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B&W 685 are $650. My favorites change from day to day. I was leaning towards the AV123 X-LS mainly because of the reviews of the previous model and the real wood veneers. You have to figure with the internet direct brands you are getting more speaker for you money with no middle man. However, they are having MAJOR delays.
The PSB and Atom are neck and neck if you ask me. The Stereophile nod given to the PSB is the only thing that is giving the PSB the edge.
there's a pair of JBL- L830 speakers for sale on audiogon for $250 which is a VERY good deal. i have no association with this seller, but i have these speakers also, and they are incredibly dynamic and have excellent bass (6in. 3 way). NOT ONLY do they image well, but even project good soundstage depth (very much to my surprise). i bought them for the bedroom to listen to rock and roll, and not "criticize" the sound quality of my audio cassettes. they are handsome little guys too, with beveled edges, small H&W but very deep. maybe the paradigm atoms have a surprisingly refined sound, but i have a gut feeling they will not fill the room anything like the jbl's, or go as low. it would be interesting to find out since psb's and paradigms always get the positive audiophile ratings.
I've owned the Usher-520, PSB Alpha and the Soliloquy SAT 5. Of those three the Soliloquys are far and away the best.
The Ushers are next. They may be a little bright, though, depending on your equipment. With a tube amp they sound remarkable at their price.
The other small, inexpensive speaker I've owned and loved is the Ruark Epilogue. Probably impossible to find but worth looking for.
I just caught this thread... I've been in the same boat as you for quite a while... comparing speaker review after speaker review. Every time I would ask for advice, the same thing would happen as did in this thread... tons of different recommendations with no distinct headway in one direction. It makes sense, I suppose... everyone has their own musical taste and nobody (well, at least almost nobody) has heard a sample of every single speaker out there.
You said earlier, "You have to figure with the internet direct brands you are getting more speaker for you money with no middle man"... I thought this at one point, but I don't think it is necessarily the case anymore. There are just so many factors... like the choice of mark-up percentage, of course, which may need to be higher if it is a smaller company with less distribution. Also, there is the factor of whether the company needed to outsource and/or buy separate components to piece together...
Taking this and what else I could into account, I decided to go with the Paradigm Atoms V5 for a few reasons. First, they make everything at their factory in Canada, which eliminates the cost of outsourcing, importing fees, etc. So, even though they distribute to dealers, you get more bang for your buck because of this. Also, they may have better quality control and control over each and every design element of the speaker because everything is made locally. Another reason I went that way is there was a dealer 7 miles down the street... so I could listen to them and was instantly blown away. All this mixed in with loads of amazing reviews seemed pretty promising.
There are also multiple advantages to buying new... although your pocket book might not agree initially, it's always nice to have a warranty, someone to demo with and call for questions, and not have to worry about buying from an idiot who put water glasses or ash trays on top or who pushed the speaker too hard... or underpowered the speaker.
Anyways, there is one performance advantage that stands out to me in particular that I want to mention about the Atoms... they are extremely efficient. This means you wont have to work a lower powered amp as hard to get a nice sound, which in turn means your music is going to sound better as a whole because you are lower on the distortion curve. Given, this wouldn't be a factor with higher-powered amps, but having more QUALITY power is going to cost significantly more than a high-quality lower-powered amp. The atoms might sound better with low-powered amps than almost anything, regardless of price.
So, ya, what I have learned is that you really need to take your entire system into account and ponder how each component is going to compliment the other elements. I'm sure each speaker you have listed has certain strengths over the others... so another, and probably the most important factor is, of course, your own tastes in sound and what type of music you listen to primarily.
Also, for what it's worth, I did an A/B comparison of the Atom to either the Mini or the Titan, I forget which... and I preferred the sound of the Atom for my musical tastes... it was lighter on the bass and more crisp on the upper mid-range and highs.
That is what I meant (a pair), sorry. I've seen several pairs of 805's but can't remember if they were 500, though I think they were close. If I started another small system in a smaller room in my house, which definately may be coming soon. The 805N is what I will look for to start it with.
thanks for the correction Ryder, I'll figure out this language soon enough.