System has always been 2 channel for music, which also does HT, but focus was always music. Room is something like 11x17.
Well the Sttafs have a really warm sound to them, but I actually don't like warm speakers. lol But while auditioning, they had better bass than Arros, better resolution on budget electronics, and the trade offer to new Sttafs was so cheap that I just couldn't resist. I thought I'd get used to warmth or fix it with placement. Didn't actually work out as I planned
My main issue with most Totems is that their FR isn't flat. So you'll never get a neutral/balanced sound in your room, no matter how much you play around with placement. The Arros have impressive bass for their size
, but really, they are really bass light. The bass doesn't go very deep, and it has absolutely no impact. But the bass response definitely varies on placement. If you bring them too far into the room, they'll lack even more bass. If you place them near the rear wall, then you'll get bit more extension, but also a lot of bass reinforcement in upper frequencies and so just end up getting more
bass. But then it's excessive and the bass isn't flat, plus it's not balanced with mids/highs. That's probably how Totem gets their bass extension figures... But no matter how much you play with placement, you'll never get a flat FR in room, because the speaker's FR isn't flat to begin with... Sometimes that coloration can sound nice, other times no.
Sttafs had a really warm sound to them (excessive bass), but better resolution than Arros on the electronics I had at the time and much more solid bass. But I don't like warm speakers... So played with placement, but you can never really change that sound character. I added a digital EQ to fix it, but that didn't worked out too well. With limited bands and a speaker which isn't flat, I think it just adds more dips/peaks which in the end just doesn't sound better... I'd say that the FR of Arro was more enjoyable to me than the Sttaf's.
To me the FR anomalies was a lot more annoying than enjoyable. Ex: Recessed vocals/guitar sometimes... Exaggerated or muted drum/bass... Accents in bass lines or guitar riffs where there's supposed to be none... Soundstage to hell because of FR anomalies (What I think so many call 'great soundstage!!!') So listening to music, I was constantly put off with all the speakers didn't do too well, which ruined the experience in my case... Bit worst with Sttafs as they have 'worst' FR imho
This took some time with both speakers though, at first I thought they were fantastic, but after some months, then I started to notice their flaws, and then I could simply hear them every time I listened to them... At first I thought it was placement, so messed a lot with that... But you can never get 'perfect' sound with them as it all starts with the speakers... Any way they're placed, always anomalies and tradeoffs. And sadly I noticed them constantly, which was annoying; you're noticing flaws instead of enjoying the music...
But everything said, I could still live with the bass of the Arros as it was still not too bad. The particular FR of Arro was more enjoyable to me than Sttafs. The Hawks I heard quickly had a much more neutral sound that Sttafs, none of that excessive warmth, they had very good resolution, solid bass, they were a well rounded speaker. But 2x the price of Sttafs... It was costing me ~150$ to 'upgrade' to Sttafs, Hawks would have probably been >1000$, so meh, thought I could live with Sttafs.
But when I got the 340SE for a 2nd system. Woa. As soon as I put them in the room, they sounded like I would have loved the Arros or Sttafs to sound.
A lot closer presentation to Hawks than either Arro/Sttafs. Solid bass, neutral sound, resolution was very similar to Sttafs, couldn't be happier. Imaging soundstage similar to Sttafs, but not as good as Arros, but that was ok to me. I was so happy to have found the sound I was trying to get with Arro/Sttafs! They really had a sound a lot more similar to Hawks than Arro/Sttafs.
Finally I had neutral, natural sounding speaker who played music as it was supposed to; without adding it's own flavor and it's own sound.
And the Sierra... Woa... Bass which destroys Sttafs in extension, impact, FR/presentation very Ascend; flat FR, very balanced sound, much improved imaging than 340SE, really a no contest imho, better speaker hands down than either Sttafs/Arros. To me accuracy is a lot better than 'musicality' as in sound coloration. I'm truly done with 'musical' speakers. (but musical is really naturalness, life-like, so to me Ascends 340SE/Sierra are more musical than Arro/Sttafs)
Btw, the real 'step up' with Hawks is really sound quality. Just like Sttafs, they only use 5.5 inch woofers. I really don't think you need to play them loud to notice the improvement, really, moderate volume they simply sounded a lot better to me than either Arro/Sttafs. If Sttafs are fine, Hawks should be fine imho. Really not like Forests which really are quite a bit bigger...
I think the Model1 Sig is close to Hawks in pricing. They even have "The One" which is upgraded model1 signature (silver wire, better connectors, etc.) for 3500$ if you want. The Model1 Signature being an upgraded Model1. I'd still listen to Mite/Dreamcatcher/Rainmaker while you're there, even if it's really short audition, for the room size, bookshelves would be good too, and it's well possible that you'd prefer one of those to the others.