HT Choice Aerial 10T or B&W N803?

Well, after hours of storefront listening sessions, I’ve narrowed my speaker choices down to three. B&W N803, Aerial 10T, or B&W N802’s. Due to WAF (Wife acceptance factor), anything with a larger foot print will not work. I’m looking for comments of experience, before I make a final decision.

We have some speaker position space restrictions. The N803’s will fit fine, but the other two will press the physical space a bit more. The final pair will set 6 feet apart and 2 ½ feet from the wall, with a fireplace angled across one corner. I have sound absorption panels behind the speaker positions, side walls and rear wall. The space contains heavy padded furnishings, on a cement slab covered with carpeting and sheet rock walls. It has 9ft ceilings and is a total 30ft long, 15ft wide. The actual listening position is 11ft from the fronts of my current speakers.

We listen to HT and just music 60/40, although I’d prefer more 2 channel music. :-)
The current equipment set-up is the following:
Class’e SSP-30 pre-amp
Class’e CAV-180 5 channel X180 into 8ohm or 360 into 4ohm
Energy Sub XL-S10 200W (Planning upgrade to better sub)
Source components Jolida JD-100 tube CD, Denon DVD-2800, no turntable… yet.

I like a good balance of bass with vocals, mid and high freq detail, so getting equal and realistic sound coverage is the objective. Long term, I’m still looking at other amplication upgrades as an option, so the power requirements of the Aerial’s don’t deter me too much. I’ve leaned towards the Aerials, the dealer has had great upstream power Class’e CAM-350’s to do the demos, and the room width is comparable. The B&W dealer has used 80W – N803’s to 125W – N802’s amplification to drive the speakers, and the ceiling heights and room widths are much larger than my space. I like the smaller footprint of the N803’s, but don’t want to regret my choice. I did see that Stereophile, has given the N803 an ‘A-restricted LF’ rating (Oct 2002), but how would it sound head to head with the Aerial’s? In the listening sessions, I’m now having trouble determining a clear winner, given the differences in power and space sizes used. I do gain the sense that the Aerial’s are a bit laid back, but the vocals and space realism are stellar. The N803’s have a nice broad sound stage. They are both great speakers. Is my only choice to do an in home demo of each speaker? Other options?
Home audition is always worthwhile if your dealer will permit it - most good ones will. Personally I prefer the 10T's but B&W does sell a lot of speakers. You do commonly hear some long term listeners complain about an overly bright or harsh top end on the B&W's. Some of this can be ameliorated by using a complementary amp and room treatments. I think speaker choices can be the most difficult and important system choices - don't put too much stock in lists of recommended components.

You definitely should seriously consider vinyl down the road. There are so many great affordable tables and well done LP's available now. It's a lot of fun.
Well you definitely seem to get a sympathetic pairing of Classe w/B&W. I've got the CAV 150, w/B&K Ref 20 and Nautilus 805's and really like the combo after having tested Krell, older Levinson, Aragon, ATI, and Marantz in home. B&W must agree with me as they've taken on distribution of Classe' gear in Europe. That being said, I've got my eye out for a good deal on Aerial 7b's. I don't think you can really go wrong unless maybe you go for 803's and then move into a bigger space.
I would recommend the 10Ts over the B&W. I find the Aerial to be more musical and easier to integrate with your room. B&W can tend to be bright sounding and this combined with many poor quality sounding movie soundtracks can be painful. I've owned many speakers over the years, and while no speaker is perfect the Aerials are the best I've owned by a large margin. I'm sure you will not regret choosing the 10Ts. In your small room you will not need amps as big as your dealer's Classe amps, but I would suggest a minimum of 100 watts/channel.
Just one comment, as I like both B&W and Aerial equally. My B&W 805's don't sound bright AT ALL. If anything, the midrange is a little dull, but highs? crystal clear. B&W uses Classe` in their test environments and they would complement each other well. Why sell the amp?
Thank You for the personal experience comments. They have been very helpful and confirmed what I was feeling about the sound quality as I heard it. I appreciate the feedback.

It appears that the rumors about the Aerial 10T’s being discontinued are happening. The Aerial web site has been redone, removing the 10T as an option. I suspected that when the rumors started, that it would freeze sales of new 10T’s, and maybe that had come to pass. It would be great if more detail were available about the upcoming replacements, but so far nothing. With the 10T being such a great speaker, you would think that a replacement would be communicated at the same time that the present line was removed.
Yes: absolutely perform an in-room demo, as at 11' you're sitting far enough back to allow them to cohere nicely, and tame the Nautilus tweeter with the power response of the entire speaker. I'm voting for the Aeriels, though.
In my case, sitting only 7.5 feet back, NEITHER of these (nor the Aeriel 8) cohered, so I luckily discovered great, wife-friendly speakers that DO cohere: Verity Audio Parsifal Encores. Good luck doing the heavy lifting...we all have to do it once in awhile!
I've had extensive experience with the Aerial Acoustics 10Ts (with CC3 center and SR3 surrounds) and the B&W M801 (HTM center and Morel surrounds). I can't comment on the N802 or N803.

Both setups were musically very satisfying, with ample 'Oomph' for 5 channel HT (my music/HT mix is more like 75%/25%). Sound wise, I could live very happily with either, though I eventually replaced the B&W setup with the Aerial one.

The M801 were far more location sensitive. To sound acceptable, they required free space (about 4 ft. min.) to the sides and behind. This is the reason I finally replaced them. The 10Ts still sound their best in that localization, but are more than acceptable anywhere else in the room, including tucked almost in a corner.

While both the M801s and the 10Ts had similar sensitivities, the former were much easier to drive, resulting in excellent sound from comparatively inexpensive amps. The 10Ts go to 3 ohms at some frequencies, requiring an amp capable of driving a low impedance. They sound strident and strained with a lesser amp (even though it drove the M801s to perfection). I drive them with Aragon 8008ST (two cahnnel) and 8008X3 (three channel) amps, capable of delivering 200WPC into 8 ohms, 400WPC into 4 ohms. I suspect the 10Ts will be happy with lower power amps, provided these amps are capable of high current output.
Ron, very interesting!
You think the room sensitivity of the B&W has to do with the overly-splashy tweeter, so that sidewall splatter is more difficult to control?
Others have made good observations. My own personal vote would go to the Aerials. I really like the 10Ts. As they have supposedly been discontinued perhaps you can get a bit of a "deal" from a dealer that would want to move what he has?
If it is no too late....
The replacement for the 10T seems to be the model 9.
And as you are concerned with footprint, it looks smaller.
see link for photo:

They say it will be available in 01/2003, although I would not bet on it (the 20 took much longer than announced)

10T's are being replaced by 10T's Series II sometime next year after Michael Kelly finishes up a line of inwall speakers...
Jcl, Very interesting... Thank you for sharing this picture. I did make a decision, but it's not quite what I planned. The dealer I work with is moving locations and had a pair of 7B's on hand. I got a great deal on the pair, recognizing up front that they deliver great sound except at the low end. These easily met the WAF too. I have an inexpensive sub now and am looking at a pair of ACI Force sub's to fill in the bottom end. The 7B’s really are very nice in the mid range and high end. I am completely satisfied with vocals and high frequency sound from these. As they have loosened up, the low end down to 40hz is getting much better. They have over 100 hours on them now, and I really like how they play my preferred music.

Since the model 9’s look a LOT like the 7B cabinets in size, I suspect Aerial is fixing the low frequency coverage and will be able to ‘squeeze’ into HT marketing physical space requirements better. I can always trade up later. :-) I’ve played around with bi-amp’ing these from my CAV-180, and this also fills the low end better. I suspect that the 10T’s would have pushed my amplifier budget much more too. The total price of the 7B’s plus 2 ACI sub’s is still 2K less than the Model 9 price tag, which is not too bad.
After Mike releases the 20 t { now shipping } the inwalls are next then it is the Aerial model 9 which will shoot for the 10 t market. Aerial over the B & W in the above ? but I would beg borrow and steal to get the 20 s. Mine are shipping now in Birds Eye maple. This could be the last speaker you may ever need to a few years away is the 30 t for larger spaces .