I've listened to a number of speakers in my life and the HD-1 speakers by Meyer sound are the best speakers I've ever heard. I wish I'd known about them when they came out around 1990, but they are a secret still known only to professional audio people. I found out about them by accident. A friend worked in the same studio when John Meyer was designing these, and remembered them as spectacular. He told me I should just buy them, they're great. He's right.
First some background, these are called self powered near field speakers. It turns out for many people this is exactly what they are looking for, but people at stereo stores aren't telling. Near field speakers are meant to be separated from 3 to 6 feet. Ideally, they should be at least 3 feet from the back and side walls. The listener should sit between 3 and 9 feet back at the center of the two speakers. These dimensions work perfectly for many situations in houses and apartments. Clearly, they are not suited to large rooms. I should also note that if you like to listen to your music at ear bleeding levels these speakers wont work out for you. They just aren't designed for those sound levels. In recording studios they have issues with rap groups mixing and listening to their music at such high levels that the speakers blow out. Friends tell me I listen to music pretty loudly, but from what I understand I'm still well within the design specification. The data sheet seems to say that they will do fine up to about 120 dB. That is incredibly loud for a small room, but be forewarned.
Self powered speakers have their amplifiers built into the speaker. That means you will need to plug each speaker into a wall socket. These are not toys, the combination of the speaker and first class amplifier weighs approximately 50lbs. That is 50lbs for EACH speaker. They are relatively small, approximately 16 inches deep, 14 inches high and 12 inches wide. The signal from the preamp or digital analog decoder (DAC) comes from a balanced cable. That means you can run the cables safely for quite long distances without loss.
I run my speakers from an Apogee Mini-DAC with music coming out of my computer digitally via Foobar 2000 software, although Windows Media Player works fine. The speakers sit on my rather large desk and are separated 3 feet from center to center. I managed to extend my desk depth so I sit between 3 and 4 feet from the speaker fronts.
Back to the sound, that's what's really important. The first thing I noticed was that they are incredibly clear and sharp. Everything that was recorded on the CD is there. Even comparing against B&W Nautilus 804's there's more detail. The 804's are in a bigger room and consequently have a somewhat more open sound, but I always come back to the HD-1's remarking, "Damn these are awesome". Yes, better than the 804's.
I managed to hear a pair of HD-1's before I bought them at the house of someone who tunes studios. After I listened to my CD's and knew they were great, he let me listen to a master CD of some classical music. I don't recall the name of the piece, but it was orchestral and beyond a doubt the most complex sound I'd ever heard. Every piece of the orchestra was playing rapidly and simultaneously across a very wide octave range. The speakers didn't flinch. Every piece was perfectly reproduced, not a single distortion. I'd never heard anything like it. I was trying to imagine the cones moving to get this perfect sound, but it seemed impossible. Of course, it was also a testament to the quality of the amplifiers keeping up with all those signals.
The imaging is better than any speaker I've ever heard. The singer is always precisely positioned. The sound stage extends far beyond the outside edges. I've been briefly fooled thinking there was an instrument 4 feet to the left of my left most speaker on some recordings. Yes I look up to see what happened. Amazing.
Since my desk is flat, not slanted down like a recording studio, I placed the speakers on some MoPads and tilted them up about 15 degrees. This helps marginally.
I should also mention that in someways it's not fair that I find these speakers so much better than other ones, since many CD's I listen to (all typical popular commercial titles) are mixed with HD-1's. So I'm listening to exactly what the engineer heard when he cut the tape. So is that unfair or not? I don't know, but I do know that they sound great.
They can be purchased on eBay used, but be careful. They may be damaged from someone listening to them too loudly. There are also a few places online that sell these new. They sell for around $4,000. If you're using them in a house, it is good to know that they can be ordered in "blond" or "natural" oak color instead of industrial black. When they arrive be very careful unpacking them. It's very easy to damage the delicate tweeter. Often the package opens tweeter side down.
Demoing a pair before buying may prove very difficult. They are just not in stores.
For reference prior to this speaker the one that stuck in my mind as the best speaker I'd heard prior to the HD-1's was a KEF speaker around 1981. The more current models don't compare. I've also listened to B&W Nautilus speakers, and liked them best until now. Soliloquy were OK, but B&W were better. Martin Logan didn't sound true to me, and I even listened to their top of the line. Chicago Audio makes some pretty good speakers for the price, but not anywhere near the caliber of the other speakers.