I thought I'd share my auditioning experiences over the last few weeks with everyone, perhaps some of what I learned can help (or not) other 'newbies' such as I, when it comes to making a choice between brands. Keep in mind, I am in part, going by memory, although I took some notes during my auditioning. A few were tested A/B style, while some were not...I'll indicate which ones were heard up against each other with a capital letter. There's a broad range of pricing amongst these speakers simply because, from the start, I wasn't sure how much I wanted to invest in my audio system. Initially I was budgeting simply for a very modest home theatre system (around $7-800 :D) but as I started to audition, I started to 'love music again' and hadn't ever really owned a decent system...so I decided to more-a-less put the original budget aside. There's a number of speakers here so I'll be rather brief.
(A) Mission M35i; seemed unnatural sounding to me, lacking detail in mids and upper freq, rather muffled sounding
(A) Sinclair Audio BT36; wanted to like these speakers and initially was impressed, but after hearing other speakers, less so. Lots of midrange, average detail, imaging, considering the cabinet size(48 in high) I wasn't impressed with the bass
(A) Infinity P362; of the budget group, I thought these were good value/$. Decent range, imaging and detail, overall nice sound for the $.
(-) PSB Alpha; also a good value/$ for entry level PSB. Had more bass than I would have expected and easy to listen too
(A) JBL(ES 80/90); found these very hard to listen too (tried 3 stores), seemed harsh sounding
(B) Energy RC-70; these were probably my biggest dissappointment, I really expected to like these speakers more, but felt they were muted/muffled as if someone placed a blanket over them. Imaging was good, I consider these 'mid-priced' only if they're on sale...usually they're a little pricey
(B) Klipsch RF 62/63; except for the highs, which became tiring after several minutes, I would have enjoyed these speakers. Nice bass, and mid clarity...just feel Klipsch should tone the brightness a little, could have been a nice speaker otherwise
(C) Paradigm Monitor 11s; if your interested in the P'digm Monitor series, I would suggest either the 9s or 11s as they go much deeper than the 7s. 7s have quite small drivers/cabinet and would certainly need a sub to fill the bottom end. I liked the 11s, they had nice detail, range, soundstage,fairly large cabinets (centre speaker for HT is huge!), reasonably priced and good value
(C) Paradigm Studio 100s; these are beautiful speakers, both to look at, and listen too. Very detailed, exc. imaging and clarity, they go low, full range...is it worth more than double the P'digm Monitor Series? that's up to the individual I guess. If you're getting the centre and surrounds, it can add up $$.
(-) Totem Staff/Arro; if you're more specifically into music, these are really nice, warm sounding speakers, esp I thought with Jazz. I was amazed that a relatively small 2 way speaker could sound this good. Not very efficient speakers, which for some would be a consideration, real wood cab., can be pricey
(-) Monitor Audio RS6/8; all of the positive reviews I'd heard on these speakers were correct. Natural sounding, excellent range, clarity, nicely finished real wood. 8s more bassy than the 6s. Centre and esp surrounds become $$. Excellent otherwise.
Some speakers I would have also liked to have auditioned were some of PSBs image series as well as the higher line Mirage Spkrs (OMDs).
Keep in mind, these are my opinions and feel that people should do their own auditioning and draw their own conclusions from them. My auditioning was done for a number of reasons, not the least of which, was to figure out what kind of 'sound' I liked. Through other peoples reviews, both pro and just from regular (irregular?) guys such as those on these forums, I was given alot of input (thank you!) on my quest. I did, in fact, order M80s/VP150/QS8s earlier today based in part (a large part) on those reviews. Ok, my fingers are gett'n tired of typing...