This was back in the '90's (I'm old!--get off my lawn!)
Wife and kids went to go visit grandma for the weekend, I had a new abode to play in and the living room was huge, fully carpeted and plenty of space to make a mess. I had just purchased some very expensive, 157 pound each 3-way PA speakers with 103dB 1w/1m efficiency rating and just completed getting all the equipment to actively bi-amp them properly. Upon testing in bars/nightclubs and outside venues--they sounded really good for PA speakers! I just HAD to know--what will they do in my living room?
Pulled out my appliance dolly to move them around--positioned around 2 feet from the boundries so the bezel was about 4 feet from the back wall (they are BIG) and crossed my fingers the limited vertical dispersion of the mids/tweets via waveguides won't overload the carpeting. Did the "mirror" trick to find the first reflection points, moved the sofa on one side and love seat to the other to absorb. Ambled into the kids room with bungie cords, wrapped the sheets/blankets to the matress and hauled both of them into the living room. Placed them on the walls on top of the sofa/love seat as absorbers at the first reflection points. Grabbed the matresses and blanket from my bedroom and leaned them on the back wall. Took my sampling club mixer, wired it into the "rack", set the XO point for 400 Hz 4th order, high pass at 40Hz and pulled the gains down on the amplifiers. Bumped up the signal strength on the crossover and ran it a bit to do some sweeps. Some minor touch ups with the EQ and the meter gave results to my liking--let's see what it will do. Glancing around the living room with matresses, furniture, blankets everywhere, XLR cables and PA speaker cables strewn around--WAF level = divorce court.
Threw in my PA test CDs, Mariah Carey MTV Unplugged--mids and highs sounded very clean. Enter Sandman next, no distortion no matter how spirited the level--nice! Changed the toe in to more angular (time-intesity trading) and everything sounded "big". Set the limiters for 200 watts for mid/highs and 750 watts for the bass for proper protection and the pro amps will never hit their limiters. Fire in the hole! Here comes the Telarc sampler discs--the most extreme dynamic range stuff I owned--see if I could make the monsters earn their keep. My listening distance was around 3.5 meters or 15 feet and it sounded very, very good--I was surprised. There was little distortion at low, medium and war volume--speakers did not power compress, no pushing the limits of Xmax, no vent noises just as you pushed the system louder, it went louder with no change in sound quality. It was not the "best" sound I've heard, it sure was the best sound quality I've heard at high SPLs or the huge peaks from Telarc classical discs. The system had dynamics nailed and I played around with it all day playing all sorts of things through the system. Invited a buddy over, he brought his "reference disc" which was Too Short--So you want to be a gangster. Chest slam, no problem... those P Audio woofers absorbed all the power allowed by the limiter without blinking. We then removed the pictures, knick knack garbage from the walls and fixed some room related shaking issues--pushed it to rock concert levels. The limiter lights started to
tap on the woofer side of things but the room was at it's limits, our ears were past theirs but the system kept going with no apparant complaints.
Realistically, that system set up would not fly even if I was single. My buddy was single and he thought a bomb hit my living room--it looked like hell in there. We pulled the matresses and blankets off the walls, moved the furniture back to it's stock location and tried to fix room related issues with EQ--no dice! The sound quality went from very good to quite good but it was obvious the room was starting to come into play again. We drank a few too many beers, my buddy stayed the night and he helped me pull the PA system out of the living room and get it all put away before the one that must be obeyed showed back up. When she arrived, we were listening to tunes with the traditional bookshelves and small subs--no harm, no foul.
Threw the last kid out of the house two decades later, my small bookshelves and subs did the duty very well for sound quality, ease of placement and the kids did not destroy them. Now I can have unlimited tunes and pondered the beastly PA system from back in the day. After doing PA for 8 years back in the day, I knew I wanted those same dynamics, low distortion and limited vertical dispersion but I wanted the cleaner sound of speakers designed for strictly sound quality. Time to dust off that speaker design book again, read up on the latest designs in oblate spheroid horns, line arrays and subwoofer management systems.
Am I like the ending of Casino? The Gangster PA system of monster speakers at 103dB 1w/1m with a few KW of amp power now relegated to "suburban schmuck" of AVRs and consumer bookshelves? No, I use smaller speakers at 36 pounds, not 157 pounds but they use cleaner/better higher quality compression drivers with much improved horn flares. I "gave up" 5dB of efficiency but 98dB or 99dB of efficiency in a living room should do it! Now that I'm older and wiser, the limiters are to protect me--not the speakers so I don't need more than 50 watts max anyway. The schmuck AVR even laughs at me. I stealthed the inner gangster, three subs that look like furniture and a full testosterone 1 KW pro amp to provide juice to two of those subs--the third with a plate amp. All the evil pro sound bits are covered by pretty speaker grills or hidden away from view. It might look like Walter White in the living room but once it fires up even people that don't care about audio (99.9% of the population) they know they are being scammed--it goes from WW to Heisenburg in dynamics.
I guess I'll never be an "audiophile". While the media slobbers over the same giant Class A/B amps with aluminum heatsinks--I look at the stadium amps with copper heatsinks and smart fan cooling. Sure, copper heatsinks and smart fan controls cost considerably more than a aluminum heatsink--figure the consumers might get a trickle down of the good stuff eventually. My eureka moment was with those best PA speakers decades ago, it's called dynamics and low distortion--you can have decent sound with dynamics. That was what I chased after that, if I can't get at least 115dB at one meter out of a speaker at low distortion with it operating well within it's linear range--I pass on that. My limiters are set at 106dB at my MLP for mids/highs and 116dB for the subs in my HT system--very low distortion as the speakers and AVR just loafs along--the subs are not exactly loafing but thanks to muliples and room loading and limiters--they do very well. I am content.
The massive dynaimics, SPL and larger than life sound of my youth experiment? It's in the garage! It has the capability to go +10dB higher than the HT system because garage systems are supposed to be big, very ugly with a rack of pro, studio and club equipment to feed the beast. No worries about going OCD about sound quality either--the limit IS the room--riding mowers, tool boxes, cement floors and christmas decorations instantly destroy any ability for sonic greatness. Those big line arrays in the garage will need the crossover capacitors replaced in 2042, I am content with the speakers so somebody remind me!
Technologically speaking, I'd say that the new wavegude designs of this century allow the very high efficiency, high output of such things but allow much cleaner, lower distortion over the 90's era stuff I owned. Now that AMTs are improving enough to handle 100 watts at 1,200 Hz while exceeding 100dB 1w/1m--and they use waveguides, it will be interesting to see how the upstart AMTs compare against the incredible compression drivers. Eventually the graphene nut will be cracked so the AMT VS compression driver battle has just started. We live in interesting and dynamic times.