what cables were used during your listen?
it's not endemic to 'bookshelves'. suggest you demo other brands for starters. i love great beers... to me , b/w is the guinness stout of british spkrs. try some microbrews my friend and you may be surprised. it's your taste that will decide and the market these days is loaded w spkrs that i personally think are much better for the $$$. just my opinion.
There are lots of speakers, at worst as good, or at best a whole lot better than B&W. Look through the speaker threads and list the speakers that a lot of people like, then go and audition. Hi-fi shows are a good place as there will be virtually every/most manufacturers attending to show off their wares.Good hunting.
Demo their more expensive lines. I heard thei rlower line and was not impressed. I have owned two of their 800 series speakers (801's and 800's) and was very impressed by the 805's.
When it came tiem for me to buy bookshelf speakers for my office I bought ERA Design 5's here on Audiogon. About $700 and great performers.
BBC monitor-sized speakers are among the best of the smaller speakers that I've auditioned. I have a pair of Harbeth Monitor 30's and Compact 7's. There are a number of good and reasonably accurate reviews floating around, including, as I recall, a good series from Stereo Times. I've done a little listening to B&W's, and I would say that the Monitor 30's seemed (for my ear) quite a bit richer than the smaller B&W's I heard. I prefer the Harbeths to floor standers from Vandersteen and Avalon, all of which I've had at home. My listening room is about 14x20.
my experience is that the mids are a bit compressed, less open and detailed.
That is pretty standard for most speakers. It is called the BBC dip. Technically the speakers are scooped in the midrange in their power response (combined on axis and off axis signal). Small two ways with a 6" woofer tend to suffer from this because most tweeters cannot be crossed over low enough prior to the "beaming" occurring from the woofer.
The advantage of this design is that compressed pop and rock will sound good. Well recorded classical, jazz and other genres will be lacking that tangible realistic feel - sounding a bit laid back or distant.
I've owned a few pairs of BW two ways including the N805s, 600s & CDNT 1s.
It may likely be due to the level of front end gear driving those units as well.. I recently was very suprised to hear a lowly pair of Canton speakers sound very good, on either SS or HS... and on two different receivers as well.
Even more recently, a pair of Silverline SR 15s are doing a fine job IMO. I'd not put them onto a shelf though as they are rear ported.
Overall, there are other choices which can and do fare better than the BW two ways and for less money. The latest PC line from Phase Tech also is a great performer for the money.
Did you listen to the McIntosh two ways while listening to the Mac int? Although a mite larger than the smallish shelf models, they sounded pretty good to me in a poor demo and likewise setup.
Lastly the Silverline Minuet is getting loads of good press for a small loudspeaker.
Nautilus 805s should be on stands, and are great speakers if you have good equipment running them. I just heard a pair with the Ayre integrated and they were super. Also good with the Classe, etc, but I actually preferred the Ayre. I agree the less expensive B&Ws are not as much to my liking.
My speaker collection includes the 805 Nautilus, and Wilson Benesch ARC. Soon to add some ERAs for the family room system (also a HT). There are so many "good" speakers out there, it is really more a matter of personal preference and what you match with them.
As an aside, I would love to hear some Harbeths (I am fixed ont eh Monitor 30s for some reason), but noone around here sells Harbeth or Spendor, etc, Someday I might buy a pair used and try them out...
Good luck and have fun.
Not sure your budget but I own and love a pair of the original JMlabs Micro-Utopias. They're easy to drive with tremendous resolution and they look very WAF friendly. They fill my small room with all the sound I could ask for and even have surprising bass. They pop up used all the time, keep an eye out. Happy listening.
Thanks so much for the feedback, so far.I really value all of your suggestions and will look into each one.
To help narrow the incoming feedback:
I am running a Mcintosh 6300 and MCD 201. Have not gotten into cables yet.
My experience (generally speaking):
Paradigm is too bright.
MOnitor Audio, Revel and Canton are dull.
B&W lack the mid range clarity.
I'm not found of the design of Sonus Faber although they sound pretty good.
Rainmaker is good but lacks fullness and may need sub.
Vienna Accoustics Haydn are the front runner, most likely with a Rel sub.
You should seriously consider a used pair of Tyler Acoustics Taylor Reference Monitors with matching stands. I had a pair that replaced B&W CDM1NT speakers on Target welded steel stands. They absolutely killed the B&W's in every way and actually made them sound quite cheap. They will work quite well in small to medium sized rooms. They also fit your listening preferences.