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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I own a set of Kef iQ9s and I love them to death but when I look at the frequency response curve it makes me doubt what I'm hearing. Wouldn't the best speakers have perfectly even frequency response curves?

I chose the iQ9s because they sound equivalent in accuracy and character to my Shure E4Cs e.g. Tight aggressive bass, vivid and focused mids and crisp highs. My Shures have practically a straight line for a frequency response curve which I always thought was ideal for perfectly balanced tone. My Kefs on the other hand look like mess.

Is there something I'm not understanding about how tone reproduction works?
 

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I'm no expert on this but I'll throw a couple of things
Out there.

1) studies have shown that most people prefer a neutral
(Flat) freq response. But...everyone hears things differently.
This is where personal preference comes into play. If you like
An exaggerated mid-bass and your speaker has this then you
Would prefer it. Also if a speaker has exaggerated high freq response
And you are starting to have problems hearing high notes (age?)
This may be something you also prefer.

2) your room's acoustic properties and how they interact with what you
Hear AND your speakers freq response in the room could also
Influence what you hear and like. A highly reflective room could accentuate
High freq's even more, which may undesirable..or not.

Bottom line is if you are happy then good
 

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Two things. Is the graph youre looking at a room response. And the Kef is a coax speaker which often have cancellation dips in the response from how the tweeter interacts with the woofer cone. This isn't good, but its a trade off for other benefits like perfect polar response, which may be what makes them sound so good to you.

Impulse Audio Canada
 

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Ditto to all of the above. To quote Floyd Toole: "No matter what measurements tell us, a speaker isn't good until it sounds good." Many of us would probably define "good" at least slightly differently.
 

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Sony VPL-VW295ES, Denon AVR X8500H, GoldenEar SuperSub XXL, GoldenEar Triton 7 speakers, PS5 Pro
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I own a set of Kef iQ9s and I love them to death but when I look at the frequency response curve it makes me doubt what I'm hearing. Wouldn't the best speakers have perfectly even frequency response curves?

I chose the iQ9s because they sound equivalent in accuracy and character to my Shure E4Cs e.g. Tight aggressive bass, vivid and focused mids and crisp highs. My Shures have practically a straight line for a frequency response curve which I always thought was ideal for perfectly balanced tone. My Kefs on the other hand look like mess.

Is there something I'm not understanding about how tone reproduction works?
Unless you have an anechoic chamber, you are no going to be measuring a flat native response from any speaker.
 

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Sony VPL-VW295ES, Denon AVR X8500H, GoldenEar SuperSub XXL, GoldenEar Triton 7 speakers, PS5 Pro
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I suggest you just ignore measurements, and as suggested, just enjoy your speakers. In general, the discussion of measurements is a toxic topic on these forums. :)
Ditto to all of the above. To quote Floyd Toole: "No matter what measurements tell us, a speaker isn't good until it sounds good." Many of us would probably define "good" at least slightly differently.
Cheers to that! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I'm no expert on this but I'll throw a couple of things
Out there.

1) studies have shown that most people prefer a neutral
(Flat) freq response. But...everyone hears things differently.
This is where personal preference comes into play. If you like
An exaggerated mid-bass and your speaker has this then you
Would prefer it. Also if a speaker has exaggerated high freq response
And you are starting to have problems hearing high notes (age?)
This may be something you also prefer.

2) your room's acoustic properties and how they interact with what you
Hear AND your speakers freq response in the room could also
Influence what you hear and like. A highly reflective room could accentuate
High freq's even more, which may undesirable..or not.

Bottom line is if you are happy then good
Those are some great points. As far as my hearing is concerned it's normal for a 28 year old, I just don't like the tendency of consumer audio equipment to exaggerate highs and lows and prefer a evenly balanced studio monitor type sound as I guess your studies would support. It's odd though because in my experience most people prefer a more "dynamic sound" which is produced by exaggerating bass and treble e.g. The iPhone.

So maybe are you suggesting speakers are designed to compensate for room acoustics by being not completely flat?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Two things. Is the graph youre looking at a room response. And the Kef is a coax speaker which often have cancellation dips in the response from how the tweeter interacts with the woofer cone. This isn't good, but its a trade off for other benefits like perfect polar response, which may be what makes them sound so good to you.

Impulse Audio Canada
Sorry for being out of touch but what's polar response? Is that related to sound stage?
 

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I suggest you just ignore measurements, and as suggested, just enjoy your speakers. In general, the discussion of measurements is a toxic topic on these forums. :)
+1

OP I'd be curious to see the response if you can post it.

IMO flat response doesn't sound good or even the "standard" roll off into the top end, but it is all personal preference and like others have said if it sounds good then don't worry about it. We should enjoy music not strive for objective standards, a disease which has over run this forum in recent years.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
+1

OP I'd be curious to see the response if you can post it.

IMO flat response doesn't sound good or even the "standard" roll off into the top end, but it is all personal preference and like others have said if it sounds good then don't worry about it. We should enjoy music not strive for objective standards, a disease which has over run this forum in recent years.
I don't know how to embed pictures so here's a link to the article I found where you can find measurements of Kef iQ9s. They sound really even, smooth and accurate to me but the chart says otherwise. Point taken though, all external factors considered all that matters ultimately is how good they sound regardless of how they do it.

http://www.soundandvision.com/content/test-bench-kef-q-series-home-theater-speaker-system#smviJ07xpfOhr8Yu.97
 

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We all have hearing damage that is unique--or why certain things sound better to different people

We all "don't hear different"--we all hear the exact same way. The brain does not have a unique way to hear in different people, normally that is considered a good thing. The differences are our amount of hearing damage we have, what frequencies and to what extent. Then throw in personal preferences and how the popular music was done during your teens and 20's. Blend well with the chaos your room causes and things get messy.

I built a pair of 3-way vertical line arrays in my garage and they sit on rather stout subwoofers. When people come over to visit, they notice the 8 foot stack and tend to want to hear them. What I do is then EQ the mids/highs until it sounds good to them and then adjust the subwoofer levels to their personal taste. Do that for a few years and patterns happen that I find interesting.

The first and rather obvious is to increase the treble if they are older--time is not kind to our ears. The folks that grew up on records tend to prefer a little less bass while the CD people prefer flat or a slight boost. The young crew loves a much larger boost to the bass levels as rap/EDM is what they know. If you think of the gradual increase in bass levels and the drop in bass frequencies for music over the past 50 years--it makes sense. Other people have hearing damage in the midrange but not too much in the highs...and so on.

What they ALL agree on is EQ makes it better! Some people have issues with the heretic EQ but I explain that arrays require it on the treble and with 48 of them per side, no worries about damaging them. For the audiophile types, the just overall weirdness of line arrays forces them to put the audio dogma away and enjoy something different for awhile.

Since you found a speaker you like, get the PEQ settings to make it flat in your room. The last step is to then adjust things so it sounds best to you. Don't get caught in the trap to think if you have a perfectly flat line it is perfection and you have to like it. Go back and apply EQ as a seasoning like you would with food--and enjoy.
 

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Sorry for being out of touch but what's polar response? Is that related to sound stage?
No problem. Its the off axis uniformity. So, how evenly the response transitions off axis. Coax is pretty much the best thing going in this department, and its fairly important.

Impulse Audio Canada
 

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I own a set of Kef iQ9s and I love them to death but when I look at the frequency response curve it makes me doubt what I'm hearing. Wouldn't the best speakers have perfectly even frequency response curves?

I chose the iQ9s because they sound equivalent in accuracy and character to my Shure E4Cs e.g. Tight aggressive bass, vivid and focused mids and crisp highs. My Shures have practically a straight line for a frequency response curve which I always thought was ideal for perfectly balanced tone. My Kefs on the other hand look like mess.

Is there something I'm not understanding about how tone reproduction works?

Pople do not like to admit it but they like coloation to their music. If they truly want nearest to the same reproduction of the original recording, they would buy the Yamaha HS8 active studio monitors. I own them and they sound great. The cleanest representation of all my music. Coloration adds depth, soundstage, etc that's why people like certain speakers that have frequency response that is way off.

An example is the TEAC LS H265B, people like this speaker but it is not even close to being flat.
 

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I can really relate to Neomancer's comments. Even though we may fall in love with a speaker, something keeps driving us to continue to seek affirmation of our choice. Is it shopper's hangover? When we are searching out speakers to audition we rely heavily on specs and reviews. Is it insecurity in our own hearing? For me it is also a nagging question of is this as good as it gets, or close anyway? I never know what I was missing until I hear it for the first time. What stone have I left upturned? Especially since I have no friends who are infected by this hobby. I'm learning in a bit of a vacuum.

Surely these uncertainties play in to the phenomenon of upradeitis that keeps the AV industry so well-heeled. Repeatedly I have to remind myself that I am pretty happy with my stuff and I really enjoy listening to it. The best way for me to spend my money is on more music, and that ain't cheap these days if you are into vinyl or SACDs!

Still, it is a lot of fun to shop!!!
 

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I own a set of Kef iQ9s and I love them to death but when I look at the frequency response curve it makes me doubt what I'm hearing. Wouldn't the best speakers have perfectly even frequency response curves?

I chose the iQ9s because they sound equivalent in accuracy and character to my Shure E4Cs e.g. Tight aggressive bass, vivid and focused mids and crisp highs. My Shures have practically a straight line for a frequency response curve which I always thought was ideal for perfectly balanced tone. My Kefs on the other hand look like mess.

Is there something I'm not understanding about how tone reproduction works?
I do agree that experience is the most important factor but wrt measurements I'm beginning to wonder if frequency response is not really that important. That THD (including that from your amp) and group delay are far more important. Just my 0.02.
 

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Since the discussion is pretty general at this point, there is an idea that I would like to explore a little further. Is our hearing really the same except for degrees of damage? I don't think that's plausible, any more than the actuality of our vision all being the same. We are all born with slight differences in our vision. 20/20 is just an average, not an absolute. Some people are born with varying degrees of astigmatism, sometimes affecting only one eye, and some people are born with much better than 20/20 vision. I think that some people have been tested down to 20/8. That is, they see at 20' what the average (20/20) person can see at 8'. And our color vision also varies widely. Nearly all of us who can pass a standard color blindness test will still see better into some parts of the color spectrum than others. As we age, our eyes typically lose some ability to focus, and we may become more susceptible to glare, but even those things vary from individual to individual. And as with our hearing, we can do things to injure our eyes and hasten our vision loss.

Why would our vision be so innately different (although always falling within generally definable ranges) and our hearing be so innately similar? I doubt that it is. I think that the shape of the ear canal and the configuration of the tympanic membrane affect our innate capabilities. I don't know that very many of us innately hear to the limits of human audibility (about 22KHz on the high side and, I think, about 14Hz on the low side). 20Hz to 20KHz is a guideline for normal human hearing, but we may, or may not, be born with those exact capabilities. And then to use a comparison to the color spectrum, do we all hear the same frequencies equally within that general frequency range, or is 5000Hz louder to some of us than to others? Most human capabilities, or characteristics, follow a bell curve. Why would our hearing be the exception to that?

And then there is the whole question of psycho-acoustics. Hearing capabilities as a function of physical anatomy are one thing, but are our brains all wired in exactly the same way to interpret what we hear the same. I'm not talking entirely about environmental influences, here, although they could be a factor too, but of the wiring. The more we understand about learning disabilities, for instance, the more evident it is that our neurological wiring can differ from individual to individual. So, we can generalize about human capabilities, age, environmental influences, and preferences, and based on tests, or surveys, generate statistical probabilities. But when it comes to predicting what a particular person will actually hear, and how his brain will interpret what he hears, and what he will actually prefer, I think that is a very different matter. In large scale terms we are all very alike, but at a detailed level, we may be quite different.

This post is not intended to be argumentative. I have just been thinking about the variability of audio preference lately, and this seemed like a good opportunity to put some thoughts on paper.

Regards,
Mike
 

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Mike, reading this as a person NOT trained or specifically educated in the sciences of what you are talking about--but a reasonably informed, and INTERESTED person--what you say makes a lot of sense to me. Further, you provide some structure for discussion and evaluation by those more knowledgeable than I am. It seems that often our shopping is driven more by the "what" (specs) than understanding the "why" (varying individual preferences).

And I include myself in the above description. For instance, I am attempting to "help" an older friend put together a 5.1 system which is both affordable to him, and greatly enjoyable. When I read the many positive personal experiences of people praising the overall output (the what) and the enjoyability (the why) of the latest Andrew Jones bookshelf speakers, for instance, for some reason I am skeptical. Not of the assessments of personal enjoyment, but simply when I read the specs (low ohms, low sensitivity--requiring a beefier and more expensive AVR). I wonder, if I actually listened to them, would I hear what is there, or what I "expected" to hear? Because the actual is filtered through the expected--at least for all but the most rigorously objective and disciplined mind.
 

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I can really relate to Neomancer's comments. Even though we may fall in love with a speaker, something keeps driving us to continue to seek affirmation of our choice. Is it shopper's hangover? When we are searching out speakers to audition we rely heavily on specs and reviews. Is it insecurity in our own hearing? For me it is also a nagging question of is this as good as it gets, or close anyway? I never know what I was missing until I hear it for the first time. What stone have I left upturned? Especially since I have no friends who are infected by this hobby. I'm learning in a bit of a vacuum.

Surely these uncertainties play in to the phenomenon of upradeitis that keeps the AV industry so well-heeled. Repeatedly I have to remind myself that I am pretty happy with my stuff and I really enjoy listening to it. The best way for me to spend my money is on more music, and that ain't cheap these days if you are into vinyl or SACDs!

Still, it is a lot of fun to shop!!!
I feel like I had upgradeitis until I hit that sweet spot where an upgrade from where I am at would cost far too much for far too little benefit. Since I realized that an upgrade at this point would be as expensive as a new care, I've become 100% satisfied with everything audio that I have. Any improvement at this point, I think is just tweaking the settings. I still have upgradeitis for video components though. I feel like the technological improvements are still worthwhile, and a little patience can buy some really nice upgrades at a decent price.
 
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