I love my X719 Usher monitors, and would rec them for your system.
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I should have made it clear that I am OK with (and prefer) gently used speakers.
Also, my room is probably bigger than average -- 14' x 22', with the system on the short wall and the listening position roughly midway down the room. (I try to avoid EXACTLY midway down the room for acoustic modal reasons, but furniture has a way of not cooperating.)
I'm surprised you have an issue with hf prominence using the Quad 909. That said, the Quad 12L has a "quiet" clean sounding tweeter, but (in my experience) it seems to have a recessed midrange compared to other speakers I had at the time. For me, the 12Ls sounded great, but when switching back to other speakers I had that "oh yeah" moment. The 11L might be more open in the mids, haven't heard them. Sounds like you need to look at soft dome speakers, although I feel that manufacturers like Totem, Alon, and PMC have done great work with metal.
Actually, I used to have the 909 and a pair of 12L speakers a while back. These are the only recent Quads I have any experience with. Wish I could be more help. I've been hit hard by this economy so haven't been trading stuff lately. Right now I'm listening to my good old Swan M1s with a the only purchase I've made in two years, A Tamp-20 t-amp. Right now, surprisingly, I am happy as a clam.
Good point about the source -- my Cambridge Audio CDP is definitely not "polite". I've had Arcam units in the past that were more balanced. I'll probably grab a DAC like the MF V-DAC to see if that helps, but I still suspect the Epos M-16i are just a bit forward for my tastes.
I'm wondering if I were to go with something like the Quad 22L2 could I dispense with my subwoofer? I don't listen to a lot of music with content below 40 Hz, but I hate it when that bottom octave just isn't there.
I also have a 640Cv2 CDP. It is a detail champ with a fairly flat frequency response for the money, but benefits from good synergy with other gear. I listened to my player with some excellent Moon electronics, Dynaudio Contour speakers and Shunyata wires (some wires costing significantly more than the player) and it was shocking how good the Cambridge performed in that company.
My system with more modest electronics and speakers can sound a bit forward at times, but I prefer the resolution of the Cambridge to other players in its price range (including Arcam). I bought a Shunyata Diamondback power cable after the demo referenced above and that helped every aspect of the 640C's performance (couldn't justify spending more than the player cost on a PC - even though it sounded better). I also ditched several more expensive IC cables for the previous generation of the current Radio Shack Auvio's (RS Fusion's actually) because I feel they work better with the Cambridge and my modified AMC amp. I really like these wires and think they are a screaming deal at around $20.
I'm not sure the budget V-DAC is the answer given the quality of your other gear - I would try before you buy. Or try some different wires (including an aftermarket power cable if you don't already have one), and save major money for a stand alone DAC that is really a lot better than the two already used in the Cambridge. I have often thought the 640Cv2 would make a good transport for something like the Berkley or Bryston.
I have heard the Epos M16i's with Naim electronics and it was a really good combination to my ear, nicely balanced and fairly neutral, showcasing the Naim's PRAT and musicality. I prefered the combination to Naim's own speakers and several Totem tower's, only prefering the much more expensive Totem Forest in that particular setup. I would think your Quad amp would be a good match for the Epos as well. Do you usually play the Epos with the grills on by the way? That might help tame the treble a bit - and how much have you fooled around with speaker placement and listening position? In any case, if none of those suggestions work, the Cambridge CDP may ultimately make you happier matched with a silk dome tweeter rather than the metal one in the Epos.
The Quad 22L2 has more bass and may suffice in your room without a sub. I really, really like the 21L2, and I think you gain some coherence with one fewer driver and crossover. But it may not do in your room, especially without a sub. The Quad towers also sounded great to me with Naim electronics - almost as good as Devore 8's which I was comparing at the time and cost a good bit more. And the fit and finish of the Quad's is ridiculously good for the prices asked - Chinese manufacturing at its very best...
My suggestion...go tubes!! Get a nice tube preamp, throw in some NOS tubes and go from there!!
I have the M5i's, and even though I have them up for sale, they are still 100 times better sounding on tubes then on solid state!!
And, btw, the reason they are up for sale is that I do want to take that one suggestion and try an LS3/5A clone :)
Other than that I found them to be much better than most that I've tried in that price range. If I could afford to keep them and still get a clone, I will...simple as that LOL!!
While I have enjoyed CJ tube preamps in the past, I am trying to keep this system balanced towards just maybe a BIT more euphonic than "neutral". Tubes take it too far, in my estimation (but oh how they sound!). (I do a little recording and mixing now and then, so it's nice to have a "mix check" system I can rely on. I mix through NHT Pro nearfields, and while they're great at what they do, they're not 100% reliable. I doubt any nearfields are.)
Knownothing (ironic name!), I do play the Epos with the grills on, and I have messed around with room placement quite extensively. Toed-in seems to give the most balanced presentation, but it's still not quite "flat".
I think I may jump on a pair of Quad 22L2 and hope I can sell the subwoofer. (Knowing me, I'll probably keep it in case I pull the trigger on a pair of Maggie MMG that I've always wanted to try. I'm hopeless.)
My experience is limited (I haven't heard the Epos M16i, for starters), but I had Quad 11Ls and now Dynaudio X12s in a room exactly the same size as yours, set up in the same less-than-deal way. I loved the Quads with a Music Hall cdp and amp, but when I switched to Naim electronics, I found them warm and a bit fuzzy. A good deal on the Dynaudios prompted me to try them, and I think they're fantastic. I can't speak to other models, but the X12s are revealing without being harsh and the bass is shockingly good for small monitors. For me, they're fast and detailed but not too forward. Maybe worth a try ...
Funny Afranta mentions Dynaudios because in noting where you are from, I was going to suggest you go take a listen. I believe you still have a good Dynaudio dealer in Austin - I listened to and fell in love with a Rega table/PrimaLuna integrated/Dynaudio 52SE set up in that shop. I also heard some Dynaudio Audience 72's (now discontinued) with NAD separates and they sounded really good as well. I guess if you were to buy new, the Excite X32 would be the most comparable to Quad 22L2 or Epos M16i, but well above stated $1000 budget. Afranta seems to think the X12 could do the trick in your room, but I am skeptical. A good used pair of Audience 72's or 72SE's in particular, or even 52SE's would be very nice (although nobody in this price range comes close to the finish job on the Quads if that matters to you... nobody).
UPDATE: got the 22L2s in yesterday, and so far so good. They aren't broken in yet, but I feel like they're definitely a step in the direction I was wanting to head. Plenty of detail, but not quite so much high end emphasis. So far, they don't throw as wide a soundstage as the Epos M16i, but things are more "solid" (no doubt due in part to the extra octave on the bottom end).
They are also quite beautiful to look at. I bought them from lanemart, who sometimes sells Quad here on audiogon, and got them for $775 because of a tiny blemish down low on one sidewall. I couldn't recommend his service more highly, and Quad actually vouched for him, too.
Can't wait to hear if things change as they break in. Thanks for all the help,
My room leans to the bright side of neutral, as it is carpeted but has no acoustic treatment on the walls. (Go figure -- I have a masters degree in acoustics.) I am really starting to think I hit on a nice combination here. The Quad amp and 22L2 speakers have a nice rich tonal balance that seems to complement the Cambridge Audio CD player very nicely. I've only been running the speakers in using a DISH network classical channel, so I haven't done more truly serious listening, except for a few roots rock CDs the other day, but there is no doubt in my mind that I now have a more tonally neutral system at this point. I think I'm convincing myself that the soundstage is getting a bit wider, but that could be a placebo effect (and recording-dependent as well).
Nice to hear that you are enjoying the 22L2s. I've been going through a number of adjustments with mine and I find that, at least in my listening room, imaging and soundstage is best when they are about 10-12 feet apart, a couple of feet off the back wall, and completely parallel to each other (no toe-in). Enjoy!