Hi Hawk - great write up!
I think you've described perfectly the reaction to hearing a proper set of horns.
The way they can shift air can take your breath away, mostly the effortless fashion they do it in.
Of course, having horn sub-woofers helps a lot here, that way you get the full effect! But you do need a very large room. I do think you could get 90% of the way there with just the folded horns. Obviously you won't get as much bass, but the sense of presence will be there.
He's the system I use:
Bass: Conical 70Hz horn (ok, so they need a sub-woofer) with Vitavox AK-151 15" woofer.
Mid: Vitavox S2 on CN-157 dispersive horns (these ring a bit, so I'd expect the wooden Definitive ones to be better, but again, I woud expect a tractrix or LeCleac'h horn to be even better for the mid-range)
Treble: JBL 2405
All these components are available (with a bit of searching) and would most likely not break the bank (I reckon you could get all the drive units for <£2k). Some woodwork and fine tuning and well...
Ok, so the Kondo is a huge price, but again I reckon a decent valve amp and some horns will get you a long way down the road. Anyway, let's put it like this, my horns may look shit, but I ain't going back to conventional speakers.