Listen to the Talon Audio Khites befor you make a purchase. They are the best monitors I've heard (including the merlins, which are very good).
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Interestingly, a buddy brought over his Thiel 2.3 to compare in my system against my Merlin TSM's. The Thiels sounded good, but a very flat soundstage and a bit bright on the top end. I've had my TSMs in my system now for about 2 months and still find them unbelievably detailed and smooth. I'm driving them with a BAT VK-60. You can see my system config at http://cgi.audioasylum.com/systems/1093.html and my review of the Merlins at http://www.audioreview.com/Main+Speaker/Merlin+Music+Systems+TSM/PRD_120090_1594crx.aspx#reviews. If you want musical and engaging, look no further than the Merlins.
Eric, I am not going to comment on the TSM since I haven't heard them but have owned the VSM for over 3 years. What did compel me to respond was your comment about helping the little guy.
What I have learned about audio since owning these speakers and dealing with one of, if not the best manufacturers in the business (at least as far as I'm concerned) I would say that not only would you be helping the little guy but he would pay you back 10 fold by helping you realize what his little gems are capable of. And since they are designed by the man that designed the VSM I would expect they are quite capable indeed. Give him a call if you haven't already. You'll find out soon what I'm talking about.
In our little world of hi-end audio there are many really good guys and of them Bobby P shines bright. Always there to take a call and always helpful in giving sound advice on his products.
I live in NYC, and I feel your agony. I ended up, and will keep as long as I am here, Sonus Faber Signum. The sound is gorgeous. In my room size, I firmly believe that I can't do better. Since this model has been discontinued (to make room for Cremona line, I heard), from time to time (in fact right now!) there is a good deal on here. This is a gem. Grab it while you can.
BUT, it depends on your taste on music. If you are mostly classical, chamber, or other acoustic music lover, you won't regret.
I like several suggestions, and will add my own. So far, the TSM's and Reference 3A De Capo's would be top choices. A couple others to consider are the Totem's, either the 1's or the Mani-2's; or the JM Reynaud Twin Mk 3's (I own these). VERY musical.
My 2 cents. Much luck on your choice.
Todd - chams_uk
I don't think you're getting any bad suggestions. I have a small 12x12x9 foot room and have done some experimenting. I have found that my small room does very well with a sealed speaker. Looking at your current choices, I think this would point more to the direction of the Merlin TSM as it is a sealed speaker designed in a true monitor philosophy. I am using the Harbeth HL-P3ES-2 driven by the Levinson 383. The Harbeth is the evolution of the traditional sealed monitor; it may be a consideration and match well with your Plinius.
PS... Don't forget good stands.