Have you looked at Omega Super 3i or Decaware speakers?
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Normally I'm not a fan of whizzer cone single driver speakers, but that is often what is paired with SET's.
The thing is, for near field listening, you want a point source speaker. And these single driver speakers are that, so he's in luck in a way.
You can find lots of info from SET zealots on what speakers would be good candidates. Theres even a brand where you can swap to a better driver in the future.
The thing is I'd try to get the speakers further away from the wall. If he could set his desk up so the speakers were 2-3 feet off the wall I think he'd find better sound, even though the speakers would end up being closer to him. I just personally can't stand hearing the coloration from having speakers near a wall.
I've heard many very good reports over the years about Omega and Louis. They are certainly in consideration, just not sure if they are quite efficient enough to perform optimally with 3.5 wpc. . Most Omega designs seem to run about 94db. Granted, how accurately companies rate sensitivity is always a concern, the Omega's could be fine? Based on his reputation, I would expect Louis to be forthright about real world sensitivity of his designs.
Honestly, at that distance in that small a room just about any good quality bookshelf/mini-monitor type speaker will do. Especially if he's not out to blow his socks off. Which is not a strength of SET anyway. Listening for quality, inner detail, that spooky-real SET character is gonna come through just fine almost no matter what he uses.
If the room was a lot bigger, or your friend was a lot more experienced, I would offer different advice. But another perfectly good reason for prioritizing sound you like over efficiency and "SET compatible" is he gets going and finds out without too much trouble. One sure way of sucking the fun out of anything is making it harder than it needs to be.
You know another reason, the signal matters more than the speakers anyway. Sorry. But it does. The most awesome SET amp and speakers in the world are not gonna cut it if connected with lamp cord and plugged into rubber freebie power cords. Good wire and peripherals on the other hand (HFT, etc) along with that SET will make just about any speakers perform like he won't believe.
The Omega/Decware pairing is well known on Audio Circle where Omega has a presence:
I use Omega’s Super 3i Monitors with a Decware SE84UFO (2 wpc) in a 13’ x 18’ room. There’s more than enough volume for my taste and listening habits. Your friend’s amp should be just fine.
After a year or so living with the Super 3i’s I added Omega’s DeepHemp 8 Subwoofer to the mix. In my room the sub was a nice addition. Obviously not needed in your friend’s smaller space but if his space changes in the future he can always add a sub if need be.
A pair of Klipsch Heresy 3s will do the job very well. If out of the price range, a pair of series 2s would also be a good fit. I would be happy to discuss a few low cost modifications to get them to the next level. The natural bass roll off would be good in a small square room, and the drivers, being close together, works in a near field situation. As far as efficiency goes, they are as good as you will get. They sound lively, and present a very fun and involving listening experience. Of course, ymmv, but, this is my recommendation. Good luck, and Enjoy ! MrD.
I'll also throw in the Omega speaker recommendation. If your friend is handy there's a ton of 6" and 8" kits that would foot the bill and is pretty cheap. Madisound has a few kits using Fostex Drivers which are really efficient. THe other cool part of single driver speakers is they can be pushed into a corner to help with bass. I started with mine in the corner and started to pull them into the room until it suited my taste bass wise.
Here's a link to the Madisound Kits