New or used?
A 6 inch woofer isn't really small. Lots of good little speakers with 4-5 inch woofers.
Cabinet size? i.e., no bigger than, e.g., 14 by 6 by 8? Smaller?
Since you define "small" as having up to a 6" mid-woofer, I'll assume you will consider small monitors. I recommend you look at the Krix Equinox. It's reasonably small (front dimension is about 7" x 11"), but is an outstanding little monitor. I have been using a pair in my office for about 6 months, and I think they are terrific! They sell new for $600, but I bought mine used on Audiogon for $300.
Maybe the B&W Leisure Monitors. Under $350, and they are versatile and stylish. Although limited in the bass, they can begin as a main speaker, be used as a rear surround later, and end up in a bedroom or porch even later. Has a built in stand and wall mounting system. Mine are being used as rear surrounds now, and have that classic B&W sound. Maybe not the "best", but one of the better brands.
Check out a pair of used Linn Tukans. They are about as good as it gets for their size.
Happnick, www.goodsound.com has a list of affordable speakers in the size you mention (Paradigms, PSB. B&W, NHT). If space is a consideration then audition the PSBs as they're designed to be placed near walls, something apartment dwellers like me have to deal with. Happy hunting.
You might want to give the Boston Acoustics line a listen. The CR series might work for you, and they're about as small as it gets (short of the Bose cubes, but they do sound a whole lot better!) And the Paradigm Atoms are pretty decent for their size, as well.
Look at the Dynaudio Audience 40s now being sold for less than $500 new because they've been replaced by the 42s.
You want small? You want low cost? They're oldies but goodies...Spica TC50's. Good luck.
I love this speaker. I bought mine from Alan at www.audioshopper.com/audiowaves. I think he will give you a 30 day return policy too. Try them and Love them!!!!
Can hardly go wrong with any of the above. I've heard Spicas, Paradigm, PSB and NHT. All sound fine.
You want inexpensive? Try the Sound Dynamics RTS-3. Audio Advisor is closing out the rosewood versions of these for something like $190 per pair. I believe that there is a link the the RTS-3 review from The Abso!ute Sound on the Sound Dynamics website. You really can't go wrong with these speakers. Especially for the price.
Awesome value for the money. They sound much better than the Paradigms I had.
Try PSB Alpha Mini's for around $200
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A lot of good suggestions flying blind. As far as the immediately preceding, at least he didnt leave a link. (I hesitated to mention my Harbeth HL-P3's which you might be able to talk me out of for something more than your budget if I decide to get larger speakers for that room. They're small, and my favorites in the mini-size).
Problem is if you dont specify new or used, then there are about 100 different choices. A new speaker under $500 list may not satisfy you where a $1200 speaker selling for $500 would.
All of the above are good suggestions, the Krix and the Linn I think are the best (IMO).
A couple of other suggestions: (1) a used or demo pair of Totem Mites, amazing tiny speakers with high end sound, something I wouldnt say about the PSB's and NHT's Ive heard, and (2) if you want new, see if you can audition some of the $300 list 5 inch woofer speakers like KEF Cresta 2's, Monitor Audio Bronze 2's, Tannoy MX2's, and my favorite among these, the Acoustic Energy Aegis One's. I think you'll be surprised by the quality of the sound from these very inexpensive speakers.
Mission made some nice speakers in that price range, especially the 750 (if you can find some). I haven't actually heard these, but the nOrh speakers make me curious (www.nOrh.com). I've read that they're great at higher volumes, but not that good for low volume listening.
It's difficult to get any smaller than the Gallo speakers. They're about the size of a softball.
I can wholeheartedly recommend the mission 780. It was named "What HiFI" magazines's speaker of the year, and actually delivers on that reputation. The imaging is amazing, with great detail, and a wide, deep soundstage. They are small, about the size of Paradigm Atoms, but have a choice of real wood veneers, which look awesome. I am convinced these can compete very favourably with the B&W CDM1, at a much lower price.
I own the JPW 310 ($250 pair) in my second system and they are quite nice.
Agree that Sound Dynamics RTS-3 is a great speaker, see current review of this speaker in Positive Feedback. Also Audio Advisor is a good company to do business with and will give you a 30 day tryout. I am driving these speakers with the Magnum Dynalab 208 or the Audion Sterling 12 watt tube amp. Don't know which is best yet. Highly recommended speaker.