***The Official Ascend Acoustics Sierra Thread*** - Page 25 - AVS Forum
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post #721 of 3186 Old 09-04-2007, 05:10 PM
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Good review

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one is forced to ask what gains you can expect when stepping into pricier territory. While that answer can vary, when I compared the Sierra 1 directly to more expensive speakers such as the Mark and Daniel Topaz ($1800), Tyler Acoustic Linbrook Super Mini ($1200), and the Totem Acoustic Staff ($1700), it became immediately apparent that those gains come in the form of refinement, resolution, and tone. While tone is an aspect of presentation that I am most critical on, it is also important to remember that it is one of the more difficult elements to define as it is a reference point that is intensely personal. In most case scenarios, the reference of tone is nothing more than a memory that your brain associates with live music you’ve experienced in the past – which is significantly influenced by the atmosphere of the event, the acoustics of the venue, along with the instrument type, build, tune, and position. While the Sierra 1 has respectable tone that surpasses many speakers I’ve heard in and well above its price range, I felt it still lacked that last ounce of layer and personal touch that really draws me into the music. While there is a good chance that these results are also a function of the electronics used with the Sierra 1, just as in the real world – there is only so much one can have access to.

tone... Ooooouh! I've owned the Totem Sttafs and let me tell you that the Sierra-1 tone simply OBLITERATES the Sttafs... for about twice the price of the Sierra-1, I could not find ONE thing which the Sttafs did better. Not one! The bass of the Sierra outclasses the Sttaf's, first in clarity, then in punchyness and even extension. Like he said, tone is highly personal, but I would not trade my Sierra-1 for a pair of Sttafs...

Actually, when I got the 340SEs I sold off the Sttafs! The Sttafs did have slightly wider soundstage than the 340SE, but imaging was very close.,Sttafs did have lower bass than 340SEs, but the 340SE's bass was more accurate & was tighter. The tone, again, I'd have to give to the Ascends (340SE), and not by a small margin.

Anyhow, tone is personal, and if someone prefers colored speakers, with a 'warmth' quality to them, then sure, Sttafs could be said to have better tone. He could have probably gotten a sound closer to the Sttafs by putting the Sierras very close to the backwall, it would have reinforced the bass, and would have gotten a sound closer to Sttaf... Anyhow


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Meanwhile, I will say the same thing about the Ascend Sierra 1 as I did about the Tyler’s – balance and coherence is truly the name of their game. In fact, I would go on a limb to say that the Sierra 1 is the most electronically accurate speaker I’ve heard at and under the 1k range – something I don’t say lightly as plenty of excellent speakers have entered these walls.

lol Now don't start something like you did in the other thread or I'm reporting you to the mods!
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post #722 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 02:54 AM
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Jason ... I will take a pair ... how do I order ?

PM me with the specs (overall height, dimensions of column, size of base plate, spikes/no spikes) and any other features you'd like (cable management or whatever) and I'll work up a price for you.

Thanks!

J.

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post #723 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by cschang View Post

Another one at Affordable Audio just came out too in the September issue.

http://www.affordableaudio.org/

Nice review. One question I hope someone can answer.
In the review, he mentions that the speakers "beam" at higher volumes.
Can someone explain what this term means?


Mitch
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post #724 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 06:36 AM
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Typically, beaming would refer to a speaker's "line of fire" but I don't know how that would be affected by volume, unless he's suggesting that the directionality of the sound changes as the volume increases. He might be referring to becoming "bright" or "harsh" but I haven't experienced that with the Sierras at all.

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post #725 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Mitch G View Post

Nice review. One question I hope someone can answer.
In the review, he mentions that the speakers "beam" at higher volumes.
Can someone explain what this term means?


Mitch

I believe it means it loses its dispersion qualities. I would think if you are running that high of volume, you would probably be better off with the 340SE.

Ahh...Jason beat me to it.

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post #726 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 06:42 AM
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Well, we are 3 hours ahead of you guys out there...!

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post #727 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 08:02 AM
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Hmmm. If it's a dispersion phenomenon, why would that become "fatiguing?"
So, maybe it's more of a harshness/brightness thing. But, why call that beaming?
Maybe I should just email the reviewer.


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post #728 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 09:16 AM
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After some searching, I've also seen the term "beaming" used to describe harshness or brightness in the upper frequencies. Again, I've never experienced that with the Sierras, but I also haven't driven them to tears yet. I have yet to hook up my Anthem MCA-20 to them, which will have to wait until I'm done building a component rack, which will have to wait until I'm done building stands for folks...not that I'm complaining!

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post #729 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch G View Post

Hmmm. If it's a dispersion phenomenon, why would that become "fatiguing?"
So, maybe it's more of a harshness/brightness thing. But, why call that beaming?
Maybe I should just email the reviewer.


Mitch

If you do email the reviewer, ask him how large his room is, how far he sits from the speakers, and what kind of SPL he is listening to when the beaming occurs.

I am like Jason, I have not heard harshness/beaming yet, but I also know that I have plenty of good clean power....my room is not large at 14x18 and I sit about 10' from the speakers.

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post #730 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 11:09 AM
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Well, too late. I already sent the email and received the response - see below. I'll let one of you guys grill him on his room dimensions and dynamics.

--- Sean Fowler regarding the term "beamy" used in his Sierra-1 review ---

At some point in our lives, we've all experienced that guy or gal who, even in a crowd of hundreds, has a speaking voice that projects well above everyone else around them. Despite all efforts to block out that said individual, you just can't. They're born voice is loud and shouty.

The Sierra 1 is kind a hybrid to the above example. At regular listening levels (say, below 90db) - the speakers can project well into a space without overwhelming your ears with an abundance of sound. However, once you increase the output past 90db, their sound becomes much more center focused resulting in an emphasized spike in the upper mid-range and treble. Some audiophiles use the adjective shouty - I used beam. There really is no difference. It is just an adjecti! ve used to describe an experience as it relates to a real world experience, such as the man or woman with endowed vocal chords.

As an aside; traditionally a speaker's sonic signature remains the same as the volume increases - all the way until they reach their limits and distortion sets in. Each design has its own unique response once this threshold has been met. Naturally, some will reach this limit well before others. Some transducers, like the Sierra 1 - will behave differently at higher volumes, resulting in a slight shift in presentation all the while still delivering good, clean output.
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post #731 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 11:19 AM
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Thanks Mitch...very interesting.

I wonder if that could also be a room issue. I am pretty sure I have had the speakers louder than that...then again, my room might be smaller too.

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post #732 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 11:51 AM
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Sounds to me like dynamic compression in the bass, which can certainly change the tonality of a speaker. Nothing unusual, considering the Sierra's size.
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post #733 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 12:33 PM
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That is an interesting response from Sean, and something that I must disagree with. A loudspeaker's "sonic signature" or tone will not vary until mechanical and/or thermal limitations are reached.

What Sean might have experienced at these loud listening levels is due to the current (power) limitations of the electronics being used. When an audio signal is compressed because the amplification stage reproducing it can not fully reproduce the dynamic range required, due to a lack of available power, subtle directional cues and the overall soundstage is squashed. The overall balance in a recording gets lost. For example, vocals often require the widest dynamic range in music, from a whisper to a flat-out scream. The dynamic range required can easily exceed 20 dB (the ability to instantaneously reproduce up to 20dB more output) 20 dB of headroom requires over 120 watts of power to accurately reproduce without compression and/or clipping.

It is my understanding that much of Sean's listening was done using the Red Wine Audio Sig 30 amp, a 30-watt amplifier. Less power than I recommend for the Sierra-1.

In Sean's email response, he mentions "an emphasized spike in the upper mid-range and treble" as volume approaches 90dB. This spike, as Sean mentioned, simply does not exist in the speaker -- as clearly evidences by the NRC measurement graph Deviation from Linearity (from this page here: http://www.soundstagenetwork.com/mea...scend_sierra1/)



This graph shows the difference in frequency response between 70dB and 90dB SPL. You will notice that it is ruler flat from 200Hz on up (0dB deviation), indicating that there is absolutely no difference in the response at these two output levels (this is quite impressive actually and there is that 20dB of headroom I mentioned ) It is also important to state that this is 90dB output at 2 meters in an anechoic (reflection free) room. This is easily equivalent to 96dB SPL in-room whereby sound waves will reflect off objects. That output level is also from a single speaker as opposed to two, in other words -- this is extremely loud and thus subjecting the loudspeaker to harsh conditions that few would ever do, simply too loud to listen to comfortably. Even with these harsh conditions, there is no frequency response deviation and distortion at these high levels is also extremely low (eliminating another possibility of what Sean might have heard).

I do not doubt Sean heard something different at 90dB and above, however, I have very strong doubts that it was the speaker that was causing this.

Hope this is some useful information!

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post #734 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindahl View Post

Sounds to me like dynamic compression in the bass, which can certainly change the tonality of a speaker. Nothing unusual, considering the Sierra's size.

This is what I initially thought too, that the woofer was reaching its excursion limits thus throwing the balance of the speaker off and emphasizing the mids and highs more -- but, this should not occur at 90dB output in-room from a stereo pair. Sean mentioned a distinct spike in the frequency response in the upper mids and treble region, which would indicate something different than a woofer reaching its mechanical/thermal limits.

Anyway, I had some time to kill as my son just started Kindergarten today Unfortunately, now I must head back to the office for my "day job"

Sean, if you are reading this, please don't misunderstand, as I already mentioned to you, all-in-all I thought it was a great review, very well written with great pics! It is just nice to compare/discuss the various experiences from all the reviewers, since all of them were a bit different. So many reviews hit at the same time making comparing them quite easy

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post #735 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 01:25 PM
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I am encouraged to see some people stepping out and acknowledging that they are recognizing the limitations of FR as it relates to what makes one speaker superior to another ,and the example of the 170's and the Sierra's is one that seems to make the point well. Having heard both speakers, finally, side-by-side , I would agree that the Sierra's are superior to the 170's, and doubt I would find many that would argue (though it is a subjective and personal opinion). Subjective and personal opinions can, however, be shared by many people and hence a popular sentiment can become statistically significant, though there may be no way of objectively determining why.
Over years of listening to, and reading about, speakers, I realize that more and more of my preconcieved notions and sacred cows get skewered when I listen blind and don't read the graphs first, look at the driver accompanyment, or read about the crossover design , etc.
While objective data may be useful after the fact in helping me correlate what I've heard , I find it biasing to look at it first as it may make me imagine things that I otherwise wouldn't hear.
I have repeated another's suggestion before that many should try listening to and critiquing (blind) several speakers that they aren't familiar with and then try to match their notes with the appropriate graphs and measurements. No doubt some experts can do this, but the excercise is quite humbling for many.
Many a speaker's final voicing is done by ear, and many speaker designs that have looked good on paper have been rather disappointing and sounded inaccurate (though objectively no one could say why), but suggesting that a speaker with FR flaws could still be a great speaker has often been met with harsh criticism by many on these forums and the requisit graph as definitive proof of "badness" is almost always posted. The Pioneer speaker is a good example of that.
The fact that it is very difficult to get an identical set of measurements made under the same conditions , with the same test equipment, in the same room, made by the same testing personel, is reason enough, in my experiance, to reject comparing two speakers , that I'm interested in, in this way, not to mention, that even then the measurements (if you read info disputing reviews) were not taken in a manner conducive to real world set-up or listening conditions as recommended or assumed by the speaker designer.
Then take into account that we still see a consistant number of well respected and seasoned reviewers speak so highly of some model that is so seemingly flawed with respect to these objective measurements , and I think that the simplest measuring device and easiest answer is to trust our own ears in personal comparisons and damn any other, less important, metric.

I, again, am pleased to see people putting further emphasis on the notion of listening to speakers.

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post #736 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Ascend View Post

This is what I initially thought too, that the woofer was reaching its excursion limits thus throwing the balance of the speaker off and emphasizing the mids and highs more -- but, this should not occur at 90dB output in-room from a stereo pair.

Yes, your analysis seems more likely - a possible amplifier issue. 30 watts is seriously underpowering the Sierras when asking for even modestly high output. However, I would think that a reviewer would have tried more power when asking for high output from a small speaker (low sensitivity), but maybe not? It'll be interesting to see what Sean says.

While serious midbass compression at 90 dB is highly unlikely, Craig did notice straining in the Sierras starting at the high 80s in the lowest frequencies. If this straining was pushed even further, to 90db+, could it be the cause of some modulation in the midbass and midrange? If so, perhaps this was some of the harshness that Sean was referring to. While you certainly can't take Craig's (or anyone's) results as gospel, it may provide some insight.

Sierra stressed at 36hz:


Sierra stressed at 45hz:
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post #737 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tarpon View Post

Congratulations to everyone at Ascend for the great Sierra 1 reviews at Soundstage and Enjoythemusic.com!

Thanks Tarpon!!!

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post #738 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Lindahl View Post

While serious midbass compression at 90 dB is highly unlikely, Craig did notice straining in the Sierras starting at the high 80s in the lowest frequencies. If this straining was pushed even further, to 90db+, could it be the cause of some modulation in the midbass and midrange? If so, perhaps this was some of the harshness that Sean was referring to. While you certainly can't take Craig's (or anyone's) results as gospel, it may provide some insight.

Sierra stressed at 36hz:


Sierra stressed at 45hz:

I will be the first to tell anyone that deep bass at high output levels from such a small speaker can have negative effects on midrange performance (for ANY loudspeaker) -- but the type of effects that would be experienced would be more so of a loss of detail (as the VC windings have extended past the magnetic gap such that the woofer will not be completing a full frequency cycle, resulting in audible compression and/or the lack of detail). From Sean's review: "Even though the Sierra 1 maintains a distortion free sound at higher output levels, I found the speakers to lose a bit of their soundstage and beam as the volume increased."

This is the opposite effect one would expect with a woofer that is straining. Rather than "beam" -- or become more directional or present a peak, upper mids would be glossed over, sounding dull and be less directional because less high-frequency information from the woofer would be reproduced.

Additionally, Sean then mentions listener fatigue at such high volumes, which is a key indicator that the problematic area lies in the tweeter bandwidth -- not woofer bandwidth, and no matter how much or how little the woofer is straining, in a parallel crossover network, the woofer will not have any effect on the tweeter performance.

In my experience, these are all classic signs of amplifier strain.

I am unsure of the test methodology of the graphs you posted, but it is obvious that these were made with steady state sine waves, infinitely more demanding than music. I am also unsure at what distance the mic is from the speakers.

This graph is quite interesting:



That is a 36Hz sine wave, a full 1/4 octave below the port tune of the speaker. Running a sine wave at a frequency below port tune in order to determine strain or compression is a bad idea. The woofer is completely unloaded at this frequency. Any woofer in a ported cabinet will strain and compress at frequencies below the port tune. Still, the Sierra-1 woofer performed better than I would have expected at this frequency. It looks like Craig measured just over 80dB output, in what I am assuming is a large room but I don't know the mic distance, regardless, 2nd order distortion remained at just under 10%! I will say with complete honesty that those numbers are even better than I would have expected -- I am surprised the woofer cone itself didn't break free from the surround and shoot across the room. I will be sending the speaker patrol to Craig's house as this is clear violation of loudspeaker abuse laws.

This test is more reasonable as this frequency is close to the port tune.



Craig measured nearly 90dB output at 45 Hz with about 7% distortion. This is in the realm of a few so called subwoofers ...

Again, it is important to stress that these are steady state sine waves.

Returning to the current topic, these graphs further confirm (at least to me) that what Sean heard was definitely not caused by possible woofer excursion limitations.


In addition, and in answer to your excellent question:

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Originally Posted by Lindahl View Post

While serious midbass compression at 90 dB is highly unlikely, Craig did notice straining in the Sierras starting at the high 80s in the lowest frequencies. If this straining was pushed even further, to 90db+, could it be the cause of some modulation in the midbass and midrange? If so, perhaps this was some of the harshness that Sean was referring to.

At 36Hz, Craig measured approximately 80dB output. At 45Hz, Craig measured nearly 90dB. Let us assume the -3dB point of the speaker is 45Hz. Thus in Craig's room, at 36Hz, the speaker is -13dB down. This is a reasonable assumption. The sensitivity of the speaker is 86dB. To reach 90dB at these low frequency levels would mean that the passband must be at 103dB. (13dB + 90dB).

In direct answer to your question, assuming Sean was listening at 2 meters back, to reach 90dB+ output level at those low frequencies, the passband output of the speaker would be at 103dB. Ouch! Too loud to listen to and also requiring over 260 watts of power to get there, Far beyond the limits of the electronics being used and also not what Sean could have experienced.

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post #739 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 07:19 PM
 
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David, Those graphs were taken at my listening position, and 3 different speakers were tested, the Sierras, B&W 805S and Swan D2.1 SE's.

The purpose was merely to give guys a snapshot of how well all three would do as full range speakers.

For best results when listening to louder music, a 60 Hz crossover is preferable, as mentioned elsewhere.

That being said, they are impressive, even without a subwoofer.
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post #740 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 07:48 PM
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Thanks Davef, for the technical, yet easy to understand, explanation. It definitely looks to be amplifier strain as opposed to speaker strain.
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post #741 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 08:23 PM
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Thanks Davef, for the technical, yet easy to understand, explanation.

Easy for you, perhaps (as I walk away muttering "damn techie").

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post #742 of 3186 Old 09-05-2007, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by craigsub View Post

David, Those graphs were taken at my listening position, and 3 different speakers were tested, the Sierras, B&W 805S and Swan D2.1 SE's. The purpose was merely to give guys a snapshot of how well all three would do as full range speakers. For best results when listening to louder music, a 60 Hz crossover is preferable, as mentioned elsewhere.

That being said, they are impressive, even without a subwoofer.

Craig,

Thanks for the explanation. I am just happy the Sierra-1 survived that 36Hz test. That little woofer must have been doing some serious "woofing" at that frequency.

For no reason other than my own, how far back was your listening position when you ran these tests?

And yes, as you well know --- I am a strong proponent for proper bass management. For loud listening levels, crossing over at 60Hz is definitely recommended.

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post #743 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 04:11 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Ascend View Post

Craig,

Thanks for the explanation. I am just happy the Sierra-1 survived that 36Hz test. That little woofer must have been doing some serious "woofing" at that frequency.

For no reason other than my own, how far back was your listening position when you ran these tests?

And yes, as you well know --- I am a strong proponent for proper bass management. For loud listening levels, crossing over at 60Hz is definitely recommended.

The room is 14 feet wide, and the listening position about 11 feet from each speaker.

Most of my listening is done at 60-80 dB, with an occasional peak above that, when music is the issue.

When I want to go for some good rock, it takes about 10 seconds to switch in the crossover and subwoofer.

We are having a small listening session with some AVsers ... and about 12 bookshelf speakers will be here ... for this, a crossover @ 60 Hz will be in use at all times.
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post #744 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 07:11 AM
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We are having a small listening session with some AVsers ... and about 12 bookshelf speakers will be here ... for this, a crossover @ 60 Hz will be in use at all times.

When switching between speakers, you have to recalibrate the sub each time right? Or do you do that all beforehand and just take note of what the setting is at the pre/pro and adjust accordingly when switching? Which pre/pro and amp are you going to use?

A few of us are going to listen to some speakers here, and I think it is only fair to use a sub with some of them, but the subwoofer integration takes some time between switching, and I want to make the changes are as quick as possible between speakers. Trying to figure out the best way to do that.

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post #745 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 07:53 AM
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This is the opposite effect one would expect with a woofer that is straining. Rather than "beam" -- or become more directional or present a peak, upper mids would be glossed over, sounding dull and be less directional because less high-frequency information from the woofer would be reproduced.

Thanks Dave. I really had no clue what the audible problems in the midrange would sound like when a woofer was strained with deep bass, so I was really looking forward to your answer.

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That is a 36Hz sine wave, a full 1/4 octave below the port tune of the speaker. Running a sine wave at a frequency below port tune in order to determine strain or compression is a bad idea. The woofer is completely unloaded at this frequency.

Yes, a very scary testing method. However, I'm pretty sure Craig slowly turned up the volume, listening for woofer strain. The woofer strain would certainly become noticeable before it flew across the room.

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Craig measured nearly 90dB output at 45 Hz with about 7% distortion. This is in the realm of a few so called subwoofers

Not one that I'd have anywhere near my house.
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When switching between speakers, you have to recalibrate the sub each time right? Or do you do that all beforehand and just take note of what the setting is at the pre/pro and adjust accordingly when switching? Which pre/pro and amp are you going to use?

A few of us are going to listen to some speakers here, and I think it is only fair to use a sub with some of them, but the subwoofer integration takes some time between switching, and I want to make the changes are as quick as possible between speakers. Trying to figure out the best way to do that.

For a bookshelf comparison, I will have the Emotiva LMC-1/LPA-1 set up in 2.1 mode.

Speaker wires will go from the LPA-1 into the remote switcher, then to each pair of speakers.

The speaker switcher allows for level matching, so the relative level of the subwoofer to the speakers remains constant for each pair of speakers.

The remote switcher also has the ability for 4 speaker pairs to be played at once, though I will only be doing 2.

Each speaker pair will have pre-set levels on the switcher, so when I hook 2 up for a comparison, level matching will already be done.

I also ordered speaker grill cloth in a 70 inch "high" x 15 feet "wide" behind which will be the speakers.

With about 12 pairs of speakers from which to choose, instant level matched switching, and a subwoofer already pre-set for each pair with a 60 Hz crossover, it should be quite the comparison.

Without a proper speaker switcher, doing something like this is difficult.
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Ahhh....that switcher is the key...and I don't have one.

thanks.

-curtis

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post #748 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by craigsub View Post

For a bookshelf comparison, I will have the Emotiva LMC-1/LPA-1 set up in 2.1 mode.

Speaker wires will go from the LPA-1 into the remote switcher, then to each pair of speakers.

The speaker switcher allows for level matching, so the relative level of the subwoofer to the speakers remains constant for each pair of speakers.

The remote switcher also has the ability for 4 speaker pairs to be played at once, though I will only be doing 2.

Each speaker pair will have pre-set levels on the switcher, so when I hook 2 up for a comparison, level matching will already be done.

I also ordered speaker grill cloth in a 70 inch "high" x 15 feet "wide" behind which will be the speakers.

With about 12 pairs of speakers from which to choose, instant level matched switching, and a subwoofer already pre-set for each pair with a 60 Hz crossover, it should be quite the comparison.

Without a proper speaker switcher, doing something like this is difficult.

Maybe you've mentioned it before, but where can one buy that type of switcher. With the different speakers that make their way through my house, it sounds like a handy little tool.

Tony

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post #749 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 11:13 AM
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Maybe you've mentioned it before, but where can one buy that type of switcher. With the different speakers that make their way through my house, it sounds like a handy little tool.

I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that this was made by Axiom and is the kind of thing they use in internal testing. Somehow Craig was able to get one from them, though I don't think this sort of thing is available in the general marketplace.

Bill
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post #750 of 3186 Old 09-06-2007, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
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I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that this was made by Axiom and is the kind of thing they use in internal testing. Somehow Craig was able to get one from them, though I don't think this sort of thing is available in the general marketplace.

Bill

That's too bad, if that's the case. It's easy enought to match levels of speakers using zone 2 with my prepro, but the subwoofer gets lost in translation.

Tony

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