Speakers; When is good enough, enough

Discussion in 'GENERAL AV Discussions' started by jeffsg4mac, May 27, 2004.

  1. O'Shag Junior Audioholic

    O'Shag
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    The quads you are talking about are probably the ESL63s or might possibly have been the original ELS57 model. Dubbed 'Walker's Wonder' after their inventor the late Sir Peter Walker, These are still recognized among the very best speakers of all time, and are highly prized among audiophiles. They are electrostatics of a very unique and effective design, and like all electrostatics do have advantages in the mid and upper range compared to box designs. The quads specifically are simply amazing, creating a beautifully transparent accurate mid and upper range that puts the performer right in front of the listener with plenty of air and space around instruments and vocalists. They do have weaknesses however, in that the membrane is delicate. You have to be careful to pair them with the right electronics, otherwise damage can result.

    I'd say your inital impression back in the 80s was accurate. My guess is that if you were to hear these again, and compare them to your Paradigms, you'd be surprised just how good they are despite their age. One thing is for sure, they would be in a different league for transparency, and accuracy in the mid and upper ranges.

    O'Shag

    Austin Powers of Audio
  2. O'Shag Junior Audioholic

    O'Shag
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    Ha Ha Ha!

    Thats a great one Rip
  3. Yamahaluver Audioholic General

    Yamahaluver
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    One of the most under stated yet accurate speakers were the legendary berrilyum mid and tweeter and pure carbon fiber woofer Yamaha NS-1000x/2000/10000. Yamaha had it right when they came out with these speakers and few of today's speakers can match them in terms of accuracy, they do lack a little in the imaging department but their uncanny ability to recreate instruments with great deal of accuracy makes them a great design till today. Sadly Yamaha discontinued them and only sells the NS-1000M in Japan. They had it right again with their NS-200/300 speakers but those never made it to the US.
  4. Audiosouse Audioholic

    Audiosouse
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    Esoteric to Commercial

    While my head is still spinning from these audio Plato's, I have a little story about diminishing returns.

    Education, ear structure and musical experience be damned, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has proven speaker A will sound better to ALL listeners than speaker B under controlled conditions...two decades ago! So yes, there is a standard for measuring speaker performance both objectively and subjectively. When the speakers are concealed and each person listens to each speaker from every position in the listening room in turn, they will always chose which one sounds best, regardless of background or experience. And what is best?

    1. Flat On-Axis Frequency Response with Wide Bandwidth - The ability of a speaker to reproduce the entire audio range in a uniform manner.

    2. Wide and Constant Dispersion - This refers to sound - at all frequencies - which radiates from the loudspeaker, ideally in an even pattern, in all directions throughout the listening environment.

    3. Low Distortion & Resonance - While no speaker system is totally devoid of distortion or resonance characteristics - speaker systems with as much as 25-30% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) at bass frequencies can still be considered "high end".

    Notice what criteria is missing? PRICE! Speaker design (cone, ribbon, planar, etc.), size and price are not factors in sound reproduction and are concealed from the listener to eliminate bias. A more expensive speaker should sound better, but that's not always the case. You'll notice many, if not all Canadian speaker designers strictly adhere to these philosophies, which allows them to outperform other speakers that cost twice or thrice as much! Isn't that the definition of diminishing returns?

    With a $5K CDN budget for amplification and speakers, I was absolutely, positively poised to buy the higher end esoteric gear I'd always wanted. I was eyeing an Arcam AVR300 or B&K receiver (I'm not a separates snob...which really means my wife said hell no...and why doesn't anyone make a reasonably priced pre/pro besides Outlaw?) and Totem or Focus Audio speakers.

    But you know what happened? I ventured into my local audio shop and listened to said Paradigm Monitor 7v3, CC370, ADP370 and PW-2100 (System 7 in Paradigm speak) that started this whole thread, powered by the much ballyhood Denon AVR-3805. I was floored! Then I looked at the price...is this a misprint!? Sure the same bling would buy the Arcam AVR300 and Totem Dreamcatcher package, but the latter has only 41/2" woofers and a 6" sub! I always craved full range floorstanders! And we all know that size matters in this hobby, unless you're 007 of coarse...

    And that's what I got for the same price (Monitor 7v3s are rated down to 33Hz). Even though I still fantasize about esoteric gear, any more in my (rather large 20'x20'x8' open to a hallway, stairway and kitchen) room would be overkill. 120 clean watts will produce more sound in my room than I can tolerate.

    Point is, I got way more for less...more power, features and performance for less or equal money. So for me, diminishing returns sets in around $5K for speakers and amplication. If it doesn't for you...you haven't been North of the border lately...snake oil freezes up here, eh!
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2004
  5. Rip Van Woofer Audioholic General

    Rip Van Woofer
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    Amen, Audiosouse! You have seen (heard?) the light. All hearken unto him; he speaks truth. And yep, Canadian gear seems to have an edge in the quality/crap ratio and the engineering/bullsh*t ratio. (But they still talk funny) ;)

    Much as the golden ear crowd claim otherwise, it all comes down to the fact that audio is engineering and science, not magic; and that human hearing is probably 99% measurable and quantifiable. And except for those with hearing impairments, no one's ears are more "golden" than another's. Our ears are all pretty much alike.

    And you don't have to spend oil sheik money to get good sound. In fact, you can spend it and get mediocre sound.
  6. Audiosouse Audioholic

    Audiosouse
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    Speaker technology peaked?

    Wow, that's twice Rip's agreed with me! I'm not worthy!!!

    You guys have your fair share of quality gear let me tell you. On another note, I speak of the great white north alot because that's what I have to go on. I'm really not a flag waving jingoist (much). But when I visit the Prime Outlet Mall in New York State, the only audio shop around is a Bose outlet. :eek: Anyone know of a good audio store close to Niagara falls or Buffalo?

    Somehow our knack for value in speakers doesn't translate into electronics up here. Anthem, Blue Circle, Bryston, Classe, Sim Audio, etc. are all Paris Hilton priced...and none of those snobs will ever make an A/V receiver (I am aware of market positioning and brand identity...but even Mercedes makes an affordable compact!). I swear there's a conspiracy against affordable separates. Would a Denon AVR-3805 with the pre/pro in one box and the amp in another cost double...triple...quadruple!? Any separates manufacturers listening? Some stripped down affordable separates wouldn't tarnish your image one bit...I don't really need four zones, seven channels, auto set up, etc. Just the quality components will do and a price that won't create a domestic disturbance!

    Back to the original post that started this thread. In no way has conventional driver technology reached it's zenith, just as the internal combustion engine has a ways to go (I envision a 300 hp, emission free sealed unit that gets 100 mpg and requires no maintenance). Although the principles will remain, radical materials (striving for infinite strength with zero weight) will appear and the traditional crossover and analog/digital converter will be extinct. Each driver will by powered by it's own digital amplifier and infinately variable digital crossover network (read true room correction). Picture a Bang and Olufson Beolab 5 with real time room equalizaiton and you've got the idea. Tiny cabinets, powerful amplification and elimination of room considerations will be possible in the digital domain. :cool:

    If you've won the lottary, most of this technology is available from B&O and Meridian as we speak. For the rest of us, the next decade will be an exciting time in home theatre, at least for those not listening to vinyl on our tube amplifiers while hunting wolly mammoth with a spear...let go...it's ok...progress is good. :)
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2004
  7. cornelius Full Audioholic

    cornelius
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    I don't think any of the companies listed above are snobs, nor are any of them part of any kind of conspiracy.
    Back to the thread. Speaker design is not just about materials. This site is based a lot on measurements, but why doesn't anyone mention step response when discussing speaker specs?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2004
  8. Audiosouse Audioholic

    Audiosouse
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    Let me take a wag, Separates fan? ;) Never heard of OPEC? I'm sure corporations never get together and set artifically high prices for inferior products, that's just crazy talk. But when a company positions itself in the stratosphere, it must deliver a product that is better, in every way, than what lies beneath. It's not enough to slap a huge price tag on an inferior (or flawed) product and proclaim I'm David Copperfield audio! If imperfections are charming, then I'm Don Juan. I'm just tired of reviewers proclaiming flawed $5,000 speakers, pre/pros amd amps are "a great value", "a stone cold steal!" and "a bargain!"...relative to what exactly?

    Please explain how most high end A/V receivers have better processors (circuit topology, components and features) and up to 10 more powerful amplifier channels (a la Denon AVR-5805) for less than the price of most pre/pros? I don't see (nor hear) the logic, that's why we're members of this site. Point is, if I'm buying the best component for my money, I'm buying the best component, regardless of configuration (integrated or separate). I'm all for status symbols, but they have nothing to do with good sound, which is why we're here.

    What we're seing now is an entire era of diminishing returns. There will always be dinosaur enthusiasts proclaiming obsolete, inferior and overpriced technology sounds "warmer". What? My ears aren't thermometers, enjoy your vinyl sourced, tube amp powered, horn loaded transducers on Isla Sorna (watch out for the T-Rex). I demand progress, which translates into more for less, not less for more. Wilson Audio must be the worst offender, how does your Mercedes quality paint finish sound? (Sure doesn't measure well) There's nothing wrong with buying shockingly overpriced stuff, the economy thanks you!

    Liken this audio era to the '90's auto market when the premier marks got cocky riding the waves of thier glorious ancient history. Mercedes and BMW were selling inferior products for inflated prices. And guess what? Along came Lexus and knocked them off their high hoarse. Even Porsche and Ferrari took notice after the Acura NSX beat them up and stole their lunch money (what car do you think was sitting in Ferrari's paddock when designing the 355? Anyone remember Honda-McLaren? And no I don't drive a slammed Civic). Point is, the Jap's (and Canucks) are doing it again, only this time in audio with Denon, Integra, Pioneer et al. And you didn't think there was a point :)
  9. cornelius Full Audioholic

    cornelius
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    I'm noticing that we're actually on the same page. When I mentioneed why more people aren't looking at speaker step response specs, it's the same as your saying, why aren't the high end pre/amplifier guys making more tech progress (making more affordable seperates).

    What I'm getting at with this speaker measurement is that I see a lot of designers ignoring the step response. They're skipping over it because it's hard to deal with and requires better engineering. If human hearing relates to measurement as much as we think, then these time delays that we see in most speaker's tests are definitely being processed by our brains.
  10. JoeE SP9 Senior Audioholic

    JoeE SP9
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    After hearing some Magnepans in 1977 I have owned nothing but panels of one type or another. Three of my audio buddies have converted to panels. All my lady friends love the sound. They frequently ask me to increase the volume. Also, it is a charge when someone asks "what are those?". Although I am quite happy with what I have, I wouldn't turn down some ML Statments if offered.
    I guess that means I'm really not looking for speakers anymore. Electrostatics work for me.
  11. Dan Banquer Full Audioholic

    Dan Banquer
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    Loudspeakers

    To All;
    I'm not going to tell anyone about preferences, likes or dislikes in loudspeakers. We all have our own, for whatever reason. What I will talk about in this post is one standard technique used to acoustically treat a room that is used throughout a good portion of the audio business. It's called Live End/Dead End. It's a time honored audio classic.
    The basic principle of Live End/Dead End or LEDE is that you take the area behind the speakers and deaden it with sound absorbing foam. This will include the entire wall behind the speakers, about 3 to 4 feet on the side wall where it meets the back wall and on the ceiling above the loudspeakers about 3 to 4 feet from where the ceiling meets the back wall. This is a very effective technique that will greatly reduce reflections from behind the loudspeaker which tend to be the most damaging.
    On another audio forum I started literally screaming at audiophiles to stop their usual nonsense about cables and tube gear and come to their senses. A few of them did and the feedback was as follows: "It's the best thing I have ever done for my system." "I went back to my old standard cables after installing the LEDE" "Dan, I can't thank you enough for this recommendation, 250.00 worth of acoustic foam was well worth the price."
    I should charge for consulting. For anyone in the Boston Area, contact me and stop in for a visit, and I will be happy to show what you can do with a tough room that has a LEDE, and I'll let you be the judge.
    For those of you looking for acoustic foam, try www.partsexpress.com
    or www.foambymail.com for starters. One thing to remember; the thicker the foam, the lower in frequency it absorbs. I use the 2 to 2.5 inch thick foam.
    Dan Banquer
    www.redesignsaudio.com
  12. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Dan;

    While I agree with your LEDE approach and implement much of it in my system, this will have little impact on resolving bass issues. Speaker positioning, listener positioning, and as last resort bass equalization are the primal methods for resolving bass issues. Of course as Dr. Toole once pointed out placing 4 subs about 1/4 the L & W away from the rooms 4 corners will equally excite all room modes and provide uniform bass response pretty much at any listening position. Of course he didn't factor in height, so you would also have to elevate the subs off the floor, but close enough.

    BTW, I did manage to limit my bass peak to +10dB since RBH sent me variable phase subwoofer amps. I am looking forward to testing that SOS device. If it works the way I was told, it could be a break thru for affordable and easy to use bass correction!
    gene,
  13. Mudcat Senior Audioholic

    Mudcat
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    Gene, or Patrick

    Do you know if that SOS device will work with a pair of subs connected via a Y on the SOS output, or just one?
  14. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Yes, you can Y out dual subs in mono to the SOS device. Since I have stereo subout on processor I am using now, I requested two review samples and will test in stereo configuration calibrating each sub separately.
    gene,
  15. Rip Van Woofer Audioholic General

    Rip Van Woofer
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    I've thought about LEDE (though not to the extent of wrapping it up the ceiling) but wonder if it would be a bad idea for open baffle dipoles like mine, where rear radiation and presumbably reflection is part of the design. Dan and Gene, any thoughts on that?

    Funnily enough, I did just deaden the wall behind my chair with four 2' x 4' panels consisting of two thicknesses of fiberglas acoustic tiles with the white surfacing peeled off, and covered with some attractive material (not acoustically transparent though) I got cheap at a going out of business sale. (got the idea from jeffG4mac, I believe) Just put them up today. Idea was to lessen the first reflection from behind me which I thought might have been contributing to some harshness in the treble and some subtle flutter echo from the sound ping-ponging across the room. Jury's still out on that since I just put them up a couple of hours ago before dinner and have yet to do extensive listening. Pic below.

    So, I guess I have a reverse LEDE, even if the wall behind me is only "half dead". ;)

    Actually, I think I need diffusion as much as absorbtion there, but absorption was easier to do. Might build some wall mounted CD racks for between the panels; that might give some diffusion.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2004
  16. JoeE SP9 Senior Audioholic

    JoeE SP9
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    Lede

    If one is using stats, maggies or any other type of planar speaker the LEDE approach is the wrong way to go. A great deal of the open boxless sound of panels is due to the dipolar radiation pattern. Damping the rear wave takes away the "magic". Ideally a mix of absorbant, reflective and diffusive surfaces are the way to go at the end of the room where the panels are. Of course, a mix of the same sort of room acoustics as "boxes" like applies to the rest of the room. It is possible to place panels closer to the side walls because of their radiation pattern. This can have benefits where one is restricted to small and or narrow rooms.
  17. Unregistered Guest

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    Me

    I have been following the discussion of SOS for base optimization. I have also viewed the before and after graph using this system and agree the effect is not entirely satisfactory. Whlie I do not claim to be a great audiophile I would like to share a solution that has given me excellent results. I have two subs in my room as well as some minor acoustic treatment. They are Y connected to a Rane parametric eq which is connected to the sub out of my receiver. I downloaded the Revel Low Frequency Optimizer program from their website for FREE. This program allows multiple measurment locations and calculates center frequency, width and cut/boost for 3 frequencys. I ran it twice to utilize the 5 bands of eq of the Rane. I created the needed test tones using my computer. I have listened to and measured the result and find it to be fast and well defined base where individual notes are easily heard.
  18. Clint DeBoer Banned

    Clint DeBoer
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  19. WmAx Audioholic Samurai

    WmAx
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    Please be advised that the effectivness of this apprach is entirely dependant on the specific polar response of the speakers in question. In some cases you can completely destroy the soundstage using such an approach. In the case of speakers that operate effectively as omnipolar devices, with linear dispersion of the audible band in 360 degrees or nearly 360 degrees, removing the reflections will severely degrade the sound quality in terms of ambience/soundstage, though an increase in some overall clarity may be gained for recordings with little to no reverberation cues. These speakers were designed to employ the wall reflections as long as such reflections meet the intended time window(usually >5ms elapsed direct/reflect time). THe degradation of sound quality from reflections in the mid band/treble is primarily when the polar response is not linear relatation to the on axis output(this is the case for majority of speakers unfortuntely). Another poster mentioned a loss of 'air' or whatever if you damp the wall heavily behind a panel/diople speaker. This is true, but these speakers are difficult to work with IMO; in one perspective you want the immediate rear reflection for ambience, but in another you really don't want any of the other off axis dispersion because the large surface area of the radiating area results in horrid off axis linearity on panels. Some coverntional box speakers add a rear firing tweeter for ambience; this also needs to be considered when dong such extreme damping methods.

    -Chris

    WmAx,
  20. av_phile Senior Audioholic

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    I recall reading some articles bout this LEDE thing and it does depend on the speakers used and their dispersion patterns. What struck me then was the notion that while it is ideal to receive only the signals from the speakers and deaden or decay secondary reflections from the back and sides near the speakers, there are some speaker designs that actually utilize back and side reflections to improve imaging. But I think these are the more expensive planar speakers. (and some BOSE) Most conventional boxed speakers can benefit a lot deadening the walls immediately around them. I just don't know how to make 2" foam pads look nice in my room wall nor if the misses will find such installations in my bedroom attractive. Or how to maintain those dust-accumulatng foams. Maybe cork boards will do as well. I just have near-wall-to-wall shelves with cloth bound books behind my front speakers. Seems to do a good job decaying or diffracting those reflections.

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