Von Schweikert VR4JR
34 responses Add your response
Many people suggest the one make or model they like, but I would watch this thread with interest to see if there is any consensus among those who have heard many contenders. I cannot make specific recommendations because I have not engaged in comparative listening for many years, but just trying to be helpful, I can see two directions for you.
(1) The first is to go with British brands such as ATC, Harbeth, Proac, Spendor.
(2) The second would be highly regarded newcomers like Salk, Silverline, Tyler, Zu.
The best sound for the money is often a used model, but some of these makes are so thinly distributed that the used market is practically non-existent.
It would help to know your listning tastes, room, what speakers you have now, etc.
I would guess that the finest PMC monitor system in the US is a tough act to follow...
First I'd suggest you make your speaker choice before you finalize your amplifier choice.
I'd like to ask a few questions, not that you haven't thought of these things, but just to give me a better chance of making a useful suggestion. Don't answer them all, just the ones that you think are important.
What are your listening habits? How loud, how soft, for how long at a time? What types of music? What makes the magic happen for you? Do you sit in the "sweet spot", share the sweet spot with someone sweet, or sometimes move around while the music is playing?
What size room do you have? Are you free to place the speakers wherever you want? How important is the speakers' appearance? How would you characterize the room acoustics - live, dead, somewhere in between?
What speaker shortcomings do you especially want to avoid - in other words, what ruins the magic for you?
I'm kind of excited about the prospect of making a suggestion or two to someone who masters recordings professionally. Don't worry, my suggestion(s) won't necessarily be something I sell.
Best of luck in your quest,
Well, if you can stretch you budget a small amount to $4500 or buy used, I would strongly recommend the PMC OB-1. It is a great speaker, and for you almost a sure winner since you already know that you like PMC. It mates well with Bryston amps, and it does require a fair amount of power behind it to really sing.
Skip the Anthem power amplifier and get the new Blue Sky Big Blue monitor, about as close to the PMC for the money your spending you could ever hope to get.
More bass, flatter frequency response and greater output capacity than any speaker posted so far and simply the best speaker system I know of in the price class right now.
I'd place it above very good value speakers like the DALI Helicon 400, ATC SCM 35, VSR 4jr or Sr.
Can get these guys at any Guitar Center.
Used, I would definitely recommend the Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature System (I). The Linbrooks are conservatively strong down to 25hz, and absolutely no sub is needed.
Other suggestions I also agree with are the Spendors and Salks... Both are strong brands that should merit serious consideration as well, IMO.
I don't think you can come close to the finest PMC studio monitors installed professionally in the US on a $4,000 budget at least not new....but I guess you know this.
I agree with the suggestions already made on this thread so I won't add any specific recommendations.
However, in general, if you are very patient and keep looking, you could do what I have done; buy some old studio gear second hand on audiogon. My plain black ugly big boxes, with a few dings, came from a professional mastering studio. These type items do not sell easily on audiogon for obvious reasons - so just be patient and don't set your heart on one particular speaker.
Von Schweikert VR4jr are definitely worth listening to, if your amps have power to spare maybe totem winds also. I haven't heard the aerial 10t in a while, but remember them being tasty as well. Finally, I heartliy recommend giving the verity fidelio a listen...but of course I'd say that since I own 'em:)
New or used?Man there are so many choices if you are icluding used.Since no laser or complex motor mechansim to go bad (there is a "motor assembly" in speakersone that get's hot to but it's one with magnetcoil,spider etceverything se into driver basket-some folks would get technical if I said ther were no motor).
Next size of room.Many speakers can be run a foot from the wall others to sound there best want to be pulled out 3-4ft. etc.You want a pair that in small room won't overwhelm it and perhaps waste bottom end (sound wave being larger than room is wide.Can't remember who wide a room must be to hear low of 20-20,000 Hrz (though few people can hear quite as low as 20 Herz or beyond 15Hrz on top end.Think of sound as waves.Large up and down are bass .Low note on electric bass is 40Hrz and will satius fy most folks but of course organ piece will go much,lower and with some synthesizers you can get down to 5Hrz feelableif not hearble and actually that low unreproducable.Bass that in that range 5 to 25hrz is more felt than hear.A good low point ot look for is 35hrz which on statistic sheet says 35Hrz +/- 2 or 3 DB.Almost specs are related to one another so a speaker whose low frequency is 45 hrz plus/minus 2 db sounds way better than one at 45 Hrz +/- 6 dbm (this is spec "played with" inmarketing subs).First spec sounds more deep and clean than the 6db rating.Keep this 20Hrz (only on big and expensive speakers to 20Krz WITHIN 2or3db when reading the spec sheets.You don't even have know what Decibel or Herz is in terms of actual phyiscs to be told "this small Speaker goes down to 70 Hrz and this one to 55 Hrz" to know the differnce between the two one you have heard both.Then you can judge certain basics without even hearing them but reading that spec.Speaker placement and width between speakers varies quite a bit.Big speakers like Maggnepans sound good pretty close to get be maybe 4 ft close while other might want twice the spread.Toe in and experimentation with minute differences inplacement can really snap things into focus if you have a room which will allow this.
Speaker size.Rule of thumb is small monitor while giving up bass will "image better".But there are many who can be medium size to large (over 10-12" width up to 2ft or more in depth (trying to be acceptable from front and not look like monsters from font and still have cabinet to generate copious bass can still because of depth seem very large and run into sexist term, "W.A.F"(but in my 6 years of hucking Hifi) the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is ther where women said one thing much more oten than men "Don't they come smaller?"thus tremendous marketing vesus sound success of Bose.Hight on large speaker can be over 40" but still image well and give off deep wise soundstage so rule about smaller speakers imaging beter does not always apply.But small two way moniotors tend to "dispear" easier.Sall speakers can be satifying if combined with a sub.And though most folks either for music or Home theatre tend to turn volume way to high and set it's low pass point on crossover (where it kicks) again way to high they do so "to het ther money's worth".It is supposed to be a SUB WOOFER but folks think they are getting more for their money when they set them to turn on to high as well as play in the rnage of where the main speakers are supposed to be doing th job.While rule of thumbs is you get more value out of two boxes instead of three I have heard great systems with small monitors tha have "enough (Wilson Bnesch comes to mind) and at same time even large speakers with plenty of bass still benefit from aub.It's a matter od taste.Without explaining it fully a question to ask salesman is "is it a servo motor sub" this type generally costs more and works better.You can get away from large (tall and deep speakers and still get full range enjoyment from as thin tall onbe which is less dominant or a short squat speaker whose lack of hight makes it less like the monolith in "Space 2001".You can even get very small moniotrs and sub for least room dominace (a la bose as long as low pint of sattelite/ bookshelf speker goes low enough to meet the high point of a sub though one should have some over lap (a sub which is made to produce notes as high as 100 hrz will sound beter with small speaker which goes down to 70hrz.(P.S. hear hate that term bookshelf preffering "monitor".Very few "bookshelf" speaker sound good in bookshelves and soudn waaaaay better ON STANDS who should be good.Even gear there is a large difference especially if you have wood floors.The heavier the beter.Some allow you to fill them with sand to make them more inenrt i.e. prone to effect by vibrations.Target is pooula barnd but I think best ones are made by Sound Anchor out of heavy iron.They even make 6" stands" (platforms would be beter term" for floor standing speakers and folks put them under full range (20-20,000Hrz speakers) that cost $20 grand or mutiples there of.But for you if you get a floor standing speaker it's less important than samller (or on relative basis)
getting a set of good ones for monitor speakers that are not made for floor placement.$3500-$4K will get you top of the line "bookshelf" (i.e. monitor speakers.If smaller thae stands should be larger with say 30'' hight or if larger 24" or less.Rule of thumb is that tweeter should be at room level but base on prference you might want them higher or lower.If a speaker is lower it should put out a bit more bass but for imaging you might want to use the traditional "rule of thumb" you should stick with ear hight.
Price.You have to go to showrooms that have speakers and get sense what they deliver at vertain point.A new speaker might do it for you and keep good independnet stereo shop retailing alive (plus have somebody to back them up,give advice on set up etc (the latter can found also on many manufacturers web sites give tips on room placement though so often (again unless in dedicated room) have to make compromises.
Speakers.Above is the basics.Not sure if you are an experienced old hand and needed most or any of it.But thought I'd throw it for fun and (tonight there's nothing decent on TV)But really am hear like the rest of A'gonners a good percentage of which know quite a bit more than me.But you just metioned price anmd no other criteria.In the market place ther are so many options that one can go crazy just reading about them all let alone visiting a few stores and being limited to their brands as opposed to one they have (and of course eberything else stinks).Then you can go mad trying to remember the BASIC sound of the speakers on hand and a few days or weeks later comparing them to ones in another shop.They use their electyronics not yours (which would if we knew them know what to reccomend.Some speakers are easy to drive with lesser electronics that is they are "fogiving" whereas other are ruthlessly revealing and sound bad or wasted because the source and amplification isn't up to snuff.Next when listening in a showrrom not only are you using there different (beter/worse) than your gear but the room itself is said that he room is 50% of the sound you hear.Some speakers -take Martin Logan electroststics sound beter in a "live" room i.e. one with harder walls,less carpoetting and drapes etc.Other speakers sopund best in a "deadened" room with alrge cushy chairs,heavy drapes etc if not actual devices made out of foam and other materials made to "coirrect" or improve a room.Brite speakers v\can sound less sop in that type of setting.Me?I like tube lectronic s which you can't get for price of say low pwoered mid fi (NAD,Rotel,Adcom etc) but needen't be super expenmsive.I curently use a german semi horn speaker (remeber old Klipsch huge sopeakers?They are all horns in some models but very large).Mine are $7500 Odeon Tosca's I got for 25% used on Audioogon and it was a bneter deal money wise than getting the excellent speakers I sold (B&W was primary brand the brittish 90lb. Gorllia i.e. best seeling impoted speaker in U.S.)In general I want as an accurate a midrange as posible and ofeten even within a manufacturer you need to "rob" from treble and especially the bass.I prefer overall european speakrs especially from Germany and England and Germany.Most manufacturers build to the tatste of their domestic audience.it's true and kind of makes sense.The euiro speakers from these two contries andothers like Denmark,Italy etc tend to be more neutral than North Anerica ones.Whereas (especially with less expensive ones)American and Candaian speakers tend to be more colored.This isn't necesarrily bad.Someone who has grown up from 70's on with Advent ,JBL etc might think the euro speakers are to thin (and again revealing-like with computers garbage in garbage out)and badly recorded CD will sound BAD whereas with some speakers thatare "North American" will mask some of the bad sound and sound better.I am tired and know I a fogeting some spekaers but some excellent domestic ones are made.I don't like them but for your buidget you may like Thiel of Kentucky.Brighter than I like but have a good size fan base.NHT has goten some great reviews for more conventional designs like the M6.The new $6K very small (tiny) speaket that wowed everybody last year at the audio shows was the NHT Xd system.I have seen it retail for $6K but have seen them for $4,600.It in many respects maybe the future of Hifi. since it has digital amps to diver not only sube but satelites as well.They contain a processor made by a company called DEQX which converts all signals from analogue to digital (even the tape,FM,and phono fromyour pre-amp into digtal sounds than a computer from DEQX (they make a $,3500 for thier own customers to optomize not only any speaker but correct the room as well).The NHT Dx can make tiny 4" satelites and small sub produce a huge sound which given unit's size and the qaulity coming from it sound floored everybody who heard it.It won many "best of show" or "speaker of year awards".It may stretch your budget but remeber you only need a pre-amp to make it run as it has it's own amps.Another speaker that won a lor of awards was the new Gallo Ref 3's.Short )36" tall) it also at $3K new gibv\ves you option of adding at point of purchgse or later a $1K amp for a second coil in it's bass drivers lowering it's bass floor.Has film wteeter thaty is unique (I had Ref II's for ma few months which were totally diofferent because all Gallo's are based on sperical designs and this had 4 basketballs in an two two box frames with a 360 film tweeter on top.I only sold them because I was afraid I'd blow twweeter and they had gone out of production and a blown tweeter would have ben a disater.Think I might even trade my speakers in (just bored with same old same old after a few years which shows price isn't ultimate arbiter of quality since mine are $7500 list and the gallo $3 or $K.Last one I'll mention is two made by the 1 billion dollar comany Harmon International (not only do they ownm poular midfi Harmon Kardon,JBL ,high end Revel and many other companies there strength allows them to make designs that less finaced companies can only dfream about when itt comes to R&D.You might like their lesser line buit think I'd prefer their Gems Sattelites that came in a $15K or so system with very good sunbs and amps for same.Nut they also made the Infinity MTS Prelude which at $10K got a great write up in Stereophile and made class A whose criteria it was to go down to 20Hrz in the bass.They came with a device called R.A.B.O.S. which took out the upper bass "hunp" inherent in most speaker giving them a fallter response across the board (though more accurate i.e. less dips on the frequency scale does not always make the best speaker so those that test the best meay not souind the best.They also make a smal version of speaker that's not as tall.The Preludes I believe use aluminum drivers.Vack in 50's it was dopped cloth or paper (still used by many manufacturers),then 70's brought polypropolene,and now woven kevlar which is shaped and baked to make it stiff.Also used are titanium,ceramic etc etc because the best least colored driver should have the two propeties -being light and stiff.Light so they are effcient and stiff so the flex does not color the sound.Harmon made the Preludes at $10K but have seen them sold new for $5K give or take and ocassoinally as low as $3500-$4K used.
Canada has produced many quality speakers since the Canadian govermnent (a smart gioverment) makes a state of the art lab /anechoic chmber availible to it's companies so they can test/improve their designs.companies come to mind like paradigm.Gershman another Canadian may have raised the price but they had and excellent speaker the Avategarde RX-20.Went low,had good mids, and bass that went to close to 20Hrz.And many more though rmember they may be tuned for American market and be more fogiving giving up some neutrality.Theri old list was $4500 but could be had used for less.
Leaving Canada and keeping to your budget 3 speakers come to mind right aswayu.If you have beenm arounf hfi at all you must have heard about Quad ESL63/57 electrostatics.The '57 was made in (duh) 1957.They "improved" (some still liked older ones) tthe 1963 ESL63.They staid the smae way for over two decades.After a Hiatus the company is back wiuth the 988 (a copy of the 63) and larger'deeper bass 989.(I hear that they are comeing out with two repleacement models with improved elements,stiffer frames etc. but my suspicion is the reason they are doing this is because dollar is so weak and the profits for foreign manufacturers have dispeaered.New and improved means they can more easily justfy a price boost)I have spoken to audiophiles who have been in the game since the 50's and bopught than sold ESL speaker 3 or 4 times.This might sound crazy but they get upset at limitaions of old 63's i.e. weak bass,hard placement,short soundstage,very hard to inegrate with a sub, etc.I thin if tryiong now with old or new electrostatci Quads (they also make very nice sensible priced regular moving coil.i.e. "normal" speakers but with your budget would afford more unless you wanted a whole 5.1 HT system) you might have les of the old problems.I find you can blend subs with eletrostatcics or planar speakers which one of the reasons they sound so good is their speed.Some sub manufacturers like budget champ Vandersteen $1200 new $750 used) or REL from England try to get low bass by using multiple small 4"or 6" drivers instead of one big 12"-18" which unless you get very expensive tend to be OK for home theatre but are too slow to keep up with Maggies which are not electrotactic but magnmetic planar (Both use different ways of excitting film ellements to move the air instead of "domes and cones" like everybody else).But if you want dead on midrange these may be the two that can't exceeded.Other for price will play say rock or large Orchestral works beter but for jazz,cocals,folk,string qaurtets they get the jobdone superbly.This brings me to Magnaplanr.Tall thin needing space behind them as they are "omnipolar" not "bipolar" which means same drivers on both sides of speaker.But like Martin logan they (the Anerican Qaud) they have sound coming out front and back as do Maggies have been some of the best selling audiphile speaker of all time.Yes they are wide and tall so they can dominate a room, and thus have a low WAF but the purity of the mids are like the Qauds at a particlular price point un-touchbale by convetional designs.you copuld get a used pair of 2.5 for $2500 or new 3.6's for s list of "only" $4,200 (last I checked) and used for.The Maggies (like a company Appogee that went out of buiness yet are still highly valued/sought after) include a ribbon tweeter maybe the very best design in general of all types in terms of purity).I think the Quads are a bit rolled off on top end the way tubes are versus solid ate amps.The actually make a great combo because a 40 to 100 watt tube type runs them very nicely again accetuating a nice warm midrange where as beond this too much power can blow the Qauds.The reverse is true with the Maggies the little 1.6's ( agreat bass shy speaker for $1700 can use no less than 100 wsolid state watts better more.The 3.6's would "run" on 100 wats but crave amps and want 200 beter 300 and in a large room, 500 would be good.And still you will not get them to play as loud as other who with that power yopu'd think you were on tour with the Who.Laslty I'll come to what I sold day in and out the B&W and few others.The $2K 805's were a great deal and it was touch to tell folks that in terms of "VALUE" they were better off with the $5K then ($5500 now) 803.Yes you got more with the $8K 802 or $12K 801 but intermn of what you got for $5K (and $3K to $3500 used). they had satisfying bass down to 35hrz (to which even if you weren't planning to get into home theatre a dood sub) and while not cheap gave the most for the dollar of any speaker they made IMHO.Heard them day in and day out you has enough bass and verrrry good mids and high end plus a deep wide sound stage.A definite keeper.And it has that neutral brit sound.If you want that in small box I'd suggest the $4K Harbeth.They make speakers the old fashioned interms of box shape thoughtout the line but with up to date engineering and materials.Kind of like Aston Martins cars and sound just dead onused in many many recoding studios..Spendors are also come to mind as an excellent speaker company who make the more common collumn speaker.Read the reviews and see their site for both.I told you I liked German speakers and the Audio Physic are superb.Used Virgo's might just be your ticket sound and priuce wise but whole line is just great.Find they work well on long wall as opposed to just narrow pat of rectangular room.All speaker have different dispetion paterns and some are wiser than other and some speakers are easy to place.I think they are great in that regard.Very reevealing so some folks like AP Padua which can be gotten for $2500 used with tweeters used in their lower end line though they made a Padua RR which used more expensive Ring Radiator tweter.Depends on electronics.soft dome work better with mid-fi components.Italy makes the Sonus Fabers and though not my cup of Tea until they get expensive you might like them.Dali a realtively new comp[any has gotten great reviews.But remeber few speakers like say Magnepan (id you like one you'll like bigger all the more) are cosistent and there winning designs are at certain point in the price spectrum.
I know this isn't as easy as somebidy saying "buy this"But this is a problem I have with consumer reveiw sites where some not all say "Buy this I did and it proves what a genius I am"The magazines are suspect because they want ad revnues but read enough and you know when when a speaker is good or not just from enthusiasm and subtle empahsis like "I bought the rebview pair"IBut listen to what is around you and get back to us.Remember everybody's ears are and tastes are different.Plus what you have for existing elctronics (or intend or are willing to buy later)effects what will work with what.Some speakers have dfficult loads and need and amp that will remain stable down to 2 or even less ohms.Most speakers ar 4-8 ohms but that does not always cover the picture.As much as I liked the B&W 803's they had a nasty impedanmce dip to 2 or less ohms.They were rated with a relatibely high sensitivity of 90db where most speakers are only 86-89 db effciency (Alll things being equal if you raise the sensitivity 3db it's like doubling the power of the amp so you think with 90db sensitivuity it could run on a 40 wat tube amp or 100 watt solid state.But with that impedance drop you wanted a lot of current in a mid fi or high end amp that could remain stable to very low loads.Thus I'd tell folks ignore the 90db spec and prepare to feed it 200 watts or more.Some hear and other places of wisdom will tell you you can never have enough power.But you can over do it.I brought home a 300 wat amp with a B&W 805 which COULD run off a 40 watt tube or 100 watt solid state.I had so much juice withn 300 watts that I could only turn the volume up to 9 or 10 o'clock.Not good.
Use this site but also audioreveiw.com and I have spat so many names out other, if you repeat them, will sayu this guy knows nothing".But humbly I know a little bit and have heard and read positives about evrything I hasve mentioned and could have made list twice as long.Amzing 30 years ago ther were almost no choices and now there are enough to make you go mad or certaainly not permit travel to all the diferent places that would be required to go to hear all.A blessing and curse and once.So ask hear at A'gon and audioasylum.com as the searching narows.Get a 2006 o 2007 (they come out early like cars) and maybe get Stereophiles buyers guide issue that comes out a few times a year.Then look at Sterophiles on line archives where some of the reviews are quite current and cover some of these mentioned speakers.Plus their AVlinks allow you to find manufacturers web sites.Ad when you re-post adding on to this let everybody know what the rest of your system is ESPECIALLY THE POWER AMP because this is the one componant that makes the biggest difference in the fuction of the speakrs though rest of system counts for overall sound.If say you had a great amp and chose a great set of speakers and listened to only CD's but hadn't replaced it since 1987 folks would mention the chain is only as the weakest link.I think this is rubbish as I do spending absurd ammounts of money on say pure silver cables.But everyones got there experiential quiks.I have found that spending money tweaks like vibration isolation or power clean up devices can have an dramatic effect.But not the same that Speakers,amplification,and sources can
Best of luck
P.S.Was glad to help if I could but if it was too dense or informative I appologize.I just mentioned to freind I'd put down the basics as I knew them in regard to new speakers and re-vamping his system around and told him I'd be thurough as I could.ASgain it it became confusing or gave more of basic tutorial than you wnated or need my applogies
In your price range, a used pair of VR4's that are upgraded at the factory (VR4 to Mod5) will be a tough act to beat.
Even though the following list has some spkrs out of your price range, I want to mention them as a point of reference as some of the better spkrs I've heard, as I'm not locked into a particular type of presentation. ML Summits, Soundlab M-1, Coincident Eclipse and the spkr I just bought, Ginko Audio Tubulous.
Thanks for your response and for the questionaire!!! Here are my responses:
Listening habits: All kinds of music from classical (orchestra + choral) to jazz (David Benoit) to classic Rock (38 Special, Foreigner, Elton John, etc).
I listen at moderate to low levels, never really crank it up loud.
What makes the magic?...good imaging, solid, tight bass, clarity of each instrument and the placement in the recorded field...like I'm there in the studio.
I do sit in the sweet spot...these speakers will be in my office about 5 feet apart, on either side of a 6 foot bookshelf. They are approximately 6-7 feet in front of me, pointed at my desk. My desk sits at one end of the room that is 18x20...concrete block walls (painted), commercial carpet, ceiling in office is 14 ft (with ceiling tiles (porous). So basically, my effective listening area is about 10 ft x 11 ft....the rest of the room (to the right, is a sitting area with an oriental rug, high-back chair (upholstered) a love seat (upholstered) two chairs and end table.
Speaker appearance...my desk is mahogany or dark cherry, as is the book shelf... it would be nice to be in that vein.
Hope that gives you an idea of what I might need to check into...thanks!
Chazzbo: Great review, but didn't you ever run into the concept of a paragraph break? :-)
Clay: Now I have a better idea. Speakers will be 5' apart and about 7' in front of you. That rules out many big panel models. How important is bass extention? Will 45 hz do? Or does it have to be 20's? I'll watch the thread and participate as I can.
One thing I'd say though, you could do a lot worse than contacting Salk as well Tyler and discussing your needs with them.
I don't need earth-shattering bass...just decent clarity and fullness of reasonably low notes that you would hear on say Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony", movement 1. Since this is just for pure stereo music reproduction, I don't need super-sub bass (like you would for your home theatre...to feel explosions and the "Death Star" moving through space (Star Wars))....I'll give Salk and Tyler a call...thanks!
Having read your description of your room, I suggest that nearfield monitors might be apractical solution for you.
Try to audition ATC SCM20-2 or 20ASL pro along with all the other good speakers people have suggested ... they are in your price range (especially second hand) and an active speaker will save you buying an amp (so add that to your budget).
The actives can get more bass than the passives as the 20's do not go very low. They have excellent timbre, awesome mid range, good but not exceptional imaging with a large sweetspot and play accurately at low and high sound levels. Good luck!
Thanks for your kind words and detailed response.
SP Technology makes a speaker called the Timepiece that comes to mind. It combines a waveguide-loaded tweeter and a woofer that goes pretty deep and solid. The waveguide gives good radiation pattern control which is desireable in many applications. In a small space where the first reflections arrive fairly early a consistent radiation pattern means the early-arriving reflections are less likely to color the sound. And the relatively narrow pattern (compared to direct radiators) is conducive to good imaging - though at the expense of some ambient richness; it's a tradeoff. The SP Tech speakers have a fairly flat frequency response (somewhat reminiscent of a good studio monitor), and some people prefer a gently downward-sloping response. I must confess that I haven't heard them at low volume levels.
Electrostats excel at low and medium volume levels, but from your description of where the speakers will be placed (pretty much up against a wall, unless I misunderstood you) I don't think they'd be practical.
One of the best-imaging speaker lines I know of is Green Mountain Audio, but again they like some space around them to really make their magic happen. I've heard them sound less than full in the lower midrange region, but that may not be applicable to current models.
Harbeth makes some very relaxing, warmish speakers that you might consider. Warm is good at low and medium volume levels. The Super HL-5 comes to mind.
A company called Tonain Labs makes a very nice speaker for low to medium volume levels called the TL-D1. It's way below your price range but is in my opinion a real contender. I have some familiarity with the almost-full-range driver used, and it will lose articulation if pushed to do large, high-output bass excursions. Tony's a great guy and he'll level with you.
An Italian company called S.A.P. makes a lovely little speaker called the Trio that I think is near your price range. Its driver complement looks bizarre but it sure sounds good, including at low volume levels. Can't say that I recall the imaging - I tend to focus on other things.
Finally here's a wierd suggestion but it might be a heck of a lot of fun. Many years ago Altec made a couple of very enjoyable, largish loudspeakers called the Model 14 and Model 19. They show up used from time to time. I recently lost a pair of Model 14's when my store burned down, and miss them all out of proportion to the $750 or so paid for them used. Realistically they aren't imaging champions, but they are very lively sounding (not to imply bright, though). I mention them as a sentimental favorite.
I know this is probably too many to choose among, but presumably you'll narrow down to a shortlist (which may or may not include any of these) and then study those out carefully and if possible audition.
When you audition, as part of the process I suggest you try listening outside the room, through the open doorway with no line-of-sight to the speakers. This way you'll be listening exclusively to the reverberant field. If it still sounds convincing, that's an excellent sign. You may have noticed how live instruments sound convincing from the next room but loudspeakers seldom do. Those that do (assuming they don't screw up elsewhere) are likely to be very enjoyable long-term.
Presently I'm not a dealer for any of these. I may e-mail you separately with a suggestion or two from among models I do sell.
Best of luck to you,
Appolgized to Aktchi for "stream of conciousness" but onme I get on a jag bervity isn't my strong pint.Glad other also mentioned speakers abilyt to play at different volume levels especially low level listening,This for mr is the acid test for speaker if they cvan be played softly and not lose sense of dynamics.Remeber in days or your when recievers had loudness knobs to compensate?Shouldn't be needed with well designed speakers.
Some folks think the best value out there dollar for dollar is the Magnepan and I have a hard time arguing against it but one fault they share with many others is to sound good you need to turn them up.What about apt/condo dwellers or just all of us when we want quiet classical or Miles after a hectic day.
Again sorry for the logo-rhea in my intial response but hope I wasn't to off the mark too often.
Chazzbo: No need to apologize, my comment about your writing style was meant as a friendly joke. It is a little difficult to read but well worth the trouble. I appreciated the review and look forward to reading your opinions in future as well.
Just to get you going again, of all the speakers you have heard, which one(s) will be your absolute pick(s) for:
near listening (speakers and listeners all 6'-7' apart);
volumes low as well as high;
long term listening (non-fatiguing);
listener not pinned to one sweet spot;
not overly sensitive to amp (I have 60w/ch ss)
I know and even agree with the platitude that everyone has to select his speakers himself; I am asking what would you select?
Guys...thanks for your input...I am overwhelmed at the number of responses. Thanks for putting up with a "noobie"...I've searched the classifieds now for about a year, but never posted a thread.
Now the hard part is going to be finding demos of some of these to hear. Birmingham, AL is not known for it's high-end audio dealers. The ones we have sell Legacy on the top end, PSB and Polk on the low end. Tweeter (chain) is pushing Focal 918s and 928s for $4,000. The one dealer who carries Paradigm only carries the low end (Monitor series). So now the challenge of find something near me that I can demo.
Keep 'em coming (if you have any more suggestions)...my list of prospects stands at about 18 at the moment....
Clay: Forget the dealers and look to the audiophile community. We love one another's company, show off our gear, exchange opinions. See if there is a club in area. If not, start one. :) Otherwise, just spread the word, through A'gon and other such forums, requesting people to let you hear their speakers. Once you get yours, offer similar hospitality to others. That's the way! Good luck, keep posting your experience as you progress.
Okay...I'm officially overwhelmed!!! I've spent sometime on the web looking at the sites for these wonderful speakers you guys have suggested.
Looks like a book-shelf-type, near-field monitor with decent bass is going to be best for my situation (as you all have commented given my set-up).
Does anyone have any experience with the Paradigm Signature series? In particular the S4? I like the looks and the specs on paper aren't bad (91 dB Sensitivity, Low frequency extension is 36 Hz (DIN)...what is that and what does it mean??? can it really hit 36Hz??
I'd love to hear from any Paradigm fans who may have heard these....thanks!
The Paradigm S4's are great value - this is an excellent speaker. They are about 6 db down at 40 Hz which is excellent for a bookshelf. Some find they sound a bit bright in the top end (this may reflect off your desk). The mid range is known for its excellent clarity.
Paradigm are a serious engineering company which design and make their own drivers.
You won't go wrong with those.
I agree with Jack Dotson... good choice....the Energy Veritas 2.4i are great value. Energy were my first speakers (as a student I could not afford more expensive ones). I was very happy with Energy's and still own them. They have a tendency towards boominess in the bass and brightness in the treble and are not quite up to extremely loud levels (sounding slightly compressed). However, for that much quality bandwidth at this price ...they are very very hard to beat... a great speaker in my mind!
BTW: Energy make their own drivers! This must help add to the good value as, unlike many other speaker manufacturers, they don't have to buy the most expensive components to make their speakers (and mark them up a second time).