For me it's the ATC SCM 12
Amazing micro and macro dynamics, timber, a piano sounds like one etc. They sound very good at ANY level from a whisper to concert level.
For a list of speakers I have owned and know well:
von schweikert vr-1s for me...too bad they don't make em anymore...
Let me pick two:
AVI Neurton 4
Tyler Taylo Reference Monitor
Celestion SL-700SE. Retail was about $4000 and worth every penny.
In the ultra-compact category, I tend to enjoy the Mark and Daniel Maximus Mini. For just over $1200, this speaker is extremely resolving, sports great imaging, great build quality, good looks, and can deliver a sound that's far larger than its small dimensions would suggest. If you like sparkle in your treble with warm mid-bass, you may very well like the Mini's. They do love their power though, so I'd try to give them a minimum of 30 watts of good clean current.
In the ultra-linear category, I would second the ATC recommendation. Although the model SCM-12 pushes the envelop the definition of 'small', ATC's are very "tell it like it is" speakers and are more apt to reflect whats being fed through them. They are also quite dynamic speakers for their size and sport a slightly more forward presentation. It's a great option for those who like a more 'live' type of sound that is also very "tell it like it is".
In the compact / full range category, I would look at the Guru QM-10's. These compact Swedish speakers are pretty friendly when it comes to room placement. Despite their funky size, they can throw out a good sound-stage and work well in nearly all room situations. I'd advise pairing these speakers with linear (not warm or overly colored) sounding electronics.
In the compact / Great value category, the Lenehan Audio ML1's get my vote. They are about as well rounded as it gets. Non fatiguing (yet still very detailed and airy) treble, sublime midrange that will make a Spendor blush, exceptionally tuneful bass, and they can go louder/cleaner than anything mentioned here. They truly sound more like floor-standing loudspeakers than compact monitors. A great buy at just over $2200.
Finally, my favorite compact monitor in the "all around" category would be Totem Acoustic's 20th anniversary loudspeaker, "The One". They are a bear to break in and to position correctly in a room, but once you get everything set up right, The One's do some things that small (and semi-affordable) monitors shouldn't do. Insanely holographic, quick, and tonally spot on, they also contain great dynamics and bass extension. I'd advise pairing them with warmer components (such as Bluecircle, Naim, or any good tube amp) to get the most of them. Again, they aren't the easiest speakers on planet earth to work with, but the efforts can be well rewarded when you get them set up correctly.
Just my meanderings. Good luck in the hunt! There are tons of great options out there!
PMC DB1i-Major performance out of a pint sized package. Worth a demo!!!.
SP Tech Minis. Outstanding monitor !!
ProAc Tablette 50 Signature
TWO come to mind- sonus faber electra amators and B&W silver signatures, BUT you wouldn't actually want to put them on a bookshelf per se.
Not sure these count as "small":
Dynaudio Confidence C1
Both will reward excellent electronics upstream.
First I need to insert the word owned for heard in your question as I don't consider auditioning speakers for short periods worth all that much.
After establishing that; Revel M-20.
always liked the Proac Response 2
I remembered contributing to a similar thread here
a couple years ago.
Tidal Amea (still awaiting an opportunity to hear the Amea Diacera which is mor than likely even better).http://www.tidal-audio.de/english/amea1.htm
In the very compact category (12x6x9), Kiso HB1 by guitar and violin builder Takamine leaps to my mind.http://www.kisoacoustic.com/introduction.html
Always provided, of course, one does not actually put any of these gems on bookshelves, which probably goes for all or most of the previously mentioned as well!
For me, small speakers are a "pick your poison" proposition.
If you want octave to octave balance (my #1 priority), you have to sacrifice bandwidth at both ends or accuracy (or both). A little mid-bass hump, while inaccurate, restores balance. IME, if you want real accuracy through an extended top end, the speakers will cry out for a sub.
That said, the (original) Red Rose Ribbon monitor (ribbon extends above the front baffle), while somewhat colored, is really satisfying as a stand alone monitor. The old Sonus Faber Minuetto is another speaker that made a similar trade-off. I own, and still use both.
ProAc Tablette's, original model. These things 'sing'. Have two pair which I've used for over twenty five years. They are still going strong. I use them on lead filled Chicago stands. I also have other ProAc units and some Roy Allison units. And yes, you will need a sub to get the bottom, but that is a small price to pay. Of course you need a small room, but that is part of their joy.
How about the Platinum Audio Solo? Real bass, great detail, first-class finish.
The best I've personally heard, not heard of, are:
Devore Gibbon 3
The Devore was divine for it's size being driven by a CJ integrated. Not a big fan of CJ gear but it sounded sweet & non-fatiguing.
I always thought NHT super zeros were nice for the little price and great sound minus the lower octives of course. Still have em. Cheers
US....cizek model one/small advent/epi 100/ spica tc50/allison 6......uk...acoustic energy ae1,ae2...celestion 600, 700..Any LS 3/5a...
Not sure if these meet the definition of small bookshelves, but limited to speakers I own or have heard for extended periods of time, Revel M22 and JSE (model .6, I believe).
Fried C3/L, which serve as the satellite section of the Valhalla System, sitting on top of the D Series subwoofer.
Was listening to a pair, while sitting on a sofa in front of a concrete wall. Heard a phone ringing behind me, which I obviously knew had to be a part of the music, yet like a complete an utter idiot, turned around to see if the phone was ringing. It was just THAT real. Never had anything like that happen with another loudpeaker.
Was listening to a pair, while sitting on a sofa in front of a concrete wall. Heard a phone ringing behind me, which I obviously knew had to be a part of the music, yet like a complete an utter idiot, turned around to see if the phone was ringing.
Trelja, were you listening to "Amused To Death?"
Timrhu, in all honesty, while I believe it was not Roger Waters, I have no recollection of the song beyond the phone ringing.
Bud Fried's loudspeakers have faded out of the memory of most these days. Yet, in terms of clarity, that sense of being alive, and obviously, soundstaging, they were way ahead of their time. The Valhalla System, with its time alignment, series crossovers, and true TL loading of the midrange offered a tremendous level of sonics.
The best i've personally heard and now in my own system:
PROAC STUDIO 110
Specially mated with a pre-amp Cary Slp-98 with 6n8s (6sn7) metal tubes...amazing...these tubes i think is much better than other US 6sn7 tubes.
Has anyone heard the MiniStats? From Soundlabs?
Another plug for the Mark and Daniel Ruby or similar.
Approx same dimensions as an LS3/5a, but far better high-end, more open, better soundstage, more efficient, more neutral, more dynamic. It's a damn good little speaker and I've owned most of the 'LS3/5a' clones.
I guess you can't edit the Subject line at this forum, too bad. My last post was referring to the PMC DB1i.