These are a tad above your price range, but you would be richly rewarded by listening to them.
I was in your shoes like a couple of months ago, searching for speakers in the retail $8k-10k range. After extensive research (reading professional and consumer reviews, attending live auditions at dealers, going to people's houses, etc)I have found my dream speaker at this price point. This whole process took me over a year...talk about patience! I literally went thru at least a dozen of speaker brands/models before I ended up with the Von Schweikert VR-4 SRs. I am not here to promote the VS brand or anything, but just wanted to share my honest feedback and my real life experiences with them so people can make an informative choice. I still don't know why there aren't any professional reviews out yet for the SRs, there are tons on JRs.
First and foremost, I strongly advise that if you can go audition a burned-in pair(about 400-500 hrs) that is properly setup in a nice adequate size room, with good sounding gear (does not have to be expensive gear)and nice sounding cables, that would be the best scenario. These speakers if improperly setup, not burned in long enough, not used with good sounding gear and cables, will not do them justice. The SRs are very transparent and neutral. Whatever you feed it, is exactly how it's gonna sound. This is not a cliche, it's real.
If you are like me,a discerning music lover who judge the speaker to how closely it can reproduce music compared to a live event, then you will be in for a treat. If the recording permits, and your gear and cables sound good, the SRs will amaze you and really bring you to the event. You can follow every single note, every vocal (even back up singers)and every little nuance that is in the background. It also, properly places them on a 3D soundstage from front to back, side to side, I actually hear/perceive instruments deep into the back of my wall behind my speakers. They are not artificially moved back just to make an effect, it only does it if the recording is recorded that way and most jazz and well recorded music has depth/width/and height. If the drummer was pounding his drum at the slight left behind the center performer, that's how you will hear it and that's where it's located. You will hear each instrument/performer in it's respective dimensionality of where they were standing and performing. The individual loudness of each instrument or performer is kept in true form, nothing is overtly highlighted, or exaggerated, or lost. As you know, when you are at a live event, not every perfomer or instrument will play at the same loudness, and the SRs are capable of discerning each as it's own space, yet cohesively bring the event together as one ensemble. The dyamnics are startling, swings from quiet passages to loud ones, are brought with real life impact. The transient attacks are so real and perfectly time aligned that you swear you are in the the actual event, it does not sound like a recording like some other speakers I have heard. The bass is also very good, this speaker makes me want to sell my subwoofer. The SRs can go down deep, although I don't have SPL meter to verify this, but I don't doubt the manufacturer's specs that it can go down 20HZ (depending on your room). When the songs permit, you will hear that powerful fast thump, that only subwoofers can do. There are not many full range speakers out there in the $8-10k range today that can do that,although other manufacturers claim their speakers are full range, that's a lot of B.S. Those speakers do not go anywhere in the low 20 hzs. I am not even sure if you can find $10k-20k speakers that will give you a full range response. Don't get me wrong, there might be a few out there that can, but not many from the research I have done. I also find them non-fatiguing, I can listen for hours and hours and not get sick of them, I just want to slap on more CDs and vinyl one after the other. These are only a few reasons why I liked the SRs, I can write way more praise and areas where they are very good at, but I'll be here all night typing. So definitely audition the VR-4SRs if you can, if not try to hear the JRs, they will give a glimps of what the SRs can do, but the SRs do more of everything and better as I have heard both before buying. Even if going with the smaller JRs, I don't think you will be disappointed. Give them a try ! Good luck on your search.
Well I beleive I have completed my speaker hunt for quite some time. I have purchased a pr. of Thiel CS7.2s! I think I can build my system around them for years to come. They have been here a little over a week and are truly amazing speakers. Soundstage, imaging, bass responce, clearity, tons of detail, presented in a relaxed manor that keeps me in front of them hour after hour! I could not be happier. Thanks for all the help and advice, I'm back to the sweet spot.
These comments are in no way a knock on the Sig IIIs as I think they are really hard to beat (my favorites) as an all round speaker in the under $5K range. But they can not compete with the CS7.2s. I think the Whispers by Legacy would be a closer speaker to compare to the CS7.2s. I owned the Focus 20/20 and they are not on the level of these Thiels either.
The Thiels are so transparent its unreal. They completely disappear and all that is left behind is a huge soundstage filled with so much detail it just blows me away. Not only full of detail but presented in a way that you can listen hour after hour without any fatigue. The lush midrange of the Sigs has been replaced with a super clean and detailed midrange that is much nicer. Its as if a thick veil has been removed from my system. The upper midrange and treble with the Thiels is also in a different league. Lots more air and detail. The imaging, and soundstage is were the Thiels really shine. Everything is so solid, big, and lifelike. You can move around the room anywhere, even when standing right in front of one speaker, the performers never move. Its like changing seats at a show. You get a different view to the stage but they never move. I never feel like the sound is off balance (more from one speaker than the other) know matter where I am in my room. Bass is close depending on the recording. Maybe a litle more midbass punch with the sigs, but again not nearly as detailed, clean, or musical bass as with the Thiels.
I was worried that the JC-1s might not be up to the task of driving the Thiels but this pairing really seem to get along very well. I doubt I will be looking to change the JC-1/CS7.2 combo for quite awhile(if ever).
I have upgraded my turntable though. From the Scoutmaster/Karat 17D2 mkII to the Superscoutmaster with signature arm and the XX2 cartridge. I also went from the BAT VK-P10 to P10SE phonostage. I am getting married after the first of the year and my future wife wants a home theater so I need to get my 2 channel complete before that happens. I'm pretty much done except for moving from the BAT 31SE to the 51SE preamp, and will move to a lesser digital source.(one box) Dont listen to CDs that much. Any way, I am as happy as I have ever been with the Thiels and wont let them go without a fight. As good if not better, than any speakers I have heard. At ther new price they are a good buy if you have the power to drive them. Used for under $10K, Very, very, hard to do better. They present "pure music" in a relaxed and completely effortless manor that is to my ears.....the nirvana I have been seeking.
Your descriptions jibe with my own experiences listening to Thiels (I own 2.2's) and also the Sig's, the one pair of Legacys I've heard. The Sig's had an appealing physicality and warmth I don't get from my speakers, but ultimately they seemed to have too much 'personality' of their own for my tastes, and weren't as fast or detailed, or ultimately as natural sounding. I've found living with Thiels long-term to be an experience sometimes lacking a little in emotion, as opposed to respect, although there always come along recordings that force me to question that stance, so 'right'-sounding is the presentation. But the flipside of this is that whenever I have a chance to listen to other speakers, almost inevitably flaws jump out that I just don't hear from Thiels, even if there's often one or two characteristics that might be subjectively more involving. It's probably just the way I'm made, but in the long run I'm happiest with being able to feel like I can 'trust' my speakers, rather than having them necessarily push my buttons with this or that quality. My room is big enough now to consider stepping up in the Thiel line, but not big enough for 7.2's, so I'm looking forward to hearing the long-awaited 3.7's (which'll probably cost about what you paid for the 7.2's :-(
I have the Sig IIs, and I also really like them for the money.
With regard to some of the advantages you noticed of the Thiels over the Legacys, which I do not doubt, I wonder if some of that can be attributed to the quality of the capacitors in the Sigs. I think I remember reading some years ago that some folks felt the weakest part of Legacy speakers were their capacitors. And that some people had upgraded them, with results that mirror some of your comments on what you like about the Thiels.
I am interested in this because I am starting to think about upgrading the caps in my Sig IIs. I know next to nothing about how to do that, but am willing to learn.