Sounds like you have a good salesperson, but only if they let you take each home and actual hear them in your system. Otherwise, its all bs.
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It's good that you're taking the opportunity to listen for yourself, rather than buying based on reviews or other opinions of personal preference. If possible, I suggest you burn one CD with about 10 tunes in the genres of music you prefer, so you can just sit back and listen without having to get up and change CDs. Just make sure to burn the CD at full bandwith and not MP3!. Enjoy and trust your ears as to what sounds the best.
These are some very good choices - nice range of different styles. Here are some obvious suggestions, which you probably already know. But here goes anyway.
Make sure you listen to all through the same electronics, hopefully something close to what you have. Once narrowed down, the dealer should let you take your top 2 choices home.
To expand Chayro's suggestion, find some particular passages that emphasize things that are important to you - detail on strings or piano, deep bass, speed, sweet mid-range, vocals, large scale orchestra, complex rock, etc. and hone in on them, especially if it comes down to a couple of the options.
Figure out the basic characteristic of each - lots of detail, forward versus laid back, sweet mid-range, bass, etc.
Four brands can be a lot to listen to, unless something really jumps out at you. Don't be afraid to come back to listen to your top choices.
If you plan to use these on stands, think about floor standers also. They often take up the same room as book shelfs on stands. At least listen, if they are an option. Totem Arros, for example, are pretty small. Golden Ears need more space with their side firing woofers.
If these are going to be close to a wall, think about the effect of the port, if they have one. You probably will not hear this at a dealer demo. Think about port plugs.
Should be educational and fun. Good luck.
As Dtc says, IF you can go with a small-footprint floor stander, I doubt if ANY speaker under 5k will best the Siverline Preludes in a small room . I got mine in a local pickup here on A-gon for 600 bucks.
I use them in my 12x11 TV room as my TV speakers, mostly to listen to the great vocalists of the 30's and 40's on the digital cable tv musical channels.Even with just a Sony AVR, albeit their top of the line, it often brings tears to my eyes.
I agree with Schubert about B&W but there are plenty of people that go Ga Ga over them so you certainly should check them out.
If I was in the market for speakers in that price bracket I would listen to those.
But listen to other stuff as well. Take your time - its not a race.
I know you mention bookshelves but IMHO the speaker to beat for just a smidgen more at $2k a pair is the Martin Logan Electromotion Electrostatic. Check that out as well. I think you will find it a SIGNIFICANT step over any of the speakers you have mentioned.
Even if it turns out to be just a bit too expensive or you really want a bookshelf it will show you what is possible.
Ditto Silverline Preludes, but with the addition of a sub. I scored my Preludes for 400 bucks used...current version...Ebay or something, and they simply needed a speaker to be wired to the xover (seller paid for that)...maybe that's why they were so cheap...and a REL Q150e for 200 bucks. In my medium large room they sound amazing, and have plenty of punch even with my 65 wpc tube amp. I only mention the prices to make everyone feel jealous of my good fortune.
Gee Wolf. I feel ripped off for paying 600s mint.
How big a room would you guess Preludes would still sound good in with a fast sub like an REL?
I currently use mine in a 12x11 room without a sub which they load perfectly.I'm guessing 15x 12 might be their max without a sub.Only speakers I ever owned that I can find NO fault with.
Schubert...it was a weird score as I'd just heard a set of Preludes at a friend's house, and my then current speakers had a midrange mush issue (Vienna Bachs bad crossover component maybe)...a wonderful accident that happened to me because I'm such a consistently good person. I often remind my friend of my score since he paid full retail for his, and did the research to find 'em in the first place. I wonder sometimes about the "large room" issue as it seems that only matters if you're planning a drunk ass dance party...do people listen to stuff in "large rooms" from 50 feet away? Do they insist on sound that knocks the dust off the chandeliers? Cause the butler to drop the tray of caviar? Note that a good sub does more than play obvious bass notes...it sort of "charges" a room and warms up everything...used RELs are always a good idea.
Your are a good person Wolf, I just always feel any room sound better if its "pressurized" to use the common term, not that I know what that really means.
It like when you're listening to music taking over the room,not necessarily at loud volumes mind you, as opposed to listening to music thats just in in the room.
08-05-13: SchubertFor me, there's something about most B&Ws I've heard that just don't quite bring it together. I'm always aware that I'm listening to transducers. The one big exception is their little PM1 mini-monitor, but at $2800/pair it's out of range for the OP. Matched up with their PV1D sub it's a killer combo. It comes to about $4800 with stands, but is very competitive at that price. Most other B&Ws don't move me. Sonus Fabers almost always do. Some late '90s Concertos could be a good solution.
It could be that they weren't sufficiently broken in or were paired with mediocre electronics (I'm guessing here). I've heard both the GoldenEar Triton Two tower and the Aon 3 larger standmount speaker. Both were factory demos at a high end dealer open house a couple of years apart. I heard the Aon 3's just this past Feb. in a medium-small room and the tonal balance, timbre-correctness, speed, smoothness, dynamic range and bass extension were all remarkable for a $1K/pair speaker regardless of size.
In fact they reminded me very much of the dynamic and frequency range of a good $1500-2000 small tower such as what I listen to at home. Unlike most other speakers in its price range, however, the Aons' motion transformer ribbon tweeter isn't subject to metal dome resonances or dynamic piston overshoot or ringing. That tweeter is smooth, extended, and classy, making the Aons sound like a more expensive speaker.
Well, I never heard of anyone regretting a Spendor purchase.
B%W seems never to be of one piece, tweeter here, mids there, bass somewhere else. I find them very fatiguing to listen to.
Johnny 53 is no doubt correct about Aon 3's , I just heard them once at a guy's house,he was using anti-cable SC which I loathe myself.
I have Sonus Faber bookshelf speakers and I really like them, and I would definitely recommend them. I have the Luito monitors which are out of your price range but I have listened to the Venere line and they sound very good well. Very rich and musical. Do you already own electrics or are getting those as well?
I owned B&W CM1 speakers before the Sonus Faber and I liked how they handled vocals though the bass and mid range wasn't quite as good. I like my Sonus Fabers better in every way, though, at three times the cost, I should.