YOUR Favorite Bookshelf/Monitor below $500

These are the speakers I am looking at, and the one I want changes daily;

Usher Audio S-520 - $350.00
Kef iQ3 - $425.00
AV123 X-LS Encore - $349.00
PSB Alpha - $279.00
Paradigm Atom V.5 - $249.00

Which is your favorite? Any others I should consider? They will be used 60/40 Music/Movies. When it comes to Music I listen to a lot of Electronic, R&B, & Jazz. I like a nice bottom end. the kind where you think I can not believe that is coming from that small speaker.
Quads.....among others.
My favourite is the PSB Alpha. The more important question in your purchase decision however, is: what's YOUR favourite one?
B&W 685's and 686's. Audition them before you make any decisions. FANTASTIC !!
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.
If you can find them used, Soliloquy Sat-5's. Sealed cabinet so they work great in tight spaces. Same sound as the entire Soliloquy line, just less bass. Amazing sound with any sub.
Era Design 4. I think they might be slightly over budget but used, well within budget.
You might want to add the Energy RC-10 to the list. Also NHT has some good offering at and around the $500 price point.
I'll second the SAT-5's, and will add to your list Era Design 4's or 5's (used). A used set of 4's just came up for a bargain price and will not last long. No association with the seller and not necessarily recommending you buy that pair.

Used JM Reynaud Twins. Magic with tube gear.
Paradigm Titan's Version 4 or older! I have owned mine for a year and am impressed every time I turn my system on.

I'm currently enjoying a pair of Energy C-3's. A tad light in the bottom end but enjoyable nonetheless. Price range is around $300 to $400.

Demo pair for $325, direct they go for $595. May want to ask Rick if these are still available. Not sure you'll find anything in this class that will go very low.
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.
B&W 805 N. you may find a used one in that price range. Hard to beat the sound especially if you can drive them with 100 watts or better.
Look for a used pair of Dynaudio Audience 42's. It perfectly fulfills your request of "the kind where you... cannot believe that is coming from that small speaker". A used pair will fall within your budget.
Dynaudio Audience 50's or 52's... a step above the 42's previously mentioned and right in the $500 to $600 range.
I currently own both the 42's & 52's in smaller systems, and both are very nice.

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.

Best wishes-
You can still pick up a pair of NHT M5 monitors at close out pricing for your stated budget. It's a true 3-way design. Depending on your electronics you can add a subwoofer later.
01-19-08: Beerdraft
B&W 805 N. you may find a used one in that price range.

I would want a pair too if the N805 can be had at $500, probably a few pairs.
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.
OOP'S, sorry I see now that the 805N go for twice the 500 dollar budget here. I had the pardigm's mentioned by christiancoach above. They were very nice.
IMO, The KRIX "Equinox" are superb small bookshelf loudspeakers. Right now Full Compass is closing them out for a ridiculous low price.
If you're looking at the PSB Alpha's you should take a look at the PSB Image 25B. They're a good step above the Alpha's and still below your $500 mark. I would also take a look at the Focal JM-Labs 705's. I think, if you shop, you could also find the Focal JM-Labs 706 for the $500.

Add the Ascend Acoustics 170SE to the audition list for that price range.
The Usher S-520 is indeed special at it's price point. A used pair of GMA Europas would be extremely hard to beat and often surface on the 'Gon for around 500.00.

I heard Usher for the first time this week and was quite impressed.