Thanks for all the advice so far. My friend started out wanting to spend just a couple hundred on speakers. The last stereo equipment he purchased was about 20 years ago for his ranch. At that time, he went to a blue big box store and quickly picked out a mid-fi system which consisted of a Yamaha receiver and Polk speakers. He chose that equipment based upon the idiot salesman's recommendations, which is what a great deal of people end up doing. For us that consider ourselves audiophiles, the very idea of doing something so foolish is almost reprehensible. Many salesmen at these blue big box stores have very little in the way of knowledge about the equipment they are selling. My Bud ended up with an adequate system, but it was nothing special.
The $500.00 budget was not an arbitrary number - it resulted from me explaining that if he wanted to reach some of the esoteric goals I had laid out for him, a quality, well-made speaker, not made in chiner, was one of the first steps he needed to take (especially since he lacks any speakers at the moment), and he'd need to up his budget. Amid mild protest, I was able to get him to agree to $500.00. Now I am working to get him up to ~ 8 or $900.00. I am currently recommending 5 different speakers - none MIC. Again, money is not the object, he can afford to spend considerably more. The issue is that he does not have enough audio knowledge to make an informed decision let alone understand the differences in hi-fi, vs. mid-fi. I cannot do it all for him, but I can help educate him and I have done a lot to that end. Ultimately, it is up to him to delve into this topic more fully. I suspect that his time limitations and interest (or lack thereof) is not conducive to that end.
My Bud and I have had several long conversations, as I mentioned, regarding speakers and audio gear, and he has indeed expressed interest higher quality audio gear, which I explained can provide a much more pleasurable listening experience than run of the mill mid-fi gear. I went into such topics as imaging, soundstaging, clarity, neutrality and detail, among other topics. I told him that he, of course, was free to go the mid-fi route and purchase a set of MIC speakers from a big box store, and that should he decide to take that route, that it wouldn't hurt my feelings a bit. I told him I didn't mid doing the research for him b/c this topic is of keen interest to me, but that I could not, in good conscious, recommend anything MIC for a variety of reasons, which should be obvious to anyone paying attention.
I am still looking at a few options and I will post the list when we have it narrowed down a bit. I will also let the forum know what he ends up deciding.
Thanks again and please keep the not MIC recommendations coming.