How about upgrading to a used pair of GMA Callistos or Rios, which can be usually had for $1500 or thereabouts, and pairing them with a used Blue Circle CS, which can be had for $700 or so? That would be a killer combo.
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Bump your budget up just slightly ...
AMP - AVA Insight+ 240. 120 watts per channel 20 to 20 kHz into 8 ohms at less than 0.01% THD. 4 TO-3 case power MOSFET output devices. For 4 ohms loads and up. Special price now $850.
SPEAKERS - Fritzspeakers Carbon 7 Monitors get stereo maximum mojo award. Special price on A'gon $1750.
New speakers and amp = $2600 (plus shipping)
I agree with Rockadanny that Fritz's Carbon 7s are lovely at the price, and also compete with considerably more expensive pieces. I've enjoyed talking to Fritz too.
However, they may be a pretty different animal than the GMAs, if the Eos and Eos HD I auditioned are any indication. The Carbon's compare very favorably, in my view, but again, different animals.
What is it you like about the GMAs?
Shakeydeal, Why would that make you laugh? Please remember the OP budget. Time and phase coherent sealed box, 89 dB, 4 Ohms nominal 4 Ohms minimum, 20Hz-20Khz +/- 2 dB. Please tell me of any other speakers any where near the asking used prices, that can offer similar performance. Heck, with the possible exception of the Vandy's, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything today with similar performance at the price they were charging when new. You seem to dismiss bass rather haphazardly. While I'm not pretending that the speakers recommended offer the SPL levels that true subs will, perhaps you haven't seen the prices that people pay for subs and the frequency extension they provide? Would you consider any other components that deleted frequency response? I understand that some people's rooms can't accommodate such bass, and for them smaller speakers might be more appropriate. BTW, the Thiel 3.5's have different settings for such considerations.
Personally I would pass on the Thiels and Vandersteen speakers. Been there done that. Adjustments or not, the Thiels need at least a medium size room and so do Vandersteens. Not to mention the power requirement of the Thiels whereas many high quality monitors are happy with 50 watts. Want more bass from your mini monitors? Get a subwoofer.
Rrog, the Thiels and the Vandersteens are some of the very few speakers that share similar design considerations with the GMA's the OP seemed to like so much. While not my first choice in power recommendations, both the Thiels and the Vandersteens can get by with 50 Watts in smaller rooms, but given the value these speakers offer, there is enough money left over for higher powered amplifiers. So far the OP has only suggested budget limitations, not room volume limitations. Even if there were in fact room volume limitations, subs would probably not be recommended. That your experience with Thiels and Vandersteens led you elsewhere doesn't negate the potential for the OP applications.
Rrog, Thiel recommends 50-250 Watts for the 3.5's, with the possibility that in some circumstances 25 or 300 Watts might be appropriate (8 Ohm load rating assuming ss w/ the ability to double down). Remember these Thiels don't drop below 4 Ohms. Vandersteen recommends 40-160 Watts (8 Ohm rating). Your point is well taken, the minimum recommendations will not play these speakers to their full potential, and are probably only suited for small rooms without big SPL expectations. Again the used cost of these speakers allows for the expense of more powerful amplification as might be needed.
Unlike the Thiels and Vandersteens there is no available support for the Meadowlarks, or for that matter Dunlavy's (which at this price point would only include models with less bass capability and yet more physical size).
I agree that some more info is needed about the OP's room, as well as his priorities when it comes to sound. I'm with Shakeydeal - while the Vandys are great speakers for the money, I think they're outclassed by GMAs. In my experience, the first-order crossover of a GMA is of a much higher quality than the crossover in the Vandersteen 2s - the dynamics and detail are on a different level. If that's what the OP liked about the Europas, maybe he needs to stick with his original brand. In my experience, the GMA trebles also outclass the Thiels and Meadowlarks, as good as those latter brands are.
I used to own Vandie 2 sig and had 3 sig in my room for two weeks. The Callistos are better as far as resolution, imaging, dynamics and soundstaging. Like shakydeal said almost like a balnket was over the Vandies compared to the Callistos. Everything sounds listenable and creamy over the Vandies though..if you have lesser electronics that is the way to go...
Heard the Europas at a friends house, almost the same as the Callisto for less $$
Forgot to mention my room.
Of course this is going to be mused in my living room but I do have an open floor plan, so I have dining room to my right and windows to my left. The room is about 20 X 12 (more than a rectangle than a square). The entire apartment is carpeted if that effect recommendations. Like I mentioned before, I need neutral, transparent, huge soundstage, and musical speakers that are non fatiguing. I love the Europas because they provided a 3d quality that many speakers lacked but one thing I honestly thought it needed was more bass. Recommendations could be monitors but was thinking that with a full-range speaker I could possibly get away with getting a separate sub. I would also like to use these speakers with solid state amps versus tubes and plan to use a digital music source (computer to dac).
Thanks for all the advise so far.
I have been very happy with Merlins. Keep your eyes open for a used set around $1500.00. The Green Mtn. magic described here can be had with Merlins too. You will have $1000 left to spend on a good amp as well. I too love the Green Mountain sound, however I found the Merlins to be perfect for my needs. Merlin is a great company too.
Good luck in your search.
The GMA Rio's are a step up from Europas. The EOS an even bigger step. Both will give you everything you like about the Europas, and more. A sub can blend easily with these designs for extended low end response. These models come up occasionally on Audiogon and retailers (like me) often have demo pairs. In my experience, most people who respond favorably to GMA's are not happy elsewhere. My theory is some folks are more sensitive to anomalies in time and phase coherence (which, by design, GMA's address more fully than just about anything else). Just one POV.
Note: I sell GMA's, Departure Audio.
Daimbert - I have compared Devores with GMAs and to my ears the GMAs are a much more satisfying speaker if you're looking for transparency to the source, pinpoint imaging, 3-D sound stage, neutral response, dynamics and non-fatiguing sound. It's tough to match the results of the GMA's phase-coherent drivers and extremely high-quality crossovers, I think. The Devores, though, are probably just about as good in their own way when it comes to "musicality" and conveying emotion - they've got more of a "high-efficiency" sound to my ears, and they do have the advantage of being more efficient if you're dealing with very low-powered amps.
That said, you do have a pretty big room, so if you went with the Europas, pairing them with a sub would probably be a must. I think the recs for Vandys and Merlins also make sense, based on your room size.
Hey John, how ya been, long time no see...
Yes I had the 2 sigs, started on my journey with the Rotel and then had the Cary SLI 80.
Your probably right the Cary didnt have enough oomph...
I remember wishing I could get the dynamic sound you had in your room, (believe it was with the Quicksilver mono tubes amongst others I remember).
Anyway not trying to knock the Vandies, but I could never get them to float an image like I could with other speakers, and the resolution could have been better (in my system anyway)
You are right though. I havent heard the latest iterations from Mr. Vandersteen lately.
I hope all is well with you and your family and I wish you a Happy and healthy New Year!