I'd like recommendations for speakers that are well-suited to and compliment the NAD C352 integrated amp and NAD C542 CD player.
Due to severe space restrictions (footprint), they'll need to be bookshelf-size. The'll sit on a long wooden cabinet with the components stacked in the middle. The room has exposed hardwood flooring under a wool area rug.
Music listened to is classical (both orchestral and chamber ensembles), jazz (mostly instrumental, some vocal), prog rock.
I think a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 or 9.2 bookshelf speakers would work well. I use a pair of 9.2 speakers with the NAD 325 BEE and c542 cd player. Its a very warm system, rich and non-fatiguing. It is not the last word in resolution, but listening fatigue is not something you will ever have to worry about. I listen to a lot of jazz too, and this is a good system for it. I use Analysis Plus interconnect and speaker cables as well. I think the combination works really well. I tried Epos M5 speakers with the NAD components and got less than desirable results. The combination was just too bright for me. I think you are best served selecting speakers on the warmer side to pair with NAD gear. Good luck.
I haven't look at the Wharfendales, yet. I'll find a dealer in my area, and give them a listen.
Other speakers I'm looking at are Quad, Focal, Dali, Rega, and Revel. How would any of these pair with NAD components? Also, how does the C352 compare to the 325 BEE (besides power)? And how would the 325 BEE handle the above-mentioned speakers?
Lastly, my budget for speakers is $500 - $1,000 (US).
B&W speakers pair nicely as well, I started with a pair of 603/S3's and have now moved on to a pair of 703's all while keeping the same NAD T742 receiver. I have now source a C272 power amp to help drive the 703's (they are much more power hungry than the 603's)
If the speakers must sit on a shelf, I'd suggest you get a sealed-box design. Many small bookshelf speakers have a port or vent. When such speakers are placed in a shelf or too near a back wall, the result is fat and muddy bass frequencies. It's one of the ironies of high-end equipment that many so-called "bookshelf speakers" work best when placed on stands two or three feet into the room. So, given your requirements for shelf mounting, and given your mostly classical and jazz listening preferences, I'd suggest these two sealed-box monitors:
Spendor S3/5 Harbeth HL-P3
There's a pair of Harbeths currently on sale on Audiogon for $600. (I have no personal connection to this sale -- but I can vouch that the Harbeths are great little speakers -- you can do a Google search for the Stereophile review.)
Note that I own both of these speakers and enjoy them both. Both are used in small rooms. The Spendors are placed right against a wall in an office system. The Spendors are a bit on the warm and forgiving side. The Harbeths (original version, not the current revised version) are a bit more detailed (but not irritating) and amazingly transparent. Both are tremendously musical and satisfying.
Both of these speakers are not terribly efficient, but if your room isn't too big, then either of the NAD amps (325BEE or 352) will work fine. I have owned the 325BEE and found it a very good performer, especially considering the price. I doubt that you'd hear much if any difference between it and the 352. I'd suggest you put your money into the speakers.
Last year, I helped a friend put together a budget system around the NAD C372 integrated amp and an Onix CD player. (We used the more powerful C372 as opposed to the C352 because my friend wanted the ability to drive a second pair of outdoor speakers with the amp.) We paired the NAD integrated amp with PSB Image B25 monitors and the sound is excellent - warm and non-fatiguing just as Xlr_rca described above with respect to the Wharfedale monitors. We used the Speltz Anti-Cable speaker cables and interconnects.
The PSB speakers offer very good sound at a bargain price. If I recall correctly, I believe the Image B25 monitors retail for just under $500/pr.
I would agree with Jhold that for your situation that you would do best with a "sealed box design", unfortunately, there not many "sealed box" speakers in the price range that you seek. 2nd choice would be a "front-ported design". If you get a "rear-ported design" do realize that you'll have to use some "plugs" in the port to help tame the over prominent "fat and muddy" bass. You might want to see if there is anyway possible to put "whatever" speakers you get on stands 2 or 3 feet out into the room, as that will give you not only a better sonic presentation, but also more choices in your speaker selection.
I run an NAD C325BEE with KEF bookshelf speakers, which use a front port, and for a while had my gear set up in a layout very similar to what you describe. They worked great. My listening tastes run much the same as yours, and I find KEF speakers do well where it counts: female vocal and pianos sound spot-on, so just about everything else does, too. A bonus is that because of their Uni-Q driver (the tweeter is mounted in the center of the woofer) they image extremely well even with non-ideal placement. I find them a bit less forward than Epos and B&W, and I like that about them.
Mine are the Q15, an old model, but I've heard newer models higher in the range--excellent. Their iQ3 runs about $500 online and the XQ1 (in a higher tier) runs $800-$1000. The iQ9, though it's a floorstander, has lately gotten some rave reviews, and the bookshelf models are cut from the same cloth. If you can find older KEF Reference series models on Audiogon or elsewhere, they're wonderful.
Regarding the C325BEE vs the C352: though I own the C325BEE and don't listen particularly loud, I've owned more powerful amps (100 watt Jolida and Marantz) and know what I'm missing in terms of headroom and, to some extent, low end frequency extension. The C325BEE keeps up pretty well, but its bass is lacking. Unfortunately I wasn't able to audition the C352, but I understand it does have a bit more oomph and that its sound is a bit more neutral than the C325BEE, which has some (largely pleasing) coloration (previous NAD amps I've owned suggest this assessment of the 352 is probably true). Mine was a budgetary call, and I do think NADs are a strong value no matter how you cut it. If you can swing the C352, it might be the more lasting value.
First, whatever speakers you choose, isolate them from the wooden cabinet with Bluetack or some other material/method. I would also isolate your amp and especially your source from the cabinet to keep vibrations from the speakers from fowling the signal upstream. Many posts on this subject can be found on Audiogon, but sorbothane dots are a cheap and unobtrusive place to start.
I would consider these speakers to go with your amp and CD combo:
B&W 685 and CM1 Era Design 5 Quad 12L (cousins of the Wharfdales but better in every way) Dynaudio 42 Dali Icon 2
Wharfdales are nice and the new generation of Diamonds are much better than the very decent 8's which I own. But they are vinyl and I assume that you are looking for something that doesn't embarrass your cabinet and room while mating well with NAD stuff and sounding like music. Each of these speakers sound like music, have their own personality, and could be used close to a back wall if necessary. Each should be driven OK or well by the 352 depending on the size of your room. Try em.