Get the Avalons.
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How big is the room?
I like Dynaudio monitors (Special 25 and C1) but they need to be cranked a bit to really open up, and they like a nice, big room. So I don't think I'd recommend them for your situation...
Maybe a nice pair of Sonus Faber Auditor M's? B&W 805 Diamond?
Otherwise a small floor stander might do the trick. The Gallo 3.5 perhaps? They can be cranked when required, but have a small footprint and sound excellent at low volumes as well.
Merlin VSM could be a contender as well, it's another great lower-volume speaker.
For what it's worth, I support Goatwuss's original point of view. While my stripes are solidly in the full range camp, I'd find it rather superfluous to own a set of high caliber speakers only to use them in an application that limits their overall potential.
That said, if you're steadfast on owning either of the two speakers, my vote would go for the Wilson's. Why? Because they will give you greater articulation and dynamic expression at low volumes, which seem to be your foremost priorities. Even though Wilson's tend to get a bad rap at Audiogon, their performance can be outright exceptional. The only problem is that they are incredibly fussy about room placement, and you need to be very mindful about the electronics you match up with them. My word of advice would be this; if you go with a set of Wilson's, feed them tubes. A solid well-rounded tube integrated will do. Also, be prepared to spend a lot of time getting them positioned 'just right'.
As for Avalon's, I like them in the sense that they are warmer and easier to work with. It requires much less effort to get excellent performance out of a pair of Ceramique's than it does a set of Watt Puppy 7's. Some feel that this alone is an excellent mark of a transducer. I just feel that its merely a difference in the manufacturers credo. The good news is that they are quite musical and can match a wide variety of electronics. On the 'affordable' side, I'd suggest a Leben integrated. On the not so affordable side, I'd look into a warmer sounding solid state integrated, such as the model from Karan Acoustic.
Either way you go, you're getting a kick ass set of speakers. Good luck.
While the intent of the advice being offered is very well intended I'm not sure I agree with it. In my view as long the speaker you choose can fulfill your needs in your current situation with regards to your room and associated equipment my advice would to be get a speaker you can grow with. In time you may move to a bigger room where you will be able to listen at a higher listening level and you are going to want a speaker that can fill it with sound.
The Avalon's will be able to sound linear in dynamics at lower volumes and if asked to do will be able to play back at much higher listening levels although not to the level of a Watt Puppy 7. I also believe the Avalon will better reflect your future system upgrades if any are made.
best of luck,
Go with the Wilson's. Set-up properly and matched with the proper components, cables, they are hard to beat. They sound amazing at low sound levels too (still very dynamic) and completely disappear in the room. Huge soundstage and holographic imaging. Wilson's give you the music as intended w/o coloration. I own W/P 8's. They are a sonic bargain when purchased second hand.
I agree with you that he should choose a speaker he will be happy with in his current room and also work well with his current equipment especially his amp. I'm assuming that at this time Mike has a lead on a good deal for either of these speakers. At the same time, I feel it would be wise to look to the future in making this decision just in case he is going to want a speaker that will work well in a larger room with the ability to dive deeper in the bass and play back at higher volumes.
The Wilson is easier to drive and the tweeters are more polite than the Opus Ceramique's. That's based on my experience having owned Eidolons for 11+ years and listened to both Opus Ceramique and Wilson WP7s. WP7s do not sound like WP5s and WP6s. They are actually extremely buttoned down and can work well in small rooms.
The Opus Ceramique will not give you any possible bass problems with woofers overwhelming the room but don't expect the highs to be as detailed and refined as the WP7.
And then, of course, there is the Fletcher-Munson curve to consider, if Mike is going to play music at low volumes. Given that, a small, high-quality monitor with a sub (or subs) might be a good choice. I suppose he could get an integrated amp with tone controls instead, but that wouldn't be my first choice.
Mikefi: what does "rather low volume" mean?
The times I've owned monitor speakers I tended to listen to them a little too loud in order to get the fullness in the low frequencies that I enjoy. When I put a sub with them I enjoyed them at a lower volume, relying on the sub to give a subtle fullness to the sound. I have since moved to larger speakers and don't use the sub anymore. I have a fairly large listening room, so this thought process may not work for the original poster, but it's just something maybe to consider.