The Oppo players have remote controlled variable volume control. So, the smallest, most simple system is the Oppo connected directly to a pair of power/active monitors. I'm using this setup with a pair of Quad 12L Actives, but they are rear ported and probably too big for her use. There is a smaller Quad 11L Active available too.
The AudioEngine A2 or A5 active speakers, connected directly to the Oppo using the remote controlled variable volume control, might be the least expensive, most simple setup possible.
I did a similar thing for my girlfriend who also has a small apartment and bought her a pair of used Spica TC-50s. They often appear on Audiogon or ebay.
Try the PSB Alpha B1 ($300) or NHT Superzero ($400) or Rega R1 ($450). Work well with any number of receivers or integrated amps.
AV123 has just released a new speaker line, the ELT525, they are $300 pair plus shipping. They come in a gorgeous cherry or rosewood veneer. They can be purchased on line only with a 30 day trial period at www.av123.com.
I am not affiliated with them but am a satisfied customer.
I bought my then girlfriend a pair of Spica TC-50's several years ago. They sound great and she still has them.
If you really want something inexpensive, a pair of Paradigm Atoms should make her very happy:
Try the insignias from best buy. They are $75, I use them in my office, they sound really good.
I'll add a tic to the Spica TC50 votes, and will add to your list the Era Design 4's (great sounding little speakers), and Silverline SR11's. You didn't mention a budget. The Spica's would be the least expensive options, but OTOH have no replacement drivers - should one go bad you'd be limited to repair. Another good choice on the used market would be Soliloquy SAT 5's.
I will place another vote for the Audio Engine 5. They are the perfect size, the sound is absolutely amazing with a sweet midrange and they have a surprising amount of bass from such a small cabinet.
I have a pair of the Soliloquy SAT 5's that Jax2 recommends and they're my favorites of the many small speakers I've tried. I'm using them in a second system with the Onkyo 9555 I recommended in your other post and it's a wonderful combination. The Soliloquys will be hard to find, though maybe not any more so than the Spicas.
A current production speaker that's excellent for $400 retail is the Usher S-520. There's a Stereophile review online. I bought a pair for my daughter with a NAD all-in-one unit and it makes a great, simple setup.
For real budget speakers the Insignias that Goatwuss recommends are pretty amazing and another good option are the Athenas at about $100. I liked the previous generation of those better than some Paradigm Atoms I had.
I can also recommend the AudioEngine. I bought a pair of A2 while I was waiting for my Quad 2805 and while the Quads are much better I was still amazed at both the sound and looks (the finish - I got black - is amazing) of the A2. Not having to use an amp makes things simpler.
As a former Spica TC-50 owner, I will stay away from them unless you plan to use them as furniture (very ugly one) when drivers fail.
Search for a pair of Usher S-520, one of the best sound in sub $500 category. I had them with my TEAC 500 series and they sounded great, better than NHT 1, PSB C2, Acoustic Energy AE1, Hales something, and many others. You get the idea.
Where would she be placing the speakers? On a shelf, on a stand? I think some of the recommendations (including mine) would not be good if she plans to place the speakers on a shelf or inside of a wall unit. You mentioned that her living space is "tiny". Is she going to be forced to place the speakers agains the wall? If so, nearly all rear ported speakers would not be appropriate.
Also, what would she be using to power the speakers? Does she have an existing amp?
never buy a woman audio equipment. its like buying your wife a refrigerator or a skillet. the beginning of the end. only buy women what 'they' want....once this law is broken, she will forever buy 'you' what 'she' wants.
If you don't take Jaybo's excellent advice look at a pair of Usher S-520s. As well as sounding wonderful for the price with plenty of bass, they come in some awesome finishes. I have a pair in a bright yellow. I love the color, so do my three daughters.
Here is a count with asterisks indicating another endorsement!
Quad 11L Active
AudioEngine A2 active *
A5 active *
Spica TC-50s **
PSB Alpha B1 ($300)
NHT Superzero ($400)
Rega R1 ($450).
insignias $75, *
AV123 ELT525 $300
Era Design 4's
Soliloquy SAT 5's *
Usher S-520 $400 ***
Did you ever mention what amp would be driving them? If you don't already own an amp, any of the actives start making even more sense. However, if she has space limitations you really need to decide if rear ported speakers are even appropriate for the space. Most need some breathing room behind them.
My 2 cents.
Quad 11L active (if no amp)
AudioEngine A2 Active (if no amp)
Silverline Minuet (see current Stereophile)
Era Design 4
Get a kit from Madisound or Zalytron. If you are even remotely good w/ a soldering iron, you can assemble a kit (w/ pre-built cabinets, of course) in one evening. Your money goes so much further with kits that it can't be overstated.
If you're not into kits, the smaller B&W speakers are great.
But in the end, Jaybo is right....
Great little system, I use it all the time when I am not using my 'big' system. And it is great sounding for $90.00
(I am a girl... This is the sort of thing that is 'just right' small, cheap, and sounds ok enough that YOU will be able to stand listening to it also.)
Buy a iPod and link it to:
Blue Sky Audio EXO ($200 to 300)
Audioengines 2 or 5.0s
B & W Zeppelin ($700)
Logitech Pure Audio ($100)
All have the female design WOW factor (fewest buttons) and sound incredible (favor all genres).
You owe my a drink.
You have to listen to the Usher S520 before you make your decision. Can't be beat for 400 new and about 300 here. Comes in different colors as well.