Thoughts on my speaker search...kind of long......

For what its worth, I decided to share my experience on searching for new speakers. I recently replaced my B&W speakers, switching to ATC 20-2 Actives. I auditioned a lot of speakers over a 2-month period and it turned out to be a lot more time consuming than I had expected. I learned a lot in the process, particularly the characteristics that were important to me. The buying process really makes you focus on what you want your overall system to sound like. I was also adamant that I must demo the speaker at my home before finalizing any deal.

I found I could make a pretty quick assessment in the store if I was on the right track. Its actually pretty amazing the array of the sound presentations out there. Some of the speakers I tried were:

ATC 12, 20, 35 & 20-2 actives
Linn Espeks and Ninkas
Paradigm Sig 4
JM Labs 906 & 926
Dynaudio Contours 1.4
Proac DB15
Spendor s5e
Focus audio FS688
Von Schweikert (never found a cooperating dealer who had inventory)

I found in the process- rely on your own ears, demo in your home, take your time, understand/realize what you want to change & don’t rely on any reviews. I know this is all common sense, but I know I rushed my last decision (which I regretted) b/c it takes a lot of time to hear what is out there. I also found my criteria for a speaker was a lot more extensive than I initially thought. In terms of reviews, I found 2 reviews were totally different than my take, and not by a small margin. I really wondered how we could be hearing 2 totally different things.

I also got some great advice from some members hear. They had range of experience that I didn’t have. They focused on the sound traits I was looking for and providing some great leads. They were also able to provide recommendations without imparting their emotions into the selections.

The dealer experience ranged from horrible to fantastic. I was upfront with all of the dealers; I was planning on listening to a lot of speakers before deciding, I must hear them in my own room, and I would buy from the dealer that did the demo. Of the 7 dealers, 2 were great, 2 were okay and 3 were awful. The awful dealers were very similar. They had limited inventory, a pushy sales approach, a lack of manners (not ready for appt., slow to return call, etc) and a lot gripes about the internet destroying their business. The two dealers who were great had a totally opposite approach. They listened to want I wanted, created comparisons to evaluate & ultimately added value to the process. While I didn’t buy from one of them, I am sure I will at some point and/or lead someone to them.

The dealer experience also made me appreciate the store I have doing business with for years. They don’t have a fancy store, but a lot of good products (albeit not my speaker choice) and a great attitude. They couldn’t help me this time around, but they have my loyalty.

At this point in time, I had the speakers for just about a month and I am totally pleased with their performance. They are a great fit for my listening room and I think I will have them for a long time. They bring the enjoyment back to a lot cds that I stopped listening to. While I’m glad I spent the time searching (and won’t have any regrets from not trying something out), I certainly happier that I don’t have to go through this process again. Buying speakers was more difficult than buying any other component in my system.
Nice summary. I absolutely agree it is critical to listen at home -- the acoustics will be very different than that at the store. At the same time, folks will want to be aware that, in a good listening room, the sound they hear at the store may be more of what they will be moving toward over time as they adjust room acoustics to become more optimal. This all assumes folks will add acoustic treatments. Ideally, the treatments should precede home listening.

One reason that reviewers may hear something different is that they probably use different equipment from what you have. Everything in audio is a balancing act -- it's all about system synergy. Buying active speakers takes some of the noise out of that.

In any event, I'm happy for you and I'm glad your time investment paid off! All hobbies are time consuming, aren't they? ;-)
If they fit your needs, budget and room, definately check out VMPS. The RM-40 are world-class, the RM-30 just a tick below. I haven't heard the rest of the VMPS line, yet.
I agree about the room acoustics and treatments. I went that route previously, trying to improve my old speakers' performance in my room. It worked to some extent, but ultimately those speakers were not a good fit in my room. I would also say that acoustics at dealers also vary, with the best rooms making some lower-end gear sound pretty exceptional.

All-in-all, I found shopping for speakers to be the most difficult and time consumming task putting together a system.

I went on a four state speaker tour when shopping for my last pair. I pretty much knew qualities what i was looking for when i left and once i heard the speakers that gave it the shopping was pretty much reduced to clarification of the obvious choice. While on this tour I had similar experiences with the shops to those Mac had. A few were very cooperative and actually knew their equipment, a couple didn't care what i wanted for sound qualities they just wanted to sell what they had and tried to convince me why they knew my needs better than I, and a couple should have stuck to bose. When i described the speaker characteristics i was looking for their eyes glazed and rolled around in their heads.

I kind of agree with you gotta try it at home thing but i really have to side with Ozfly about well treated audition room giving you a better sence of what the speaker will do so you can shoot for that target in your own space.

I auditioned the speakers i ultimately ended up with in a killer room at Audio Vidio lodgic in Desmoins Iowa. I ended up buying used but i still plug them because they are incredibly helpful, they listen to what you want and know how to get you there within the limitations of their selection. I haven't got my room to sound like theirs yet but i know my goal.

I recently listened to a pair of Wilson Max speakers in a very nicely treated room backed with about $150k of gear. I finally hear the sence of space around the instruments in a truely realistic could tell the room size the guy was playing in! That same system would never achieve that at my place. Best system i've ever heard but given my room limitations my system is a way better choice at about 10% of the cost.
Glad you like the ATCs I also heard over a dozen bookshelf speakers and still found the ATCs most complete sound. For the passive unit is extremely picky on amps. High current and high power is required to get the best out of them.
("....I really wondered how we could be hearing 2 totally different things.")

Answer: It's real easy...different setup/placment, room acoustics and related(including ceiling height and distance from speakers to seat from boundaries) associated equipment/connections, power from wall and filtering, and sensitivity and tastes, etc!!!!
Actually, I think you can tell a speakers general characteristics fairly easy. I agree system components, room, cables play a large role, but some of the reviews were just out there. I think reviews are relevant when you have you have some history with that reviewer (know their tendecies)and their publication/forum has some credibility. I personally think people put too much trust in reviews, while they should focus on what sounds best to them.