Well, after many days of listening and much deliberation I finally made a decision. I decided to stick with the Ultra Towers. I spoke with Dennis today, and he was understanding and I appreciate the efforts he made to get me a pair of Phil 2s in my price range to audition. It was a very difficult choice, one that I will probably second guess myself a number of times as the months go by. I really loved both speakers, and they are quite different, so it was not really a matter of choosing which was the "better" speaker, but really which suited me better at this time, with my music, and my setup. I knew from the beginning that a sub in this room would not pass the WAF test, and despite revisiting that topic, the line never moved. It is really not an unreasonable request by her, since the master bedroom is right on top of the basement listening room and the floor is very thin. She has been quite supportive of my many months of shopping/browsing forums/taking time off work etc. (But, that did factor into the decision. Honestly, if I had planned to get a sub or 2 from the get go, I probably would have just got Salk Songtowers with upgraded tweeter and a pair of sealed subs, since I really liked the Salks at RMAF.)
So, it was more of deciding do I like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, rather than which of these 2 chocolate ice creams is better. Or another analogy, choosing between a sedan or an SUV.
I did one final brief session today, and I put in one of my favorite albums, Joshua Tree, and really just sat and tried to soak in the differences and think which I would miss more. On track 5(Running to Stand Still), it begins with some quiet and twangy guitar from the left, and the Phils were so detailed and clear. The Ultras still sounded great, with just a touch of detail lost and a smidge of maybe coloration. But as the song rolls on, and the voice and drums and other instruments start, I really favored the Ultras. On track 4(Bullet the Blue Sky), the kick drums and dynamics were very good on the Phils, but great on the SVS. Finally, Track 7(In God's Country) starts with a couple guitars strumming, and againthe Phils sounded better, but the bass line on the SVS is so good.
As Dennis posted, maybe the Phil 3s would have been the best for me, but at around $3500, I just could not pull that off at this time.
As a very minor factor, the finish on the Ultras is very nice for 2 grand.
As far as the placement of the Phils, I want to echo the comments above by Dennis and Vic. The Phils had an ambiance and soundstage out of this world, even at 10-13 inches from the back wall. I can only imagine how great they could open up in an even bigger room. I did not choose against them because of any placement issues at all.
I think the Phils with subs would be great for any music or a home theater setup. IMO, no matter how low a tower goes, you need a sub for a true HT, so that is not a knock on the Phils.
Someone above asked about the Aperion Versus Grand. I listened to those at RMAF and I slightly liked the Ultras better, but if I have learned anything from this it is that you need to listen for yourself. From what I remember they had a similar sound to the Ultras and EMPteks, with a low end more similar to the EMPs. They had a very nice and smooth midrange with vocals.
I plan to post a longer review of the SVS towers on their website in the next few days, so I will probably paste that here and the Ultra thread.
Thanks to all the AVS members who gave advice and hopefully you enjoyed my impression and pics. It was also great to meet some members in person. I am looking forward to settling in and now enjoying my speakers, at least until it is time for the next upgrade .....(insert evil laugh here)