Vandersteen 2CE Sigs?
Fishboat: other components haven't been decided on; thought we'd do speakers first. But she wants a reciever (doesn't like the idea of separates). So, she's going to need lots of power for the Vandersteens or the Snells, right? How much power, minimum?
Everybody: I hear the Vandersteens have a great soundstage, but what about imaging? As good as my Spica's? Unfortunately, we live in Ky.; very little choice as regards auditioning speakers.
I'd consider Totem Sttaf's - which can be found used at the upper part of your price range. They image like there's no tomorrow. The only concern I may have is with a room that large they may thin out.
As for the GMA Europas - I agree with Evita - I had a pair, and they're great, but IMO may get lost in a room that large.
The Sttafs have enough low end - nearly as much as the Vandersteen 2s - to be worth considering. The added advantage of the Totems is they have a small footprint and are really easy to place. OTOH, if you can't place them 4 ft from the wall you'll lose a lot of that great imaging.
look into Wharfedale Diamond 9.6's they are a large fullrange speaker with a warm natural sound and also deliver clean strong bass response down to around 30hz. I have a large room also (28' by 22' by 8') these fill my room wonderfully. They also have a curved cabinet design that is solid and sleek, as well as the neat kevlar drivers. they can be had on Audiogon or ebay for around $600-650 or $1000 new. Their smaller siblings (the 9.1s) were given rave reviews on stereophile by Robert Reina. here is a small snippit
The Diamond 9.1 had two attributes that floored me:
1) Extraordinary resolution of detail in the midrange, with no trace of coloration. Low-level dynamic articulations in this region were subtle and linear, and the speaker's ability to render soundstage cues, ambience, and hall sound were what I would expect from a speaker costing $2000/pair or more.
2) A refined, delicate, and detailed presentation of high-frequency articulation, with no trace of either hardness or softness and with a perfect replication of transients.
I like the little Vandys too, and Thiels are certainly great imagers when you set them up right, but the speakers that the lady liked were Spica TC-60s, which are known for their extraordinary imaging. The best image I have heard from a speaker currently available was from a Triangle Titus ES, which would be too small for the room. The next model up, the Comète ES, might not be, and there are even bigger Triangles available here, still within her budget.
You're in Kentucky so Tyler Acoustics would be worth a real look. Some Freedom series would be in your friends budget and maybe some Reference minis or monitors with a bit of stretching. The point being that a good quality receiver could drive these speakers effectively and they would do classical very well.
That's a big room to fill. I used to own Spica Angelus and the Green Mountain Audio Europas are better in every way, including imaging. However they would struggle to fill such a large room without a subwoofer.
I think you may struggle to fill a room that size with music AND have the subtlety and imaging of the Spicas on the stated budget. The Europas might do it if you budget for a good sub in the future (I use a Rel strata).
You could fill that room with music with B&W DM603s, but you'll lose some of the refinement of the spicas. The B&ws are a lot of fun, though.
Given that you are puting this together from scratch, I would definitively recommend a wholistic approach: Explore combinations of speakers and receivers that are likely to work well together. As many of us know by experience, speakers can sound very different based on the other components in the system. If she does not like the idea of separates and wants a receiver, I would recommend something like a used Linn Classik matched with a relatively high efficiency speakers, like, for example, used Triangle floorstanders.
Someone listed Wharfedale Evolution 30s for $650 today. They popped right into mind when you mentioned room size and budget. They are noted for big sound with solid bass and should image well also. And they are quite attractive in my opinion. These were the second from the highest in Wharfedales top series a couple years ago, not sure if thats still the case. Search audioadviser.com for picks and details, they offer quite a few Wharfedales.
The Vandys are 7-ohm, 86dB, 40-160 watts, the Snells are 8 ohm, 90dB, 50-250 watts. I'd think at least 100-120 good watts, naturally more never hurts.
The Vandys get lots of press here, but I think the Snell CV's are not as well known. Two friends of mine each run a pair...really wonderful speakers(would give the Vandys a run for their money...and might win) & used they cost in the $850-$1000 range($2600 new). They have have a character similiar to the Vandy in that they are very easy to listen to. There has been 2-3 pair listed here at A-gon in the last six months. One pair lasted about an hour before they were picked up. Either the CV's or the 2Ce's should do well in your room(add on a Vandy 2wq sub and you'd really have something).
I have not owned TC-50s. I used the REL strata with Spica Angelus, with the crossover set at 27Hz, and now with the GMA Europas crossed at 48Hz. Of the two setups I think the crossover at 48Hz with the Europas is more seamless. The Angelus was a little difficult to integrate as it has very deep, but very lean bass ... it's easier to integrate with a speaker that has a more pronounced rolloff.
I would imagine that the Spica TC50s would cross at around 50Hz also, so I would guess that the REL could work quite well with them.
To be honest, adding the REL is one of the best things I ever did. It is tricky to setup and integrate and I have found I need to have it out in the room next to the main speakers, which is rather obtrusive, but it fills the music out and gives it a depth I really enjoy. It also means my system can play anything from string quartets to AC/DC depending on my mood, and handles both well.
Of course at $900 for the Europas and $800 for the used Strata maybe I could have found a floorstanding speaker for $1700 to do it all. I honestly don't know if mine is the optimum solution, but it does sound very good to me, and I'm quite happy with it.
I'll add my 2 cents to what Seandtaylor99 said about the Rel integration. I also can't address the Spica TC=50's, but I have a Rel Storm I, and a Storm III. I've run the III with Totem Sttafs, and now it's set up with Mani-2's. I ran the Storm I and III with GMA Europas (at different times, of course). I found it easiest to integrate the sub with the Sttafs by far, and hardest with the Mani-2s. The crossovers were set at 35 Hz for the Sttaf, 48hz for Europa, and 29Hz for Mani-2. My hypothesis is that in general, the higher the crossover is the easier it will be (although I expect there's a knee in the curve if you go too high). I think the sweet-spot is in the 40-60Hz range. With the Mani's, the sub isn't even in play for most music, and it almost doesn't make sense to have it. Further, I think (conjecture on my part) the only reason Europas were more dificult to integrate is because they're phase coherent/time aligned and I had to fiddle with the positioning of the sub a lttle more than for the Sttaf.
The Rel/Sttaf, and Rel/Europa combination is really satisfying, and even though for the money you can get a full range, It may not have the quality of deep bass, and perhaps not the quality of the upper bandwidth either.