I just bought some small Paradigm speakers for about $250 for my desk. Sound just fine to me - they are warm and not etched. Solid mid-range. Good build.
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I have a pair of Acoustic Energy Aesprit 301's that are designed to be surround speakers but the lack of a rear port makes them ideal to put on the corners of a desk against a wall. They're beautifully made, with cherry cabinets and very compact. They sound wonderful as the replacements for the original speakers in a TEAC 'executive' system.
I'm very interested in this thread. I'm trying to find some speakers for my desktop and the audiophile in me keeps ratcheting up what I'm looking for and the bean counter in me says something reasonable. There is a guy on Soundstage who recommends the Ref. 3A Dulcet but that seems a bit extravagent. I was wondering about the Omega 3's. They are efficient for your needs if not exactly small. Others have recommended the Boston Acoustics micro speakers and NHT Super Zeros. My Aego 2's are small but include a subwoofer and are decent. I'd just like to do better than that.
I've been looking for a small pair of speakers to replace my B&W LM monitors. I've been looking at the JM Labs Sib http://www.audioplusservices.com/frame.html which retails for $350/pair. Also looking into the Gallo Due' http://www.roundsound.com/due.html which retail for $1200/pair. Both speakers would have to be used with a subwoofer.
I've been leaning toward the Tannoys myself. I love the looks in the bronze color. I also like the fact that they can be wall mounted which I need. The problem I'm having is the price; $1100 with the wall mount brackets. Granted, the are a niche product and also very stylish, but they are also pretty small.
I'm also considering a small pair of Tyler acoustics with an adjustable wall mount speaker bracket that you don't have to drill holes in the speaker to use. Or maybe a pair of Totem Dreamcatchers with a wall mount bracket. I had a pair of Totems in my big rig for a few weeks which I borrow from a friend. I was impressed with them for the money.
I guess I'll make a decision when I hear the Tannoy's. I'm trying to get the best sound for the least amount of money, but I also want if to look good.
There is another thread on this topic in the Digital forum and in that thread someone recommended Swans M200s. Less than $200 and the comments about them are good. They are not small (about the size of an average bookshelf speaker) but don't require a subwoofer. They are self powered. For the price they're worth a shot.
Acoustic Enerty AEGO speakers sound really nice for tiny speakers. Very smooth and unfatiguing from what I remember. I saw them in Sound By Singer several years ago setup with a Loewe Aconda TV up front. I wasn't looking at the TV or the speakers, but the sound made me stop and pause for a moment on my way out. I made a mental note "for tiny speakers, those things are incredible." I think they got rave reviews when they first appeared.
I'm very happy with my Paradigm Mites (not to be confused with Totem Mites) on my office desk, less than a metre from each ear. Cost me about $300 Cdn new, should come in around $200 Usd. If I didn't have them, I'd be pulled strongly to the Epos ELS 3s for just a little more money.
As for Budrew's musings; no offence, but I'd consider it a sacrilege to put Dulcet's on a desk top, but hey, however you like to burn your money...Dulcets are fabulous main speakers on good stands in a smallish room...
How small would you like? A 10-12" monitor speaker is not really "small" on a desktop. There are many sat/sub systems available, from the computer stuff on up. For my home computer, I recent bought the FPS flat panel monitors and sub speaker system that Von Schweikert Audio is selling for $129 (vonschweikert.com). It's certainly excellent for a computer, and would support a nice integrated amp or receiver and CD. Thorough Bass, Inc. has the new "Majestic Diamond" monitors (approx. 5" cube, $200 ea.) to go with their terrific subwoofers. I'd sure take a look at that, having heard it only briefly at an audio show last year. thoroughbass.com--see "PAM" link at the bottom of the left-hand column. For regular monitors, the Alon Napoleon 8" tall mini-monitors (now Nolaspeakers.com, but Napoleons are no longer made, I think.) were rave-reviewed and TRULY EXCELLENT (new $695)! If you could find a used pair, you'd really be in business. Then there are puppies like the Mirage nanosats and omnisats that might be very good in a desk situation withtheir omni dispersion. Good luck!