Help with speaker selection, please

I run everything in my system through my main speakers...satellite, PlayStation 2, VCR, CD, etc. I also listen to virtually every type of music--rap, country, classical, jazz, and so on. I'm about to buy new speakers in the $8,000 range, and I prefer to use solid-state equipment, although I will be buying a new amp with whichever speakers I choose. Would you please weigh in on the following possibilities:

Quad 989
Merlin VSM-Millenium
Red Rose Classic
ProAc Response (new 3.8's or used 4.0's)
USED Talon Khoruses
USED Avantgarde Duo 2.1

Any other speaker you might recommend. Thanks so much for your input.
Brian aka TheDautch:

Sounds like you have an interesting system, with so much running through the same speakers!

Unfortunately, even at eight grand a pair, you will have to make tradeoffs.

From this list of qualities, what are the ones you prize most? In what areas are you willing to make compromises? Please feel free to make your own list, of course!

1. Timbre (the natural sound of voices and instruments).
2. Clarity & nuance (you can hear all the details).
3. Dynamic contrast (liveliness).
4. Superb soundstaging for a single listener.
5. Good soundstaging over a wide listening area.
6. Natural-sounding bass.
7. Extreme deep bass extension.
8. Unobtrusive size and visual appeal.
9. Sounds great at low volumes.
10. Sounds great at medium volumes.
11. Sounds great at high volumes.
12. Forgiving of less-than-ideal recordings and sources.
13. Ruthlessly accurate and revealing.

Note that some of these qualities, like the last two, tend to be mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, I don't know of any speaker that does all of these things well. I know of plenty that claim to. If you're up for arranging this list (or your own) in some kind of order so we can see your personal priorities, you'll be able to pick our brains a bit better. See, it's easy for me as an audiophile and a dealer to tell you what I like, but it would be much more valuable if I can tell you which speakers do the things YOU like!

One final note - your decision to defer your amp choice until after you make your speaker selection is brilliant. In my opinion, the matchup between speaker and amp is the most critical one in a system, especially if you go with an exotic speaker like the Quads or Avant Gardes.

Best wishes to you, Brian!
You have really boil it down regarding the speaker compromise list. I'll keep it handy even for my tweaking since it's so complete!!!!!!!
Very good for all of us even novices!!
Here's my ranking of the categories listed by Audiokinesis, in descending order of importance:

Single-listener soundstage
Great at low volumes
Great at medium volumes
Natural sounding bass
Great at high volume
Extreme bass
Wide-listening area
Thanks for the ranking system idea! very helpful

Greetings Brian,

Thanks for taking the time to give us your list of priorities.

Based on your priorities, from the speakers you mention in your original post I'd suggest the Quads, paired with a very good amp. Electrostats give you unequalled clarity, especially at low to medium volumes. While it's true an electrostat won't play as loud, dollar-for-dollar, as a dynamic, their superb clarity means you don't have to turn it up as loud to hear all the details. Soundstaging is somewhat dependent on room set-up, but the Quads are capable of incredible soundstaging. You get the dynamic contrast by pairing them with the right amps - otherwise, electrostats can be lacking in dynamic contrast.

Another line that I think would work for you is Piega, suggested above by JTinn. He's more familiar with them than I am.

I was very impressed with Buggtussel speakers at the 2001 CES - they match up with your criteria quite well. Very high quality dynamic drivers in transmission line cabinets, articulate and lively.

You might want to consider the InnerSound Eros, which has superb imaging for one, is exceptionally dynamic for an electrostat (it's a hybrid), and has great clarity. Setup is a bit more critical than for the others mentioned here, but you can handle it.

I'm a dealer for another electrostatic line, the Sound Labs. Alas, most of their models are out of your price range. But Sound Labs truly excel at timbre and clarity, and you might find a used pair in good condition in your price range. Frankly, if you come across a pair of metal-frame Ultimate 2's (now discontinued), they'll soundstage better than the wooden frame models.

If I can answer any questions, let me know. Best wishes to you on your quest!