Help me choose

Forgive me for asking but looking for input.

Finalists include Kef Q900, Dynaudio Focus 160, Totem Sttaf, Totem Rainmaker, and Nola Boxer. Using new high-power Onkyo receiver. I can't friggin decide. Listen to many audiophile recordings, female vocals, and mild rock. Only loud on rare occasions. Kimbre wire.

Basement system with 7' ceilings.
The receiver is being used as an amp and preamp for now. I plan to add an amp down in the future.
I can only speak from my own experience.
I started with Focal 918s b/c I picked them up cheap.
I was told that the Marantz receiver was plenty power to push Paradigm b/c I was looking at Paradigm when I bought the Focals.
I added the Marantz to the Focals.(125wpc) Not much to get excited about
I added an amp. Rebuilt H/K Citation 16a.(150wpc) Not much improvement
I added Sony 5400es cdp. Noticable improvement. More balance.
I added Thor ta-1000 upgraded preamp about 3 weeks ago. MAJOR IMPROVEMENT.
It isnt even the same ballpark. Hard to explain but with the receiver I would be forced to turn it up to hear detail and then it was just loud and flat. (Didnt know it at the time) haha sound level is literally at 1 or 2 out of 24 steps on the volume. The sounds have power and life from the start..not to mention seperation. Sorta like if you threw rocks into water and only saw one ripple. Now it would be a gentle toss into the water and see multiple ripples.(If that makes sense)
I am still in the early stages of this hobby and it really can be frustrating when you dont get the results you are looking for. You should have seen my face when I hooked up this huge amp and got little to no improvement. I really thought I needed 500wpc to get where I wanted.
I coulnt have been further from the truth.
My speakers and room arent big enough for the 150wpc now with a quality pre.
I guess some of it depends on your listening needs.
If you have dual input speaker that is used for a lot of home theater then a receiver may fit the bill. For me though it isnt geared for the potential of music.
Like I said this is my experience. Jayson
Thanks for that. I've been considering going to strictly two channel but hesitant. I was actually thinking on selling receiver and adding a used integrated. I hadn't realized the importance of a preamp.

I started out looking at the Doge 8 based on the bang for the buck the stunning reviews online.
Anyway I bit the bullet and got the Thor ta-1000 for 2750.00. It had cap/wire/rca upgrades already and Thor has new ownership in Texas so maintenance is available. The owner Ted is about as nice a guy as you could ever deal w ith.
I would really think about what your goals are and take it one step at a time. I wish I could explain how different my system sounds. I went and listened to Sonus Faber Cremonas the other day just for kicks and their setup wasnt even in the same ballpark as mine. I even told him.
Guess what they were using some kind of high dollar processor as the pre. I kept talking so much about the Thor that he went and googled it on the spot.
My point is I wouldnt have known any better w/o hearing the difference from first hand experience. "reference"
The terms and lingo I read on this site didnt make sense to me b/c I didnt have what they were describing.haha
Like: "if it didnt sound good at first, why would you want more of it"...bigger amp,etc
Be patient.
This will fall firmly into the 'throw it out if you don't like it category.'
During design work, I always listened to female voices for eval (that's a starting and ending point).
I suppose it is because we know what the female voice sounds like, and colorations are more easily heard...that, and annoying little frequency anomalies seem easier to quantify on that type of recording.
A bit of sibilance here, a touch of chestiness there, a thinness in the upper middle, an aggressive presentation there.
If you can listen intently, focus on the material and make copious notes as to what's good and what's NOT GOOD, or even bad it will go miles to help you.
Remember, anything that's noticeable in a twenty minute session, becomes a major annoyance after ownership.

Hope that helps a little,