Have you listened to the new B&W 800 series. I think the 803D retails for $8000. They sound fantastic. As good as your Matrix 804's are, they don't compare to the new ones.
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It is my opinion that you would be far better off to look into speaker placement and room treatment before seeking to replace your speakers. If you feel that your room and placement are optimum, by all means then look for the better product.
I am a member of N.E.W.A.S. (Northeast Wisconsin Audiophile Society) and as such, have had the pleasure of visiting a number of different system setups of our other members. Some, I have been able to watch over a longer period of time. Within my own system as well as other member's system, I have heard major changes in sound just relating to placement of the speakers. I have listened to what some may call modest systems develop very good sound with great imaging, a well anchored soundstage, and an balanced frequency response, just through room treatment.
This experience is what prompts me to make the recommendation that I have. I can understand change. It is nice to have something new. I guess you will have to do what pleases you the most.
If you like the B&W sound you have now, by all means, stick with that line. As suggested above, the 803D would be a substantially improvement over what you have now. And at 8K with a discount, you'll be doing alot better than your budget of 10K. And you'll have a speaker that you will hopefully enjoy for quite some time, and also have great resale if you decide to sell.
IMHO, Squidboyw has offered the best advice so far. Given that you have NOT told us anything about what you have done to improve the sound thru you M804 speakers, we have to assume that you did nothing! Might be a very bad assumption but you gave us no choice so far!! :-) Please tell us about your room & its acoustics & what you have done to ellicit the best from the M804. Again, IMHO & being a former B&W owner, if B&W made a series of speakers worth owing then it was the Matrix series. It's that M801 sitting in George Lucas' studio that's B&W claim to fame. The Nautilus series speakers, in comparison, failed. IMHO! If were you, I optimize the setting before letting go of this gem. Or, finding a M801 as a replacement if you cannot optimize the M804. \
Most people buy & use audio gear as it is manuf in the factory rather than buying a good pedigree piece of gear & then modifying it for improved performance. Often, I have found that the performance of a good pedigree piece of gear, when modified or optimized in its setting, far exceeds the purchase of a new piece of "latest & greatest" gear.
Anyway, FWIW. IMHO.
Ok guys I'll try to answer everyone. No I haven't heard the new 800 series. I don't know if it was the amp combo (tube) but vandersteens always sounded plummy/ripe to me. Would my solid state amp help that? I also don't know if I am ready for an electrostatic speaker, I like Mahler and organ music too much.
As to the room I am lucky to have a dedicated basement. The Room is 25 ft long and 14 ft wide. However the rear of my space has bifold closet doors so not a good place to put the system. Also I don't like nearfield listening so I am inclined to forget about putting them on the long wall. Lastly there is a flight of steps into the basement, takes about 2 feet away from the 14 ft width. I am forced to use the speakers on the long wall with the right one somewhat close to the steps. I have placed a child's mat on the stair wall to minimize reflections off the paneling. Hope this helps for suggestions. Incidentally the amp preamp combo is an AI3 with a Sonogy Black Knight providing 175 watts and current. The speakers of course are biwired.
Using a certain kind of tube amp with the Vandersteens may account for the sound you heard. Could also have been the positioning in the room. I used to use an Audio Research VT100MKII amplifier on the 3A Signatures and I never would have described the bass as ripe. That particular tube amp had good control over the Vandersteen's bass.
Considering you can buy a pair of Vandersteens new for about 3100 (or used in the 2000$ range) that leaves a lot of money for more music or other component upgrades.
Just my opinion- good luck!
call your local McIntosh Dealer and see if he has the LS360's. They are voiced well to tube and solid state gear- large sound stage- deep tight bass, furniture grade cabinets @ 140 lbs each, audiophile binding post and can take 600 watts of power! I know that McIntosh speakers are never spoken of because Mc gear is known for amps- but they make some great value equipment and it is timeless.
You may want to consider Audio Physic, if it's imaging you are after. My sense is that AP may be peerless in this particular area. Virgo III, or a used Avanti may be ones to consider. Ones you're sitting in the sweet spot, the speakers literally disappear. That's the unique quality about this line that made it quite a hit. I guess I may be biased - I own a pair of Virgo IIs, but I used to own B&W Nautilus 805, and had a friend with N804. Apples and oranges from a comparison perspective, but I certainly found the Virgo II to be a step up in many areas - most prominent of which was imaging. Good luck with your search.
Have you considered the Merlin VSM-MX or MMs? I ask b/c I am a current owner and simply couldn't be more satisfied. Before purchasing the merlins as well as after after, I compared them to a B&W Nautilus 801, 802, and 805. The Merlin VSM-MMs WIPED the floor with the Nautilus series. The ONLY area the 801 outperformed the merlins was in the depth of bass. The merlin simply demolished the B&ws in areas of imaging, soundstaging, detail retrieval, highs, mids, and bass detail. The merlins had much more detailed bass than the b&ws and about the bass output of the 802s. A HUGE plus with the merlins is you have direct access to the speaker's designer and company president, bobby palkovic. He is an amazing, AMAZING resource to help you get the best out of ANY speaker.