Which lower-efficiency speakers should I be looking at? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 50 Old 08-29-2017, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Which lower-efficiency speakers should I be looking at?

Okay so I'm thinking about upgrading my computer speakers. I recently bought a pair of Sony SS-CS5s and they have a lot of good qualities but after using them for a couple months, I find them to be a bit harsh and sibilant and I'm wondering if I can do better.

Unusually, I'm looking for lower-efficiency speakers. The problem is that if I'm not listening to music, I want my office to be dead silent. With higher-efficiency speakers (87+ dB) I can hear speaker hiss from my desk chair. I wish I could blame this on my amplifier but I've tried 3 different amplifiers and they all produce roughly the same amount of hiss, so I don't want to throw my amp under the bus. I've read that a certain amount of amp/speaker hiss is unavoidable due to quantum physics somehow. So I think the solution is just lower-efficiency speakers.

The cheaper the better, but I would consider speakers up to $300 if they were something special.

Any thoughts are appreciated.
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post #2 of 50 Old 08-29-2017, 10:57 PM
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I have the Elac Uni-Fi UB5s for my computer speakers and they work wonderfully, absolutely no hiss whatsoever. You can find them on sale for $450 right now, which is a bit over your budget, but coaxial drivers are great for near-field listening.

You can also find refurb Kef Q300s, which also feature a coaxial design, for about $400 at A4L.
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post #3 of 50 Old 08-29-2017, 11:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motrek View Post
I wish I could blame this on my amplifier but I've tried 3 different amplifiers and they all produce roughly the same amount of hiss...
That seems very wrong to me. Were these real amplifiers, or computer cr@p? And are you sure the hiss isn't bleeding through from the source?* Please describe your whole setup chain with model numbers and we can probably help more.

Also consider powered speakers, which should not have this problem...unless the source is bad.

*Particularly if you are using a computer's audio as the source, those can be terrible. Like every iMac I owned, ugh, I could not listen with headphones. External DAC (like Audioquest Dragonfly) to the rescue!)
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post #4 of 50 Old 08-29-2017, 11:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by head_unit View Post
That seems very wrong to me. Were these real amplifiers, or computer cr@p? And are you sure the hiss isn't bleeding through from the source?* Please describe your whole setup chain with model numbers and we can probably help more.

Also consider powered speakers, which should not have this problem...unless the source is bad.

*Particularly if you are using a computer's audio as the source, those can be terrible. Like every iMac I owned, ugh, I could not listen with headphones. External DAC (like Audioquest Dragonfly) to the rescue!)
I have a SMSL-SA50. I thought maybe the amp was the problem so I also tried a friend's SMSL-SA36 (Plus or Pro or something) with its on-board DAC, same amount of hiss. Also tried my Yamaha AV receiver with a digital signal, i.e., using the Yamaha's DAC, same amount of hiss.

I mean, to put this in perspective, the hiss is only barely audible from 3 feet away, and that's at night in a very quiet room. And I have good hearing and I'm picky. I told a couple friends of mine that the hiss annoys me and they listened for it and couldn't hear it from more than 3 inches away, although to be fair that was during the day when there was more ambient noise.

So I think this level of hiss is probably normal and it might actually be pretty good. So I don't think it's so bad to reduce it by just getting some lower-efficiency speakers.
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post #5 of 50 Old 08-29-2017, 11:54 PM
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I used to think I had very sensitive hearing, then I found out it was tinnitus.

https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts
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post #6 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jjackkrash View Post
I used to think I had very sensitive hearing, then I found out it was tinnitus.

https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts
Sorry to hear it. I had some tinnitus for a while from an injury and I know it can be miserable.

I'm sure that what I'm hearing is from the speakers, because I'd like nothing more than to buy another pair of Ascend CBM-170s (89 dB) for my computer and call it a day, but I've tried using my Ascends with my computer for days to try to get used to the hiss but it ends up driving me crazy and I give up. The Sonys that I have now are 87 dB and they're acceptable. Sometimes I think I can hear them but I'm not 100% sure it isn't just my imagination. I think 86 dB would probably be ideal. I notice that Wharfedales tend to be around this sensitivity, maybe an option...
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post #7 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motrek View Post
I have a SMSL-SA50. I thought maybe the amp was the problem so I also tried a friend's SMSL-SA36 (Plus or Pro or something) with its on-board DAC, same amount of hiss. Also tried my Yamaha AV receiver with a digital signal, i.e., using the Yamaha's DAC, same amount of hiss.

I mean, to put this in perspective, the hiss is only barely audible from 3 feet away, and that's at night in a very quiet room. And I have good hearing and I'm picky. I told a couple friends of mine that the hiss annoys me and they listened for it and couldn't hear it from more than 3 inches away, although to be fair that was during the day when there was more ambient noise.

So I think this level of hiss is probably normal and it might actually be pretty good. So I don't think it's so bad to reduce it by just getting some lower-efficiency speakers.
Does the hiss go away when you unplug the computer source and plug in another source?

I also don't think it's the speakers but easy enough to p/u some Martin Logans or Elacs at Best Buy and try them out.

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post #8 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motrek View Post

Any thoughts are appreciated.
Also, try the analog input before wasting money on speakers.

Is it a violation of the TOS to say "wasting money on speakers" on AVS?
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post #9 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Does the hiss go away when you unplug the computer source and plug in another source?

I also don't think it's the speakers but easy enough to p/u some Martin Logans or Elacs at Best Buy and try them out.
I've essentially done that if you imagine that I started out with the Ascends (89 dB) and bought the Sonys (87 dB)--hiss greatly reduced.

I've tried 3 different amps and 3 different ways of connecting my computer. I've also tried connecting my phone to the SMSL via Bluetooth and I still hear the hiss from that amp.

I'm pretty sure that amps just produce a certain amount of hiss no matter what.
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post #10 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:41 AM
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wharfedale 10.1's would probably work for you..i have them (paired with a yamaha avr).. they are the best speaker i have ever had for clear audio.. they aren't that detailed ..but.. what you get is music.. not funny background noise ... check music direct "open box" availability..
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post #11 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Also, try the analog input before wasting money on speakers.

Is it a violation of the TOS to say "wasting money on speakers" on AVS?
Yup, the way I normally connect my computer to my speakers is via a SMSL SA50 which has an analog input. I was just trying the other amps to make sure the hiss wasn't due to the amp. (Well, I mean, of course the hiss is coming from the amp, but it seems to come from every other amp too.) I didn't notice any difference between the levels of hiss regardless of the amp or connection method.
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post #12 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 10:54 AM
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Look at RSL they are 84/85 db sensitive
https://www.soundandvision.com/conte...iew-test-bench
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post #13 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 11:31 AM
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aa phiharmonic are 84.5 db sensitivity
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post #14 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 12:11 PM
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Why not buy a stereo L-Pad and adjust the level after the amp?
Make sure it's the type without a common ground or buy 2 mono L-Pads.

Simple, inexpensive, effective.
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post #15 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 12:29 PM
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Other option

[quote=Down_South;54717646]Why not buy a stereo L-Pad and adjust the level after the amp?
Make sure it's the type without a common ground or buy 2 mono L-Pads.
Since I'm handy I buy the parts and put it into an enclosure.

or

Table top speaker volume control at MCM Electronics
Uses transformers so slight degradation in sound but with the vast majority of speakers you will never hear it.
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post #16 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 01:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Down_South View Post
Why not buy a stereo L-Pad and adjust the level after the amp?
Make sure it's the type without a common ground or buy 2 mono L-Pads.

Simple, inexpensive, effective.
Sounds like extra parts and wires/cables that I wouldn't need if I just took some care in selecting lower-efficiency speakers.

Might be an interesting feature to build into small amplifiers designed for nearfield use...
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post #17 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 06:19 PM
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Not sure that lower efficiency would do much of anything. To hear the speakers you are just going to have to turn them up higher (along with the hiss possibly.) Maybe get a capacitor and make a simple hi cut filter. If your speakers are hard wired to the speakers you may need to cut into the wire to put the cap across the two wires. If they attach to some kind of speaker posts just short across the posts with the cap. Your sound card or computer is just a lousy audio source I guess.
How about just turning the speakers so the tweeters point away from you? For a capacitor value you may need to know what the frequency is. My guess is probably above 5000 cycles per second would not impact hearing what you want to hear eand killing the hiss. that it is fortunate you never had an old tube tv with a flyback transformet !!

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post #18 of 50 Old 08-30-2017, 07:54 PM
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How about simply turning the amp off when you want silence?
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post #19 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 07:49 AM
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I'm not an expert, but....
I think you have issue with Volume control set up, not source or speakers.

The hiss comes from amplification of empty noise. Empty because you probably want to control volume through computer, so the amp is running 100% and then volume controls via source. So if the PC volume is at 20% but amp is at 100%, you will hear the noise.

When I listen to Spotify on my Mac through amplifier, I make sure my Mac volume is fixed at 100% and volume control through the Amp. The other way around is wrong, and if my amp is at 100% volume and I control it on my PC limiting it from 100% to 50%, I will hear hiss in the other 50% of emptiness.

If I listen in the car through Bluetooth, sometimes I forget to turn up my source (iPhone) to 100% volume and so I have to add more volume (amplification) in the car, and I start to hear more "dirty" sound, because its amplifying weak signal that's limited and not 100% there. Play around with volume settings, if that makes any sense.


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post #20 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Shenefelt View Post
Not sure that lower efficiency would do much of anything. To hear the speakers you are just going to have to turn them up higher (along with the hiss possibly.) Maybe get a capacitor and make a simple hi cut filter. If your speakers are hard wired to the speakers you may need to cut into the wire to put the cap across the two wires. If they attach to some kind of speaker posts just short across the posts with the cap. Your sound card or computer is just a lousy audio source I guess.
How about just turning the speakers so the tweeters point away from you? For a capacitor value you may need to know what the frequency is. My guess is probably above 5000 cycles per second would not impact hearing what you want to hear eand killing the hiss. that it is fortunate you never had an old tube tv with a flyback transformet !!
The hiss is a constant volume regardless of the volume that I have my computer set to (or if the input is digital) and regardless of the volume the amplifier is set to.

What I gather from this is that the hiss is coming from somewhere downstream in the amplifier and can therefore be addressed with lower-efficiency speakers. (Also I don't really have to speculate about this because I've used lower-efficiency speakers and they do reduce the hiss.)

The top-rated answer to this question seems to address the issue neatly:

https://sound.stackexchange.com/ques...speakers/25474

Indeed, I've never heard a combination of amplifier and speakers that don't produce a hiss when the amplifier is turned on. Have you? I mean, you might have to move so that your ear is within inches of a speaker's tweeter and listen in a quiet room but I bet you'll be able to hear a hiss.
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post #21 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 03:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sigpig View Post
How about simply turning the amp off when you want silence?
My computer is constantly making little noises, e.g., when I get an email, a message, when I move a file to somewhere, etc.

I would like to hear all these noises without having to constantly manage whether or not my amplifier is turned on.
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Originally Posted by michaellsv View Post
I'm not an expert, but....
I think you have issue with Volume control set up, not source or speakers.

The hiss comes from amplification of empty noise. Empty because you probably want to control volume through computer, so the amp is running 100% and then volume controls via source. So if the PC volume is at 20% but amp is at 100%, you will hear the noise.

When I listen to Spotify on my Mac through amplifier, I make sure my Mac volume is fixed at 100% and volume control through the Amp. The other way around is wrong, and if my amp is at 100% volume and I control it on my PC limiting it from 100% to 50%, I will hear hiss in the other 50% of emptiness.

If I listen in the car through Bluetooth, sometimes I forget to turn up my source (iPhone) to 100% volume and so I have to add more volume (amplification) in the car, and I start to hear more "dirty" sound, because its amplifying weak signal that's limited and not 100% there. Play around with volume settings, if that makes any sense.
...
I'm sure that hiss CAN be caused by amplification of "empty noise" if your analog source has a relatively high noise floor, but in my case that's not the cause, considering that I still hear a hiss even when I'm using digital sources (and thus empty noise is literally zero).

By the way, if you're using the analog output on your Mac, you probably shouldn't have it turned to 100%. Apple tends to use high-quality DACs, but even so, almost all DACs tend to produce sub-optimal output when run at their limits. You should probably turn your Mac down to maybe 80% volume for best results.

Of course if you're using a digital output (including Bluetooth) then you should definitely have it turned to 100% because it's not like there's going to be any degradation of the signal at high volumes.
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post #23 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by motrek View Post



Indeed, I've never heard a combination of amplifier and speakers that don't produce a hiss when the amplifier is turned on. Have you?

My NAD And B&W speakers does not produce any noise what so ever, even if you are 5 inches away from speaker, because generally I listen to he music at maximum -5db volume which is deafening already (depending on the music type)

If I don't play any source and just turn up empty volume to 0db or max +15bd (100% vol) then I hear noise too! You can't fix it in real world, maybe in a scientific lab.

Amplification of sound does not happen in computer, you need to set it at max volume output if you using external speakers and control the volume on your Amp. There won't be any noise. Seems to me You are creating your own headache.

Just like others said, lower efficiency speakers just need to be amplified more to hear same hiss, hey do not filter the hiss out of equation.

The proof is in 3 amplifiers that you tried and all produce same hiss because you put them under same condition where they're amplifying at max volume.

Example,

My OPPO 205 has volume control. If I decide to run my amp at full volume just so I can use volume control through Oppo, then I will hear the noise too when Oppo stops playing, and while it's playing the noise is just masked, but still there. My Oppo is set at 97% and I use volume control on the NAD and no issues.

Same goes for TV watching...running your amplifier at 100% just so you could control volume on a TV remote is wrong, it's backwards to what you should do, and the resulting hiss would be similar to yours.
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post #24 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 06:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by michaellsv View Post
My NAD And B&W speakers does not produce any noise what so ever, even if you are 5 inches away from speaker, because generally I listen to he music at maximum -5db volume which is deafening already (depending on the music type)

If I don't play any source and just turn up empty volume to 0db or max +15bd (100% vol) then I hear noise too! You can't fix it in real world, maybe in a scientific lab.

Amplification of sound does not happen in computer, you need to set it at max volume output if you using external speakers and control the volume on your Amp. There won't be any noise. Seems to me You are creating your own headache.

Just like others said, lower efficiency speakers just need to be amplified more to hear same hiss, hey do not filter the hiss out of equation.

The proof is in 3 amplifiers that you tried and all produce same hiss because you put them under same condition where they're amplifying at max volume.

Example,

My OPPO 205 has volume control. If I decide to run my amp at full volume just so I can use volume control through Oppo, then I will hear the noise too when Oppo stops playing, and while it's playing the noise is just masked, but still there. My Oppo is set at 97% and I use volume control on the NAD and no issues.

Same goes for TV watching...running your amplifier at 100% just so you could control volume on a TV remote is wrong, it's backwards to what you should do, and the resulting hiss would be similar to yours.
Nope, I hear the hiss when I'm playing from a digital source and my amp is turned down.

Of course, if your input is analog and you turn your amp up, you will hear a hiss because the noise floor of an analog audio signal is not zero. But that's not what I'm doing or talking about.

Most B&W speakers that I've seen are relatively low-efficiency (~85 dB) and if your hearing is not optimal (maybe from listening to your music at "deafening" levels) then it doesn't surprise me at all if you can't hear a hiss from your tweeters from 5 inches away. Of course whether or not you can hear a hiss also depends on the noise floor of your environment. My office is extremely quiet at night, which is also when I tend to do a lot of my work...
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post #25 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motrek View Post
Nope, I hear the hiss when I'm playing from a digital source and my amp is turned down.

Have you tried switching cables/wires? Are they decent shielded cables?

You know, sometime even a new looking cable could be defective



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post #26 of 50 Old 08-31-2017, 10:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by michaellsv View Post
Have you tried switching cables/wires? Are they decent shielded cables?

You know, sometime even a new looking cable could be defective ...
I've tried 3 sets of cables. Again, I don't think this is really a problem that needs to be solved. I'm pretty sure that every amp generates a tiny amount of hiss no matter what. If you can't hear the hiss with your setup then that's cool. I can't really hear it with mine either (when I'm sitting in my office chair) because I'm using my 87 dB Sony speakers. It seems like a perfectly valid solution to just get lower-efficiency speakers for desktop use.
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post #27 of 50 Old 09-01-2017, 07:24 AM
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Not all amps generate hiss.

For example, I've used my NAD D 3020 and it is dead quiet on my 100db speakers.
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post #28 of 50 Old 09-01-2017, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by motrek View Post
I've tried 3 sets of cables. Again, I don't think this is really a problem that needs to be solved. I'm pretty sure that every amp generates a tiny amount of hiss no matter what. If you can't hear the hiss with your setup then that's cool. I can't really hear it with mine either (when I'm sitting in my office chair) because I'm using my 87 dB Sony speakers. It seems like a perfectly valid solution to just get lower-efficiency speakers for desktop use.
don't let people talk you out of trying out your theory on sensitivity.. just like auditioning speakers... they are your ears ..
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post #29 of 50 Old 09-01-2017, 09:32 AM
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Also, try the analog input before wasting money on speakers.

Is it a violation of the TOS to say "wasting money on speakers" on AVS?
Please expand on this thought in the context of this tread. Many people spend far more time at their computer than is available for serious listening on their main system. Is there a reason for listening to mediocre sound reproduction when at the computer?
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post #30 of 50 Old 09-01-2017, 09:36 AM
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Is the hiss level the same for both speakers ? Also is the hiss there immediately after the amp is turned on ?

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