I just finished reading your blog, and while we are on polar opposites on the belief and usefulness of statistical analysis, I can easily see why you and Dr. Toole need to have some kind of "real" data that applies to speaker sound and design. The goal is obviously a way to state, to the public, why and how our speakers
are better than their speakers; especially when written in Consumer Reports
or any other media -- most importantly, the three W's, where many people are currently gathering their information.
Before seeing this post, I replied to one above that asked, "What factors do you consider when making an audio purchase?" I know my answer will not add new data to your analysis, but I think you might want to consider what myself and others consider when choosing audio equipment...http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showp...6&postcount=47
... if you note the last line, I give little credence to any single article or review (eg. Consumer Reports
or pompous audio experts with their $10,000 cables and $100,000 sound systems) and pay close attention to what isn't mentioned in the numbers. What matters most to me, and I'm sure to many others, is reputation, which Harman has, a consensus of written opinion, and "will it fit into my room and budget".
There certainly is no way for Harman, or any company, to know in advance what everyone's room looks like, or sounds like, and why I am a doubter of any type of statistical analysis having much real value. And again, while I applaud your work in psycho acoustical research I wanted to offer a layman's non-statistical view on what might be beneficial to you in some way...
Beyond the ideal goal of designing and building the "perfect speaker", the more practical goal is obviously to sell more product. By way of informing the public of what they are buying, so they can more carefully choose what best suits their needs and budget. The result being, a satisfied customer, who may not have actually heard the piece they have purchased through Amazon or other online distributer.
What I often read here, and you mentioned it in your blog, is that many are willing to shovel out a lot of dough for a big screen TV, and then have little left for the audio side of their new home theater. If new to the market, they also are much more willing to buy a $1000 AVR than they are to spend $500 on speakers. At least until someone with more experience clues them in. What makes good sound and how important it is to the home theater experience has gotten lost. We hear it at movie theaters and will pay to be shaken out of our seats, but maybe because THX is so common in cineplexes around the country (and the world), many people think that to get sound anywhere close to their local cinema would cost a small fortune.
Your new consumer is not the aging stereophile who knows a hundred brands and which of those he likes best (and also understands the specs behind them). It's the new large screen buyer looking for something better than a HTIB. Who MAY be willing to spend a lot more, if he thought he could get close to the sound of a cineplex. If he's only walked past cheap brands blaring at him at Best Buy, he probably doesn't know he can.
It's time to educate people (the average Joe with a plasma who watches football every Sunday) on what is affordable and what works in the space he lives in
. You can publish that 10,000 people think one speaker is the best sounding speaker in the world, but is it in every room? From my own experience, I know it needs to match the room it is placed in. I see only a few online dealers (Hsu for example) that actually mention the room size. I think this is of major importance and is not found in many speaker specs (unless you already understand dB's, efficiency, SPL and the inverse square law of fall off).
The first spec I would include with every speaker (or speaker system) is what size room it is best suited for. Many Joe's will buy a projector and look for a HTIB to fill a 20x30 foot room. No matter how good that speaker is, the new owner will be displeased with the sound. As you and Dr. Toole know much better than I, it can't fill the space with enough dB's to sound any better than a car radio. And though your new testing spaces have changeable acoustic treatments, can they recreate a cramped apartment or a living room with vaulted ceilings and a large open area next to it? I noticed you had people sitting directly in front of the test speaker. That's less often the case in real room situations. People cram speakers wherever they fit, or look best. Unfortunately, that's what most everyone has to deal with. The room layout comes first and speaker placement is secondary (acoustics is often not even considered).
Stamp some new "specs" big on the box -- these speakers are for this size room. Or these speakers work well in a small apartment. Or "Perfect for your large screen TV in a family room with high ceilings" and etc. You could even match speakers to Sports or Movies. Specs that Joe understands.
One more thing is the recommended watts confuse people. Make it clearer what they need to buy to go with the speaker to match its output. You could connect that with room size as well. Ex. for large rooms we recommend an amp with 100 wpc or more. These things will make the new owner more aware of what he (or she) needs and in the end, a happy listener.
My current system is HK and JBL Synthesis. Obviously, I am a fan of Harman Int. and hope that I have helped you to establish criteria that will be useful to making HK a better choice for the home consumer. Statistical data may help the choir find Jesus, but most people need things spelled out in language they can easily understand.
Matthew L Kees (MLKstudios)