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Get a listen to 1) ProAc 2.5 and 2) AudioPhysic Virgo. New they're in the $4500-5700 range. Used takes them to $3K. I'm a lookin'...you got a pair to sell? Different sound but both excell in presence, detail, and punch. Alex [email protected]
Consider used Martin Logans or Magnepans or Sound Labs. You can probably find a store with either Martins or Maggies to see if you like them - Sound Labs are harder to find but even better. All of these are enclosureless dipoles (except for the Martin hybrids) and have a nonfatiguing naturalness that no enclosured speaker can rival for anywhere near the price.
The Nova's use the Revelator tweeter, so I'd get them, if you've got to pay retail. I have those tweeters for one of my projects. There's a reason they're in all the statement speakers from PBN, Nova, Sonus Faber...The Merlins use the Esotar, but it isn't really better than the Revelator, just more expensive. However, the Esotar dome midrange (I have them also) is entirely better at being a midrange than the tweeter is at being a tweeter, and that's saying a lot!
Check out the Celestion A3 or if you don't like metal domes tweeeters,the Dynaudio Contour (the one down from the 3.3) The JBL SVA-2100 is a good choice if you listen to a lot of heavy metal and rock and roll. They will dynamically outperform the other speakers mentioned easily. These speakers are the closest you can get to the $5,000-$10,000 range. Matter of fact, they probably outperform quite a few speakers in that price range.
The Paragon Radiants are every bit as dynamic as the Contour 1.8 mk2's, and ARE A MUCH BETTER VALUE AT $2850. www.paragonacoustics.com. The Esotec D260 tweeter is nowhere near as good as the D21/2 in the Radiant. There are only 2 dome tweeters better than the D21/2: the Esotar T330D, and the Scanspeak Revelator (as in the Nova line). I don't like metal dome tweeters, although the Accuton in the Avalon Acoustic's line is probably the best metal dome. It still rings...
Ditto on the Hales Revelatipon 3 speakers.All top grade parts ,in the same tradition of 5 figure reference speakers !!!Cardas gold plated connectors and internal wire.Special polypropylene woofer designed for the Rev 3.Top polyprophylene capacitors. A - rated by Stereophile and very good owner reviews at audio review.Read the review at audio revolution. A give away at list price of $2195 and a steal if you can find a rare used pair.The very best value for exceptional sound within $3000.and will hold their own to good 5k speakers.
If your definition of the "3K" range means NEW speakers at retail, then no list should be without the Vandersteen 3A or Vandersteen 3A Signature. With SoundAnchor braces, these two speakers fall within the $2800-$3500 range. If you are looking at the $3K used speaker market, then check out Hales, MartinLogans, Dunlavy, and NHT.
It's not hard to understand why there are so many loudspeaker manufacturer's judging by the responses above. Now the poor guy is really confused as am I. I sure wish I could listen to all listed so I could really know for myself. I recently acquired a pair of Merlin VSM-SE's and I can say they sure are revealing, detailed, dynamic and positively breathtaking on well recorded material. They are going to take some careful system matching so I can get the best out of them. I don't think there is a limit to their capabilities but that may prove to be a double edged sword with these babies. I now know why people unload them, not enough patience to get them to their optimum. I expect that they may be unsurpassed if you are willing to go the distance with them. I have never heard a speaker that surpasses them at their best. They are throughbreds all the way.
NHT 2.9's list for $2500, sell for about $1500 used. Very low base and amazing wide soundstage. Open and detailed sound. Can play very loud. I compared these to PBS stratus golds and the PSB's sounded like they had wet rags hung over the drivers. May be a bit analytical and forward for some ears, don't know what you like in a speaker.