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Imaging wise I loved the MErlin TSM-m and the speaker I purchased the Dynaudio 1.3se. the key to both these speakers, leed though with the Merlin, is placement. Moving the speaker foward and back will make a HUGE difference in the sound. You have to really experiment to get it just right but when you do it's worth it!
My vote goes to the little known but incredible Rosinante Dulcineas. A stand-mounted monitor that enjoys the benefits of the proprietary isolation material "Dark Matter" within it's cabinet, while utilizing superb Focal drivers. This speaker is the brainchild of Ric Cummins, inventor and maker of the well respected Argent Room Lenses.
With their dark matter stands, which are included with the speakers, these speakers produce the most captivating soundstage I've ever heard. Imaging is to die for, with great micro and macro detail. Very impressive and enjoyable speakers. They're also easy to drive at 91dB, with a very stable 8 ohm impedence.
Check them out on the Rosinante Website at www.roomlens.com. I'm not an employee of the company, just one of their very satisfied customers. Give Ric a call. He's a great guy and will tell you all you want to know about his products.
B&W has the new Signature 805 that plays off the Nautilus 805 with some improvements. I haven't heard it, but have heard good things. With the exception of the cabinet, crossover, woofer, and tweeter, it is identical to the N805. Okay, maybe not, but they look almost identical, but the Signature has different finish choices.
Suggest you investigate the Spendor S3/5. Read the reviews in the Absolute Sound and enjoythemusic.com. They will only work in a small room, they don't do low bass and they need an SS amp of about 80 or so wpc. But they reproduce a sense of space that few speakers at anywhere near their price can do.
Biro L/1's, which I use on Osiris speaker stands. So far as I know, Van Alstine (www.avahifi.com) is the only dealer who sells the Biro, so they're pretty much a mail order product anyway. (The Biro Technology site is www.birotechnology.com.) They're a two-way with 17 cm woofer. The sound around the crossover point (3000 Hz) is as seamless anything I've heard--maybe that contributes to the good imaging. Of course, the listening room has a big effect on imaging quality. With the right room and speaker placement, there are quite a few loudspeakers that produce nice imaging.
Second the Spendors...few speakers of this size do the "space thing" so right...a little colored...limited bass...but the midrange accuracy is really unrivaled...top Brit speakers such as Proac,Castle,and even the new Quad L series have this in common...unlike alot of monitors...they dont sound thin and bright...for a leaner,analytical,"transparent" type of sound...the out of box imaging on the Triangle Titus and Paradigm 20...both in the $5-600usd range...these do require warmer equipment to sound their best...and if you have tubes...look no further...the revel M20 at roughly 3x the cost is a good option as well...good luck...
You gave no price range ... if cost is a concern then a good pair of used Spica Tc-60s might be just the ticket. About $450 used inc stands.
I expect that you're aware that to image well the speakers must be quite well out into the room, at least 2 feet from the rear wall (that goes for all speakers I have ever heard). Please don't think that I'm trying to patronise you, but I see so many people buy expensive speakers that image really well and then throw all of the money away by pushing them up against the rear wall (usually due to WAF concerns).
Seandtaylor99, thanks for your observations. No offense taken concerning your recommendations about placement. As far as price is concerned I'd like to stay in the range of $2500 new or about $1200 used. The speakers would be set up in nearfield listening conditions and driven by a Pass Aleph 30 for starters. I would change the amp if necessary.I mostly listen to show music, classical, opera, female pop (i. e.- Eva Cassidy, Ella), folk, soft rock...no heavy metal. Thanks to all for suggestions offered so far.
Thanks Beemerrider. I'd have thought in that price range you'd have to consider the AudioPhysic Steps. Not that I have heard them, but I have read glowing testimony to their imaging ability, and they're from the same company as the Virgo. Another speaker that I haven't heard but would be the absolute top of my demo list is the Harbeth Compact 7, which is Harbeths latest incarnation of a BBC monitor design. Have fun shopping for toys ... I think it's a good buyers market in that price range.
A 30 watt amp, 40 into 4 ohms, may not be enough power for some of the speakers mentioned above. The one with which I am most familiar, the Harbeth Compact 7, will sound nice with a low power amp with the kind of music you listen to, but you won't be getting as much out of the speaker as it is capable of delivering. Although it is my favorite speaker, and Seandt's advice is good, as usual, the Compact 7 does very well at imaging and soundstaging, its primary strengths are tonal accuracy and midrange clarity, especially in vocals.
The Compact 7 was actually designed in 1994 (later changes were all cosmetic), and was not derived from a BBC design, except to the extent that the designer's work is informed by the BBC tradition. It replaced the earlier Harbeth Compact, which was also designed by Harbeth md Alan Shaw, for home use. Harbeth did make a BBC LS3/5a and a BBC LS5/12a, and currently offers a range of Monitor speakers that are "drop-in" replacements for BBC monitors, but the Compact 7 isn't one of them.
The Compact 7 is a fairly large box. Most speakers that are considered good for imaging are narrower, like the Audio Physic speakers Seandt also mentions. One Harbeth speaker that is absolutely uncanny in its imaging ability is the HL-P3ES, about the size of a shoebox, made to replace the LS3/5a. I had a pair of the predecessor HL-P3 (no ES), and properly set up, I could almost walk up to one of them without having a centered vocalist or soloist move from the middle. Also exceptional, as is the Compact 7, at producing the illusion of a solid three dimensional performer in your listening room. With the P3's, you would need to add a very good subwoofer, and probably a more powerful amp.