If you can place them in the corners, I would think about Vandersteen VLR's. Great bass response when properly placed, and a nice non fatiguing sound reproduction, as well.
I use Harbeth P3ESR in my desktop system. (I have them on the inexpensive DS2 rubber stands from Audioengine.) After having the Harbeths for a while, I added a B&W 10" subwoofer (ASW610) I found used on Audiogon. This makes a great desktop system!
I did try the KEF LS50s for this application and found they did not integrate well in such nearfield listening. In the nearfield (and even in the midfield), I find the LS50 too brash for my taste. It’s possible KEF refined the response in the wireless version.
P.S. You mentioned "all-in-one." Before the Harbeths, I used Audioengine A5+ powered speakers. They are incredibly good for the price! So maybe consider them, and also the new Vanatoo Transparent One Encore, which sounded terrific to me at AXPONA. I believe either one is available with a trial period.
I got terrific desk top sound from two small REL t-zero subs with passive speakers placed on top of them. Favourites at the moment are Quested H108 or ATC 11. I’m sure the small Harbeths would do very good too. Look forward to try them. Important to use speakers that integrate well and easily with subs. KEF’s don’t in my experience. They have an uncontrolled bass.
Whatever speakers you choose for the desk top you will need a correction system. I found the small Paradigm PW AMP with ARC room correction to function perfect in that matter. It has enough juice to drive all possible speakers for near field listening. It has sub out. It also has d-play streaming capacity - still unfortunately a very bad app. I got four of this magical amplifier (several systems on the same desk). Without correction you will have a very strange frequency responce in your chair.
Like you I listen maybe 6 hours a day to my desk top systems and maybe half an hour a day to the main systems. So it makes a lot of sence to put the money there. And for near-field you dont have to spend that crazy amount of money to really get fabulous sound. Naturally you don’t get the SPL capacity and the big physical experience of the large system.
I have tried the KEF LS50 on my large desk (see my virtual system). The sound was OK but it drove me nuts that I was wasting the speaker on the desk. Now that I have a dedicated office I have the LS50 away from my desk to the side and it is infinitely better than being on my desk.
I have had the AudioEngine A2 speakers on the desk and I liked it because I felt I was using it to the speakers best capability. It was not the greatest sound but on my desk I was not expecting the greatest sound.
I have had the Audience 1+1 V3 on my desk and it was not good because you need space behind the speaker and I did not have it. I tried the speaker in the new office on the same location as the LS50 and kept the much cheaper LS50’s and sold the Audience.
I spoke to a dealer who sold the Mini Maggie and his feedback was telling. Basically you need tons of space around your desk. Something like having your desk in the center of the room. That is how the dealer had the MiniMaggies setup for demo.
I am going to replace the LS50 (move to another room) and put in a better monitor speaker. The current top contender in my list is the TAD ME1.
I am planning to do Omega Super 3i (single driver) with a Decware Zen amp on my desktop. I have the speakers and they sound amazing close up. Really thrilled with them...They do take a bit of room on the desktop, however.
If I wasn’t going this direction, it would be Harbeth P3ESR or possibly Falcons Ls3/5a.
Also intrigued by the Audience...Among other things, great customer support from the times I have called to ask about their products.
Keep us posted!
As usual, going after max performance involves more complexity than one would expect. Here are some of the things which are becoming apparent to me from all the helpful posts.
1) desktop speakers are becoming more and more important,
2) there are numerous great options for desktop speakers,
3) good speakers meant to be listened to in the near field will likely sound better than great speakers which are not,
4) room correction might help,
5) the location of the desk is very important, and
6) the size of the desk (distance from ear to speaker) is very important.
Also regarding ME-1, I demoed the ME-1 against the KEF Reference 1 with a few friends and we all agreed the Reference 1 was more pleasing to listen to. The Reference 1 sounds a bit rolled off--go the R3 if you want more neutral--whereas the ME-1 is brighter and more detailed. I feel long term there’s some fatigue with the ME-1, possible due to the resonance peak at 1100hz with the ME-1, whereas the Reference 1s are laid back and you can play them for hours on end.
Interesting take on the ME-1 and the KEF Ref 1. One negative on the Ref1 for a small room is that the placement options are not as flexible as the TAD ME-1. When you are in a small room the room becomes the most dominating component. My room is 12x11x9 and it is hard to get the spacing to align with KEF's recommendations in the manual. I am sure it will sound good but likely not operating at it's peak ability in my room. I have heard the REF 1 many times an really love that speaker.
Regarding room correction, the miniDSP SHD series offers an incredible feature set at its price (~US$1200). It includes xover software and extra outputs to make integrating one or two subs easier, Dirac correction for adjusting balance system-wide, and network streaming.
We have one and love it in our living room system. It's not paired with the type of equipment that would allow me to comment on ultimate audiophile performance, unfortunately, but if I didn't already have a great desktop setup, it would be at the top of my list. Available either with DACs and analog input or as a digital-in and digital-out device.