Help me pick from my sub-$1200 shortlist

Alright. Here's the shortlist. Let's get your opinions:

  • KEF LS50
  • Sonus Faber Venere
  • Monitor Audio SIlver 100's (haven't tested yet)

And yes I know some of these retail over $1200, but for those I'm going to look for used or be patient for sales

I tested the SF's and the KEF's the other day. When at the store, I liked the KEF's better; I felt like there were more punchy mids, more contrasting dynamics. But having since listened I've been thinking more about the SF's and feeling like maybe I actually long term enjoyed their more subdued tone more, factoring in the fact that I would be able to play with them/my setup in my own apartment more. There was an incredible clarity with them nonetheless that I really loved.

I'm mostly doing vinyl and digital music, less classical/jazz, more rock, country, metal, experimental, but also quieter stuff too. Running out of a Cambridge Audio Azur 551R.

Other speakers I've had on the longer list, but might not be able to check out are the Revel Concerta2 M16, PSB Imagine B, and Paradigm Signature S2; so if you feel strongly on those please let me know

What speakers do you have now, what would you like to improve upon with the new speakers, and what aspects of sound reproduction and speaker performance are most important to you?  How big is your room?
 My first high end pair of speakers were a pair of Vandersteen 2c's that I paid about 500 for. I would  strongly advise considering a pair of those in that price point. 
+2 on the Vandersteen 2 and you might be able to find the 2CE Sig or 2CE Sig II. for that price range.
@soix Right now I have a pair of Orb audio's. I want speakers that can take me into basically an audiophile range of sound, ideally without a subwoofer, although I will be incorporating this into a 5.1 setup for movies/video games. Stereo 2-channel for purposes of music both digital and vinyl are much more important to me than surround though.
@soix @analogluvr @2psyop I forgot to add, I'm *almost* strictly looking for bookshelf speakers. I live in a city/apartment so it's going to be limited space, and am ideally looking to do bookshelves, although the Vandersteens are beautiful and could possibly work space wise since they're shorter
Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2 (B stock). New for around $1200 shipped.

Seas woofer, RAAL tweeter, bamboo cabinet bookshelf size. Pairs are matched to within .5 db
In that case I would look at (listen to) a pair of B&W PM1’s. With stands... great clear sound.

Out of your above short lists I would highly recommend the KEF LS50. These are outstanding performance at very affordable price. You can't beat the LS50 especially for their asking price. You can't even get better than that for twice or three times the price IMO. But these KEF LS50 require good quality competent amplification current from an amplifier in order to get optimal performance out of these speakers, and I wouldn't run these off an AV receiver. They need good quality power in order to do these speakers justice. 
You've got some very good recommendations here.  I'll add the Silverline Preludes, which are slim floorstanders that will get you down into the 30Hz range and are also a fairly easy load on your amp.  There's a new pair available here now for $1100 that would be well worth considering.  I had the Venere 2.5 in my system on demo, and I think despite being much cheaper the Preludes are overall a better speaker.  Best of luck in whatever you choose. 
LS50s are the best speaker on your list by a wide margin. Vandys are good but far more picky regarding placement and optimal seating position (VLRs may be an exception). 

Usher Be-718 with diamond tweeters. I would pass on the Be tweeters unless you are willing to buy the Diamonds and drop them in. 
Why buy used? For a pinch above your budget you can get a new pair of the Vandersteen 1ci! You should be able to get a 10% off list price from any dealer!
I have a pair of the LS50s and they excel if given proper quality amplification. In addition they absolutely should be placed on a quality stand that has some appropriate mass. The degree of improvement from placing them on stands was much more than I anticipated.  
You may have liked the Kef's in the shop but your instinct is telling you different. I'm guessing that you need to hear some more speakers. Sorry, but it's never easy. 

If it's down to money then you could buy used? The loudspeaker road goes on some way past the exceptional LS50's. 
I've had the KEF LS50s (twice), and they are definitely an exceptional speaker.  The first time I had them paired with an 80wpc integrated, and it really wasn't enough power for them.  The second time I paired them with a 220wpc integrated, and I got much better performance out of them.  I also found that they were extremely sensitive to placement in my room.  I've never had a speaker whose sound changed so dramatically when I repositioned it.  It could sound thin, bright, warm, rich, transparent, veiled, etc.  And you need good stands to really get the best out of them.  

All of the speakers you mentioned are good quality.  They are made by respected manufacturers, so you really can't go wrong.  Just give them each a long listen, in your own listening room if possible.  Audio Advisor, Music Direct, Crutchfield, etc. have 30-60 return policies.  

Good luck, and happy listening,Scott
Yeah as @smrex13 said, I'd have concerns the OP's receiver can drive the LS50s properly with 90wpc into 8 Ohms and only 116wpc into 4 Ohms.  Those numbers don't indicate the beefiest of power supplies to me, and it's also why I recommended the relatively easy to drive Silverlines. 
@soix @smrex13 good to know. I am considering using the amp on the CA 551 just for the surround and center channels and running pre-out to a separate amp for the bookshelves, so i'll keep that in mind if my ears keep picking the LS50's as a top contender.
Post removed 
+1,2,3 for Vandersteen, especially if buying used, you will be below your target budget.
VLR’s are $1350 new, Model 1’s are usually under $800 used and Model 2’s used are near your budget top.
If you have a separate amp and preamp, you can insert a Vandy 2wq sub or 2, and get pretty darn close to a pair of 3a sigs sound-wise.
Your list is solid, I would also listen to the m105/106 Revels and Dynaudio Excites. Otherwise, everything you are considering is solid and is simply a matter of taste. 

On the Kef LS50's... they can be very reactive with the amp. They hated my amps (NuPrime monoblocks). YMMV.

+1 for the Silverline Preludes... also exceptionally good speakers.

Another (weird) suggestion... Hsu Research. Their point source speakers are odd but fun. Just throwing that out there.
Another vote for the Vandersteen VLR. Earlier I suggested another bookshelf speaker system and had totally forgotten about the VLR. And I own Vandersteen Treo Ct's! I see you are leaning towards the Kef LS 50's. I think they are good speakers, but when a dealer I know hooked them up side by side with the VLR's, well, the VLR's just sounded better. The dealer just smiled and said he knew which speaker I would choose. Ultimately your call. Just my opinion.
Silverline Preludes are outstanding and somewhat unique with a D'Appolito array of 2 3.75" woofers around a dome...all aluminum/magnesium (unique to Silverline), and they kick it. Skinny masterpiece tower speaker. I only replaced mine as I wanted the mega efficiency of Klipsch Heresy IIIs, and may reluctantly sell 'em...haven't yet...
One thing to mention... when looking at speakers consider who is responsible for engineering/designing them. There are very well known and expert people who understand how to do this. Andrew Jones, Richard Vandersteen, Jack Oclee-Brown, Vince Bruzzese, Bill Dudleston, John Dulavy, Kevin Voecks, Dean Hartley, just to name a few. Some of these guys have dedicated time and resources to great budget projects that led to awesome success.
This thread has gotten me so much farther down the rabbit hole I was already running down, and I love it.

The thing that caught me most by surprise is that no one has even acknowledged the Monitor Audio Silver 100’s I had on the list. All the reviews I read on them have been phenomenal, but do people here generally not care for them/find better options in their price range?

I’m seriously effing intrigued by the Philharmonitors. I can’t tell though - Which is a "newer" model - the "New Philharmonitors" or the "BMR Philarmonitors"? And which is, at least on a technical level, better? Is one designed to be more compact or affordable than the other or is the newer one simply designed to be an improvement on the older one?

Also seriously intrigued with the Vandersteens. I’m definitely going to listen to some of those, and for the Philharmonitors, since all I’ve been reading is that Dennis is extremely responsive, I might just reach out to him and see if he knows anyone in my city (it’s a big city) that might be willing to open their home to me for an hour or so to check them out.
ALSO for people saying I'm going to need more power if I get the LS50's. I just jumped the gun on a Hafler DH-220 on craigslist so I think that should do me good if I go with those.
the DH220 is a fantastic amp and is capable of running Vandersteen model2 with incredible bass control...

what big city are you in ?
The Phil BMR have a more expansive sound than the Phil.

I didn't put it on the list because it's a bit over budget but they are great speakers.

Salk, Phil, Ascend, and Selah are all crazy good not just because they are a great buy. They hold their own with much more expensive speakers.
One thing to mention... when looking at speakers consider who is responsible for engineering/designing them. There are very well known and expert people who understand how to do this. Andrew Jones, Richard Vandersteen, Jack Oclee-Brown, Vince Bruzzese, Bill Dudleston, John Dulavy, Kevin Voecks, Dean Hartley, just to name a few. Some of these guys have dedicated time and resources to great budget projects that led to awesome success.

Agreed on this. The other element is which companies have the proper design tools and equipment? Kef and Revel are two examples of companies that invest incredible resources in r&d and measurement that boutique manufacturers can never touch. It is an enormous advantage. 
"Jumped the gun on a Hafler DH-220"

I'd agree with that.  Why would you buy an amp before you even know which speakers you're choosing?  Even if it has sufficient power, how do you know its native sonic character is a good match for your tastes much less if it will match well with the speakers you eventually choose?

Also, you mentioned 2-channel music is important to you.  If that's the case you'll definitely want to bypass the receiver's preamp section along with the amp section.  An elegant and cost-effective solution to this would be an integrated amp with a HT bypass input.  With the Hafler you'll still need to buy a stereo preamp, which is no big deal but it adds another box (and another pair of interconnects) to your system. 

I dont mean mean to be preachy here, but I'm just saying that taking some time and thinking things through rather than making impulse purchases can (and will likely) save you time and money and get you better results in the long run.  
@soix I’m only buying components right now that A) have a good likelihood of being audibly compatible, and B) are at prices at which they can easily be resold if I don’t need them and recoup costs.

I’d be doing exactly that with the Hafler. I have a Cambridge Audio Azur I’m going to run pre out to the Hafler, using the power on the 551 for center and surrounds.
DH-220 was a great amp and powered a set of Vandersteen 2c and Magnepan SMGa wonderfully.  

If you want to upgrade it, send it off to Audio Concepts.

Oh, I vote for the Vandersteens. 
Just to throw more chaos into the mix (ha)... Vandersteen and Sonus have excellent resell value... if you tjink you want to play a bit.

Nothing like renting good gear ;-)
@gravyrobbers91 -- Fair enough on the Hafler, but don't neglect the preamp as it will be critical to your 2-channel performance and getting the most out of whatever speakers you choose.