Merlin VSM and then upgrade as time goes on.
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I would suggest Triangle Cometes which are coherent from top to bottom and a bargain as well. They are a benign impedence at 8 ohms and 92dB. It will be hard to get 40 hz from a monitor but room boundries can help. Triangle also has small floorstanders. I have the Cometes in a small room and the larger Celius in the living room.
Merlin VSMs are great speakers, but they'll sound different when placed <2ft from the wall. Bass will be elevated (actually a positive for older VSMS, IME), but the imaging won't be as good as you'll get in free space.
If your typical listening spls aren't "head banging" and your room isn't huge, you might want to think about Ohms (either MicroTall @app $1K or 100s @app $1.8k) which are designed for such placement. I use 100s with subs, and 60W of tube power generates pretty loud levels in my largish (23w X 18h X 14d, open space behind the listener) room.
The Merlins will be more dynamic, but the Ohms should image better in your near wall set up. Both VSMs and 100s are pretty neutral tonally and offer very good bass extention (paricularly near wall) - but the Ohms with a sub will go deeper with real power.
PS Ohm 100s are $1800 new, and very fine SVS subs start at $600 new. Both are direct with money back in-home offers.
Later on, another $600 can get you a Velodyne SMS-1 which allows you to optimize the crossover and equalize for smoothest bass in your room. I currently use this combo (except my subs are 2 less impressive Velodyne SPLR 8s)and -at the moment- I'm using it instead of my VSMs. In a different room, I might prefer the VSMs, but this room has some issues and the SMS-1 is the difference maker for me.
if you want to use the vsm near a wall to reinforce the bottom end, then simply damp the wall behind them with drapes or wall hangings and the imaging will improve dramatically.
the more you damp the wall behind them the closer you can use them to it.
did the same thing at the ces this last show and the depth and imaging was a good as i have ever heard.
many show reports will be up on the main page probably 7 or so when finished.
I would stay away from Dyns in your case.... they really do need some space behind them. I used to own S1.4s, and ultimately sold them because even 2-3 feet behind them was not enough in my room. You are really going to want to avoid any rear ported speaker.
I replaced them Merlins which worked much better in that room.
With your budget and priorities, I'd look into the best used pair of Merlin TSMs I could afford, and then plan on augmenting with a sub later on when more funds free up.
Just a note to clarify my earlier post. I've owned my VSMs for almost 10 years and they're not going anywhere. I'd agree that they're among the best I've heard regardless of price. It's just that I couldn't get them to sound their best close to the wall. I had limited freedom to damp that wall, so I can't comment on this potential fix.
As far as my current room goes...well, nothing will sound decent below 100hz or so without e.q. (even with the extensive treatments I've employed). C'est la vie.
Marty, I don't think you were "dissing" the Merlins. I think you comments about positioning in relationship to the walls are true. Though I suspect that Bobby's comments might be a pretty good approach to ameliorate some of those problems. Is this a similar consideration with the TMX? Or would they be more suitable in this application - I suspect they give you a lot of the VSM with less bass, but I suspect very comparable (possibly better?) midrange performance. I agree, my VSMs are not going anywhere, for certain people (me) there is no better overall speaker (they all have compromises) regardless of price.
a new pair of e an model will sound better than any upgraded model imho. the speaker is good for about 10% and the sbam about 30%. so a new pair of vsm mmes or mxes with a lf sbam will sound 40% better imho than an upgraded version. there is still a huge improvement to the e mod which marty can attest to.
a tsm mme will beat up a pair of vsm mm or mxs from 50 hz up. so the tsm mme or mxe (concieved as an e version) are only beat by a new vsm mme or mxe with a lead free bam.
the tsm and vsm both have a large radius milled on the edges to move defracted energy behind them. you want this damped as much as possible.
the tsm and vsm have an ultra flat amplitude so reflected energy will be noticeable. other speakers with a more uneven amplitude may image better near a wall but if you damp the rear wall as suggested, the merlin will distance itself again from them. the more uniform a speaker is in amplitude and on and off axis dispersion, the better the focus and expanse.
certain types of axial dispersion characterisics and amplitude irregularities may indeed have sympathetic characteristics in reflective rooms. that imho is more what is being discussed here. you are fine with me marty.