Originally Posted by Jon AA
Oh, I'm well aware of what cheap PA speakers have historically sounded like. But since the HTM's don't sound anything remotely like that, I was wondering what you were talking about.
I know what he is talking about--the people that judge a speaker by looking at it. Back in the 90's, I did run a PA but at a night club and was hired specifically to have great sound quality. The running joke with the manager was I'd be fired if a band sounded better than my system.
I ended up with actively bi-amped 3-way mains sitting on active subwoofers and three amps running (and a spare amp just in case) The processor rack had your traditional 1/3rd octave EQs, compressor limiter gates and other processing typical of the 90's era. All microphones were gated and compressed and I used SM-58's to avoid feedback and they could be used as hammers in a pinch. To make the speaker less "PA ish" I removed the steel grills and applied grey acoustic cloth over the metal to avoid looking at a bunch of speaker drivers. The brand/model number was removed so it offered a more plain, less garish loook. If the person wanted to know the brand, they can look at the back which lead to the questions of why I was running two speaker cables into each speaker and so on. To do proper setup/testing, I used the standard for that time a test CD with sweeps, pink noise along with a calibrated SPL meter and a portable RTA to check things. There was a compressor limiter above the club mixer that would start compressing at 0dB at 3 to 1 compression then limit at +6dB to keep the signal maxing out no matter what happens at +2dB. That specific sound leve was chosen by the manager to keep a very even max SPL level from week to week.
Had some friends thhat tied the knot and was goat ropped into be a "wedding DJ". I used the very large/complex and heavy PA...a bit overkill but can't let your buddies down. This is when you get exposed to creatures you won't at the club (you can't see the equipment at the club) I call that creature "that guy"--you know the one. They tend to come in early and look at the PA all setup and go through your system looking for something to complain about. Generally speaking, they start with the speakers (what brand, how much do they cost etc.) I tell them to look at the back to get the brand...they might as well be reading Latin since the brand is not one at the local audio shop. They then ask what it is, how big are the woofers, what kind of tweeters etc...I tell them "You tell me". Basically along the lines of "No, I won't unscrew the grills so you can look at the parts, no--I won't tell you what they are and NO...I won't tell you what they cost."
They then look at the amp rack and complain that all the amps are not the same brand, that messes up the "synergy" or something and in the processor rack who is "Rane".... some kind of generic brand? Some of them throw in that all EQs are bad, any type of processor is bad and so on. Then, of course they proclaim all PA speakers sound like crap because "You can't get smooth response out of a truck"...or whatever way they want to put it. Once I start playing some music they will "help" by telling me it sounds to bright/dark/shrill/bass not tight enough and I give them the poker face "I don't have bright/dark/shrill or bass tightening controls on my EQ...I need to know the specific numbers to adjust it". Normally, I fake making some adjustments to get them away from me and smile and nod.
So yeah, I understand the concept of people hearing basic PA speakers ran hard into clipping by a band that is learning about how to play their instruments so the actual PA is not setup properly. For some reason, for some people whatever they are exposed to first in life is a "rule" and I was not put on this earth to educate them. Those type people think I put acoustic cloth over the metal grills to "hide" el cheapo parts or something. It never occures to them fhat, for the most part people think hiding drivers tends to look better and the cloth protects the drivers from flying drinks, people sneezing (puking) and so on. To this day, even with consumer home speakers I change the grill cloth to look better with the color chosen by my wife. No brand names, no clue what is inside as you have the physically remove the grill and look behind the speaker on the back. 99% of people I've run in over the years generally don't care about the brand, how much it costs or what the drivers are--they care if it sounds good--and it does! Every year or two I run into "that guy" that needs to pick apart the system for some reason. My speakers are either too large, too small, too many subwoofers, not enough subwoofers and why do I use PA amplifiers with DSP to drive subwoofers? Brand X is sooooo much better, you need audio grade speaker cables (???) and so on.
I used to entertain myself by making up things--mystical capacitors inside the speaker, frozen cables, thousand hours of "break in" and that sort of thing
I guess I'm getting old and cranky, I just tell the person very basic information that the system was designed to do a specific thing and it will change when my needs change.
To explain why PA speakers do what they do, first you have to have a decent understanding of how speakers work, how waveguides and horns work, why crossover frequencies are selected for different desgns, different dispersion charachteristics, frequency ranges, durability, size/weight constrains and so on. Just because a $5,000 PA speaker looks like a $200 PA speaker does not mean they sound alike. As always, it is critical to setup the system properly and when building a PA system--you have limited time to do so. Granted, after you do dozens of setups in all sorts of venues--including outside, you tend to figure it out and learn how to get the best possible sound quality in acoustically poor rooms.
In summation, it is not always the speakers fault--setup can be very complex in a short period of time. Take your home speakers and put them in a large, square room with tile floors and attempt to get any form of decent sound out of them. The lowest cost PA speakers have to be of a certain size, weight, cost and above all be durable so they don't blow up. If you want sound quality, that costs extra and it requires a lot of support equipment that is assumed you own, know how to use, make proper measurements and so on. The pro sound companies assume you know what you are doing when dropping over a grand for each speaker--if you don't, that is not their problem! Just don't be "that guy" that groups an entire industry and speaker designs into one clump as being "bad" because it "looks like" a system done incorrectly with equipment that was "Not enough rig for the gig". I don't complain about all tower speakers because of the poor performance of rack systems back in the day. There is a huge difference between a JBL JRX 115 and a JBL M2 although "they look about the same".
Technology does move on, waveguides and horns are not just for wedding DJ's anymore! Don't be "that guy".