Tip of the Day: Don't Get too Bent on Loudspeaker Specifications & Measurements

A

admin

Audioholics Robot
Staff member
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1,633
#1
The tip for today is NOT to get too bent on loudspeaker specifications and measurements. Measurements and specifications are important tools in the decision making process for purchasing audio equipment. They can help those with the knowledge to interpret them identify potential performance issues. However, not all measurements and specifications are created equally. In the end, what matters most is whether or not you are pleased with the sound emanating from your speakers in your listening space.


Discuss "Tip of the Day: Don't Get too Bent on Loudspeaker Specifications & Measurements" here. Read the article.
 
Coult_45

Coult_45

Junior Audioholic
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3
#2
yes but!

I love this web site, and I love the tips of the day. I have learned so much the past few years, and almost all of it from this site. This tip is so important but at times it seams as if the numbers are all we have to go by. All the places where you can listen to speakers are closing down. I know that you can ship things back but that is such a hassle, especially when you are helping a friend purchase a home theater. Any way I think there should be some links to some of the articles on how to audition speakers.

How to Pick the Right Loudspeakers — Reviews and News from Audioholics
 
R

ridikas

Banned
Ratings
73
#3
The tip for today is NOT to get too bent on loudspeaker specifications and measurements. Measurements and specifications are important tools in the decision making process for purchasing audio equipment. They can help those with the knowledge to interpret them identify potential performance issues. However, not all measurements and specifications are created equally. In the end, what matters most is whether or not you are pleased with the sound emanating from your speakers in your listening space.


Discuss "Tip of the Day: Don't Get too Bent on Loudspeaker Specifications & Measurements" here. Read the article.
Can anyone guess which manufacturer is represented in that graph? The name starts with a "Z." The speaker measured is simply horrendous. Both in measurements and in the actual sound!
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
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#4
Can anyone guess which manufacturer is represented in that graph? The name starts with a "Z." The speaker measured is simply horrendous. Both in measurements and in the actual sound!
Yeah, I can handle up to +/-6dB FR. But +/-12dB FR is Bose territory. I'm not willing to cross that line. :D

SQ is the most important thing about any component, but it's not the only factor, especially if you're spending thousands on speakers that will hopefully last you 10+ years. I think pride of ownership is also important. I can't be proud spending thousands on poorly measured speakers and knowing that most people will be laughing behind my back. Or in my face. :eek: No person is an island. I'm not 100% immune to peer pressure. I do care what my friends think. At least a little bit. :D

Sure, measurements are not everything. But if you could own speakers that sound awesome and measure awesome at the same time, why not? Why not?
 
cpp

cpp

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
431
#5
Sure, measurements are not everything. But if you could own speakers that sound awesome and measure awesome at the same time, why not? Why not?
but then again if a speaker sounds good to you in your home and the measurements are ok but not great I'm still happy. I've had great measuring speakers in my home ex; Thiel CS5 that didn't sound worth a hoot regardless of the power or placement but Stereophile noted it was one of the best measuring speakers measured..

Love these tips Gene, keep them coming
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
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#6
but then again if a speaker sounds good to you in your home and the measurements are ok but not great I'm still happy. I've had great measuring speakers in my home ex; Thiel CS5 that didn't sound worth a hoot regardless of the power or placement but Stereophile noted it was one of the best measuring speakers measured..

Love these tips Gene, keep them coming
I've never listened to Thiel before. So the CS5 measured great, but didn't sound as great to you subjectively in your room?

So we have 2 options:

1) speakers that sound great, but measure not as great

2) speakers that sound great and measure great

I suppose there are other factors as well: aesthetic, brand name (B&M vs ID),cost, resale value, pride of ownership, and others.

I suppose if the speakers sound great and measure not as great, but is more aesthetically pleasing, has better pride of ownership and resale, and cost less, etc, I could see going for Option #1, IF the measurement isn't as BAD as Bose. :D

I guess we all have to draw the line. We're all different.
 
cpp

cpp

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
431
#7
I've never listened to Thiel before. So the CS5 measured great, but didn't sound as great to you subjectively in your room?

So we have 2 options:

1) speakers that sound great, but measure not as great

2) speakers that sound great and measure great

I suppose there are other factors as well: aesthetic, brand name (B&M vs ID),cost, resale value, pride of ownership, and others.

I suppose if the speakers sound great and measure not as great, but is more aesthetically pleasing, has better pride of ownership and resale, and cost less, etc, I could see going for Option #1, IF the measurement isn't as BAD as Bose. :D

I guess we all have to draw the line. We're all different.
It wasn't just me

" in all, the CS5 is both the most thoroughly worked-out speaker design I have ever come across and perhaps the best-measuring loudspeaker I have yet experienced. Which makes it all the more galling that I couldn't get it to sing in my own listening room.—John Atkinson"
 
agarwalro

agarwalro

Audioholic Ninja
Ratings
1,320 3 1
#8
Every time I have read a gushing speaker review and then it did not measure up to expectations, was when the gushing reviewer was being subjective and the measurements surfaced in a different review.

Measurements keep reviewers honest :).
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
3,584 11 12
#9
Every time I have read a gushing speaker review and then it did not measure up to expectations, was when the gushing reviewer was being subjective and the measurements surfaced in a different review.

Measurements keep reviewers honest :).
yes but this was reverse gushing :D ... He couldn't figure out why he didn't like it even though it was one of the best measured speakers he reviewed.
 
C

cschang

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
231
#10
If I remember correctly, the CS5 has all kinds of placement type issues to get the best measurements. That that would translate directly to placement issues in the home to get the best sound.

I've only heard Thiel speakers at shows, and can't remember being wowed by them, yet I hear praises from friends that have good experience with them, and "meh" from others, so I am guessing it is more of a hit or miss than most speakers.
 
D

Dennis Murphy

Audioholic General
Ratings
1,951 3
#11
If I remember correctly, the CS5 has all kinds of placement type issues to get the best measurements. That that would translate directly to placement issues in the home to get the best sound.

I've only heard Thiel speakers at shows, and can't remember being wowed by them, yet I hear praises from friends that have good experience with them, and "meh" from others, so I am guessing it is more of a hit or miss than most speakers.
That could be due to the use of true first order acoustic crossovers. They are certainly more sensitive to listening position than speakers with higher order acoustic slopes. That said, the main negative comment (along with many positive comments) that I've heard about Thiels is a tendency toward brightness.
 
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
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4,626 24 9
#12
That could be due to the use of true first order acoustic crossovers. They are certainly more sensitive to listening position than speakers with higher order acoustic slopes. That said, the main negative comment (along with many positive comments) that I've heard about Thiels is a tendency toward brightness.
Most loudspeaker companies that claim to use first order crossovers never really do. We've reviewed some older Theil's in the past and i counted more poles than their brochures indicated. Been awhile so I don't remember which model it was.
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
5,358 8 1
#13
May be John just didn't like the sound of accuate speakers.:D He should try some high end Vienna Acoustics. I hope he didn't measure those Thiel in his back yard though.:D
 
D

Dennis Murphy

Audioholic General
Ratings
1,951 3
#14
Most loudspeaker companies that claim to use first order crossovers never really do. We've reviewed some older Theil's in the past and i counted more poles than their brochures indicated. Been awhile so I don't remember which model it was.
I'm not sure we're on the same page here. A true first order acoustic slope crossover will generally be very complex--more so than, say, your typical
4th order acoustic slope crossover (even mine). I've seen the schematics for Thiel, Vandersteen, and Dynaudio 1st order speakers, and they all have a bajillion components. That's usually what it takes to achieve 1st order roll offs over a sufficiently wide frequency range to realize the benefits of this approach in terms of phase coherency.
 
S

stereobuff

Audiophyte
Ratings
8
#15
Pressure wave measurement does not precisely equate to sound perception

Test results are a great tool, but as you pointed out, one must understand their limitations. All the graphs we see merely represent certain limited aspects of the output of a speaker, measured under a specific set of conditions. These graphs do not provide a complete picture of the overall acoustic performance of a speaker.

To offer an example of how a measured response could mislead us, I would suggest that what may appear to be a flaw in the response pattern of a speaker measured in an anechoic environment, may in fact be a characteristic that allows the speaker to perform better in an in-room setting where the direct sound waves are blending with reflected sound waves.

Further, we must understand the distinction between pressure waves and sound. Pressure waves are what a speaker generates and what our ears receive. Sound, on the other hand, is a complex acoustic model generated by the brain. It is the brain's attempt to paint an acoustic picture of the incoming pressure waves. This model is shaped by past experience, expectation and many other factors. The brain will often disregard incongruant information, smooth other information and fill in the blanks with what it believes should be there. These are factors which no speaker test can measure.

I can't scratch the surface of such a complex subject here, but for those interested, there is a very interesting podcast available on Youtube, in which John Atkinson of Stereophile Magazine is interviewed on the subject of measurement versus perception. In this discussion, he touches on issues such as why some components that measure poorly are perceived as sounding superior. (Since this is my first post here, I'm not permitted to include a link, but you can simply search Youtube for "Home Theater Geeks 84: What Is Reality?")

There's no doubt that measurements will always be an important tool in the development of audio equipment. I would be the last to suggest that we disregard those measurements. But we must also understand their limitations. Without that understanding, measurements can mislead more than they can inform. And we must also appreciate the profound differences between the measurement of a pressure wave and the incredibly complex model of sound that is generated by the brain.
 
JerryLove

JerryLove

Audioholic Samurai
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708 2
#16
Pressure waves are what a speaker generates and what our ears receive. Sound, on the other hand, is a complex acoustic model generated by the brain. It is the brain's attempt to paint an acoustic picture of the incoming pressure waves.
And the input for the brain is radio emanations from the brain of the singer?

No. It's those pressure waves. (proverbially) blindfold you and you cannot respond to anything else.
 
S

stereobuff

Audiophyte
Ratings
8
#18
And the input for the brain is radio emanations from the brain of the singer?

No. It's those pressure waves. (proverbially) blindfold you and you cannot respond to anything else.
I think we're saying the same thing. The input for the brain is indeed those pressure waves. But my point is that there is a difference between the meaurement of those pressure waves and the model of sound that the brain constructs from that input.

Here's an example of what I mean (albeit, this is a visual rather than auditory example): If you go to about the 16 minute mark in the video I referenced in my previous post, John describes an experiment he participated in many years ago at Acoustic Research. He sat in a chair in a darkened room in which the only visual input was a flashing red light to his left. At some point, the person running the experiment flipped off the light on the left side and turned on a flashing red light on the right side of the room. Afterward, when asked what he perceived, John said it was a red light that moved slowly from the left side of the room, across the stage to the right side of the room. This was the brain's attempt to reconcile how an object that was on one side of the room could suddenly be on the other. So it interpolated and added new information -- an image of the light moving across the room.

The brain does the same kind of thing acoustically. In fact, it does this far more with acoustic data than with visual data. It takes the data received in the form of pressure waves and disregards some of it (in an attempt to reconcile some perceived incoherence),interpolates other elements, smooths discordant information, adds new information, etc. Your brain is not a microphone. It does not create a sonic image that corresponds exactly to what we measure emanating from a speaker. And it's for this reason, that speaker measurements can never give us a complete picture of what we will perceive when listening to that speaker.

To fully appreciate this subject, one would have to get a lot deeper into the neurobiology of perception. I've spent my entire career in this field and yet continue to be surprised by new research showing just how much the brain's modelling of the world can differ from the input it receives. There's no way to summarize decades of research in a short post. Suffice to say that the measurement of pressure waves can differ greatly from the perception of sound. And those differences may account, in part, for why a speaker can measure well, yet sound off, or conversely, a speaker may seem to have poor measurements and yet sound great. Your brain is not giving an exact sonic picture of the the pressure wave data that it receives. It is constantly changing, massaging, adding to, and subtracting from that data.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Ratings
7,808 22 6
#19
I think we're saying the same thing. The input for the brain is indeed those pressure waves. But my point is that there is a difference between the meaurement of those pressure waves and the model of sound that the brain constructs from that input.

Here's an example of what I mean (albeit, this is a visual rather than auditory example): If you go to about the 16 minute mark in the video I referenced in my previous post, John describes an experiment he participated in many years ago at Acoustic Research. He sat in a chair in a darkened room in which the only visual input was a flashing red light to his left. At some point, the person running the experiment flipped off the light on the left side and turned on a flashing red light on the right side of the room. Afterward, when asked what he perceived, John said it was a red light that moved slowly from the left side of the room, across the stage to the right side of the room. This was the brain's attempt to reconcile how an object that was on one side of the room could suddenly be on the other. So it interpolated and added new information -- an image of the light moving across the room.

The brain does the same kind of thing acoustically. In fact, it does this far more with acoustic data than with visual data. It takes the data received in the form of pressure waves and disregards some of it (in an attempt to reconcile some perceived incoherence),interpolates other elements, smooths discordant information, adds new information, etc. Your brain is not a microphone. It does not create a sonic image that corresponds exactly to what we measure emanating from a speaker. And it's for this reason, that speaker measurements can never give us a complete picture of what we will perceive when listening to that speaker.

To fully appreciate this subject, one would have to get a lot deeper into the neurobiology of perception. I've spent my entire career in this field and yet continue to be surprised by new research showing just how much the brain's modelling of the world can differ from the input it receives. There's no way to summarize decades of research in a short post. Suffice to say that the measurement of pressure waves can differ greatly from the perception of sound. And those differences may account, in part, for why a speaker can measure well, yet sound off, or conversely, a speaker may seem to have poor measurements and yet sound great. Your brain is not giving an exact sonic picture of the the pressure wave data that it receives. It is constantly changing, massaging, adding to, and subtracting from that data.
Wow, that's deep.

Sort of like our brains "breaking-in", instead of the speakers and amps? :D
 
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Ratings
4,626 24 9
#20
I'm not sure we're on the same page here. A true first order acoustic slope crossover will generally be very complex--more so than, say, your typical
4th order acoustic slope crossover (even mine). I've seen the schematics for Thiel, Vandersteen, and Dynaudio 1st order speakers, and they all have a bajillion components. That's usually what it takes to achieve 1st order roll offs over a sufficiently wide frequency range to realize the benefits of this approach in terms of phase coherency.
Try measuring the crossovers. Many of them are higher than 1st order despite the claims. 1st order crossovers are rarely a good idea when designing a speaker to produce high output levels with minimum distortion and compression.
 

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