Kef reference 203 (don't know US retail but they were being sold for $4,999 in the shop I was in) These were arranged as part of a home cinema and were driven by the top Sony digital amp, CDP was a Sony multi-changer CD/DVD thing. I wanted to try the 205 but they didn't have them in stock at the time. The bass from these was quite impressive, well extended and tight. Soundstage was good but some instruments, mainly percussion, extended well beyond the sides of the speakers. That may have been down to the super tweeter, it's the first time I listened to one. The midrange was solid but not exceptional. The slight harshness in vocals that I hear in most speakers of this kind of quality (including my own) was present. The 203 seemed competent but unlikely to be a significant upgrade for me. Magnepan 1.6 ($1,750) These were driven by a McIntosh amp/CDP and a preamp that I recognised but have since forgotten the name of. Quality components anyway. I wanted to hear the 3.6 but again, it wasn't available so I made do with these. When the music began to play (I began with Katie Melua) I was very impressed. The stereo image was convincing and the vocals floated in the air as they should. Bass was pretty good, I was expecting less which was one of the reasons I wanted to try the 3.6. Despite very good vocals the same problem that always bugs me was there, but to a lesser extent that with the Kefs. These are very revealing speakers. While Katie sounded great, as I moved on to more "produced" music, I was far less impressed. I can't blame the speakers for this of course, but the music was far les pleasing to listen to and at the end of the day, that's all I care about. The sweet spot for these speakers is also quite small. I swapped seats with my cousin and the stereo image vanished entirely just by moving 3 feet despite being about 12-13 feet from the speakers. Overall I was very impressed with these speakers. If you can cope with the large size, odd looks and don't listen to overly produced music, these are a bargain. They have quite low sensitivity too so powerful amps are needed if you want to push up the volume. Paradigm Studio 100 (unsure about RRP price in store was $2,300) These were in the same shop as the Magnepans but were in another far smaller room. This did not work well at all for them. They sounded nothing like I expected, very dull and uninvolving. Given the comments I've read about these speakers I can't believe I heard them at anything like their best. All I could conclude from the demo was that the studio 100s work very poorly in a small room. B&W 803D ($8,000) These were driven by top of the range Naim pre/power and CDP. After hearing Rags go on about these and reading about the diamond tweeter I was very keen to hear these. When the music began there was not the impressiveness that I normally associate with B&W speakers. They were smoother, less in your face. They reminded me a little of Spendor. The stereo image was well presented and wide. Not fantastically deep but they were set up across the room, I'm not sure how that affected them. Vocals were very nice and finally I found a pair of speakers that managed to present a convincing vocal without the harshness that so annoys me. They didn't match the Neat Ultimatum MFS in this area but they are a much more rounded speaker than those. I've heard the 602, 805, 804 and 703 in the past. While they are all good speakers they have had problems that I could not live with for any length of time. I put most of the blame for this on the tweeter. The new diamond tweeter is not what I expected but was more than I hoped for. It is very smooth without any hint of harshness; it's what I expect a ribbon tweeter to sound like. I can see why Rags loves them so much. If I can scrape together the money, these may well be my next purchase. At this pricing level though there are many options. In the shop I demoed the 803D in they had the Wilson Audio range, the Sophia comes in at $10,000 and should be a worthy competitor for the 803D. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to demo those.