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Hey all,


I was thinking. I know through experience that speakers aren't perfect sound producers. They vary, sometimes greatly, in the 'signature sound'. The follow post is mostly made up of my 'opnions' and just my general outlook on how I 'hear' things when listening to speakers.


What I've found is that 'most' of the time speakers made from similar materials often give similar results. Here is what I've noticed:


Subwoofers = All sound alike to me. The material that a sub is made of seems to make no difference in the 'quality' or 'sound' of the bass. If I were blindfolded, I simply couldn't tell you if a sub is made of paper or poly, aluminum, etc.


Subwoofer cabinet = Sealed 'sounds' different than 'ported'. Even though the sub driver makes no difference to me in the 'texture' or 'tone' of the sound, I've noticed that sealed and ported cabinets produce bass that 'sounds' different to me in both texture AND tone.

"Ported" sounds like you're in the 'in the bass' but seems to blur details of mids (probably due to the auditory masking phenomenon used by perceptual encoders to hide noise). Ported bass is often described as 'boomy' but can also be described as 'smooth and mellow' or 'rich'. I like ported subs on jazz-like recordings. I like how bass guitars sound on ported although the notes are not as easy to discern. Ported gives this 'cloudy' sound to the bass that hangs in the air. Ported has a certain 'cover up' ability that makes old, scratchy or low resolution recordings sound 'good'.

"Sealed" seems to sound like you are listening to bass being produced in another room. Some people seem to describe it as having a 'hollow' sound (and I understand what they mean). If I incease the volume enough the bass has a more room filling prescense and will sound very accurate. I get the impression when listening to sealed subs that the midbass sounds are much more defined. Drums do MUCH MUCH better on sealed subs. I feel so strongly about that that I will say it's a 'fact'. Kick drums, snare drums, classical drums. Any drum sound better on a sealed sub. The 'kick' from the dynamics and the quick recovery make it sound 'tight'. Like a real drum. Bass guitar doesn't 'hold' or 'hang' around on sounds. I think sealed sounds more articulate and controlled. Upper bass echos in the recordings come through more clearly. The clarity it leaves on other sounds can unfortunately expose a bad recording and make listening not so enjoyable. The better the recording, the better a sealed sub seems to make the music sound vs a ported design.


Each type of sub seems to have it's own strengths and weaknesses. I actually like listening to both types of subs and have a hard time making up my mind. When I haven't heard a ported sub for a while then hear it in someone else's setup, I like it. Sounds good. I currently run a sealed sub in both my car and home mainly because sealed subs sound more "punchy" and seem to have more visceral impact and deeper extention than ported.


Midbass - This is a nebulous area where I can just 'start' to begin to hear the differences between speakers. Sealed vs ported isn't so easy to hear with midbass. When the lower midrange (above 400Hz or so) comes in, I can begin to hear distinct tone differences with speakers and their materials. From this point and up, the material and contruction of the drivers matter the most and the cabinet ceases to be as much an issue while the front baffle of the cabinet with it's difraction characteristics start making the difference.


Midrange - MTM? Single mid? To lobe or not to lobe. That is the question. As frequency gets higher, the size of the sound waves made by drivers becomes shorter and shorter. As these waves become smaller, reflections and directionality start to become the priority of a smart speaker designer. Is you baffle enducing major difraction? Are your walls reflecting too much sound? Is the room too dead (no reflections)?

Paper or plastic? Kevlar? Fiber? Other? I like midrange to have a "fleshy" type of texture. I don't like it to be too sharp sounding. Nothing grates on my nerves like edgy mids. I like my mids to have a smooth charater. I like treated paper or polypropylene/poly-like substances. They have a more smooth sound for me. I know according to scientific speaker research there is a breakup node for either of these materials somewhere in the audible range. But I can't help what my ears tell me sounds good. Aluminum sounds 'edgy' to me. Kevlar sounds like it lacks dynamics and it just plain doesn't sound right to me. I haven't had the chance to hear an aero-gel material on a mid before but would like to.


Tweeters - Here is another sore area of debate among speaker lovers. Bright or mello? Forward or laid back? Amibient or point source? What's your preference? I like classic paper cone and silk/fabric/textile dome tweeters. There are 'treated' fabric domes but they don't sound much different to me. I like the 'ambient' sound that gives an almost 'larger than life' sound to the image. I like the 'you are there' effect. It takes as much the right 'room' as the right tweet. I like sound which some consider 'bright'. I like sibilance. Gives me goosebumps when a chick has nice sibilance on her 's' and 'c' sounds. I like cymbals to have a sound that 'jumps' at me and stands out a bit. Afterall, that's what cymbals sound like in reality. I like 'jingle' sounds of bells and 'shake' sounds of shakers. Detail is what I believe great sound is all about. I don't want it covered up or muddied up.


The only non-paper/non-fabric tweeters I've heard that I liked were ceramic-based ones like Infinity's CMMD which sounded good. Not as natural as paper or fabric domes but it wasn't harsh or metallic sounding either. I can't stand metal tweets. They sound fake. They make vocal sibilances have a 'metallic' sound instead of like a wisp that comes off a soft pair or flesh-like lips. Metal domes do 'one' sound right in my opinion and that is 'metal' based sounds like cymbals and tamborines but even those already 'metal' sounds are somehow made to sound even 'more' metal. Is that possible? I think SO!! Paper cones and fabric domes do a perfectly great job of producing metallic sounds which have a genuine flavor to my ears. Metal tweeters SUCK and are the worst invention ever. Polypropylene tweets sound way too laid back. I may like poly mids but don't dig much on poly tweets. I know that seems like a contradiction, but that's how I feel.


The best I can describe the difference between a 'decent' paper cone/fabric dome and a 'great' sounding set is that the 'decent' ones sound a bit 'dry' while the 'great' ones sound 'wet/liquid' (don't confuse this with the studio recording lingo wet/dry, I'm just talking with my own adjectives here).


Now. The big question. Knowing that different people have different tastes in sound, (and knowing that driver materials often give a 'character' to that sound) why don't speaker companies make different speaker lines targeting different listener preferences instead of trying to 'tier' their speaker lines with the 'budget' 'better' 'best' approach often using identical tweeters and mids for all their lines? I would prefer speaker companies take a more quality and catering approach to the audio hobbyists. Could you imagine a speaker company either 'sourcing' or 'developing' their own fabric dome for one type of listener and a metal dome for another? How about different mids? How about 4 different speaker flavors including ported OR sealed woofer designs along with various mids or tweets targeted at specific listening preferences? I bet that company would get a lot better unity from speaker lovers and would quickly climb the ranks of speaker makers.


Okay. I just had to get this out. Probably doesn't mean much to anyone else but I just wanted to babble about what I like in this audio hobby for a bit.
 

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Companies cater to taste all the time, but they don't necessarily cater to all tastes within the same brand. Each company tends to have their own "house sound". Then they have different tiers of speakers to hit more price points.


So just go brand to brand looking for what you need. For example, Sonus Faber and Vienna tend to be (but not always) slightly on the warm side. Monitor Audio tends to be slightly on the bright side. These are just generalizations, but you get the idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by vantagesc /forum/post/18211817


Companies cater to taste all the time, but they don't necessarily cater to all tastes within the same brand. Each company tends to have their own "house sound". Then they have different tiers of speakers to hit more price points.


So just go brand to brand looking for what you need. For example, Sonus Faber and Vienna tend to be (but not always) slightly on the warm side. Monitor Audio tends to be slightly on the bright side. These are just generalizations, but you get the idea.

Hey. I haven't been able to listen to enough brands in recent years and there are sooooo many brands you can only buy online. Can some people post their impressions of each kind of speaker maker and/or their brand? Like "so and so" has smooth mids with a tad of brightness and boomy bass, etc.
 

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I'm really glad someone brought up this conversation as its something I address all the time with my employees and perspective vendors. As an owner of an audio/video company I am usually tasked with deciding what products I should sell. its hard sometimes not to let my personal emotions or to let profit margins drive my buying decisions, but I actually decide what brands to offer based on exactly what you brought up.


The reality is having just about any speaker is better than just the tv speakers, which is why bose does well. They don't sell audiophile sound, they just sell "better sound through science". What I've learned in the last 15 years is that the average consumer isn't as concerned with brands as they used to be, loyalty is way down and price and performace are key factors. As most consumers are uneducated about hifi they usually purchase their audio based on a first impression with little to no critical listening.


Our vendor line card is very simple consisting of klipsch, boston acoustics, mk sound, and dynaudio. I feel that each mfg addresses a specific demographic (for my specific client list) as well as a particular taste of of music. I don't sell good better best, but along the lines of my clients listening preferences.


In a perfect world where I could meet every manufacturer's commitments and yearly minimums I would add a few other lines, most notably martin logan, sonus faber, and dali. To expand on your original post, I feel each of those vendors (as well as the lines I already offer) represent best in class perfomance at their respective price points. Each manufacturer uses a unique approach to speaker design and essentially doesn't "step" on the other...if u like electrostats, go logan, if u like a more raw studio prosound dynamic speaker, go mk sound, ect ect ect...


I don't wish that all dealers and retailers used this buying strategy because then I might lose any percieved tactical advantage I think I have, lol, but I do believe that buying departments in general do consumers a huge disservice.
 

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Btw, sony tried the single vendor multiple needs strategy this year with xbr, and it confused most buyers. They had 3 different xbr products and each line had something special but found that consumers wanted all the features and couldn't get them in a single product. Next year they are doing something different...
 

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A single company making speakers with publicly admitted flaws would be poor marketing. Many companies do indee design for a specific coloring of musice (looking at you bose) but doing iso with different colorings within a brand would, again, be poor marketing.


I advise getting the flattest on and off axis performance you can afford and usinng an eq to color to taste.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove /forum/post/19501241


A single company making speakers with publicly admitted flaws would be poor marketing. Many companies do indee design for a specific coloring of musice (looking at you bose) but doing iso with different colorings within a brand would, again, be poor marketing.


I advise getting the flattest on and off axis performance you can afford and usinng an eq to color to taste.

I agree with most of that, except I would change the last sentence to "flattest on-axis response and the most uniform off-axis response."
 

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One of the best thought pieces on the art of speaker design is probably Lynn Olson's The Art of Speaker Design , not surprisingly. Given that virtually everything matters, Lynn's treatise should be on any hardcore loudspeaker enthusiast's short list.


How much each parameter and component matter is another question and gets only the peripheral treatment such an enormous subject naturally would - Lynn's piece is pages long because it covers an entire history of the craft (up until 2002). Some firms have attempted to pare down these elements and convert a handful into proprietary marketing-speak, but the overall subject does indeed include so many variables as to qualify as an art that (hopefully) liberally uses the sciences and not the other way around.


An analogy: All of the finest sports cars in the world, from the U.S. to Germany to Italy, have an 'x-factor' that defies explanation. The experience of piloting one of those vehicles simply cannot be articulated by a number on a sheet of paper. The vehicles, many car experts have said, are designed to elicit an acute, emotional response from the driver.


The same goal lies with the loudspeaker designer; to elicit an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place. To this end, careful design selection - as distinct from component selection - combined with careful, subjective tuning is ultimately as important as a final track test (and tuning) of any fine sports car initially designed to true performance standards. It simply doesn't matter how good the design looks on paper or how it measures on a static dynamometer; the vehicle must be driven and the input from the test driver added back into the equation to fix issues or refines characteristics that cannot be measured.


We live in an era of cheap loudspeaker CAD. In my view the final sound of a loudspeaker should not be left to the temptation of engineering by PC monitor and narrow measurement portfolio; there must be solid input from a trained listener-engineers dating from before the design's inception.


How many of us have heard speakers that look great on paper, but sound clangy, harsh, one dimensional, and flat? There are a myriad of parameters and conditions a designer should tackle even before the first trial driver array and filter network are established.


The solution? Listen to everything you can possibly get your ears on.


(a h/t to CB for the car analogy)
 

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Now. The big question. Knowing that different people have different tastes in sound, (and knowing that driver materials often give a 'character' to that sound) why don't speaker companies make different speaker lines targeting different listener preferences instead of trying to 'tier' their speaker lines with the 'budget' 'better' 'best' approach often using identical tweeters and mids for all their lines? I would prefer speaker companies take a more quality and catering approach to the audio hobbyists. Could you imagine a speaker company either 'sourcing' or 'developing' their own fabric dome for one type of listener and a metal dome for another? How about different mids? How about 4 different speaker flavors including ported OR sealed woofer designs along with various mids or tweets targeted at specific listening preferences? I bet that company would get a lot better unity from speaker lovers and would quickly climb the ranks of speaker makers.


Since there is plenty of selection out there, is that not enough "targeting" .. ? IOW, there is a speaker for every taste in sound as well as budget. From one company or another ..


Why not take it a step further .. ?? Select the enclosure, select the crossover, select the speakers .. mix and match as you see fit .. Hey, maybe I'm onto something ..
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Lane /forum/post/0


An analogy: All of the finest sports cars in the world, from the U.S. to Germany to Italy, have an 'x-factor' that defies explanation. The experience of piloting one of those vehicles simply cannot be articulated by a number on a sheet of paper. The vehicles, many car experts have said, are designed to elicit an acute, emotional response from the driver.

You don't lone if it can be put on paper or not. There is just nothing published akin to Toole'work.

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The same goal lies with the loudspeaker designer; to elicit an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place.

Other than the aesthetic, I disagree completely. The artist's job is to affect the listener. The speaker's job is to reproduce the sound accurately.


And thanks to extensive work ny the likes of Dr.Toole, we know the parameters under which those experiences converge.

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We live in an era of cheap loudspeaker CAD. In my view the final sound of a loudspeaker should not be left to the temptation of engineering by PC monitor and narrow measurement portfolio; there must be solid input from a trained listener-engineers dating from before the design's inception.

So Veyron bad (designed by engineers at VW to achieve an engineering goal), Civic modified my some kid in his garage good?

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How many of us have heard speakers that look great on paper, but sound clangy, harsh, one dimensional, and flat? There are a myriad of parameters and conditions a designer should tackle even before the first trial driver array and filter network are established.

My guess? The same number as have an insufficient grasp of the measurements.
 

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The same goal lies with the loudspeaker designer; to elicit an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place.

Quote:
Other than the aesthetic, I disagree completely. The artist's job is to affect the listener. The speaker's job is to reproduce the sound accurately.

Furthering your thought, I believe the definition of accuracy in a loudspeaker is that it should relate the listener to the event by recreating that event with as many intact cues as possible, thereby "elicit[ing] an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place". We appear to mean the same thing.

Quote:
And thanks to extensive work ny the likes of Dr.Toole, we know the parameters under which those experiences converge.

But in all classes, sizes, market segments, and across all technologies? Put another way, is it impossible for a highly refined, competently designed and voiced speaker to beat out a formula consumer design parametrically a number of times its acoustical inferior but exceeding it in a few ways thought to be favored by an average consumer?


The most accurate sound I've ever heard was so far removed from rigorous but narrow theories and build methods as to be laughable, yet it was entirely musically "accurate", mesmerizingly so. Concerning reproducing sound, we don't know what we don't know until we cease not knowing it.

We live in an era of cheap loudspeaker CAD. In my view the final sound of a loudspeaker should not be left to the temptation of engineering by PC monitor and narrow measurement portfolio; there must be solid input from a trained listener-engineers dating from before the design's inception.

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So Veyron bad (designed by engineers at VW to achieve an engineering goal), Civic modified my some kid in his garage good?

Depending on your goals, there are no end of upsets in the automotive world. 7 second 2.0L I4 cars abound, although off the strip we'd probably all prefer the Veyron. Compared to instantaneous transport, both devices are highly limited yet each relates an experience back to the user that alludes to some grasp of technical competence, or "accuracy". This is why both have relative degrees of design input and not because either could somehow finally represent perfect transportation.


Aside from the flaws in any analogy, the same is approximately true for the loudspeaker: To claim it's goal is accuracy when it exists within a domain defined by its overwhelming inaccuracy probably leaves something to be desired. It's noble, it's just not the entire picture.

How many of us have heard speakers that look great on paper, but sound clangy, harsh, one dimensional, and flat? There are a myriad of parameters and conditions a designer should tackle even before the first trial driver array and filter network are established.

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My guess? The same number as have an insufficient grasp of the measurements.

Are measurements, as currently understood and deployed today, sufficient to predict how all loudspeakers sound? Have we done this and have we eliminated the listener from the equation because we've finally found "accuracy" in a handful of acoustical transducers in a box?


I'm really not trying to discard the commercial work done to date, Jerry, but I do believe there's the risk of a dark ages phenomenon that may impair real-world results by too much prior assumption. If we knew what made reproduced sound "accurate" - which is an obvious misnomer for such an inherently flawed device - wouldn't all brands sign aboard, rather than some intentionally getting off that train?


To me a loudspeaker is audio's baseball mitt: A highly organic tool that despite its obvious limits, can help elevate the art on the playing field to occasionally unexpected heights. To reduce either to a narrow set of measurable parameters is to void out the necessary human element. We can't get strict accuracy until we replace these items with something that's not likely to ever occur.


There simply is no such thing as an accurate loudspeaker. There is no accurate glove stitched together out of leather and string. We search for accuracy out of these ~1% efficient loudspeaker devices just as we search for the most accurate fielder. Along with accurate automobiles, none exist until, as Olson strongly alludes, we've transcended the obvious technical limits of the technology entirely.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Lane /forum/post/19503452




The same goal lies with the loudspeaker designer; to elicit an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place.



Furthering *your* thought: since "correct" is now subjective; live voices and instruments can fail to produce accurate sound? That rather tosses aside the entire definition of accurate.


A speakers job is to accurately reproduce a performance. If the performance elicits an emotional response, then the playback can. A speaker cannot *make* a response. If you think otherwise, find a speaker that I can play a fire alarm through to make people feel all perky.


Furthering your thought, I believe the definition of accuracy in a loudspeaker is that it should relate the listener to the event by recreating that event with as many intact cues as possible, thereby "elicit[ing] an emotional response from the listener wholly relative to the musical event taking place". We appear to mean the same thing.

Quote:
Put another way, is it impossible for a highly refined, competently designed and voiced speaker to beat out a formula consumer design parametrically a number of times its acoustical inferior but exceeding it in a few ways thought to be favored by an average consumer?

Speakers which uniformly score the best on subjective listening carry certain measurable traits. In specific: they are more free from distortion in both on and off-axis performance than their rivals.


It's also true that one can turn quantitative distortions into qualitative descriptions: but the process is more complex than the one I described above. The positiveness of the subjective reviews converges on speakers with certain measurable qualities.

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The most accurate sound I've ever heard was so far removed from rigorous but narrow theories and build methods as to be laughable, yet it was entirely musically "accurate", mesmerizingly so. Concerning reproducing sound, we don't know what we don't know until we cease not knowing it.

You jump back and forth from build to sounds as though they are interchangeable. With sufficient knowledge one can determine how a speaker will sound (how it will review compared to its peers in DBX tests) based on measurements of the speaker.


Knowing this: one can design a speaker for the purpose of meeting those measurements.

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Depending on your goals, there are no end of upsets in the automotive world. 7 second 2.0L I4 cars abound, although off the strip we'd probably all prefer the Veyron.

And yet in an "it's all subjective" post you didn't mention how that "X-factor" of great cars was found in the Yugo or Pacer or that three-wheeled thing the brits used.


There are certain objective traits on which preferences will converge.


In the case of speakers: the issue is accuracy. An accurate speaker can reproduce not only accurate sound: but sound with any particular inaccuracy you would like to hear.

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To claim it's goal is accuracy when it exists within a domain defined by its overwhelming inaccuracy probably leaves something to be desired. It's noble, it's just not the entire picture.

I disagree. Though complete accuracy is not possible, it is the goal. There is not a design better than one which perfectly reproduces what it is given.


When it comes to understanding compromises in real speakers; it's not so subjective as you make it appear. Debated yes, but not subjective.

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Are measurements, as currently understood and deployed today, sufficient to predict how all loudspeakers sound?

Yes.

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Have we done this and have we eliminated the listener from the equation because we've finally found "accuracy" in a handful of acoustical transducers in a box?

No. We have a world full of people who believe that we don't understand how sound is perceived and so insist on designing speakers "by ear" on the believe that it's an art.

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I'm really not trying to discard the commercial work done to date, Jerry, but I do believe there's the risk of a dark ages phenomenon that may impair real-world results by too much prior assumption. If we knew what made reproduced sound "accurate" - which is an obvious misnomer for such an inherently flawed device - wouldn't all brands sign aboard, rather than some intentionally getting off that train?

I think the existence of Bose (the most successful single brand in the world) answers that question. Marketing and superstition designed with a desire to cost-cut... usually in the wrong places.


And don't misunderstand: I'm am not claiming there are no compromises to be had. I don't believe speaker design is without art. But the way I read your post: it's a condemnation of engineering and dismissive of the science of speaker design. Perhaps that's not what you intended?
 

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I once asked Sean a question pertaining to Harman's work on speaker design and listener preference. Now, they've done several studies involving people in some facility they have in California I think. The facility is acoustically treated in some fashion. Listeners in general preferred the type of speakers Harman made (other brands too) that conformed to the speaker criteria they deemed significant. My question was what happens when you've got a room that doesn't behave nicely as theirs does? Or what happens when the speaker you've bought comes home and the wife says, "Great! That'll look wonderful placed over there. And don't you dare move it!" I don't recall getting an answer but I can certainly envision scenarios where there are certain constants that you have to deal with that just might make something like a Paradigm or a Revel not the ticket for the room in question.
 

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Quote:
Furthering *your* thought: since "correct" is now subjective; live voices and instruments can fail to produce accurate sound? That rather tosses aside the entire definition of accurate.

Not at all. "Correct" is by nature subjective because it has to be defined in some reality that, we'll agree, involves huge inaccuracies. "Accurate" cannot be narrowly used to apply to a device with the myriad of parameters and distortions the average loudspeaker has...and they are myriad.


How would we define the accurate automobile? If it's aim is to transport, can we use the term for anything less than instantaneous arrival after departure? How about the accurate book if the aim of books is to impart some degree of imprecise knowledge or subjective entertainment...also over time.


Loudspeakers may possess certain characteristics the degree of whose distortion of the input may be quantified in some vague way related to "accuracy", but at about one percent conversion efficiency, which one? Which three or six? When the device is so far from perfect facsimile reproduction - think two nearly identical copies of the same print made by the same printer as entirely "accurate" to one another but and neither being anything close to a facsimile of the original event - then how would we arrive at a meaningful definition for "correct" and "accuracy" in the context?

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A speakers job is to accurately reproduce a performance.

However accurate reproduction is highly undefined and entirely unrealized. What's left is our rather empirical reality.

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If the performance elicits an emotional response, then the playback can.

Yes, or should. Yet the systems that sound amazingly good vary all over the design universe, making the point that we don't know what we don't know. (Also making the point that true excellence really costs, and suddenly we're probably off discussing rare and unusual methods that don't really follow our predictions. This is evidence of the sheer bewildering complexity of speaker design.)

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A speaker cannot *make* a response.

Every speaker on earth makes its version of the input - they all make responses. Because:

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If you think otherwise, find a speaker that I can play a fire alarm through to make people feel all perky.

Exactly. Every transducer or group of transducers imparts enormous influence on the material being recreated. We still have no definition for accuracy except that response that most connects the listener to the event in question. The loudspeaker tool must serve the human element.

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Speakers which uniformly score the best on subjective listening carry certain measurable traits. In specific: they are more free from distortion in both on and off-axis performance than their rivals.

Inert enclosures, in-band driver linearity, and constant power are only a few of the terms that may apply to a group of preferences. As I asked above, are we at the point now where we would define all speaker design by what in effect are these three characteristics? Is this now an absolute statement and condition?

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It's also true that one can turn quantitative distortions into qualitative descriptions: but the process is more complex than the one I described above. The positiveness of the subjective reviews converges on speakers with certain measurable qualities.


You jump back and forth from build to sounds as though they are interchangeable. With sufficient knowledge one can determine how a speaker will sound (how it will review compared to its peers in DBX tests) based on measurements of the speaker.

There are always correlations between parts and sound. The question put to the industry is their robustness. Are we saying that we know all we need to know to turn out "accurate" loudspeakers every time?

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Knowing this: one can design a speaker for the purpose of meeting those measurements.


And yet in an "it's all subjective" post you didn't mention how that "X-factor" of great cars was found in the Yugo or Pacer or that three-wheeled thing the brits used.

It goes without saying - you brought up the Veyron and the Civic and I asserted that even a Civic can "violate" the technology to exceed the Veyron's measurable performance in at least one way.

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There are certain objective traits on which preferences will converge.

Everything matters. The degree of which is subjective to our knowledge and experience at any moment in time.

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In the case of speakers: the issue is accuracy. An accurate speaker can reproduce not only accurate sound: but sound with any particular inaccuracy you would like to hear.

Somewhat: Without a definition of accuracy, we're chasing a semantic issue and not a reliable benchmark. There is no accuracy here, there are only elements that we can label accurate in a way subjective to some other term of experience or evidence.

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Though complete accuracy is not possible, it is the goal. There is not a design better than one which perfectly reproduces what it is given.

Does such a design exist and how would we know it? What metric defines it, especially universally? If we're to adopt that the accurate loudspeaker exists, what does it sound like? Not what does the live event sound like, but what does this device, with all these technical issues, sound like and to all listeners, "accuracy" being assumed to be absolute no matter where you go.


Accuracy is an absolute and therefore the "accurate loudspeaker" should exhibit some pretty powerful characteristics, even transcending the state of the current art.

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When it comes to understanding compromises in real speakers; it's not so subjective as you make it appear. Debated yes, but not subjective.

My point is that the pursuit of music reproduction is probably done a disservice by the increasingly excess use of "accurate" to describe something that is by nature an inaccurate device, and we do so to the point that we stereotype efforts we cannot know completely. Such as:

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We have a world full of people who believe that we don't understand how sound is perceived and so insist on designing speakers "by ear" on the believe that it's an art.


I think the existence of Bose (the most successful single brand in the world) answers that question. Marketing and superstition designed with a desire to cost-cut... usually in the wrong places.

Of course, correlation is not causation. Reproduced sound is simply a highly flawed attempt to create something approaching a believable facsimile of an original event that by these ways and means, simply cannot be done.

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And don't misunderstand: I'm am not claiming there are no compromises to be had. I don't believe speaker design is without art. But the way I read your post: it's a condemnation of engineering and dismissive of the science of speaker design. Perhaps that's not what you intended?

Actually, it's not what I said. I'm saying that we're leading ourselves around, limiting the field, when we believe there is an accuracy parameter in such a thing as reproduced sight or sound. You would no more expect the finest video display ever made to set up a virtual window on visual reality than you should a box of parts to somehow hew to sonic "accuracy" when the term is by nature subjective in this context and the net result of all our best efforts can't perfectly correlate to this "perfect" benchmark.


If we construct two otherwise identical speaker systems into two somewhat different responses, and these responses are "flat" to within some agreed variable, that being our accepted unit of specification like +/2dB from here to there, which sounds like what? Which of two measured responses of such an incredibly complex device is the "accurate" and which is the less accurate? Could a third or tenth or fiftieth variant, only subtly different by the microphone, sound dramatically superior to us than all the others?


Two designs, even using identical enclosures and drivers, and varying only by the slight tuning of their filters, haven't shown us agreement with "accuracy" when both are flawed in ways we can't begin to parse, except by panels of listeners in some strata of the marketplace. And what if that panel misses the best sounding arrangement, which not being designers, they are bound to miss?


Speakers are different, and while they may afford us some connection to popular acclaim, which is very important, to call them accurate when our purpose is to then qualify these as accurate and those as inaccurate turns off the exploration process.


The last thing I'd do is dismiss the sciences, Jerry, and I alluded that the art of design selection should and must employ those sciences. In fact, what I'm asking is that when we use terms apparently intended to narrowly define one flawed device from another, that we realize that method is itself unscientific. There is no accurate loudspeaker. There may be a desire to have accuracy in reproduction, but since we can't define what constitutes that thing, where are we?


Since the loudspeaker must serve the ear, I say it's in the experience of listening, perhaps and probably following an ample display of technical basis but not based entirely - or even significantly - on it.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai /forum/post/19503687


I once asked Sean a question pertaining to Harman's work on speaker design and listener preference. Now, they've done several studies involving people in some facility they have in California I think. The facility is acoustically treated in some fashion. Listeners in general preferred the type of speakers Harman made (other brands too) that conformed to the speaker criteria they deemed significant. My question was what happens when you've got a room that doesn't behave nicely as theirs does? Or what happens when the speaker you've bought comes home and the wife says, "Great! That'll look wonderful placed over there. And don't you dare move it!" I don't recall getting an answer but I can certainly envision scenarios where there are certain constants that you have to deal with that just might make something like a Paradigm or a Revel not the ticket for the room in question.

Variables and variables on top of variables.


All I'm trying to do is paint a picture of these devices that shows just how vulnerable and imperfect they are, and yet when really brought to a high art, can sound dazzling. It's what keeps one interested in the thing.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Lane /forum/post/19504576


Not at all. "Correct" is by nature subjective because it has to be defined in some reality that, we'll agree, involves huge inaccuracies. "Accurate" cannot be narrowly used to apply to a device with the myriad of parameters and distortions the average loudspeaker has...and they are myriad.

In my reality a violin will always sound correctly like a violin. It is not subjective, and one cannot say "that violin doesn't sound like a violin".


If you believe that a wave is a subjective thing: then we have no shared set of presuppositions from which to have a rational discussion.


Personally I find your dismissal of science and engineering unfortunate.
 

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Jerry, I'd be fairly surprised if Lane doesn't have something other than a microphone and a soundcard.
 

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Originally Posted by JerryLove /forum/post/19505058


In my reality a violin will always sound correctly like a violin. It is not subjective, and one cannot say "that violin doesn't sound like a violin".

How about a reproduced violin? Every last one of those I've heard in 30 years didn't sound entirely like a violin and I'm guessing that even with the partial arsenal of measurement techniques we have, probably measured like it too. Not surprisingly, everything sounds precisely like what it is, loudspeakers included.

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If you believe that a wave is a subjective thing: then we have no shared set of presuppositions from which to have a rational discussion.

The original waveform is a anything but a subjective thing. The reproduced waveform is always subject to analysis. I'm inviting us to be open to that analysis.

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Personally I find your dismissal of science and engineering unfortunate.

That doesn't reflect how I see the field, Jerry, nor is it what I said. The sciences are and must be employed in pursuit of the art, hopefully as many of them as possible: "...the overall subject does indeed include so many variables as to qualify as an art that (hopefully) liberally uses the sciences and not the other way around."
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Lane /forum/post/19505175


How about a reproduced violin? Every last one of those I've heard in 30 years didn't sound entirely like a violin and I'm guessing that even with the partial arsenal of measurement techniques we have, probably measured like it too. Not surprisingly, everything sounds precisely like what it is, loudspeakers included.

That's not answering my question. There is an objective "correct".


All that's left is a discussion of the compromises and the psycho-acoustics that tell us how those differences relate to our experience.

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That doesn't reflect how I see the field, Jerry, nor is it what I said. The sciences are and must be employed in pursuit of the art, hopefully as many of them as possible: "...the overall subject does indeed include so many variables as to qualify as an art that (hopefully) liberally uses the sciences and not the other way around."

But you've said that you cannot know what a speaker sounds like from measurements. I have a pair of speakers that were built and programmed entirely from measurements. Actual listening was only done after programming was complete.


They are the best sounding speakers I own, and I own some good ones (though I think: with a more powerful amp, the N801's will compete).
 

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I'm not sure that speaker companies set out "cater to sonic taste" as a design goal. I think it's more like a given designer will always have bias that will creep into the product.


With that said, I do believe that Klipsch for instance is making a conscious decision to produce nothing but highly efficient speakers with big dynamics. Is that catering to a taste or good design practice?


Bose may be the exception. They are definitely not shooting for sonic perfection but rather economic goals. It's hard to say what "sonic taste" they're catering to though. I don't think it's even a sonic taste. It's more like they're targeting people who value simplicity and space efficiency over sound quality.


Magnepan? Catering to dipole lovers or do they believe that large panels are the path to the musical truth?


Wilson? Catering to the status conscious with deep pockets or just trying to design without limits?


Is there, as alleged at one time, an East Coast sound and a West Coast sound?
 
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