owned the BMRs for a few months now. I cannot peel myself out of the chair. So smooth, so detailed and oh so natural. Absolutely love my speakers!! 
I haven’t heard many of these speakers but I bought a pair of Revel M106 for 5.1 surround duty and played them in 2 channel with a very small mini tube amp using Tidal as a source. 

They sound very good with what I’ve thrown at them. $2k MSRP but can probably get them a little cheaper or used for about half that. 
+1 for Legacy Studio Hd.  I use a Heed Elixir amp with them in my second syatem, and it is a great combo.  Good luck.
Full confession: a lot of my research is based on youtube listening samples.

The Legacy’s sound a little bright to me.

I love the transparency the mids with the BBC style monitors. The Spendor A1 sounds especially nice, and the small size and closed design is convenient for apartment dwelling. But I can’t live with only 55hz bass.

Do any of the smaller BBC variants go closer to 40?
Post removed 
The discussion of direct sales vs manufactuers selling via dealers has two sides.

Yes the direct sales model does sometimes mean that you may be paying less for  a pair of speakers and sometimes it does not mean you are getting a better engineered product. Most of the small direct sellers are not building their drivers, crossover and box is what they are offering.

Their are huge advantages of looking at products sold by the larger speaker manufacturers: Dynaudio, Focal, Kef, B&W etc. 

Take for example the new Kef R series and the new B&W 700 series, both of these loudspeakers use trickle down technology from their higher up models and use all propretry drivers that are designed from the ground up  

Kef has spent $4 million dollars developing first the Kef Blades then the Reference series, then the original R and then the Q and then a bunch more money refreshing these lines. 

We are not B&W dealers so we can't quote numbers their, but we can guarantee that they have also spent millions on the refereshing their speakers. 

The point is that small companies do not have the financial resources to develop, really radical new drivers nor the ability to test and hire some of the best acoustical designers in the industry.

We sell the Quad Z2 and again like the KEF and B&W these are fantastic speakers that use all proprietary drivers a fantastic damped ribbon tweeter and an advanced carbon fiber midrange/woofer they sound amazing and are starting to find their way into more dealers accross the country, they are very impressive so if you like the sound of the Raal ribbons in some ways  the damped Quad tweeters you may like even more. 

The other thing you have with some of the larger speaker manufacturers is the ability to hear them and compare their products in a store without having to order from each one of these small companies with then having to compare each one your are interested in without having to purchase them first and then having to ship them back and forth.

Then you also have the stability of a large manufacturer, and the servicablity of service stations throught the country as well as the ability to more easily sell the product because people at large have heard and know about the brand.

Last point the large companies have economies of scale which may mean that you are actually getting a more sophisticated loudspeaker for the price even if it costs a bit more.

So in your quest for great $2k loudspeakers you should also look at what mainstream offerings are in your area and go visit some stores and see what you may find.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ


Caveat that I can't say what is "best" and I haven't heard many of the suggestions given here, but I can heartily recommend the Silverline Minuet Grand. It is fantastic, particularly for acoustic music (I'm a primarily classical listener, some jazz and a smattering of pop.)
https://taww.co/post/170777975517/review-silverline-minuet-grand-loudspeakers

I think it fits your "Balanced and revealing with a hint of warmth" description quite well. They are exceedingly natural and musical. I wouldn't worry about the specified crossover point, it's likely just a nominal electrical rating. Alan Yun tunes his crossover carefully for the end result and he is a real master of the art. I have done some light measurements of the SR 17 Supreme in my room and both the individual driver and combined responses are stunningly accurate. 

Another option to consider is anything by Fritz Speakers, a lot of models around the $2k price point. I've only listened to them briefly but ears I trust say they are superb for the money. 
BTW I think it's good to go to stores and listen to a lot of offerings from a lot of mainstream manufacturers but I do not subscribe to the notion that big corporations = big R&D budgets = better speakers - quite the opposite in my experience. The vast majority of my favorite speakers of all time have been made by smaller outfits. While the big boys do have the manufacturing capability to design and produce their own drivers, most of them are doing the vast majority of it in China, IMO with the aim of making things that look and sound cool on paper (magnesium alloy! diamond coatings! unobtanium coils!) while keeping costs low. The truth is some of the best sounding drivers in the world are still made out of very traditional materials using decades-old technology. I mean, look at what Wilson is using in their latest models - that's right, treated paper. (I'm not even a Wilson fan but I think their newer stuff is sounding better for it.) The margins on mass market products are also much fatter in order to share enough of the pie with all the people involved - distributors, dealers, marketing and advertising agencies, etc. etc...

Just my $.02 but I'll take a finely crafted 2-way using off-the-shelf Dynaudio or Scanspeak drivers and a very simple but carefully-tuned crossover over some of the needlessly complicated mass-market designs any day.