First off, nice moniker!
Regarding speakers, Triangle Titus XS are perfect for nearfield and low to moderate volume listening in tight quarters. I've had mine for years and can't part with them.
I've owned Maggies as well and the little Triangles allowed me to part with them with a sound upgrade for less and few speaker placement issues.
Maggies are tempting, but probably not in a small cramped room and on your budget.Start with a NAD amp or receiver(50 wpc), and PSB speakers (Alpha B-1's). If you buy used, or on a closeout from Audio Adviser you night stay on budget with enough left over for the PSB sub. Scrimp on speaker wires/cables(Radio Shack house brand)and upgrade these later. A Cambridge Audio DAC Magic will make you go over budget, so might be best to think of that, or other DAC, as your next purchase.I just bought a HRT Music Streamer for my daughter ($99 from Music Direct). You can have a very high quality system for under $1,000.
I'm running the A5's at work and to be honest - I cant get them to sound all that pleasing to me. I switched to the A2's to save space.
How about a hybrid tubed integrated? (Jolida 1501RC) seems like it might be a good fit for the style of music you listen to. Plenty of power ...
I have done well with Dynaudio Audience 42's and Paradigm Studio 20's. I am running Proacs now but thats a little out of your price range.
Thank you for your inputs! Do keep them coming =)
Horseface, is the A5 really that bad? I had an extremely brief listen to them at one of the big box stores, and wasn't impressed as well. But the environment was really noisy and the music being played was something I'm not familiar with.
I've seen quite a number of people pair the Jolida 1501RC with their Maggies. I would love to get some of the tube sound and the Jolida seems to be a very nice option.
I'd have to agree with you Drdennis, I think the Maggies would be a real headache given the space I'm looking at.
Mapman, thanks for the compliment! Does the Triangle Titus XS really beat the Maggies where SQ is concerned? The Triangles do look very tempting, especially given the affordable price.
Ok so far based on your recommendations I will be looking into Triangle Titus XS, PSB Alpha B1, Dynaudio Audience 42 and Paradigm Studio 20.
What about the Linkwitz Pluto? I must say I'm very taken in with the omnipole design and the unique aesthetics. Bang for buck factor would be very high if I can DIY this thing.
Do keep your inputs coming in!
Oh yes, I've been reading about the Bowers & Wilkins 685 as well. Many online reviews tout them as the best bookshelves for under a 1000, especially for Classical, Jazz and Acoustic. That sounds like what I want! How does the 685 compare for near-field/small space listening?
"Does the Triangle Titus XS really beat the Maggies where SQ is concerned? "
In my case they did for me. They have speed and transparency and bested my Maggies, which were middle 80's vintage mg1cs.
I've also heard mmgs recently at a local dealer running of some good tube amplification and I would not switch from my Triangles running of a 20 watt vintage Yamaha receiver based on what I heard.
Until a series of way more expensive upgrades to my main system over the last few years, teh Triangles driven off a 80 watt/ch tandberg tr2080 was my best sounding reference standard.
You may or may not elect to add a sub later in that they do not do much below 50hz or so, but what they do they do extremely well!
Audio Refinement Complete or Exposure integrateds with Proac Tablette 50 or other small monitor model.
I use a pair of Mackie HR824MK2's in my bedroom, occasionally for recording w/ my iMac and FirePod, and once in a while move it to the family room for gaming. They do not need a subwoofer, even though I sometimes incorporate my Sunfire sub; they excel in nearfield applications, but even at distance, they sound incredible. They are slightly above your budget, but probably within if acquired pre-owned or demo/sale. I have also used three of them for HT; as surrounds & center, with very good results. I'm just not into HT all that much anymore.
One more good thing about the Triangles is they are 89db or so efficient which means they are easy to drive with most any amp. They are also pretty tube friendly even from what I have read and I would like to try them with a tube amp someday.
Maggies on the other hand generally require a fairly beefy and likely also correspondingly more expensive amp to sound their best.
Thanks again for your replies Mapman! Sounds like I really need to move the Triangles to the top of my audition list. Sensitive speakers are definitely god-sent with a sparse budget. I'm actually thinking of spending most of my budget on speakers, then using some spare change to purchase a vintage receiver to tide me over till I get more funds for a proper pre+power/integrated amp. Tubes are very nice, but I've heard that the good ones cost a fair bit more than decent solid states.
Celtic66 the Proac brand seems very tempting. A friend from another forum actually suggested building a clone of one of their models to get the best bang for the buck. Will check it out!
Ericjcabrera, wow active studio monitors used at home for hifi! That was what I was thinking about initally, but am a little concerned about studio monitors being too revealing. How do they compare to your regular hi-fi speakers for serious listening (stereo, music)? I've also heard great things about the Dynaudio BM 5A, though at a 1000 bucks their at the very, very top end of my budget =(
Talking about studio monitors, given that they excel in near-field applications, how many of you use them for hi-fi listening?
Wow, there are just so many models and makes, it gets really overwhelming!
Thanks once again everyone for your comments, inputs and advice. As a noob I really appreciate it!
I sense we have very similar musical tastes ... hence the moniker "straight ahead". At any rate, several months ago I was looking for near-field speakers and versatile electronics for my office. The solution: Audioengine A5's with Maverick Audio Tube Magic D1 ($200 USD) - a combination DAC, preamp, and headphone amp. Plus it's got USB connectivity, and has line-in to connect iPod. I changed the tube to a GE 5-star 5670 and it sounds great. The Maverick is available direct from China and I feel it competes quite well with the Paradisea MHDT (which I owned and sold last year). The only other upgrades were Volex power cord and Kimber USB cable.
I didn't experience any difficulty with getting the A5's to sound right ... maybe that's because they're sitting on my desk. All I know is, they disappear and there is a nice sound stage right in front of me. With the USB hooked up to the PC, one can listen to iTunes or Pandora. IMHO it's a great set-up with a very high value to cost ratio.
Correction ... I'm running A2's at the office (should have checked website first). Audioengine's wireless stuff works great too. Also using the AP4's (passive) in my bedroom system at home, with Outlaw LFM-2 small sub. Picked up a nice tube integrated from Tubestein (eBay) to create a budget system that rivals my main rig (OK, that's a bit of a stretch, but it does sound really nice). Other high quality monitors in the $300/pair range: Paradigm Atoms and Ascend Acoustic CBM-170's. The point is, you should be able to put together a very nice sounding, musical system within your budget.
One last thing ... Audioengine is very good with audition allowance. Unlike experiences with some other companies, it's real easy. You get a full 30 days to check them out. If you don't like the speakers, send 'em back and you get a refund right away with no questions or hassles.
Here are a couple of things to look at that are musical for small spaces and should be under $1k. These are based on used prices combined.
ERA 5 or 4 monitor
JohnBlue JB3 monitor *
You can always add a small sub later like a Glow Audio Sub One or similar.
Audio Analogue Crescendo
Audio Refinement Complete
Virtue Audio Sensation or mdl.two
Should state preference for sound. Do you want tubes or SS sound?
Strateahead yessiree I believe we do share similar tastes in music! You've got some encouraging words for the A2. The A5 should be better then, I hope. The 30 day return policy is excellent as well. This, along with the low price, makes the A5 a very attractive option.
The Maverick D1 is something I've considered getting for a while. They seemed to have a good synergy with the Senn HD600 and AKG K701, so I could use it for headphone listening as well. And I believe the Tubes are for the pre-amp function so I can get the chance to have some of the tube sound for my speakers at a low cost.
The Audioengine A5 looks very very promising! The reviews online have held these speakers in high praise. Then again most of these reviewers are not exactly audiophiles so their exposure to good speakers might be a little limited. Hence my initial apprehension with taking this route.
By the way Strateahead, just out of curiosity, since we share similar preferences in music, what's your main setup like?
Thanks for the line-up Crad! I see the Triangles keep coming here, in this thread and in my searches as well. Great stuff! I've also seen the JohnBlue recommended quite a bit for near-field listening. Interesting option that one.
If speakers bewilder me, the electronics just confound me. Thanks for listing some nice electronics Crad. I'll take a look at them.
Muchas gracias everyone!
I like the NHT M00 nearfield powered speakers.
I use MMGs nearfield in a small room. They pretty much have to be nearfield there to get away from the walls. Tweeter panels out, resitor in to tame the highs - not bad. They do sound better (even at low volumes) with a powerful amp.
Magneplanar MMG's - how much power do I really need?
What will you be using for amplification?
If you like vintage speakers, the follwing are pretty good on jazz:Spendor BC-1, SP-1, KEF 103.2, Epos ES-11,Celestion SL6si.
I would definitely get a USB DAC if the computer is your source.
For a nearfield desk setup, I can recommend Silverline Minuets. I had them in bookshelves in my office, and they sounded great. I just set them up on my desk instead, and they're fantastic. Read the reviews. In my experience, they're spot on: smooth and clear on top, go lower than seems possible, and sound big. And they actually fit on a desk.
I'm using a Rega Brio (original, half-width model, 30 wpc), and it's more than enough for the Minuets. It's a great little amp: not the last word in resolution, but it makes music. Both the Minuets and a newer Brio go for around $350 used, which would bring you in well under $1K.
Modest set-up for vinyl is Denon TT with AT 150MLX cartridge; digital front end Modwright Oppo BDP-83 to Denon 3805 pre-pro. Front 2-channels run through a custom built Audio Horizon tube buffer / phono preamp combo. It's a 4-tube configuration (2 for the L/R and 2 for the phono pre) that Joseph Chow built for me ... it runs between pre-pro and Channel Island D200 monoblocks. Speakers are Mobile Fidelity OML-2 ... little known studio monitors and have been discontinued. I have been very happy with these speakers. Also use Hsu VTF-2 sub.
I've had a wonderful experience with the Rega R1 as nearfield desk monitors. You can them pick up for under $400 here on the 'gon pretty often. Tremendous bang-for-the-buck, great with tubes, fantastic at low listening levels. Check the many reviews on the web. Have fun!
I would also recommend the audioengine A5s. One of the things that sold me on it is its ease of use and flexibility. Sure you're in a dorm now, but later on in life you may use then wirelessly to say place music for your friends when you are hosting a BBQ, or maybe if you live with a girlfriend she will not approve of anything more than a pair of small speakers that she can plug her ipod into. They can also be used passively with a receiver, etc. I think inevitably we all get bitten by the upgrade bug, and the flexibility of this speaker for me is what has kept it in my arsenal. Lastly IMHO is that if the law of diminishing returns applies to audio equipment, and in this instance speakers, then returns are even less evident on smaller speakers. Just some practical considerations....
I would also look for active speakers like paradigm studio 20's and there are others as well.
For passive take a look at ushers,totem and silverline.
Ericjcabrera, wow active studio monitors used at home for hifi! That was what I was thinking about initally, but am a little concerned about studio monitors being too revealing. How do they compare to your regular hi-fi speakers for serious listening (stereo, music)?
They serve very well in real world home hifi, since they are also designed for that purpose, being THX pm3 certified. Revealing, yes, but very musically satisfying, given their limitations; that is, in the respective environments that I have placed them in.
They cannot, however, compare all that much to my 2 channel rig that resides in a much larger environment. But of course I expect as much, rightly so, since the speaks are nearly ten times more at retail. My serious/critical listening is reserved for that rig!
You'll probably not hear this recommendation anywhere else as they are still, as of yet, an undiscovered gem but for a few of us...but the Digital Phase AP-.7 is a killer satellite with an incredible frequency response of 35hz-20K + or - 1.5db and sounds incredible. I have owned their larger AP-4s in the past and currently own the AP-2s (floorstanders) and they are simply outstanding, completely embarrassing much more expensive offerings. The AP-.7s list for $1195 at their site but they usually sell them for half of that. They would be killer I suspect in a small system but giving you much more of a full range sound than most satellites. Best of luck to you in your search...
Wow! Thanks a bunch guys! I have some serious auditioning time ahead of me. Once I clear my internship interviews this week, I'll be heading down to some stores to try and sample as many of these speakers as possible. Right now though the Audioengine A5 paired with a modest DAC+/-modest preamp sounds like a good idea for the low cash outlay and flexibility.
Also read some great stuff about the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1. A friend had the older series which I listened to some years ago out of a budget pre and power amp combo, don't remember which brand but I was quite impressed. Any word on how these speakers stack up to the ones recommended above.
I've also been reading some great things about the Triangle Titus XS.
And strateahead thanks for including your setup. A bit too high-end for me at the present time, but it sounds like it'll knock my socks off! =)
If you go with active speakers, you might want to take a look at the Matrix Mini-i DAC. I don't have one, but have been reading good things about it. For example, here: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?rdgtl&1272311461
Ascend Acoustics do very well for near field listening.
A little late to this party, but you could do worse than a pair of NHT M00 active monitors (there were a couple of pairs up for sale here w/in last few weeks for under $300.00. I would add a Music Streamer+ USB DAC which can now be had for under $200 used, which would provide the analog output directly to the M00s. They have a switch for near or midfield listening. I use a pair just this way, with an NHT Passive volume control which would cost you $50. then when you are feeling richer, add the NHT S20 sub that is designed to go w M00s and for under $1k you will have a very accurate system that images remarkably will even w a computer monitor in between. Oh, I would add some Aurelex dampening pads under the monitors, which are tapered so you can "aim" the monitors up or down which usually is necessary w desktop rig. My big rig is more than 20X as expensive and I am continually amazed at how good my computer system sounds.
You can pick up a pair of active Quad L12 used for well under your budget. A friend had the in pretty much the same circumstances you'll have them in. They performed very well.
No matter what you buy, try and get a good set of stands if at all possible. I knew they were important, but didn't realize how mportant until my friend moved his speakers from the desk to a pair of stands.
If you absoutely can't do stands, I saw something on Music Direct's website that isolated speakers from a bookshelf. Looks promising, and I think they can be returned within 30 days if they aren't.
Hi ladies and gents!
It's been a while since I've posted a reply as I've been busy with my internship. Haven't been able to locate a Triangle dealership here in Singapore, so its been impossible to audition the Titus much less find a used pair around here.
I will be heading down to a few dealers tomorrow to check out the Audioengine A5, Mackie HR824 and Dynaudio BM5A. These are the only speakers I've found dealers for.
I will post an update once I get to listen to them and hopefully more of the speakers you guys recommended above.
But I'm just wondering, given my budget, regardless of buying used or retail, should I stick with active or passive speakers? I was thinking that active speakers might give me a better bang for buck, but I'm not quite sure. I've read some threads online, but mostly on forums like gearslutz which is geared at the pro-audio community. Event then the conclusions drawn are inconclusive.
I second ascend acoustic. Been using sierra, use it as reference everytime a new pair of spks comes along. A used Sierra, or if you dun mind getting a preamp and a sub, a 340SE, they are the best bang for buck.
Took some time out to compile the recommendations that have come in so far to aid my auditioning. Here goes:
Triangle Titus XS
PSB Alpha B1
Dynaudio Audience 42
Paradigm Studio 20
Proac Tablette 50
Digital Phase AP-.7
Ascend Acoustics Sierra/340SE
Vintage: Spendor BC-1,SP-1, KEF 103.2, Epos ES-11, Celestion SL6i
+ Based on some Googling:
Wharfedale Diamond 10.1
Bowers & Wilkins 685
NAD amp/receiver (50wpc)
Audio Refinement Complete/Exposure/Crescendo Integrated
Virtue Audio Sensation or mdl.two
Quad L12 active
This is a super long list of alternatives. Not sure if I would be able to audition all of them but I'll definitely try.
Anyone else would like to 2nd or 3rd the recommendations above. Would help me prioritize my search a little. So far the models that have been 2nd'd by others include:
+ the Mackie HR824 (another friend had good things to say about them)
I'd probably start my auditions with these and then move to others on the list. Wow buying speakers really is a bunch of work. Can't quite audition several models at the same store unlike headphones.
Alright then, in the meantime please do chime in if you feel I should take any option out of the list on top or add to them or move a certain model into the top spot.
While active can be a good bang for the buck but at the same time most in your price range will be low end active models, not the nice upper end models we hear great things about although the Quad 11 could work nicely if you can find them used, in order to fit within your budget. Most active models are designed for pro sound which strives to be very accurate and possibly less musical on old recordings, which can be quite fatiguing especially if your laying back and relaxing to old Miles (trumpet) & Coltrane (sax) recordings.
I don't think I would last very long in the room with a pair of M-Audio active monitors playing "Love Supreme" from a digital source; I maybe wrong.
Suggestion; Please take to your auditions some of your old favorite recordings. Have a long listen, more than just five minute sit downs. Relax and Listen to the music.
Remember, you won't need big monitors for your small sized (98sq.ft.) room.
Managed to audition a few speakers today.
First: Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 paired with the Onkyo A-5VL Integrated Amplifier with built in DAC connected via Toslink to my Macbook Pro with Lossless files.
The sound put out by these was pretty nice. Nothing special really. From memory these were better than the Audioengine A5 that I tried at a friend's place especially where imaging is concerned.
However during complex passages, like tracks on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, the sound started breaking up a little. It was as if the sound was a building with its foundations gone and the entire structure wobbling. (That's the best way I can describe it right now).
Moving closer, from being about 6-7 feet away to 3-4 feet the imaging lost its coherency and started sounding like it came from 2 distinct points. Also at low volumes, the sound was off balance i.e. LF sounds were more pronounced than the mids and the highs.
Next I tried the Audioengine A5 and A2. The A2 was really small sounding and unimpressive. Of course given the price I don't think its a fair comparison. Even then, up close in a desktop orientation I don't see myself liking these speakers as the LF was severely lacking. The A5 was of course a lot better. It sounded a little worse in its stock configuration compared to my friend's A5 setup (he added isolation pads and a better power cord). But coming from the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1, imaging and separation was sub par.
Then I tried the Aktimate Mini active speakers. I was quite blown away. Imaging was absolutely wonderful. Very coherent. It was like a nice wall of sound, very natural without any suggestion that music was being put out by 2 speakers. From the lows all the way to the highs, the sound was very well balanced to my ears. The dealer mentioned how these speakers have gained a giant-killer reputation. The price is also just a bit more than the A5.
Well for now the Aktimate Mini remains the top choice. I do have a month to go before I move in so I definitely plan to audition the speakers in the list above.
If you're looking for actives, I would go with Dynaudio or Mackie. Mackie is more on the warm side, Dynaudio is more neutral. Both are amazing.
Tannoy PBM 6.5 with Limpet amp bolted right on the back of the speaker. Got a pair on e-bay for $230 USD and replaced the tweeters for $75 USD and 5 minutes of my time. My big system is B&W 801 matrix. The Tannoys don't play as loud or low but in near-field use they have that spooky-midrange thing in spades. I rum 'em with I-tunes and a Tascam interface that helps me record as well. Fabulous and dirt-cheap!
I have owned the B&W 685 but traded up. They are very good speakers but I don't think they would perform well in the near field.
The A5 sounds more like what you may want or the Era Design 5.
I was totally blown away Adam a7 actives. Much clearer, better imaging, everything better to my ear than any I heard by Dynaudio or Mackie, several models of which I compared them to back-to-back for several hours with a very wide range of music. They are at the upper range of your budget, but still under $1000. Please do yourself a favor and look them up in Google, then I'd say take a listen before buying anything.
>I've also heard many great things about the Linkwitz Pluto. And since its available as a DIY I could save some bucks (though I have no experience whatsoever, so its a bit daunting).
Apart from maximum output level (a 16cm mid-bass lacks the displacement for bass at realistic listening levels) the Plutos are about as good as you can do in a cone + dome 2-way and they work better at short listening distances than anything except a coaxial.
You want to join the Orion/Pluto users group and post to The Official Seeking PLUTO Auditions thread
Your brain determines timbre by taking the direct sound and mixing in other sounds that it identifies reflections.
Conventional 2-way speakers don't sound natural because the mid-bass has narrowing dispersion towards the top of its range while the tweeter has uniform output in all directions (directed only by the front baffle) so there's more high frequency energy in the reflections off the ceiling, floor, and side-walls. Better designers compensate for this with a notch filter although the results are imperfect compared to speakers that avoid the problem through more uniform off-axis response.
Similar but less noticeable problems exist at lower frequencies where wave lengths get long compared to the speaker baffle dimensions and radiation moves from hemispherical to spherical. A foot wide speaker has lost half its on-axis energy by 376 Hz and a smaller 8" mini-monitor by 565 Hz. Some of the sound wrapping around bounces off the front wall and adds back incoherently; competent designers make a guess about that and cut the high frequency output to match the results.
You also have problems with dome tweeters illuminating the baffle edges which produce diffraction, internal resonances and reflections which come back through the thin cone, and panel resonances because affordable speakers aren't braced well enough to push them out of the mid-range pass-band.
Pluto avoids all that. Both mid-bass and mid-tweeter are essentially omnidirectional around their 1 KHz cross-over point so the reflections match the direct sound. The tweeter and its baffle are about the same size so its directivity limits baffle diffraction as the baffle moves it towards half-space operation. The Pluto enclosures are damped transmission lines, with the mid-bass absorbing 99% (40dB return loss) of the energy coming off the back of its driver. A cylinder has no bending stress on it like a flat panel, so the enclosures are relatively inert.
The down-sides are that Pluto looks like the plumbing parts its made out of. Maximum SPL is limited by the small mid-bass; although to get around that you need to give up on polar response (making a speaker sound less natural) or increase your budget to accommodate a 3-way (Pluto+).
(I own a pair of Pluto+ in my bedroom system).
If you are considering DIY, you might consider North Creek. George Short designs for small rooms and near wall placement. With George's associate Lee Taylor making the boxes, it's a pretty simple DIY, and you could get something well-suited to your space for well under a grand. (northcreekmusic.com)
I have just purchased a pair of Dynaudio BM5As at a local Guitar Center. Since the MkII version has just come out I picked these up for $600, which I think is a very good deal. There may be other stores that are also closing out the MkI model. I have several Dynaudio speakers, so I clearly like their sound. My most significant other immediately commented on their clarity and overall sound. That's the first time she's made a comment about any speaker, so...
Tannoy dual concentrics work really well nearfield.
dual concentric drivers (a highly approximated point source) are a natural solution for nearfield listening I would think.
Doesn't KEf have some models that use this approach also? I've always thought this to be a very practical design for application in tight quarters.
I'm not personally sold on the B&W 685s. I've listened to them several times at the local shop and they just don't compare to my MAs in any way. I'm not sure about what speakers are best for nearfield but due to my room constraints (12'10" X 12'8") and what speakers I have auditioned in that context and given their distance to my ears when sitting in my "spot" is 8'11", I can say the Monitor Audio RX1 ($650 new) or older RS1 (~$400 used) might be right up your alley. They are a tad bright with a solid state amp but if you run with the Jolida 1501RC, the tube pre-amp stage will help roll-off that brightness. You can even swap tubes in the future and add even a little more warmth to them. Given your music tastes I'm sure you'd be all about that.
The Jolida is a great amp too. I had the opportunity very recently to compare it to my Bada DC-222 and while they both had their flavor they were quite level with eachother in performance and sound. Though you can get the Jolida with a subwoofer output, where as the Bada is strictly a 2-channel setup and one record-out. The Jolida would add versatility as your funds increase.
There is an enormous wealth of knowledge on this site. Just pick a thread and run through every post until you get a warm and fuzzy and move to the next. You will learn so much and be able to make informed choices.
Good luck with your search. Remember, above all its your ears. Go with what sounds good to you. Not what they're trying to sell you.
You might want to check out this review on some Swans that were described as particularly excelling in the nearfield:
As for DACs, I highly recommend the HRT Streamer USB DACs, though I'd recommend stepping up to the II rather than the original Streamer or Streamer+ models. The II, II+ and pro are all async USB. When I asked HRT about the original + versus the II, they said go with the II. An incredible deal for $150. Macintosh internal DACs and analog outs are junk.
Good luck in your search.
I just set up a pair of Silverline Minuets on my desk and they do really well for near field listening. They have a very big sound for being so small. I'm currently driving them with a Griffin Powerwave. The Powerwave is a class-T amp and only puts out 10 watts. I can tell the Minuets are a little underpowered at louder volumes. However at medium to low volumes they sound really good. The Powerwave also doubles as a USB dac so I have very little clutter associated.
I owned a pair of Swan M200 a few years ago and I cannot really recommend them. They look nicer than they sound. I found them to be rather muffled like a blanket was hanging over them. I was giving them a pretty good source to playback at the time-- Jolida JD100.
I owned a pair of Swan M200 a few years ago and I cannot really recommend them. They look nicer than they sound. I found them to be rather muffled like a blanket was hanging over them. I was giving them a pretty good source to playback at the time-- Jolida JD100.
I just set up a pair of Canadian Kantos i pair 5 active speakers tonight in my small office room. Look rather like the Audioengine 5's, but lovely black gloss finish on them. Right out of the box they have a great big sound....I used to have my Bose Soundock in there - wow what a difference! These are designed to work with an ipod and have a dock on top of the left speaker. They also have some aux outputs and can be used with an airport express. Under $400.
Look for a pair of Spica T-50's on here. Great midrange with bass response down to 30hz in a small speaker and won't bust the bank. Another thing to look at would be a set of JBL monitor's. These are the standard for recording engineers in the studio who are mixing the music you are listening to.
I struggled quite a bit with my nearfield system thinking the speakers were the weak link (Krix Equinox book shelves driven by Rotel pre/power with Mac Pro as the source). The imaging was bad, and they seemed to get overwhelmed easily by "denser" music. When I added an outboard DAC (Little Dot DAC I) all the flaws I attributed to the speakers disappeared. Imaging is now fabulous, and the music is so much tighter and more focused. I really didn't think the DAC would make that much of a difference, but it is huge. And the price for the DAC I got is comparatively low. FWIW, I'm very happy with the Equinox speakers in this setup. Here is my full write up: