What makes a flat frequency response preferred? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 74 Old 11-06-2019, 12:59 PM - Thread Starter
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What makes a flat frequency response preferred?

I understand a little why speakers having a flat frequency response may be preferred. The speaker will more accurately represent what the sound engineer or artist intended. However, human ears are not flat-receptive, especially at lower volumes. For example, the average human ear hears less bass (even when the bass is present) in a flat signal at lower volumes. Does a equalized frequency response not then provide enjoyment, especially at lower volumes? This is what Sonos, Google Home Max, and Bose are basically doing: changing the EQ curve with each change in volume to appeal to the human ear. It's why my Sonos is wonderful (great midbass) at lower volume but boomy at higher vol (doesn't seem to get the EQ right at higher volumes) and why a professional review for my Sony AVR said to use the Reference curve and not the Full Flat EQ curve provided by the AVR because Full Flat sounds bright/harsh. Wouldn't one enjoy more if speakers were tuned to somehow change the response with volume? I guess that'll need to be active then and not passive, which is what Sonos is going for.

Note. For music, I actually prefer Pure Direct on my Sony AVR. The Reference curve is best for HT.
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post #2 of 74 Old 11-06-2019, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I understand a little why speakers having a flat frequency response may be preferred. The speaker will more accurately represent what the sound engineer or artist intended. However, human ears are not flat-receptive, especially at lower volumes. For example, the average human ear hears less bass (even when the bass is present) in a flat signal at lower volumes. Does a equalized frequency response not then provide enjoyment, especially at lower volumes? This is what Sonos, Google Home Max, and Bose are basically doing: changing the EQ curve with each change in volume to appeal to the human ear. It's why my Sonos is wonderful (great midbass) at lower volume but boomy at higher vol (doesn't seem to get the EQ right at higher volumes) and why a professional review for my Sony AVR said to use the Reference curve and not the Full Flat EQ curve provided by the AVR because Full Flat sounds bright/harsh. Wouldn't one enjoy more if speakers were tuned to somehow change the response with volume? I guess that'll need to be active then and not passive, which is what Sonos is going for.

Note. For music, I actually prefer Pure Direct on my Sony AVR. The Reference curve is best for HT.
No question that a speaker sounds better louder which is why when comparing speakers you need to level match them.

Of course we all have a tolerance with how loud but in general you are correct.

But EQ to compensate for that in my Denon (Dynamic Volume), at least for me, makes everything sound worse so perhaps it is not well executed in my older Denon AVR.

I have one pair of speakers in my main room that measure "well" in terms of relatively flat response and in the other a set that don't.

I like them both!
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post #3 of 74 Old 11-06-2019, 01:17 PM - Thread Starter
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No question that a speaker sounds better louder which is why when comparing speakers you need to level match them.

Of course we all have a tolerance with how loud but in general you are correct.

But EQ to compensate for that in my Denon (Dynamic Volume), at least for me, makes everything sound worse so perhaps it is not well executed in my older Denon AVR.

I have one pair of speakers in my main room that measure "well" in terms of relatively flat response and in the other a set that don't.

I like them both!
You could be right. My Sony AVR makes no difference with Dynamic Volume. But my Sonos One and the Bose in my wife's car both do it very well. As I increase volume, I can almost hear the midbass changing so that music is great at all volumes. The Google Max I auditioned also did it very well (changing EQ with room placement and volume) - they likely have better software engineers than Denon?

One reason for flat preference is clear. My s15 is boomy at a particular volume so it seems to have a bump at some narrow freq range.
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post #4 of 74 Old 11-06-2019, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
My s15 is boomy at a particular volume so it seems to have a bump at some narrow freq range.
Speaker placement also plays a part in that. Right now you have no subwoofer, so those S15s are playing every frequency they're capable of playing, and IIRC they're not that far away from the wall. I would imagine they would be less "boomy" at lower volumes when you have a subwoofer integrated into the mix with the S15s crossed over at 80-100Hz since those ports on the back won't really be active once you do that.

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Speaker placement also plays a part in that. Right now you have no subwoofer, so those S15s are playing every frequency they're capable of playing, and IIRC they're not that far away from the wall. I would imagine they would be less "boomy" at lower volumes when you have a subwoofer integrated into the mix with the S15s crossed over at 80-100Hz since those ports on the back won't really be active once you do that.
Nope, they're already less boomy at lower volumes. The Powerport already reduces the boominess. The bominess is at high vol even at 3 ft from backwall, showing it's a frequency response effect
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post #6 of 74 Old 11-07-2019, 07:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
I have one pair of speakers in my main room that measure "well" in terms of relatively flat response and in the other a set that don't.

I like them both!
The LX16s don't measure well???????
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post #7 of 74 Old 11-07-2019, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I understand a little why speakers having a flat frequency response may be preferred. The speaker will more accurately represent what the sound engineer or artist intended. However, human ears are not flat-receptive, especially at lower volumes. For example, the average human ear hears less bass (even when the bass is present) in a flat signal at lower volumes. Does a equalized frequency response not then provide enjoyment, especially at lower volumes? This is what Sonos, Google Home Max, and Bose are basically doing: changing the EQ curve with each change in volume to appeal to the human ear. It's why my Sonos is wonderful (great midbass) at lower volume but boomy at higher vol (doesn't seem to get the EQ right at higher volumes) and why a professional review for my Sony AVR said to use the Reference curve and not the Full Flat EQ curve provided by the AVR because Full Flat sounds bright/harsh. Wouldn't one enjoy more if speakers were tuned to somehow change the response with volume? I guess that'll need to be active then and not passive, which is what Sonos is going for.

Note. For music, I actually prefer Pure Direct on my Sony AVR. The Reference curve is best for HT.
Well from a strictly reproduction standpoint a flat response is best as it more accurately represents what the artist intended. That said not everyone likes a flat response, as you have indicated. Many like the "Harman Curve" or "Harman Target" which is a boost to the low end and a bit of a boost and then gradual roll off above 2500 khz. But in the end what matters is what sounds best to you. Me personally when given the option I tend to boost low end a bit on mid and a bit on the high end. Most curves boost the low end because it helps at low to medium volume levels, but it can be "boomy" at higher volumes, but it also depends on what is producing the low end. Boomy low end can also mean there is distortion on the low end, so some subs that can play with authority down low, for HT purposes, can play music at loud volumes and not sound "boomy", and of course the room your in has a massive impact on the sound, you could have nulls or room gain or reflections etc. and muddy and ruin the sound.
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Well from a strictly reproduction standpoint a flat response is best as it more accurately represents what the artist intended. That said not everyone likes a flat response, as you have indicated. Many like the "Harman Curve" or "Harman Target" which is a boost to the low end and a bit of a boost and then gradual roll off above 2500 khz. But in the end what matters is what sounds best to you. Me personally when given the option I tend to boost low end a bit on mid and a bit on the high end. Most curves boost the low end because it helps at low to medium volume levels, but it can be "boomy" at higher volumes, but it also depends on what is producing the low end. Boomy low end can also mean there is distortion on the low end, so some subs that can play with authority down low, for HT purposes, can play music at loud volumes and not sound "boomy", and of course the room your in has a massive impact on the sound, you could have nulls or room gain or reflections etc. and muddy and ruin the sound.
Yeah, after much tweaking by Ryan and myself, my 2.0 now sounds way better than my Sonos in terms of clarity and evenness of response. The Sonos does not give me the "Buddy Guy is in the room" feeling that my Polks give me now. But it took a while of tweaking. I guess that is Sonos's value proposition - we'll tweak for you using our algorithms that will do better than your untweaked HT system. But if you manually tweak your HT system, then it will do better than ours.
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Yeah, after much tweaking by Ryan and myself, my 2.0 now sounds way better than my Sonos in terms of clarity and evenness of response. The Sonos does not give me the "Buddy Guy is in the room" feeling that my Polks give me now. But it took a while of tweaking. I guess that is Sonos's value proposition - we'll tweak for you using our algorithms that will do better than your untweaked HT system. But if you manually tweak your HT system, then it will do better than ours.
More or less, Sonos is kind of like the new Bose, BUT, they actually do produce good sound quality. It's almost the Apple solution you just plug it in and it works type of thing. Once you get things dialed it it's a different story. I had a similar situation with my sub, I got a Rythimik LVX12 a couple year's ago, set it up normal and was kind of underwhelmed. We back moved a couple things around and set it up per most directions, i.e. boost the volume on the back until your AVR read's I think its -6db on the sub and then boost the trim 3db and it was night and day difference. Granted I have not done a sub crawl as I have pretty much zero placement options outside of where it is, but still huge difference.
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
The LX16s don't measure well???????
Motion 15, (identical to the LX16), is the red trace.

Interestingly when I measured them in my actual room using REW and my UMIK they measured very well with none of that dramatic lumpiness.

https://www.soundandvision.com/conte...-labs-measures

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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Motion 15, (identical to the LX16), is the red trace.

Interestingly when I measured them in my actual room using REW and my UMIK they measured very well with none of that dramatic lumpiness.

https://www.soundandvision.com/conte...-labs-measures

Just goes to show how much the room impacts the sound of a given speaker.
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More or less, Sonos is kind of like the new Bose, BUT, they actually do produce good sound quality. It's almost the Apple solution you just plug it in and it works type of thing. Once you get things dialed it it's a different story. I had a similar situation with my sub, I got a Rythimik LVX12 a couple year's ago, set it up normal and was kind of underwhelmed. We back moved a couple things around and set it up per most directions, i.e. boost the volume on the back until your AVR read's I think its -6db on the sub and then boost the trim 3db and it was night and day difference. Granted I have not done a sub crawl as I have pretty much zero placement options outside of where it is, but still huge difference.
Abs correct. I know I'll get killed for this, but the only 2 times in my life I heard Bose, it's the best music I've ever heard. But let me explain. The first was in the high-end Bose showroom in Palo Alto where they sell $20,000 a day. So I'm sure they put in much $$$ and professionals to design the listening room to be the very best acoustic and they only played their very expensive system for me.

The second is a high-end Bose option we paid $$$ for to install in my wife's car (tailored to make and model of car). As Ryan pointed out, Bose likely invested $$$ professionally to design the system for the particular car. It sounds perfect because of the custom EQ and software.

Oops forgot, the 3rd time in my life I listened to a Bose was in my sister's house. She has a Bose soundbar/sub combo. I thought the vocals were in another language (!), veiled, muffled and no midrange, some boomy thumps on the sub and no treble! Ran away from Bose for my 5.1 after that. So if you want a Bose, pay the $$$ to have a company team of sound engineers professionally remodel your listening room or car and design a whole system and environment just for you

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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Abs correct. I know I'll get killed for this, but the only 2 times in my life I heard Bose, it's the best music I've ever heard. But let me explain. The first was in the high-end Bose showroom in Palo Alto where they sell $20,000 a day. So I'm sure they put in much $$$ and professionals to design the listening room to be the very best acoustic and they only played their very expensive system for me.

The second is a high-end Bose option we paid $$$ for to install in my wife's car (tailored to make and model of car). As Ryan pointed out, Bose likely invested $$$ professionally to design the system for the particular car. It sounds perfect because of the custom EQ and software.

Oops forgot, the 3rd time in my life I listened to a Bose was in my sister's house. She has a Bose soundbar/sub combo. I thought the vocals were in another language (!), veiled, muffled and no midrange, some boomy thumps on the sub and no treble! Ran away from Bose for my 5.1 after that. So if you want a Bose, pay the $$$ to have a company team of sound engineers professionally remodel your listening room or car and design a whole system and environment just for you
Bose isn't bad across the board, they are just over priced for what you get. I have a portable Bose bluetooth speaker that I love. It produces a surprising amount of bass from a 1" speaker. They use a lot of DSP wizardry to get the sound they do, and they produce a respectable amount of sound out of very small speakers. But at the same time, for the same money you can buy a better set of speakers, but again Bose is a plug and play solution more or less. Their car systems aren't bad either, they tune them to the specific location of each speaker in the car, I assume many of the other OEM car speaker companies do the same, but Bose has been in that game for a long time. They earned a good reputation back in the 70's but as time progressed they kind of blew it with the high prices they want for their systems, especially in the home. Their Lifestyle 650 home theater system of $4,000, for that kind of money you can get a good sub a set of really good speakers AND an AVR that will walk all over the Bose, but most people who buy them don't want to shop for speakers and set them up do the calibration and tweaking etc. My mom still swears Bose is the best money can buy. But my JBL Studio 590's Emotiva C2, Rythmik LVX12 and cheap as hell Dayton Audio bookshelf speakers will destroy her Bose system for less money. I think all in im $2300 into it including the AVR.
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With that budget and music being a big part of the equation maybe look at this AVR if you are maxing out at 5.2.
https://www.crutchfield.com/p_973MRX...m-MRX-520.html
A review of its less expensive brother.
https://www.whathifi.com/us/anthem/mrx-510/review
Some Anthem history.
https://www.anthemav.com/support/about-anthem.php
Facinating, @gajCA . So Anthem's are known for musicality. Will check it out. What makes you recommend Marantz over Denon since they're both made by Polk?
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
For electronics purchases, check out audiosciencereview.com. They have objective measurements of this AVR there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...-520-avr.8961/
Unfortunately, all AVR's they've tested so far perform pretty badly. I think Anthem was one of the better performers, but IIRC there are some others that perform just as well for lower cost, which you may want to consider. Here's an index of their product measurements:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...4/#post-202519
Personally, I don't notice much of a difference from amplifier changes except what's always turned out to be the placebo effect (for anything over $500 or so). Even the best speakers introduce orders of magnitude more distortion than some of the cheapest and worst amplifiers out there, so make sure you focus the vast majority of your budget on your speakers first.
Then, do your research on electronics (preferably via audiosciencereview.com, which is the most extensive source of objective measurements and reviews on audio electronics) to choose the best performing product you can for what remains.
Thanks, and saving this info here for future use. Will read the Sony AVR reviews too since I find it harsh for music and reviewers have said so too.
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Facinating, @gajCA . So Anthem's are known for musicality. Will check it out. What makes you recommend Marantz over Denon since they're both made by Polk?
The Denon/Marantz brands are not related to Polk as far as I know.

Marantz is sometimes thought to have "better" sound than Denon, often "no difference" but never "worse."

As I said my Denon sounded as good as my NAD.

My next AVR will likely be Marantz.
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Funny review.
Ah well, maybe a 2018 Marantz AVR then.
https://www.crutchfield.com/p_642SR6...018-model.html
I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Polk (Sound United) owns Denon and Marantz. Would you advise Anthem over Marantz? I worry because Anthem has its own room correction/EQ while Denon licenses the industry standard Odyssey. I always prefer industry standard ones, especially because the Sony's homebrew EQ is not good.
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I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Polk (Sound United) owns Denon and Marantz. Would you advise Anthem over Marantz? I worry because Anthem has its own room correction/EQ while Denon licenses the industry standard Odyssey. I always prefer industry standard ones, especially because the Sony's homebrew EQ is not good.
In the other thread a member posted a review of that receiver mentioning it had the same type of imbalance in the left/right channels he had measured in prior Anthems so that alone would lead me towards Marantz to be honest.

I guess you are right that Polk and Denon are now under the same umbrella company as of 2017.

"Sound United, the parent company of a bunch of audio brands including Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, announced today that it's bought the D+M Group — parent company to another bunch of audio brands, including Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics."

They have since shut down Boston Acoustics.
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Originally Posted by echopraxia View Post
For electronics purchases, check out audiosciencereview.com. They have objective measurements of this AVR there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...-520-avr.8961/
Unfortunately, all AVR's they've tested so far perform pretty badly. I think Anthem was one of the better performers, but IIRC there are some others that perform just as well for lower cost, which you may want to consider. Here's an index of their product measurements:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...4/#post-202519
Personally, I don't notice much of a difference from amplifier changes except what's always turned out to be the placebo effect (for anything over $500 or so). Even the best speakers introduce orders of magnitude more distortion than some of the cheapest and worst amplifiers out there, so make sure you focus the vast majority of your budget on your speakers first.
Then, do your research on electronics (preferably via audiosciencereview.com, which is the most extensive source of objective measurements and reviews on audio electronics) to choose the best performing product you can for what remains.
Saving this for my AVR purchase.
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ASR hasn't measured any Marantz amplifiers that I know of, but they did review their top-of-the-line AV processor: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...rocessor.6926/
It also did mediocre. Like I say, for some reason it looks like most (all currently tested at ASR) AVRs perform relatively badly compared to the better dedicated desktop DACs and power amplifiers.
Ironically, some older model Denon and Yamaha products actually measured significantly better than the modern stuff. Sad, but it seems most AVR's quality control and possibly even design quality has slipped over the years. They probably realized that most humans don't really notice the difference anyway. I know I can't, though I haven't tried anything elaborate like a blind test with AVRs/amplifiers.
So, I wouldn't worry about it too much if I were you. Mostly just make sure you have enough power/channels/features, and try to find the best as reviewed by AudioScienceReview. Prior to finding AudioScienceReview, I bought a Marantz SR7012 I got on sale for $950 on Amazon (presumably to clear inventory since this was when the SR7013 was just released), and I have zero problems with it.
Oh no Marantz reviews? Then I'll just get the best Marantz I can under $1500 by reading whathifi and s&v. I'll ask ask Crutchfield what a DAC is and whether it can do 5.1 HT and 2.0 music.
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post #21 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 01:52 PM
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The Denon/Marantz brands are not related to Polk as far as I know.

Marantz is sometimes thought to have "better" sound than Denon, often "no difference" but never "worse."

As I said my Denon sounded as good as my NAD.

My next AVR will likely be Marantz.
I like my NAD, but since it needs to get serviced, I've been eyeing the Marantz MM7025/7055 but wondering if it will give me more warmth without sacrificing dynamics and performance.

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I like my NAD, but since it needs to get serviced, I've been eyeing the Marantz MM7025/7055 but wondering if it will give me more warmth without sacrificing dynamics and performance.
I have to believe a service on your very nice NAD would cost far less than replacing it.

2 x 125 Watts continuous power into 8ohms
2 x 200 Watts into 4ohms
• Dynamic Power 170, 280, 400 Watts into 8, 4 and 2 ohms
respectively
• Low loss, massive Holmgren™ toroidal mains transformer
• Dual mono, Left and Right mirror image amplifier PCBs
• Protection circuitry senses short circuits, DC and overheating
• Bridgeable; 400 W into 8 ; 800W dynamic power into 4

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post #23 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 02:34 PM
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I have to believe a service on your very nice NAD would cost far less than replacing it.

2 x 125 Watts continuous power into 8ohms
2 x 200 Watts into 4ohms
• Dynamic Power 170, 280, 400 Watts into 8, 4 and 2 ohms
respectively
• Low loss, massive Holmgren™ toroidal mains transformer
• Dual mono, Left and Right mirror image amplifier PCBs
• Protection circuitry senses short circuits, DC and overheating
• Bridgeable; 400 W into 8 ; 800W dynamic power into 4
It would be considerably cheaper and I didn't pay very much for it. It's a pretty good amp and have no complaints, but sometimes wonder what else is out there.
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post #24 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 02:52 PM
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It would be considerably cheaper and I didn't pay very much for it. It's a pretty good amp and have no complaints, but sometimes wonder what else is out there.
While I've had poor luck with the one NAD AVR I bought I haven't had any such issues in the 30 years I've owned my NAD amp.

I doubt you could do better to be honest.
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post #25 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
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While I've had poor luck with the one NAD AVR I bought I haven't had any such issues in the 30 years I've owned my NAD amp.

I doubt you could do better to be honest.
Never heard of the NAD company but will research. They make AVRs?

I am also looking at PSB Imagine B because it can be biwired/bi-amped. Since I'll have 2 unused channels on the AVR. I know opinions are mixed, but if it makes even a little difference I'd like to be able to biwire/biamp the speakers. Sierra 2EX cannot be biwired/biamped.
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post #26 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:21 PM
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...a high-end Bose option we paid $$$ for to install in my wife's car (tailored to make and model of car).
Respected audio consultant Dave Clark and his partner (who do a ton of work in Detroit) said the highest scoring system they heard in a car was a Bose setup in a Cadillac. I personally once really enjoyed an Acura RL driving to/from Vegas; very clear open sound. An an MBA classmate was thrilled with his Bose home setup, which did indeed pump bass on special effects and sounded clear for voice.

On the other hand, not every Bose system is great, and not every "Bose" system is designed by Bose just as a "Harman" or "JBL" system is not totally designed by them. Those system are designed in tandem with the manufacturer, under different restrictions for each project. Back in the day, "Ford/JBL" was a set of specifications developed together, but Ford reserved the right to buy items of that specification from ANY vendor, not just JBL.
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post #27 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:24 PM
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Wouldn't one enjoy more if speakers were tuned to somehow change the response with volume? I guess that'll need to be active then and not passive, which is what Sonos is going for.
Exactly. For the speaker itself, not knowing amplification/gain, it would mean designing blindly not even knowing the listening level. And while it is extremely difficult to make speakers measure truly flat, it would be more physically difficult to make them with a big EQ shape. It's possible, but would be expensive and only sound "right" at ONE volume level. One of the best things for this issue was Yamaha's variable loudness-not sure if they still do that.
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post #28 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:33 PM
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Never heard of the NAD company but will research. They make AVRs?

I am also looking at PSB Imagine B because it can be biwired/bi-amped. Since I'll have 2 unused channels on the AVR. I know opinions are mixed, but if it makes even a little difference I'd like to be able to biwire/biamp the speakers. Sierra 2EX cannot be biwired/biamped.
NAD started in 1972 and garnered a strong reputation starting in Europe for excellent price/value stereo amps and receivers.

Today they are based in Canada and have to some degree lost their price/value mantel, especially on AVRs.

If Dave at Ascend thinks bi wiring is nonsense I am not one to disagree!
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post #29 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Never heard of the NAD company but will research. They make AVRs?

I am also looking at PSB Imagine B because it can be biwired/bi-amped. Since I'll have 2 unused channels on the AVR. I know opinions are mixed, but if it makes even a little difference I'd like to be able to biwire/biamp the speakers. Sierra 2EX cannot be biwired/biamped.
I did find the NAD T 758 V3 AVR on Crutchfield that is in my $1500 budget but the Marantz SR6013 is $899
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post #30 of 74 Old 11-08-2019, 03:42 PM
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I did find the NAD T 758 V3 AVR on Crutchfield that is in my $1500 budget but the Marantz SR6013 is $899
I've owned NAD, my next AVR will be a Marantz without question.
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