Merlin vs. Totem vs. Verity vs.????

I'm having to replace my beloved Vandy IICE's with something physically smaller. Associated equipment is an Audio Research D-115 mk2 amp (100 watt) , LS-8 preamp ( both tube), CAL Audio CL-10, and MIT 750 cables). Leading candidates right now include the Merlin VSM-SE, The Totem Mani2's or Forests, perhaps ( a stretch financially) the Verity Fidelio's , if they're half as good as the awesome Parsifals, and anything else worth listening to at or below the size and price of the Merlins. Question is, what should be in this group? The ProAc 2.5s have been recommended. How about the Meadowlarks? Anything else that ought to be in contention? JimB
The ProAc 2.5 Speaker to my ears is more realistic and music like than most other speakers I have listened to. Speaker placement is critical as small changes greatly impacted the sound. The ProAc 2.5 Speaker presents the music better, is less colored and is more true to the music. When using the Rowland Concentra Integrated Amplifier and the ProAc 2.5, this combination sounded very good. I suggest you consider the ProAc 2.5 Speaker with good electronics.
I own the Parsifals, and the Fidelio's are 80 to 90% there. The ProAcs 2.5 are a good speaker,however, I disagree that they are the least colored. To me, they are more colored than the Veritys, more forward than natural, and one is more aware of their presence. But this is based on MY listening experiences! You have selected a good list. I'm not a fan of the Meadowlarks and you have to be carfeful of listening position because they use first order crossovers. But since you've had the Vandersteens I'm sure you are aware of this. Again, I find the Totems like the ProAcs. But they and the ProAcs may work well with the Rowland gear as Hgeifman suggests since I find the Rowland electronics a little rolled off on the high end and a little too smooth and mellow through the midrange. You may want to audition the new ProAcs, they are based on a completely new design and are supposed to be "unbelievable".
I listened to the Forest and own the ProAcs. They are not in the same league, either in performance or cost. I don't know about the others you mention. Is the ProAc colored? Maybe. Stereophile found it's frequency response not to be very flat. Perhaps this shifts the balance of certain music, but I find the effect to be subtle and forgivable, particularly given its deep powerful bass, and its startling portrayal of instruments. So yes, maybe the 2.5s are a little colored, in the sense that they present music as it out to be, rather than what the recording is. Another speaker worth considering would be the Audio Physic Virgos. Many people like them, they are supposedly more "analytical" than the 2.5s, but have some similarities in terms of size and cost.
If you can afford them get the Merlins. If not and you are considering the Totem Forest then have a listen to the Totem Tabu's. You'll get better bass and a better all round sound.
having owned a pair of merlin vsm/se with bam i can tell you they are great speakers. however, i traded them in on a pair of aliante model one pinifarina speakers ( see lars fredell's review in the fall ultimate audio mag) and can unequivocally say they are the best monitor speaker you can buy. you can get a pair for $5000 ( don't get the vela stands with them). they are the best speaker for deliniating the human voice you will probably ever hear. if you listen to alot of classical,jazz,and vocals these are the speakers for you.