Originally Posted by padgman1
In general, what differences in SOUND/MUSICALITY are noticed in bookshelf speakers as the price increases (say , from $500/pr to $1000/pr to $2500/pr to $5000/pr or more) ?
What components make the most noticeable difference in sound playback quality ( imagimg/coherence/soundstage/ low- and high- level dynamics, etc)?
Is there so vast a difference in sound experience between , say, the Arx A1bs at $300/pr (which I have and love) and the upgraded Ascend Sierra-1 with NRT ( or even RAAL) tweeter at $1000/pr , to say one would be missing something important? How about between the aforementioned Ascend Sierra-1s and Dynaudio Contour 1.4s at $3300/pr, or Evolution MM Micro Ones at $2500/pr ( or countless others)?
( I am thinking about upgrading my Ascend CBM-170SEs to one of the Sierra bookshelfs - maybe waiting for the Sierra-2? - and am curious to know what I would be gaining. I am not a serious audiophile, and use my system to mostly play Bluray discs from Family Video and watch TV in a (current) 2.0 system, alternating between the 170SEs and Arx A1bs as my mood changes).
This is a great question. If I were to give a general statement to simplify things I would say that you would gain clarity, lightness/ease of sound, output, imaging, etc. Going from a $300 speaker to a $1,000 speaker tends to make it seem like the $300 piece is heavy and laboring. Like someone has a thick blanket over it. And then, as models get more expensive, that blanket comes off.
But that is really over generalizing because there are layers upon layers to it, for sure. There is no standard rule of thumb when comparing different brands and what constitutes "a difference". Within the same brand, however, you can see similarities within series of different speakers in some brands and then sometimes drastic changes between the lines in others. Personally, I try to stay away from lines like this for the most part because that trend is often dictated by a marketing department, rather than engineering. I always look for what I call linear lines. A manufacturer who, from top to bottom, uses the same materials or principles in engineering a product rather than design backwards, using a target price as a starting point.
When it comes to tone or voicing, you can take several speakers from the same line as say, Martin Logan's Motion series, and essentially get the same quality out of them tonally all the up and all the way down the line. So, I would say that quality will be determined by listening levels, content, and the size of your room.
Here is another example: ADAM-Audio's GTC series. They have 3 different models, but they are all essentially going to carry the same voicing qualities. A serious difference is DB output at the listening position in different sized rooms.
Atlantic Technology holds this general rule of thumb to be true between their speakers as well. Their speakers are designed to sound similar, with the main basis of choice supposed to be hinged upon room size.
Now, lets take a brand like Canton. Canton uses similar materials in a lot of their speakers between series. A big difference ends up being cabinet construction. This yields incremental steps up in sound quality, but larger steps up in furniture grade and appearance. That being said, if you want to compare a Chrono 503.2 to a Reference 9.2DC, that difference will be substantial all the way around. But, there are many steps in the line between those two to even get to that point. The curve of change is gradual with the price difference between some of the speakers to be around $300 a pair and on and on. All of their speakers are built incredibly well (I think it's impossible to find a BETTER manufactured speaker) and so I would, for the most part, consider Canton to be a pretty linear line.
KEF, Tannoy, Paradigm, Klipsch, B&W, Sonance, Episode, Jamo, Velodyne, and on and on all fall into what I would call staggered lines. Quality varies along the way from entry level to top-end.
These are definitely not consistent, linear lines. If I were to ask what characteristics make up a B&W speaker I think people would start naming off some great qualities almost always centered around the 800 series or Nautilus - which are hallmark products for the brand. The rub is that those qualities would not adhere to half or more of B&W's model makeup. Same way with all of the ones I mentioned above.
Martin Logan recently kind of walks a fine line. They have two distinctly different types of speaker: Motion & Electrostatic. But within those two types, what they are and how they are engineered is consistent.
Lines that I think are very linear are BG Radia, Phase Technology, JL Audio, Atlantic Technology, Canton, Snell (sad to say), Parasound (as much as an electronics mfg. can be), GoldenEar, and lots and lots of others.
So, yeah, it's tough to generalize what really changes between speakers at different price points. As soon as I would find one model as an example, I would think of several that disprove it. Too many variables and not enough linear manufacturing.