too good is better and too better is best.
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It probably depends more on the particular speaker design than the cost. Used Merlin VSM-M speakers would be in your price range (and they are excellent), but they would show the limitations of your system and that's not what you are seeking.
I heard the Dynaudio 25's in someone else's system last week and I thought they sounded good without being *too* revealing, but I can't compare them to the rest. Unfortunately, it's really going to have to depend on your taste and preferences. The models you listed are all going to sound different (some extrememly different) from each other.
Price has nothing to do with good sound(with-in reason). It's all about system synergy. I personally chose some Von Schweikert VR-1 monitors over some used Revel Gem's, JM Labs Micro Utopia's and Dynadio 25 Specials after hearing them in my system at home. All the other speakers sounded good, but with MY system the VR-1's just sounded the most balanced and natural to me. In your system one of the other speaker I mentioned may sound the best to YOU, and that's what's important. It took me almost a year to finally decide on which speaker to buy, so don't rush it. If you want to spend a lot of money, fine. But don't ignore the lower priced speakers out there just becuse of their price. You may find a $1000 speaker that sounds better to you than the one's you mentioned (or you might not). That's what makes audio so interesting.....
Its not that speakers can be "too good" its just that top end speakers are so revealing that you will hear all of the problems in your electronic's which you have never noticed before. Then you start buying new electronics to match your speakers. In your situation I would try to get speakers which match your electronics. I fear that most of the speakers that you have mentioned might be "too good" and seem bright and unnatural with your electronics, although the Spendors might work..I agree with the Vandersteen recomendation.
Your post indicates that you will not make the mistake of selecting speakers that don't match your electronics physically.
At the risk of being glib,as you are a musician,as you know your budget and we do not,listen to speakers till you find a pair you like in your price range,buy them,and don't second guess yourself.
Enjoy the search.
Another speaker you should look into is Green Mountain Audio's Europa. You can do a search on this site for feedback on these speakers (all of which is very positive). I've spoken to Roy Johnson (the designer and owner) and he's not only extremely knowledgeable, but is also a very nice guy.
FYI - I have no affiliation with GMA and have not heard the speakers myself.
Scott- I am not a musician, but I listen to the same kind of music, and have Vandersteen speakers for years. My room is a tad larger than yours, but not too much. You could go with new 3Asigs in your price range, or a used pair with a 2WQ sub and then add a second sub later. Don't laugh, there is a lot to be said for adding the subs. But make sure you get the fixed value filters, after determining the best value for your system (assumming that your integrated has a pre-out and amp-in set-up). Otherwise, the Vandy 2WQ will not work, although its possible you could get the HT sub (forget the model #) and run if off of a line out on the integrated.
I will vote for SF Concerto Home line or older Signum, EA1/2, or Cremona Auditor. All are high resolution monitors with decent bass, musical without being too analytical or hyper detail, and under your price range.
EA II in particular might work very well in your room because it's not ported and can be placed close to rear wall if needed.
Thanks to all for the input. Some good speaker suggestions that I will look into and some good feedback on the general concept of system balance. I am particularly interested in the comments recommending British speakers (ProAc, Harbeth and Spendor are Brits, correct?) I always loved the Kef 103.2 when I was a starving college student 20 years ago and could not imagine spending $900 on a pair of small 2 way speakers. How things change, huh?
Is the consensus that my front end might need some warming up versus a very revealing speaker? It is so hard for me to tell with my existing speakers that are not revealing at all. I am cool with a “musical” speaker, by all means. BTW, several people suggested Vandersteens, which I know are pretty much universally loved and thought to offer great value, but they have just never done the hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck thing for me. It is all very personal, I know.
Also, given the difficulty of directly A/B’ing multiple speaker lines, what does everyone think of the concept of getting a well-regarded but inexpensive reference (Triangle Titus/Paradigm 20) and then bringing a series of speaker in to compare or even taking the reference speaker with me? Then it would move to the rear channel in my surround set-up. Just an idea I had. I know that acoustic memory is VERY unreliable and auditioning a bunch of different speakers on different days in different rooms with different electronics is hardly ideal. I used a journal with the same music in the same order the last time I did this, and it was better than nothing, but still not great.
Fun problem to have, though. It beats working.
I would suggest, if you can find them to listen to, some Royd Audio speakers http://www.roydaudio.com . They are a smaller british company and make some fine sounding speakers.
Castle, Rega, and Neat are some other british speaker companies to try. Castle makes classical british sounding speakers as does Rega. Neat Audio is unique becuase they use their own dome ribbon tweeter.
Good luck with your search!!
It is possible for speakers to be too good for your system. There are speakers that will not be right for your system or your room. I would guess you would be happiest with a two driver monitor. The simpler crossover (assuming you buy from a reputable company) should provide a smoother midrange. You will give up a little on the bottom end, but if midrange, imaging and soundstage are your biggest priorities, this should be a good trade for you.
More often than not, you will sacrifice the midrange and soundstage for deep bass.
If you are brave enough try a singe driver like the Lothars!
Funny Dave suggested Royd speakers because, as their slogan says, "The best loudspeakers you've never heard of... " I auditioned a pair of Minstrel SE with 12W of italian tubes and I was amazed at the quality of the sound. THey looked really puny, sitting there on the floor as I looked down at them, but man was the sound ever so life-like and big. Amazing bass too. Very impressive.
One day I will have a pair of British speakers like that. I am slowly finding out that in general Brits like the same type of sound I do. Otherwise, many good suggestions already listed above. Good luck! Arthur