Of your list...the most overly warm would be the paradigms or pioneer but at a cost of resolution...to be fair...these are also the least costly as well...for your criteria...slightly older sonus faber concertinos would be ideal for jazz...they might be just out of reach...well worth the wait...psb stratus minis as well
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If your sensitive to bright sounding equipment/speakers, stay away from the metal dome tweeters. I find them to usually be a problem myself, and rarely find one that I can listen to. And usually, the under $3000-$4000 ones will be worse. Paradigm, Wharfedale, and Psb, in the past (present?), has had some of the most offensive metal tweeters to a lot of people.
Spendor S3/5's are very nice spks. Warm sounding (Soft dome tweeter, VIFA I believe), Not very efficient. 84db. Limited bass. Tannoy spks. are very good as well. I own two prs.(MX-1M's and Fusion 1's) and both sound excellent. If you don't mind a larger bookshelf spk. look @ Snell J II's. Vifa drivers. (Dahlquist M-905's as well.) Shortly I'm expecting a pr. of older Mission bookshelf spks. which were very highly recommended to me. We'll see....Good Luck!
At your budget you don't need to settle for the PSB Alpha; you could afford the Image B5 or Image B6. Don't let the titanium tweeters scare you. I've been listening to titanium dome tweeters in my Mirage speakers for 15 years and they are sweet, linear, and smooth. PSBs are also well-known for having a transparent, honest midrange and extraordinary linearity. Comprehensive B6 review here.
On your list there are powered speakers and passive speakers. What is the rest of your system? Beyond that obvious question, a thumbs-up for Adam Audio - I would not call them warm though. Most studio monitors will tend towards neutral before warmth. The Adams are very engaging with all types of material. If you have the room and budget the A7X are amazing, but even the A3X will fill your small living room capably. They are better than AudioEngine by direct comparison - just overall a more refined and revealing speaker. They do also have some facility to put the volume control in one of the two speakers via some additional cable. I have not tried that so could not comment on the results, but it is certainly more convenient than the typical studio monitor where you would need to adjust volume separately on each speaker (something you might want to consider in weighing their use in your living room). As you move up the Adam line you will get lower and more controlled bass. You might also add Silverline Minuets, and, if you can find them in your price range (they do come up for just a bit more), Proac Tablettes. The Silverline is a bit more sensitive and would not need as much power as the Proacs would.
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Celestion - circa early to mid 1990's. Model 3 or Model 5, or the DL8. You should be able to find all of the above on the used market for well under $300 a pair. Smooth, mellow, and laser-focused imaging, without being too laid-back or soft.
I used to sell them at an authorized Celetion dealer. The Model 3 in particular is an amazing little speaker for the price. We once put them head-to-head with Celetion's top SL700 speakers at $3,200 a pair, and the Model 3 put up a heck of a fight! I own a pair myself. Few bookshlef/monitor speakers reproduce the human voice as well as these, and since it sounds like TV watching will be common for you, these are right up your alley. Also, they LOVE jazz, classical, pop, and especially female vocal and accoustic guitar. My Model 3's sometimes sound better than my primary Infinity IRS Deltas for some of my more accoustic music - and they're more than 15 times the price!
If you realy want to get serious bang for your buck, check out the Celestion SL6 - they're based on the top SL700 but one third the cost (retail in 1990s). The SL6 often come up on Ebay or Audiogon for $300 to $500 a pair. WOW what sound from such a small speaker.
Ah, now you have me all misty-eyed... Sniff. Good times.
Leonard Cohen, via Jennifer Warnes: "It's four in the morning, the end of December. I'm writing you now just to see if you're better..."
@ Phasecorrect - Hmm resolution or warmth - guess I can't have everything at the price yeah =( Will look into the Sonus Fabers and PSBs you mentioned. However I'm based in Singapore so shipping used equipment from the US renders cost savings moot. Some used gear is available here, though I've yet to see these two speakers come up. Brand new their prices are kinda out of my reach =(
@ Hifihvn - Yeah I've read that metal dome tweeters tend to be quite bright. However, a lot of speaker manufacturers seem to be using them. I've been told that soft dome tweeters are silky sounding so yes I'm definitely keeping an eye out on speakers with them.
@ Kotta - I've hear a similar 3/5a speaker setup some time ago, believe it was a Rogers or something. Definitely liked the BBC mini monitor sound. However they're quite pricey brand new at least. I've seen some pre-owned models here in Singapore, but their condition was sub-par so I didn't pull the trigger. Also heard that these speakers require lots of power like you mentioned, so I'm not sure if I would be able to afford the juice required to let them perform.
@Johnnyb53 - Thanks for the PSB recc. Been reading their site, and I like the sense of honesty and frankness. They seem like a more down to earth brand than most other manufacturers. These Canadian speaker brands (like Paradigm et al) seem to deliver good bang for the buck. I'm quite keen on the PSB range, however most of them feature metal dome tweeters. Have to listen to them to judge.
@ Jax2 - right now I only have my source. A Macbook air with an external drive filled with lossless and 320 files.
That's my worry with studio monitors in general - that honesty in reproducing exactly what's on the source material might make listening unpleasant at times. I've got some RVG mastered records from the 50's and 60's that are very hot and bright and makes listening very painful on some headphones - like Grados for e.g.
On the subject of Silverline minuets, many people seem to recommend them for a small room setup. Will have to look into them. Their right over the budget but if their worth it, might just spring for them. Since their efficient I could save on a lower power amp possibly.
@ Lrsky - Thanks for the Silverline recc bud. Are they leaps and bounds better than the other speakers listed here? I seem to have trouble finding a dealer here in Singapore.
@ J Stereo and 4musica44107 - Those Rega RS1s look nice, but pricey too? Are they on another level compared to the likes of PSBs and Paradigms? Rega electronics seem to be reasonably priced too, making pairing an easy job.
@ Tgrisham - I've been looking around here in Singapore, can't seem to find them used yet =( Sigh it sucks to live in this part of the world sometimes.
@Oldskoolbird - Those are really cool - a ribbon tweeter at that price is rare no? The review on stereophile is encouraging too. Alas, need to find them here. Not sure if any dealers carry this brand.
@Timrhu - Ah a Polk! Never really held the brand in high regard, not sure why tho haha. Will look/em up.
@ Mhwalker - Thanks for the reply sir! Those Celestions sound wonderful! I've spotted a pair of Celestion 3000s here in Singapore. Preowned and going at about 500US. Are there any comparable to the models you've mentioned?
This link provided by someone above is a problem with some of these tweeters problems (PSB this case) when not done right. A lot of people don't notice it, but others do, and the measurements show it's there. A young couple posted here about Paradigm speakers they bought and couldn't listen to, and were seeking answers to try and rectify their problem. They bought theirs on reviews and hoped they would work. It may be ultrasonic noise, but definitely cause irritations to a lot that are sensitive to it, like the couple I mentioned. I don't know why they make speakers that do what these do. PSB problem in the first, Paradigm problem in the second link. They also talk about congested midrange in the PSB. [http://www.stereophile.com/content/psb-image-b6-loudspeaker-measurements] [http://www.stereophile.com/content/paradigm-reference-studio-60-v5-loudspeaker-measurements]
@ Marty - Ah alas, if it's hard to find these used stateside then it might be near impossible getting them here - unless fate intervenes. There's some great gear available here, but their on the pricey side of things.
@ Hifihvn - That's a worrying issue! I am very sensitive to shrill and bright high frequency sounds. And well if its ultrasonic then maybe I can't hear it haha. Will have to investigate this. Given my 'allergy' to shrill highs some have advocated speakers with non-metal tweeters. But some say it isn't an issue. Will have to audition to decide. I guess it varies speaker to speaker and listener to listener.
Quad 9L actives, warm, inviting, not overly covered up, very musical, maybe the sleeper in the Quad dynamic line. Used ones are right in your price bracket, high end sound for relative pocket change. Stretch your budget a little (around $6-700 used) for 12Ls which can fill a larger space. Sell your amp and just use the speakers with some decent ICs.
I own both and love them.
as per tgrisham, the von schweikert vr1 would be perfect for you--jazz sounds live on 'em. i'm not sure how easy you could score a pair for $500--they don't seem to pop up that frequently. rega rs1 do everything well and are very musical. for a dark horse, i'd consider energy c-3 or rc--somewhat underrecognized, but they image as well as any inexpensive monitor i've heard, sound larger than most on your list and are a very good buy used.
Thanks for all the inputs gents! Keep them coming in =)
Btw, I listened to a friend's vinyl and tube setup recently. A Leben C600 integrated with a pair of Harbeths and man was it wonderful.
I'm quite keen on tubes but I'm wondering if the speakers listed here can be mated to something like the Jolida 102b a 20W amp.
Most people say that small bookshelves are quite inefficient so it's a concern.
Silverline Minuets are 88db efficient and should work fine with 20W in a room the size of yours. I believe one of the reviewers used a 25W amp and said it was more than adequate to power them. Harbeth's are great, but I don't think you'll find a pair under 500.
I think the no-brainer here is the AudioEngine A5+. The "Plus" includes wireless remote and a boost to the internal amp to 50wpc rms/75wpc peak. Sensitive to highs? Silk dome tweeter. Linearity and clarity? 1" thick mdf cab walls--unheard of at this size and price. There's also a compatible subwoofer if you want bass extension and room-filling capability. Since you wouldn't need an amp for the speakers, you could afford the sub.
The AudioEngine is a good buy but hardly a "no brainer"
None of the usual small speakers mentioned are. You might want to read up on the PSB Alpha B1 though. Try and find Paul Barton's interview about the history and design timeline of this small classic. Many speaker designer don't labor over such micro refinements and testing even for their floorstanders, let alone the mundane bookshelf.
I am using a pair of Alphas in my office with the diminutive Fatman iTube amplifier and dock. I am amazed everytime I hear them and wonder how Barton did this for soooo little money. Ridiculous how good they are. Worth a try for sure, and they will sell lightning fast if you don't like 'em (but you will).