Best small, desktop speakers, $500 or under (new or used)

What small, nearfield (3 feet) desktop speakers do you use or like?
I'm looking to fit out my desk with something good but not expensive.
Music tastes are varied and I don't care about deep bass. I'd rather have good mids, highs.
Spending is capped at $500 max. Open to used, new. Would power these with Adcom separates, 60wpc.
Elac? Ascend? KEF? What would you advise?

If you can find a set of Radio Shack Minimus 7s, they work great for this sort of thing. There are some nice mods you can do them to wake them up. The early ones are apparently the ones to look out for. If sunbleached the woofer will be white instead of black.
Infinity Infinitesimals. The first two versions.. Aluminum/Mag cast speaker with hardwood cap and pedestal. 200-1000.00 Great resale, They have it all for a small bookshelf or desktop.. They play down to 60 or so. and with true ribbons, you’ll get your mids and highs, with a bonus of good bass. Nice speaking point too. True Reference Standard speakers of that era, and this one too for that matter.

One thing they have DVC Watsons. I've never had a bad one, BUT that is a part that can be hard to come by,
everything else, there are parts for NOS or used..  There are kits and repair services for the Watsons, still,
and will be for a while..Be aware though.. I have two pairs.. Wonderful speakers..

Great suggestions. Thank you both!
"Radio Shack = Realistic" I think. If not, please correct.
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Is size of concern?  Where will you place them?  Whats your source going to be?
Is size of concern?
* Yes. It will be 3 feet away in a small room. Otherwise, the desk is reasonably big.
* Where will you place them? 
* On either side of double 24 inch monitors
Whats your source going to be?
* Computer audio
Tannoy is powered. Not a problem but since I have power, is there another Tannoy you like that is passive?
Hilde45, at 3 feet I’d look for concentric designs.  Something with the tweeter in the middle of the bass driver.  The Tannoys are a good suggestion but at $700 are out of your budget.  
I think you have the Adcom 535 correct?  I’ve owned the 535, 545, and 555.  The 535 is the sweetest, least harsh sounding of them all!  Mine ended up in the trash can because I accidentally touch the speaker wire leads together while the amp was on.  Be careful and never do that as there is no built in protection!

So, with that all in mind, a pair of Kef 100’s might work well being that they are front ported and ghat the driver sits high up in the cabinet so on a desk they’d be close to ear level.  You can find them used in the $250 range + $50 shipping.  Another option would be the Kef X300A for $399 + $50 shipping.  Theres a white pair for sale here on the Gon right now.  Nice thing about the X300A Is that they are active and have an onboard dac so the set-up would have a nice clean look on your desk!
I picked up new Kef Q150s last month when they were on sale half price for $300.  Some dealers may still have some at that price. 
They are very good. I rotate three sets of bookshelves at my office for variety. $2.2k msrp Spendor SA1’s, $600 msrp Kefs, and $300 msrp NHTs.   
The Spendors are the best, but not that much better than the Kefs, which themselves are much better than the NHTs. I’d say the Kef’s give me 95+ percent of what the Spendors do at 28% of the cost (14% of cost if you can still get them half off). 
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These work really well for desks as well.  They decouple and isolate your speakers from the desk and tighten up image focus and bass response.  You can angle them or raise them also, whichever you prefer 😀
Wow, those Clairaudients look amazing. Thanks to others for the suggestions. A lot to search out, but that's what evenings are for!

Anyone have an opinion on these:
www.CBM-170 SE pair (B-STOCK) $248.00
No idea if they’re the best but I had a pair of Audio Engine A2 that I liked, What Hi-Fi gave 4 🌟. They make larger sizes, passive or active. And wireless or not. 
For small footprint, I got a set of Q Acoustics Concept 20 and supported on IsoAccoustic stand (they do fit). Good compromise/balance of price, quality, and small footprint.

Not sure if they’re the best, but they sound good to me in office setting (generally lower volume). With volume turned up after hours the small size is a limitation (12’x12’ office driven with about 45wpc Micromega MyAmp) but still maintain good sound quality.

I'll also recommend buying used, best bang for the buck, generally 95% reliable/safe in my experience, but takes a lot of searching and time.

Is this the speaker you were trying to post a link for?

Never heard them but the measurements on them are really good for a small speaker. 
Someone mentioned the RS minimus 7. Those are good, but there is a real hidden gem in the RS line up called the Optimus Pro LX-4. This is a ported Small bookshelf  speaker with a 4” Kevlar woofer and a lineaum tweeter. The imaging on these speakers is great, but if you spend about $20 to mod them, you will be amazed at how good these speakers sound. Considering that these routinely sell on EBay for $50 or less per pair, they may just be the audio bargain of the century. I’m not saying they’ll definitely outdo Every pair of $500 speakers out there, but there are plenty of speakers in that price range that these will hold their own against. I have a pair of these and have used them as near field and they excel at it. Take a chance on these. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 
Read this:

It has the mod instructions in the article too. 
I have some cherry linn tukans in excellent shape from a bedroom system. They do very well up against the wall. Contact me if interested - $435 shipped with insurance. 
Either of these are a steal:

I have a pair of the 4s on my desktop powered by a mini EL84 tube amp.

I also have a pair of the Swans powered monitors that are built like a tank in the closet that need a new home.

Best of luck.

Enjoy the music.

Thank you for the "thumbs up" on the Minimus 7's!!!

I've been on the lookout for a decent pair to use on my desk.

From what I understand, upgrading the crossover makes a marked difference to their sound quality?

The Audio Engine A2 in red are super cute. The Silverlines are like the Clairaudient — if I can find cheap, wow — what a deal. Otherwise, way too much. The Q acoustics look neat, new to me. The Tukans look very tempting too. Rear ported, so I'd hope they don't need too much distance from the wall.

Yes, dJones — that Ascend's the one. Thanks for correcting the link!

The Optimus Pro LX-4 looks interesting too. I'll look at how to mod them. That tweak approach can really take one a lot further, I read.

Had not heard of ERA's before. Look interesting.

Sony bluetooth? Sound good?

Thanks for the many suggestions. I'm halfway tempted to ditch my Adcom stuff and go minimal somehow.

Oh, and the LS50s -- seem to big for a desktop based on the photos I've seen...
The Audioengine A2+ is easily within your budget. It has been favorably assessed by Stereophile; it's powered; it's available in wireless or wired configurations (I use the wired version with an Audioquest DragonFly Red and Jitterbug interposed between an iPhone 11 and the speakers); and...they sound quite nice for the price! In fact, I bought a "refurbished" set from Audiengine for ~$200 and they appeared "as new" and were fully warrantied by the company. For your purposes, they might work perfectly!
Good evening,

Last year at the Axpona show I heard a small teriffic sounding powered speaker with an unusual name Vanatoo.

The folks listening in the demo room at Axpona were amazed at the big sound from those tiny speakers.

I read many of the reviews and online demos and the feedback was very favorable. 

Recently I did purchase the smaller Vanatoo model Transparent Zero at $359 and have been very impressed.

The internal amplifiers make a huge difference.

Had the Vanatoos set up on a solid oak dining room table and listening to music from a laptop,  and was amazed to feel the bass through the oak table as tiny speakers often lack bass.

Just another option to consider!

The vanatoo’s punch way above their weight, er, size.  Really dynamic for their size.

I was going to mention the Audioengine A2+ as well.  I have the the B2 which is 2 A2+ smashed together into one unit.  I also use an audioquest red dragonfly and jitterbug to go wired.  Def a noticeable difference between that and bluetooth.

The red is sexy for sure!

TMR has the bigger brotherIn white, the A5+ for $310...

I have a pair of powered studio speakers on my desktop next to the monitor.

Adam Audio A5x
These were highly recommended by my son. He is a professional musician who uses these for mixing...and sheer enjoyment. I have not been disappointed! Used they are in your price range, but then you have a spare amp.
Thanks, Kacomess. I know I was very pleasantly surprised by the audioengine DAC I got. Good company. I’ll look into the Vanatoo, too. I like the name. I’ll look at the A5, b_limo!

I also noticed some Totem Dreamcatchers. I like Totems.

The one hesitation I have with powered speakers is that I like all the $$ to go into the speaker itself, not the connections. I do have some reasonably good power and that inclines me to have a speaker that is passive. But maybe that's outmoded thinking for this application.
This thread ties in with my diminishing returns thread... it just goes to show how awesome of a set-up you can get for very little $ and how many choices are out there.
My buddy has the Adam T5v and they are awesome! His $800 setup (acoustic panels, isoacoustics, dac) sounds waay too close to my $4000 set up

You might as well add emotiva B1+, wharfedale 225 and Elac Debut 2.0 b6.2 as well.

Theres going to be a difference between something like the adam A5x and the Audioengines.  The Adams will rock the house, the Audioengines, especially the A2+ really aren’t 

I think you’d be pretty surprised with something like the Adams.  They probably sound better than your adcom gear with some dreamcatchers.  I love totems too, bu the way.  There is a pair of rainmakers for $400 somewhere I saw.

Your adcom gear paired with elacs, or the wharfedales in nearfield will sound so good you might feel a little bad about your main rig.
Another thing too, if you buy a pair of Adam A5x’s used at $500 and sell your adcom gear for $250, you’re only in it for $250. Powered monitors are going to clean up the look at volume controls easily accessible on the speakers might be a plus over the adcoms.

Some swans or edifiers might be a consideration as well but 
Adams are definitely the real deal though.  You need to know that with these powered speakers you are getting 4 amps, so think of it as dual mono blocks.  Each driver has its own amplifier, picked out but they speaker designer to perfectly pair with the speaker that they designed.  Also, they don’t have conventional crossovers.  The crossovers are all handled in the digitail domain.
I have the powered Audioengine 2+ in a gorgeous glossy red finish with a cheap powered sub on the floor. All on closeout and total price under $500. They blow me away with any halfway decent recording on YouTube. Or just everyday spoken voice.
Plenty of exotic mini-stuff out there, but with this setup I am in heaven when working on computer, which is half the day.
Note, be sure to buy the optional stands which position the speakers toward your head. Under $30 if I remember right. 
If it's something you need to look at every day, get these. Endlessly beautiful in sight and sound. And damn near free.
So, did you get enough opinions? You are probably more confused than when you started. The reality of the situation you describe really has no good answer. What is the environment - - -? What volume do you expect to play them at. 3' is really "nearfield" so I assume office. And more important, what type of music do you primarily listen to. If you have to play the speakers at moderate to low volumes, there aren't many inexpensive speakers that do that well. I would suggest making a list of the suggestions in this blog, and see if you can find a place or places near to you, to audition as many as possible. For the past 2-3 years the industry has been turned on it's ear by some of the so called, entry level bookshelf speakers by ELAC. Assuming you are not looking for powered speakers such as AUDIOENGINE, the ELAC B 6.2 currently at $244 /pr. is pretty hard to beat. However there are Wharfedale, and Klipsch speakers in that same price range. You just need to listen to them They all sound different. I'd stay away from used. Or, I'd certainly ask "if your speakers are so good, why are you selling them" ? I think you get my drift.
The Elacs and Wharfedales are great; I mentioned them.

I’ve seen them for sale Used so your argument doesn’t hold up
MAudio BX5s while powered, are a great little desktop monitor. Put out a great tight image with impressive low end. Plus, you can add a sub to them if you want. Great bang for the buck for a powered monitor.
Many more good suggestions — thanks!
Wharfdales have a down-firing woofer — that’s helpful to know, because the rear of these speakers need to be about 1-2 feet max from a wall.
Will look at again at M Audio and Audioengine.
@axpert: environment: small office, about 11x14 150 sq ft., 7.5 ft. ceilings; nearfield listening, 2-3 feet, speakers to ears; speaker rear to wall would be 1-2 feet max. Type of music preferred, classical, jazz, but rock too. I.e., varied.
Go listen to a lot? In the time of social distancing? No. I am content to buy a good speaker or find a good value based on reviews or used. This is for listening to music at a desk. I can’t get wrapped up in comparisons, though trying 2 pairs could be fine. I can learn to like a lot of things for office listening.
Why do people sell speakers? Many reasons. Doesn’t worry me. Speakers are a very stable technology, so this seems a very low-risk purchase.

Let me add a detail that may be helpful. A friend lent me some Paradigms once and the Minis were too big and the Atoms were the right size.
Dimensions here made a difference. Viz.,

H 13.4 x W 8.3 x D 11.4

H 10.6 x W 6.7 x D 8.7

I have to add -- reading the reviews of the AudioEngine and thinking more about some suggestions here to clean up the desk area -- the Audioengines are enticing. I could be persuaded to give that Adcom stuff to my kid...
For office desktop I would go powered speakers to clean up the area, less wires as well. What are you using for a source? Some like these Fluance can connect to your computer with USB.!prettyP...
Get a pair of Google Home Max speakers. They can be paired wirelessly and they sound awesome. You can disable the mic for the Google assistant and can cast music directly or use it as a Roon endpoint. Aux in is available as well.

One thing these have is the ability to tune themselves depending on the environment they are placed. All for about about $400 a pair!

I use a pair of these on my desk everyday and I am constantly reminded of foolish my decision was on getting the LS50W.

You can easily build "the best small speaker I've ever heard" according to one Stereophile reviewer. It uses the SEAS tiny L12RE-XFC co-ax driver.
I built the cabinet recommended by SEAS and put the speaker into it. The speaker itself was $165 or so each. I bought four. I used a sealed cabinet made of counter top material for one pair and the recommended cabinet design for the other pair. Not much difference in sound. The sealed cabinet is very easy to build; use the same outer dimensions as the recommended cabinet. I've used engineered quartz (recommended) and granite (it can crumble in your hands and is NOT air tight) for cabinets.

Madisound sells the speaker and M'sounds own fancy crossover (mount externally). Broken counter top material is cheap and the shop will cut it for you. The cabinet will be acoustically inert. Make the front piece from some nice wood and glue it on with the speaker mounted on it. MDF on the rear, cut to fit flush with the counter top sides and bottom. You're out for less than $600 per pair with nice terminals. A subwoofer never hurts, but they will surprise you running "barefoot."

If you aren’t rocking the office walls down, the A2+ should work just fine. They are tiny little guys so the size may be appealing and the red ones are pretty neat looking. Theyhave a nice tone but are rolled off on the highs. 
The Adam T5V is twice the speaker, but twice the price! You could buy either new and if you don’t like them return them! The adams are much larger.

Adam T5V

Audioengine A2+
2.75” woofer

You’ll want the angles stands for the A2+ and those are around $35 so take that into consideration!

Think of the A2 as a pretty good sounding computer speaker. Like those plasticky altec lansing or cambridge audio computer speakers that you would see pretty much anywhere. Like the ones you see on craigslist for $10. The A2+ competes with those but the A2+ is prettier and has more solid bass and better tone.

The Adam T5V is a speaker that someone would use next to a computer for music production. The Adam T5V is going to have a much more extended low end and and high end and the AMT tweeter is going to offer much more detail. The Adams are real speakers.

I’m not bashing the A2+; I have the B2 which is a pair of A2+’s connected together without the dac. I paid $125 for one from Audioengine and it was refurbished.
If I were to buy the A2+ And the stands that would be $300 ish. Since the Adam T5V is $400 and within your budget, I’d go for the T5V for sure. The T5V will walk all over the A2+ soundwise.
The A2+ has a dac you won’t use, a conventional crossover and a single A/b amp outputting 30watts per channel.

The Adam T5V doesn’t have a dac, it’s crossover is handled via dsp (done in the digital domain) and uses 2 class D amps per speaker For a total of 4 amplifiers outputting 50 watts to the woofer and 20 watts to the AMT tweeter; 70 watts per channel.
The A2 is a cute lifestyle product that sounds decent. The Adam A5V is a decent looking speaker that sounds really good.
You’ve got to weigh which is more important for you in your application! 100% looks with 50% sound or 100% sound with 50% looks 😁
@zdac...  1 post?  I’m lol at a “home max” speaker ever making anyone feel foolish about an LS50w purchase...

I almost fell out my chair I was laughing so hard. Oh man. Thanks for that!  That was a good one 😂