Sound Dynamics 300ti. Not often found on Audiogon--keep your eyes pealed.
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Somebody who's considering Bose is an unlikely candidate for buying used. Among new speakers, I'd start with Paradigm and PSB. They might not be everyone's favorites, but they're doing low-end speakers about as well as anyone, and they're pretty widely distributed--though almost exclusively through small shops. If your friend is put off by the high-end boutiques (as many people are), at least get him to consider Polks, which are a competently made mass-market alternative.
I had a pair of these monitors, and i was really impressed.
They retail new for about 450 a pair, they come in some very attractive veneers, and they have some pretty wicked sound.
They are on to something with thier UNI-Q drivers. Excellent imaging, and impressive low end response from a monitor.
These are also relativll easy to find.
If you have a SoundTrack Audio, Audio King, or Ulitmate Electronics anywhere in your area, you can pick up a pair there.
I dont know if anyone has seen those places, but i love em. Big big store with Huge huge selection, alot of thier stff us Mid-fi, but they also carry the top of the line products from Infinity, KEF, Denon, Klipsch, Sunfire, Krell, Martin Logan, Definitive Technologys, and plenty others.
Of course, it has that supermarket feel, but thier sound rooms are not all that bad.
You may want to check into Axiom M3ti or M22ti, Ascend Acoustics CBM 170 for monitors (both have an in home trial period so you're only out return shipping if you don't like them). As stated above, the Magnepan MMG is a larger size and slightly out of your budget new ($550), but these also come with an in home trial as well. IMHO, the MMGs are an exceptional value around this price point.
Purchased a pair of Vandersteen 1Bs for my son last year for $200. Obscenely good for the money, even with an inexpensive integrated amp and run of the mill CD player. Natural and unforced presentation with great frequency extension and smoothness. Efficient and an easy load, play quite loudly when necessary. Beguiling with voices in particular.
As long as size is not important, I highly recommend Sound Dynamics 300ti if used, and recommend Paradigm Monitor 5 if new. The SD are very very good and warrant using really nice gear (ARC, CJ, Anthem, etc) but also are OK with mass market. The Paradigms are not as transparent but work well with good (and probably low end) gear. I have owned both and recommend them above baby Maggies (high power requirements) and Cambridge sub/sat (pretty papery sounding and really not significant upgrade from Bose).
If size and aesthetics really matter, Bose is a serious contender because they truly disappear in a room. Just don't expect audiophile sound. Yes, I've owned and recommended them, too.