You mean there are worse looking speakers than 901's, I could never have imagined.
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Sounds like, hostile conditions exist. So here is the what to do: Just get headphones, no speakers. This will drive her crazy with 'you don't pay attention to me'. Which will set the stage for speakers, of your choice. Also, when speakers are okay-ed, get the best finish, say rosewood etc. Make it a furniture play, not a speaker play. Let her pick the wood finish. Floor stander's are a must, as the WAF with stands does not exist.
Gentlemen- The jist of my inquiry is really about what kind of (monitor sized) speakers would sound good with my old amp and the kind of music I listen to. While us men have to stick together and put our foot down, once in a while, we also have to pick our battles. So, opinions about excellent speakers -less than 4feet tall in my price range?
Honestly, in your situation you may have the speakers you need already (the 901s). If you went for some monitors or small floorstanders it doesn't sound like you are going to have the opportunity to set them up they way you'd like for soundstage and imaging. So I'd just have something with decent full tonality, set them out of the way, forget about them and enjoy the music. The 901s do a decent job for this. I honestly believe for what you can get them for the 301s are even better for this.
You can get a pair of factory refurb 301s with factory warranty for about $250 I believe. For background/passive listening they sound great. Good luck.
exposing myself here but I have no idea how much juice the Sansui puts out. Can you supply that. in my opinion there are plenty of really nice small floorstanders or bookshelf speakers available for that money that I think will sound better then the 901's. Mind that is my opinion, yours may well vary. Have a look at the websites for PSB, Vienna Acoustics (the haydens?), ERA, Totem, and oodles more. These are a small hand full of what's out there but I've heard them and can recommend them as potentially suitable for you. See if you can get a home demo as well? Try a search on the forum for bookshelf as well. there are several other threads on there now with many suggestions.
one thought on the spouse factor is that lots of the small speakers are coming with very nice veneers that may help. I have era D5's and the rosewood is terrific. That alone helped our home harmony.
Except for Bjesien's recommendation, I think the OP has not been treated well in this series of posts. I'm not up to date on the sound of the latest monitors, but I heard a pair of Merlin TSMs several years ago that impressed me. Although new they are probably out of OP's price range, but he may be able to find a used pair that would fit his needs. I'd try to listen to a pair of those if I were in the market for monitors. Add a good looking sub like a used Velodyne HGS-10 or 12, and you could have a nice sounding setup that satisfies the WAF.
In addition to the good advice given above, you might want to narrow your search to speakers which provide a boundary compensation adjustment for positioning them near a room boundary. I find that one of the biggest issues with the waf isn't how the speakers look but where they are placed in the room for the best sound. It's pointless to buy a speaker designed to sound best in free space only to put it right against the wall on a shelf - bass response and imaging will suffer. On the other hand, having the speaker three or four feet into the room on stands and easy to trip over just to sound good will not win any kudos from your spouse.
Your Sansui should easily drive any modern reasonably efficient speaker without clipping especially if it's been able to drive your 901 "watt sponges" all these years.
I would look at monitors like the Revel Performa M22 or the Snell J7 which both offer the room boundary compensation feature.
Seasons greetings fellow A'goner.Ok here's what you do.Get yourself a pair of Dynaudio Audience 42's or even better a pair of Focus 110's.They are physically small but play MUCH bigger.Thier sound will KILL the Bose your used to.Put them on a good pair of 30"-36"stands(Studio Tech SP series or similar).They can be placed closer to the back wall which will help bass response as well as free up some much needed space in your smallish room.Re cable the system but don't get crazy.Lastly spend a couple of hundred $'s on some WELL recorded music,ESPECIALLY music that your wife enjoys listening to.Once she gets a taste of really good tunes she will be much more receptive to changes in the system & or listening room.Good luck & have a great holiday.