You stated that you can actually physically audition 11 listed different speaker brands, with a plethora of models within each. (that’s a lot)
You’ve listed the simple and preferred pathway to solving your quandry: Just start the in-person auditioning process : its a journey that’s a part of this hobby. Just work your way down this list and hopefully you hit your preferred brand and model. There are no heavily personally biased suggested faves offered up herein that are to be relied on blindly. (too many variables, including inter alia, performance impact of your other pieces and arena; the source, music genres, listening arena acoustic warts, inpact of cables etc....)
There are no "bad" choices in your list and your price strata... they are are all quality build brands. The performance differences will be subtle and strictly a personal value judgement as to your ultimate choice among the contenders and pretenders.
Drag your amp with you to the dealer, or arrange a dealer home audition ...full stop.
I could only wish I could audition 11 different speaker brands.. I consider him very lucky. If he is married or has a gf, he could bring her along for a second set of ears and go out to lunch or dinner on the way back. That is what I have done when auditioning new gear, I bring the wife along, she tells me what she likes or hears, I buy us a meal or two and I get no complaints on what I buy or spent. Win, win.
What are your PMC Twenty5.26s not doing for you?
Could it be the Devialet 200?
Sharing more details on your system, room, music, and general preferences will help members give you more specific advice.
@akg_ca says it:
You’ve listed the simple and preferred pathway to solving your quandry: Just start the in-person auditioning process : its a journey that’s a part of this hobby. Just work your way down this list
Audition, audition, audition.
Let your ears be your guide. My approach is to listen to everything and narrow it down to the ones I liked the best. Then, take your amp to the dealer and see if it can work the same magic.
Yes, it will take time and energy, but you will be one step closer to enlightenment.
Well I went and auditioned the Golden Ear Reference’s and the Paradigm Persona 3F’s. The references are quite large. Bigger than what I thought. I was not blown away by these speakers. The lacked the nice highs and midrange. It maybe the bass was overpowering. The definitely have a wide soundstage. The Persona F3’s were much better in terms of dynamics, mid’s and highs and very smooth and balanced. Could not compete on the bottom end and soundstage with the GE’s. I would like to audition the Persona’s at home. They are stunning looking and more to my taste.
.....The references are quite large. Bigger than what I thought. I was not blown away by these speakers. The lacked the nice highs and midrange. It maybe the bass was overpowering. The definitely have a wide soundstage......
Did you happen to take note as to where the bass dial was set? Anything clockwise of 12 could very well cause overpowering of the bass with respect to the mid/tweeter. The bass can be adjusted +/- 7.5 db, and the reason for the control is precisely to tame the bass when/if needed.
For that matter, when auditioning any speaker that has some kind of level control over one or more drivers it certainly makes sense to take note of where those controls are set, and adjust accordingly.
Hmmm, perhaps it will affect the subtleties(level controls) but not the overall sense of what a speaker does.
I, too, auditioned Golden Ear and have to say I found them lacking. Hey, everyone's ears are different, but your post reminded me of what I remembered...
I second Beetlemania's recommendation of the Vandersteen Treo's. I have the non CT version, but they are impressive-Especially so, against the Golden Ear.
OP, one other thing directly to the point of the thread... when it comes to auditioning speakers (at a dealer), you should only give so much credence to the audition.
Here is a link to related thread on audiogon that may interest you:
I have actually auditioned the KEF Reference 3, Vandersteen Treo CT and B&W. I really liked the KEF 3 (though the ref1 will be closer to your budget). I also liked the B&W 804 and the Vandersteen Treo CT. I especially liked the Vandersteen Quatro CT, so much so that I bought them. My second choice would have been the Treo. It would be difficult to make a bad choice from the brands you have listed.