Originally Posted by crg28
Bear, it is always a trade off...
This was from Dave at Ascend: "The trade-off to achieve high efficiency is huge, very short voice coils, very low excursion, basically little to no bass below 100Hz, use of very different tweeter technology that has shortcomings with regards to linearity and extension... In my professional opinion, you sacrifice sound quality for the ability to play at volume levels that are damaging to your ears. Now, that is not to say they won't sound great for home theater, but when listening to music - differences become obvious."
So not always black and white and "ALWAYS" better.....
First off, let me say that I have great respect for Dave at Ascend, his company, and his products. I will also say that I try to keep an open mind as there is always new knowledge to be gained. However, I will offer some counter arguments to the above statements.
I would say that a speaker that is designed from the ground up to play as optimally as possible 80 Hz and above, crossed over to good quality, properly placed subwoofers, is superior and less compromising for sound quality than the alternative: attempting to play full range down to 40 Hz with bookshelf speakers with small woofers. Trying to get a 5 or 6" woofer to produce a lot of output down to 40 Hz will, by nature, end up compromising capability above 100 Hz up to crossover when compared to a woofer that foregoes the attempt to produce low frequencies that subwoofers will do much better.
So the higher sensitivity speaker, which is not handicapping itself by trying to play lower than it should, will not only have higher SPL capability, but better sound quality and lower distortion, which in turn yields better sound quality. Crossed to good quality subs that are properly placed for good low frequency response will result in much better overall sound quality than little speakers placed symmetrically for imaging.
As far as sacrificing linearity, a well designed high efficiency speaker, although giving up unnecessary extension, can be just as linear if not more so than plenty of popular retail and ID low efficiency designs.
I think a big part of what drives this is the mythical perception that subwoofers are a bad word, the best and purist sound quality for music comes only from 2 channel playback without subs, when in fact much better sound quality is achieved with subs rather than itty bitty speakers. It's why big bass drums in real life aren't 5" in diameter. Although a rather generic generalization, when it comes to low frequencies, bigger is better. So let the itty bitty living room friendly bookshelf speakers do what they do best...play above 80 Hz, and let the superior tool for the job do the rest...subs.