I am not a believer in a sub if you are serious about music vs. a home theatre set-up. I would go with a system with as few crossovers as possible.
The Dynaudio 25, anniversary edition, is one of the best and most moving and articulate small speakers that I have ever heard. It produces the human voice accurately...no sibilants in the female voice. Crisp, clean and taunt bass. It can reproduce the piano with hammers striking strings or the snap of a snare drum with remarkable, visceral presence. Listen to applause in a live concert...it sounds real. Best of all, it renders music in both small and large scale with nuance and emotion. Cost on the Gon: Around $3.3K.
Speakers from any of those brands will work well, though maybe not all models in the line. Some of Harry Pearson's listening rooms are (or once were) ridculously small for the scale of speakers he often evaluated, but apparently he made it work. So can you.
Not sure if these are too big for your room, but the Veracity HT1's by salk sound might be of interest. I've owned a pair for about 1 month...and they keep sounding better.
In my opinion, the dipoles on your list are quite likely to work well. I have customers who have used very large dipoles in rooms smaller than yours and been very happy. You'd need to diffuse the backwave in the interest of good image depth.
Dipole bass doesn't have the impact of bass from a box, but often has better pitch definition and many people think it sounds more natural.
Another type of speaker that works well in a small room is a monopole with a well-controlled radiation pattern to minimize early sidewall reflections. In this category would come horn-based speakers small enough to integrate well at fairly close range, single-driver speakers, and coaxials. You want to minimize early sidewall reflections because those are the ones most detrimental to imaging. Using diffusion at the first sidewall reflection zones helps. Try to avoid using absorption any more than you have to, as particularly in small rooms too much absorption sucks the life out of the sound by killing the reverberant field.
You specifically mentioned "subtle natural sounding bass that's deep and accurate and projects depth." That delicious sense of enormous acoustic space that well-reproduced stereo bass can provide is largely generated by a phase difference between the bass signals arriving at the left and right ears. The phase differential in a recording with true stereo bass is best reproduced by stereo subwoofers located to the extreme left and right of the listening position.
I have avoided making specific suggestions here because many (though not all) of the speakers I'd suggest are ones I peddle. Finding speakers that work with, rather than against, small room acoustics is something I've put a high priority on. Shoot me an e-mail if you'd like some specific suggstions (and don't worry they won't all be stuff I sell).
My friend Clemment Perry, has a room only a little bigger than yours, and he has Dali Megalines with two gigantic outboard suwoofers! He has used very careful room tunning using passive devices and he also uses a TACT room correction system.
There are a number of ways to deal with this problem:
One is too carefully match the bass output and placement of the speakers with the room. A combination of subwoofer and monitors works splendidly, as you can adjust the output level and placement o the sub to give you the smoothest bass response.
Two: is to go digital room correction ala Tact along with the above or any other speakers, and additional room tuning.
Three: Get a Rives designed room with passive bass control.
Clemment's system is amazing and works remarkably well in a sub-optimally sized room, so the proof is in the putting.
I would choose the speaker which works well in the room as well as the sound that you love. To give you some guidance a speaker with many multiple drivers will usually need a lot of space to sound coherent. A Line array like the Dali's works well in such a room because the drivers are coherent across a wide frequency and the radiation pattern is a dipole in the upper octaves which makes such a tall speaker less room dependent than many others.
Large horns, and Full range Planers tend to need a lot of breathing space. The JM Labs Diva is a good choice for you room, =also the Magico Mini's are quite good. Wilson's tend to have a way too powerful kicked up bass which makes them better for slightly bigger rooms, the MBL's tend to work much better in bigger rooms as well due to their omni-directional designs.
A couple of my favorites for this room:
The Dali MS 4 is a wonderful speaker tremendous resolution, sweet midrange and tight but not too deep bass response and a true reference speaker which is a sleeper.
We just got in the Mark and Daniel Maximus Monitors which in a word is incredible, simply incredible speakers! We are waiting to hear more from this company but the bass is extremely tight with a stunning treble clarity and presence and they seem to work well in smaller rooms. They also offer a omni directional tweeter add on to give you some of the spacial effects of the MBL. This is a company to watch and very reasonably priced one caveat they need lots of juice.
The Escalante Pinyon and Uinta package is quite impressive and very easy to tune. The Kharmas are very good and work well in smaller rooms as well. You should be able to come up with plenty to listen to.
A pair of Audio Note AN/E can take you all the way to more money you want to spend (with all the different versions ranging from $3,000 to over $100,000 for the Sogon model)and a sound both full range (18 Hz, -6dB) and subtle-delicate-transparent. Best of all, their High Efficiency models can be driven with less than 10wpc of pure SET unlike other full range models or some exquisite monitors that require much more power. And they look great in a simple way with exquisite finishes.
18 Hz (6 Db down), 95 db efficiency, in a reasonably small box using an 8" woofer? I'm intrigued by this. How are they able to do this and no one else, apparently, can? There are 15" subwoofers that cannot achieve 18 Hz, how is Audio Note doing it with a woofer half that size?
Something isn't right...
I cannot really tell you how they do it (dunno!) but it is based on a relatively older design of Snell speakers and the cabinet size + corner reinforcement (they are made to be stuck in corners ideally) + sealed enclosure makes these go down very low, flat until about 25Hz and then 6dB at 17Hz (not 18!)...I can only suggest you audition a pair and see what it does for you..it blew me away when I did - just the base $4,000 model with copper wiring and not High Efficiency- and the idea of being able to place either in corners or free-standing into the room makes them very appealing to me. Many so-called full range speakers are bottom heavy /slow or artificial, these seemed to just play music with fantastic integration between both ways.
I could see myself cheating on my Avalon upgrade plans to go AN/E and off the merry-go-round.
We've designed a number of small rooms and they are far more difficult than larger ones. One of the most important things is chosing the speakers carefully--so your question is a good one.
You want speakers that will work with the room, not against it. If the drivers are too large for volume of the room they will never really function the way they were intended to. Every driver has a "comfort zone" in terms of inertia and this range can vary greatly. In general smaller drivers for your room are going to work well and at a later point you may decide to add a sub for that last 1/2 octave, but I wouldn't do that initially.
The speakers that we have had experience with and gotten good results in small rooms are Kharma 3.2 and Talon Hawks. We have a room in process with Lipinski monitors and I expect that to work out very well. The other speaker that I have listened to and find excellent is the Magico mini. We have not done a room with this speaker yet, but I expect it will have similar well behaved performance in small rooms.
My reason behind not adding the sub initially is many of these speakers have remarkable bass response and in small rooms there is room gain for low frequency. Often times the sub is really not needed so I suggest starting without it (unless you are a bass freak) and then later if you feel you need more bottom end add it.
The last thing I'll point out is something we've had in development for a long time. It's a sub-PARC.
This is a programmable crossover, parametric EQ, and digital amplifier for low frequency. It is (in my biased opinion) the best way to add a sub to a pair of satelites.
As a disclaimer, Rives Audio owns Talon Loudspeakers which I mentioned as a speaker I would highly recommend for that size room.
The JMLabs Diva Utopia Be's that you have as a second place on your list need plenty of space and careful placement to run at their best. They should not be placed in a corner or too near the back wall. If placement in the room is not a problem, I highly recommend them.
Consider a pair of green mountain audio calypsos. State of the art speakers that can be used in a room your size without any problems. One of the most resolving speakers I have heard at any price with startling dynamics. The fact that their ports can be aimed inward or outward allows them to be tailored to the room like few other speakers.
Thank you all for your intersting responses, I certainly expect always to learn from these threads.
I just thought I would point out that I am looking for that MBL sound, though my concern is I might not be able to convey the right description of what it is that made me so intent on that sound that I heard. Maybe someone can help. Are there any goners that found the MBL's to their liking like no other speaker or like very few others. I could best describe it by saying that it just felt like the music was live. And there is a big AND ; through the MBL's everything sound enjoyable even stuff that I don't typically like: like rap and hip hop.I recommend to everyone that hasn't heard the MBL's to go check them out at the next show. thanks again for your help and hope that I am understood.
Did you mean "the proofs in the pudding"?
here's a few more
In my very small room... 11x10 with vault ceiling, the Sonus Faber Guarneri's replaced my Hales and sound fantastic.
You have to sit in the near field, but the G's need no sub in a room this size.
I've just added a pair of Quad 22Ls in my 11 by 21 by 10 foot room and I'm very happy. I put them in place of a Totem Model 1 / Totem Storm combination.
After treating the room with Echobusters the soundstage is very deep and the bass tamed quite well. I've shut off the Totem sub for now.
My room is 12 x 20 x 7'6". I have a pair of Quad esl 57's driven by 2 cary monoblock slm 100's. The center of the quads are 9' apart toed in slightly and 3' out from the short wall. My seating area is 12' in front of the quads with 5' behind the chairs before the wall. I am thrilled with the sound. The clarity and sound stage are nothing short of beautiful. I tried REL, Martin Logan and snell subs. Sold them all. They did not improve the sound. Strings from The Irish Harp Orchestra,vocals of Eva Cassidy, Low bass notes on Sade's Lovers Rock and Samuel John Swartz playing J.S Bach on the Skinner and Hradetzky organs at Immanuel Presbyterian Churh in L.A. all sound fantastic. If you can manage the size of the 57's in your room I highly recommend them.
Monitors? Sonus Faber. Floorstanding? Totem Arro or Hawk. All are totally musical...it's about the music, right?
I have a pair of Cremona Auditors in my small room and couldnt be happier.
Sonus Faber Guarnieri Memento
Second the Sonus Faber G's. Either version are superb in a small room.
Depending upon your placement, the best I've heard without spending $10,000.00 (literally) for speakers, are the classic Snell E II or Snell J II. Absolutely awesome and can be found for cheap. I use both the E II and J II and am totally happy with them, now for 21 years and going strong. I'm using a Yamaha (1997) P1600 power amp and running my music through my HP Pavilion m8100n (I keep all my music on hard disk). I also use a Soundblaster Xtreme Music HiFi card in the PC. For all practical purposes, you won't find a better set up, dollar for dollar, than what I have going. But music and speakers are like food: some love this, some love that, some love everything, some love nothing. Find what YOU like and hold onto it. Reputation and cost mean nothing if you aren't happy with them/it. Cheers, Brad
For small rooms The Unifield 3 by Von Schweikert is awsome. I just had a listening session and was very impressed. I will be posting soon on what I heard. In your situation they would be well worth checking out. There was a recent thread about the VS unifield 3 you might want to check out the owners responses.
Keep it simple then. Get the MBL's, make sure associated equip is up to par, add a Rives Audio PARC (fix inevitable room bass modes, for "non-boomy" system sound), some well placed diffusors/bass traps in the corner - use all of this with the "long wall" setup for best sound and imaging. And you'll be tickled pink with the sound you get!