Bookshelf Recommendations


Long time, first time here. Looking to upgrade my current speakers. While I know the best way to judge is by actually LISTENING to a set-up, I've read a lot of positive reviews of the SVS Ultimas. Does anyone here have first hand experience with those or a similar bookshelf at the +/-$1k price point?

My listening space is 12 x 12, with a Carver M1.5t power amp and CJ PV-12 pre. 
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KEF LS50 are highly regarded.A little more than your price point but not to much more.
I have some older Epos that do well so i'd imagine their newer offerings might be good as well.
Tekton Mini Lore Monitors

Thanks a lot! I'm not afraid of previously owned gear, and in fact EVERYTHING I own came to me through prior ownership. Given that, that might provide me a pair at my $1k threshold.
on my short list in a true bookshelf but stand mounted would be ( not in order ) Used

Ref 3a
Sonus Faber
NEAT
Vandersteen VLR
the KEF LS-50 for sure
any of the venerable LS 3/5a , one of my faves would be the KEF101, IF you read the white paper for the LS-50, you will see the trades they made....
......

have fun, do more listening than reading IF ya can..

great preamp you have IMO
Remarkable. Was just this moment reading the Stereophile write-up from 2012, and it ref'd aforementioned white paper on the LS-50's...

Thanks for your recommendations, and also for props on my CJ. Love those tubes! Only wish I could afford a tube power amp as well, but that Sideshow Bob, Carver 1.5t has all the power I'll ever need 👍
I've only heard/owned the Ref 3A and Sonus Faber of those mentioned by @tomic601, but they're both superb choices.

The LSA-1, if you can find a pair, punches way above its price point.
Excellent. More to consider... thanks!!!

+1 for Vandy VLR's.
I owned a pair of Zu Omen Bookshelves, but the Vandies leave them in the dust.
Bob
I appreciate everyone taking some of their time to share their expertise and knowledge. Much food for thought, the majority of which I was not even familiar, having focused primarily on “the usual suspects,” with respect to manufacturers.

Even if it comes down to throwing a dart, I’ll have some better targets on the board...
I bought a pair of SVS Ultimate Bookshelf; I didn't think they were anywhere near as good as the hype would have it.
NHT C3 simply can’t be beat for $1000. Downside is bass is only rated down to 55Hz. More neutral than the SVS as well as better imaging.

The Philharmonc BMR at <$1500 was a steal (sale price was only slightly higher than BOM), but Dennis had health issues and currently is retiring. 
 
EDIT: NHT C3 is only ~$700 on Amazon right now, this is a legit steal; add a subwoofer to fill in the low end.
Dynaudio xeo2’s. Open box for $799. Built in amps and BT. Great sound from a small speaker. 5 year warranty. Perfect 2nd system for me.
Wharfedale's 225's.....can compete with speakers 3 times the price. Warm non fatiguing sound. Port is on bottom for easy positioning. Recomended component in stereophile. 
Looking seriously at the Sonus Faber Venere 1.5's and Wharfedale 225's. HUGE price differential, though aesthetically, the former are works of art.

Nothing can beat a pairs of Nola boxer , I dare you to compare it to other with cost 3 times to get the sound  of it ! Do your homework and good luck with your search 
OP:  are you planning to use them in a bookshelf, or are you just typifying small speakers as "bookshelf"?  True bookshelf placement is a true watershed for most speakers, and many of the recommendations listed above would not fare well place such.  Could you please clarify?
Will be mounting on stands. While I'd prefer a larger speaker in general, domestic equilibrium mandates as small a footprint as possible. 
Herb Reichert just gave an enthusiastic review of a Klipsch stand-mount priced at under $600/pr in the current issue of Stereophile.

Tom
For stand mounting, the Ref 3a and Sonus Faber lines already mentioned are well worth looking into.
and so is the VLR which you can back right up against the wall and reach below 50 HZ
and have a nice upgrade path w Vandersteen sub, even the sub 3 with 11 bands of analog EQ....


Well, if you are mounting on stands, why not get floor standing speakers?
A pair of Vandy 1ci's wouldn't take a much of a larger footprint.- And, when coupled with a pair of subs, I think you would be approaching a truly high end system.

B
@gdnrbob.  there you go making sense again !!! I agree, and good stands will cost way more than the Sound Anchors that the new 1ci use...

Just helped install and tune some One’s with sweet Nakamichi Stasis power.....fun and musical for not much scratch $$$$$$
...and just when I thought I’d narrowed this down. Will take a look at that recommendation as well. I’m all about approaching some high end, without taking out a 2nd mortgage. If my wife knew what I’ve got tied up in my preamp, I’d already been served papers...
Wouldn’t you know it: choice set of Vandersteen 1Ci’s currently on eBay, just waiting to be snapped up. Hmmm. Would those, however, be too much speaker for my space?

As mentioned at the outset, the room is only about 12’ x 12.’ While I realize that with “bookshelf” sized speakers there will be low end sacrifices—inclusion of a sub notwithstanding—a high quality speaker of that size, on stands: wouldn’t that make for a good setup?
And don't forget TOTEM!
Fabulous imaging and far better bass alignment than ls50s.
JBL 4312 MII $1000 or $750 open box at Music Direct!  
Just found a pair of KEF R100s. Suprising low end.  Very warm,  almost too warm so don't put them with warm electronics in my mind.   But for the $500 that I paid they were worth the price.   Can really move the molecules.   I  also liked the NOLAs mentioned above,  but a completely different sound.  Much brighter which for certain music is a good thing.   
I recently returned a pair of LS50'S that I had purchased intending to upgrade from my B&W 685's. Although for their size they had very clean sound I found them lacking in mid-bass.
B&W has a current bookshelf offering that is getting great reviews. I would go that direction
brother in law has 1ci in a room your size with MoFi Untradeck, Ortofon Bronze, Odyssey Candella tube pre, Odyssey Khatargo SS power, sweet and sublime and the 8” LF goes low but does NOT overpower the room

ebay away !!!!!
Totem makes an excellent speaker, I have them in our sunroom powered by a Bluesound Powernode...they rock..

great to have choices....
https://www.stereophile.com/content/wharfedale-diamond-225-loudspeaker Carrera4s, read the stereophile review of the wharfedale 225’s.....three different reviewers agreed that they were something special. One reviewer went back to test the bass frequency and said that he was astounded to find usable output at 31.5 hz! Footnote 2. That is crazy for a speaker of this size and cost. I own two pairs of these, one walnut and one rosewood (bought as an extra pair or back up) and I can attest to the build quality and to the sound. I can listen to these speakers all day long....they are addictive and non fatiguing. The bass port is on the bottom plinth, so you can place them close to wall. I have mine out 1 foot from rear wall to good effect. These speakers like toe in as well. I have them positioned so that I can just barely see the inside of each speaker. They are on 24 inch stands with tweeter at ear height when seated. Lastly these 225s love to be bi wired. Doing so really makes them shine. For $500 bucks I don’t think they can be beat. As stated in my previous reply....they imo can easily compare to $1000-$1500 stand mounters all day.....hurry, you can grab these for just $349 at music direct or crutchfield, a steal!
Forget the Diamond's modest price. This humble wooden box is actually a connoisseur-level audio component. It could satisfy any sane music collector for decades.
Herb Reichert 
Agree with Jim (tomic601), Vandy 1s would be perfect in your 12x12 room. I'm using Vandy 2s in an almost 14x14 room, with treatment, they are setup 9" from front wall, 7' apart (tweeter to tweeter), no toe-in, and listening seated head position is 2' from rear wall. No bass boom.
Hope this helps,

Tom
Paradigm Signature S1 version 2 or 3
Rega RS1's.  do not get the newer RX1's.  disappointing. 
I use a set of pre-owned KEF LS-50s on stands in a 15 foot squared room with 9 foot ceiling and while they won't ever convince you that they are full range; they do what they do really well; highly detailed and enjoyable music that is fun to listen to without physically dominated the room (spouse acceptance factor).  Don't be too quick to dump your solid state amplifier, I am a devotee of tubed pre-amps with a CJ Act 2 and solid state amplifier power with a CJ 2500 A.  I've had tubed amps in the system and it is too "tubey", meaning soft, a little slow and somewhat muffled compared to the tubed pre-amp, solid state amp combination.
What speakers are you replacing? 

I also use a tube pre with a SS amp. A solid approach for many reasons. Not to say the only one.

A couple stand mount speakers I have heard you might consider:        Dynaudio X14, X18
   B&W CM5
Either could be bought used for~$700. 

The Vandy 1Cs may also serve you well. 

I’m amazed and at the number of responses and truly appreciate the detail and wealth of information this topic has generated.


Since I’m leaning towards pre-owned gear, it’ll likely come down to my short list, compiled from those suggested in this thread. Wish $$ were no object, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard

At the expense of betraying my ignorance on the subject, NONE of the speakers that I’m now focusing on were even on my radar prior to this posting. If only in a virtual way, thanks for opening my ears...
Another vote for Ascend Sierra S2, absolutely stunning ribbon speaker worth multiple of its price
Wharfedale Denton 80th, it has LS3/5A kind of sound with powerful and elactic bass, some even prefer it over KEF LS50, which can sound fatigue if listen for long, search for forum discussions if you are interested, but remember to have a better powerful amp to drive it, the Denton I would say is medium sensitivity in terms of power requirement. Another option worth to try is PSB P5, it has balanced sound from a lot reviewers.
Legacy Studio HD......
Good luck.
Proac.  Anything in the tablette family, which sold for less than 2k new, so should be able to find used in the 1k range.   Great imaging.

They are one of the smaller of the bookshelves, which makes them easy for stand mounting.  I have owned numerous bookshelves and found some of them on the larger size to seem out of place on the stands.

be Sure to take time to set them up right.  Several inches can affect soundstage and bass.
Did the whole small speaker/high quality thing as well.  Results?  Small everything...you can’t circumvent physics.  Get a well made speaker with drivers capable of delivering the emotional and physical content of your music.  Think 12” woofer etc..  I’m still dumbfounded that my experiment with the JBL 4429’s has changed my perspective on the “High End” enormously.  Short of the $20k Speakers I’ve owned (which of course required oodles of cash for ancillary equipment) the JBL’s deliver an extremely uncolored, dynamic and extended presentation.  They can put you in the club with the musicians, if you understand what I mean.  They energize a room like few audiophile speakers can and do so without one having to break the bank on the rest of the setup.  
B&W Matrix 805's.  oldies but goodies.
At your price point, you might consider Axiom Audio M5HP 3-way bookshelves.  (under $1000).  They're more than adequate for your space, although could be considered "overkill".  They're reasonably sensitive (91dB/1w), but can handle lots of power if loudness matters, or if room size changes.  So may not have to upgrade for a long time...;-)I own 7 of them in HT and Stereo systems and have been very pleased with their performance.
My son bought a pair of Axioms, back in the early 2k's [don't recall the model]. They have certainly served him well.

Forgot about those...
I've been wishing I had a good friend that was looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers so that I could turn them on to these!  There is a listing in the other "audio mart in the US" (hint) for a pair of Thiel PCS bookshelf speakers.  These speakers are unbeatable for all of $900.  If I didn't already own a pair they'd be gone, but I do, and they're not.
These speakers are "world class" speakers, especially if you drive them with tubes!  I couldn't recommend these highly enough.  I've been trying to concoct a reason why I need another pair, but I can't come up with any valid reason.  So, go get them before someone else comes to their senses.
A lot of great options mentioned. I suggest you audition before purchase if able. There are great deals to be had on the used market but I’d avoid going that route unless it’s quite obvious the speakers can be easily flipped.

 In theory, your square room is an acoustic nightmare, which means an in-home audition is your best bet for long-term enjoyment.

 The factory-direct brands (Ascend Acoustics, Zu, Omega, Buchardt, etc.) tend to offer generous, no-hassle, money-back guarantees and trial periods. Their product value also benefits from cutting out the middle-men. I think that’s especially true concerning the $1K price range.

Another speaker you should consider is the Seas A26 Kit from Madisound. Total price per pair with pre-assembled cabinets (for the U.S. market) comes to $1224. All that’s required of the buyer is some very simple assembly that any caveman could handle. If their drivers were sold individually, they’d account for about $841 of the cost per pair. These same drivers are used in some speakers that retail for over $10K. The speaker has a front slot port which will allow for greater flexibility in placement - a must in a 12x12’ room.

https://www.madisoundspeakerstore.com/2-way-speaker-kits/seas-a26-10-2-way-kit-pair-based-on-the-classic-a25/
Guttenberg just did a post on size a couple of days ago...it matters more than you realize!  12” baby 👶🏻 
What's the sensitivity on that Madisound kit?