I have long acquaintance with the Spendor line and can assure you that 3/5 is a fantastic speaker. However, as I don't know the other two models, I cannot offer more meaningful comparative feedback.
Given your tastes and budget, I am not sure why you are looking for a mini-monitor. Is the space for this system extremely limited? You can probably find more satisfying alternatives (with respect to bass at least) among floorstanders.
I have VA Haydn Grand and your description is what you look after: it goes officialy down to 42hz, and I think bass goes pretty low, cabinet is not only gorgeus but very sturdy and thick, sound is laidback ( VA is using Seas tweeter which in my book are smooth and not shrill or harsh).
can't comment other speakers, so it's up to you.
if you're not really going to put them on bookshelves, i would say get a fullrange speaker too. otherwise the smallest harbeth or the sterling ls3/5 or the gradient bookshelf or the totem 'one' can't be beat. you can get a castle harlech used with heirloom build...likes any amp....and sounds better on any genre of music than a much pricier proac 3(castle builds the proac furniture)....and its cool as all get out.....
I can only comment on the VA Haydn, but it matches up to your requirements exactly. I had the Haydns, not the newer Grands for a while and still have the floor stand version in the Bach's. If memory serves me correctly these two speakers share the same drivers, but the Bach is a floor stander. The silk dome tweeter is to me, the definition of silky smoothness. There were many times my wife and I listened to them for hours on end w/o fatigue and my equipment at the time was very modest. In the end though, they just couldn't handle loud Rock. If that is not your requirement than I'm sure you would enjoy them. Also, the cabinets are gorgeous.
THe Spendor is hard to beat at that diminutive size. If you have room you may also want to consider the Spendor SP3/1P (ported, bookcase placement not an option) or even the little Von Schweikert VR1.
Although small size is certainly attractive, in many situations it is the footprint that matters. You don't gain any usable space, but do compromise on frequency respoone, by cutting down a speaker's height. Therefore consider if what you really need is a floorstander with a small footprint. At least it will increase the pool of your options.
If he uses bass-limited speakers he can avoid some of the problems of having a square room though. A 15x15x8 box would have peaks at 75 and 150Hz at normal listening position with the coresponding nulls. Because even the best small speakers do not have the surface area or box cappacity to produce these frequencies at high volume levels he may have better luck with smaller speakers. I like the Spendors for just this application. THey give you a great sense of the bass that should be there because they roll off gradually.
I have owned two pairs of 3/5s and heard the AVI and VA. Your description of what you are looking for sounds to me just like the S3/5s, except that the bass is not quite flat to 60 hz. Particularly since you are already a Quad owner, I would think you would like the 3/5s, because the small Spendors have a Quad-like sound to my ear. (I have heard the newer Quad ESLS and owned 57s.) Other option as mentioned above -- look for a pair of LS 3/5as, but those are getting pricy. I also like the AVI, but it is a more forward, punchy sounding speaker, more resembling Linn Kans that LS3/5as. I only briefly auditioned the Haydn once or twice, but I personally didn't find it quite that engaging as the other two speakers.
It sounds like you have a couple of solid choices and wouldn't go wrong with either.
My ear finds a preference to Harbeth vs. Spendors, though they both come from the same British genetic pool. I noticed a pair of Harbeth H-3s listed on here right now for asking price of a little less than $1,500.
Northwoods_maine: Indeed, of the two companies Harbeth remains more solidly anchored to its roots. Spendor has changed more. Few people know that Spendor founders' son left the company and actually moved to Harbeth. But nostalgia is one thing, audio another. Both are good companies and for a given situation/budget I'd look at all options and buy whatever was the best fit.
I haven't heard the other 2, but I own a pair of s3/5 SE's that I bought for about $750 used. I love them. They will totally reflect the quality of your other components: right now I have mine hooked up to a CJ MF2500A, Cary 303-200, Cary SLP-98, etc. But they will never sound "bad", even with much less expensive components.....
Of course you could buy Totem 1-Sigs. for about $1K used instead.....
I like both the Spendor S3/5 and the Vienna Haydn. The Spendor is the more accurate of the two, revealing and analytically penetrating. The Haydn is the more euphonic. Based on your criteria noted, The Haydn is likely more satisfying to you than the objectively excellent Spendor.
However, more to the point of considering your request for
"...a speaker under $1500, decent bass response (flat to 60 hz), little cabinet resonance, somewhat laid back and a soft upper mid/lower treble response...."
A much closer choice is the Silverline SR16. For an even softer top end, the SR15 is voiced considerably warmer. Both of the Silverlines have better dynamic range, larger image and sound presence and deeper useful bass than any of the four you proposed.
I am surprised you didn't mention Zu Druids and Tones as options. A pair of Druids is listed as "2100 OBO", so could be only a very small stretch from his budget. A pair of Tones just sold for 1150.
gentlemen, thanks for your suggestions.
at this point, i am looking for a chario academy one.
having heard this speaker driven by a jadis orchestra integrated amp, i think this speaker is my best choice. unfortunately i have not seen one for sale.
a note regarding the silverline speakers.
i have visited the silverline room several times at ces shows of the past and have not found their performance as described by 213cobra.
i experieneced a very clear, highly resolved, unforgiving perspective of the music.
I think you're correct about Silverline if you heard the SR11, SR12 or SR17. And some of the floorstanders. But the SR15 and SR16 are voiced differently and each should be appealing in different ways to someone seeking what the original poster described.
Well, Aktchi, he asked for a small monitor form factor and it wasn't clear he wanted used. Druids take up only the same floor space as a small monitor with stands, so they ought to be viable for that kind of placement, but I usually find that somehow people who ask for small monitors don't perceive a floorstander as a sub for a monitor + stands. As for Zu Tone, yes certainly, though it costs more than $1500 new. It is well above the size of the Spendor and the Vienna so I didn't presume.
I've owned in the past S3/5, Haydn and Silverline SR16. If the poster has the space, Tones or Druids from Zu are better still. For any of the monitor speakers, great, not merely good, stands are essential. It can make a very large difference, especially in quality and extension of bass. Stay alert for a pair of used Osiris 24" and fill them with shot or sand.
213cobra: I've owned in the past S3/5, Haydn and Silverline SR16. If the poster has the space, Tones or Druids from Zu are better still.
I thought you might feel this way and it'd be good to let the OP know. Then it is up to him. (He has since then decided on Charios).
I have discovered the obvious myself, that while there may be other very good reasons to choose one or the other, a slim floorstander takes up no more room than a monitor and stand combo, and space should not be an issue.
I owned a pair os Rogers 3/5a 16 years ago, and now own a pair of Era design 5. The Rogers was driven by a tube power amp and now D5 by Cambridge Audio 840. I can only recall that the 3/5a had a thicker and sweeter sound, lesser bass and not able to handle to much of power. While the D5 gives a more neutral sound and more bass and handles more sound level. They are very different speakers and I actually like both of them.
since i introduced this thread in early may, i have spoken to a number of audio dealers and have come to the conclusion that small boxes are a bad way to listen to an orchestra.
they cannot compete with larger speakers for scale or resolving complex information. very often there is a feeling of congestion and of stretching the capability of a dome tweeter.
for now i have decided not to pursue small speakers until i hear one that refutes my hypothesis.
in your initial post, you didn't say nothing about listening big orchestra with any of these speakers?
it seems to me you are wasting our time with your "serious" questions about certain choices?
in my initial post, i did not audition any of the speakers using orchestral material. sometime thereafter, i questioned some dealers regarding small speakers and iwas advised that there would be a "deficit" in reproduction relative to larger speakers.
it's interesting that none of the responses discussed the subject of listening to complex material using small boxes.
if there were a comment on this subject you wouldn't have raised this issue.
i thought one the reasons for psting questions to exchange opinions. whether a purchase is contemplated is irrelevant.
I don't agree that smaller sound box does not give you clarity for orchestra listening. I listen to a lot of orchestral work on my small speakers. They sound great. I think what is leaking is the very low register bass which do make the orchestra sound "fuller". However, if you listen to orchestra playing in concert halls, most of the time the bass is not as strong as we hear on records. On the other hand, I think many people using larger speakers also have larger listening environments which help to produce more roomy sound. If you have a small room for your listening enjoyment, larger speaker doesnt neither as the resonant of your room really doesnt allow you to produce low bass.
Another prove of the fault of smaller speakers can not resolving complex information is that ear phones, which being even smaller, are excellent monitoring devices. The issue of resolving complex information is not the size but the quality of production.
I think again we should separate two words which came to my mind regarding your doubts: "big" and "complex". it's not the same thing. small monitors could handle "complex" materials very well, but usually they've sound as big as its physical limits. it is normal that bigger boxes sounds bigger and therefore many like to think how big orchestra is 'feeling' better through big speakers.
maybe this theory has its deficits, but I have yet to find and see pocket cello and pocket double bass sounding as big as the big ones :O))