An encounter and lesson in speaker prices ...


Not to long ago, in a shop I like but will remain nameless I got to observe a customer evaluate a pair of systems side by side. The buyer had an eastern European accent. First they listened to the larger system, $50k speakers, equivalently priced amps and digital.


It sounded _really_ good. Then we moved to another system. Slightly smaller speaker pair, around $20k, completely different DAC and amp. Sounded like crap. The digititis was unbearable and the speakers were clearly out of phase. On top of that, the treble and bass balance were now all wrong.


The buyer was "I like them, what colors do they com in? " and that was that.

After the buyer left I looked behind at the amp. Yep, I was right, the pahse was reversed. The darkness of the room and angle made this an easy and common mistake to make. But the rest was unbearable.


What is my point? The people buying the top end gear are not necessarily the one’s with decent ears, so we really cannot trust price points to be any sort of guide to value. If you develop your taste on your own, independent of prices, you can score some fabulously performing gear at a fraction of what this buyer was going to end up with.


Best,

E
erik_squires
Buyer bought the higher priced model, the out of phase or neither? 

Buyer bought the the out of phase. Well, TBH, I don't know he actually bought. But he felt the out of phase was almost as good, and in his price range. So he started talking about colors and delivery times and left the showroom with the dealer.
If he is happy who are you or we to judge?
Maybe the dealer did it on purpose?
Imagine how good those speakers will sound in his home when he "presumably" connects them correctly.
Hi @gawdbless :
Of course, fools and their money are easily parted, and individually, no I don't care. My point was that this says something about gear prices and culture. This is a social commentary post, and I hope you don't object to that.

And yeah, wouldn't that be interesting if the dealer did it to make them sound more spacious?? I doubt it though. I looked and it was really hard to see the colors.

Best,

E
Erik,
Some people are not at all sensitive to sound being out of phase ( as you describe ).  Consider the case of the entire Polk Audio SDA line of speakers.  The "speaker interconnect" tied one side of each speaker's midbass/midrange drivers to the other speakers matching drivers 90 degrees out of phase.  The result was a wider more "encompassing" stereo image ( at least that was the hype ).  I am so sensitive to phase that the SDA line literally gives me a head ache.  I can walk into a room and hear a pair of speakers out of phase in under 2 notes.  Every time.  While working on the floor of an audio shop for 10 years and now running my own store I have had several instances of mistakenly wiring a speaker out of phase with the system and had customers expound on the fantastic sound quality.  Each time I swapped things back to correct phase and about 1/2 of the time the listener either heard no difference or in fact preferred the out of phase connection.  Not a scientific evaluation for sure but it has happened many times over a 20 year span with a lot if different people.  Just my own experiences.
@meadowman

That's really interesting!! Becuase the buyer did run around looking to see if other speakers were also working. To him, the effect was a super-wide soundstage.

Maybe this is why the treble and bass were set so high?

Best,
E
Listen to  Roger Waters "Amused to Death"  Wanna hear some weird and wacky  out of phase stuff, just listen to this CD!
In some households the music system is just another part of the decor,no matter if it sounds like crap:)A couple of times in waiting rooms I was flipping through magazines and saw turntables as accessories on shelves and new console stereo systems placed as to be aesthetically pleasing.Chosen by a decorator no doubt.
Lol mr_m!I loved that kind of stuff as a teenager;)
There's a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab pressing of Dark Side of the Moon that literally "fixes" all the phase problems in the original.

Hahahaha.
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Fixes it!!?Ruins it!Those types of effects are still fun.I remember some friends and I passing a pair of headphones around "Woah!Sounds like it's shooting through my head!" Deep Purple,Led Zeppelin,etc.
Fixes it!!?Ruins it!




I was being sarcastic, that's why I used double quotes and added a "Haha" line. :)

Wow another great thought WOW i didn't know that dude!!

EBM demonstrates what constructive participation in a discussion does not look like. Again.


Best,

E
Erik,

Of course I do not object to this post of yours.
 
Erik,
Interesting anecdote, thanks for sharing. I think many people equate cost with "quality" and seasoned listeners like us know you have to let your ears be your guide. We all have different tastes and hearing abilities. BTW, I enjoy your posts, always food for thought....keep em' coming.
Larry
Maybe they wired them wrongly intentionally to make the $50k pair sound far better.
mr-m,
Funny you should mention. Listened last night to RW's Amused to Death LP no less. Sitting there in the money seat I start hearing the conversation accompanying What God Wants and it's coming from the back left corner of the room. 
As to out of phase speakers, yes the sound is large and all encompassing. Sounds profound for about two seconds. Wonder if the buyer gets them home and the sound is so much "smaller"?

Speaking “out of phase” . I have a Bose 901 series vi in my basement which my kids use when they have friends over . The music through thoose even at low volumes gives me a headache and sound so incoherent. Does anyone know if those speakers are wired out of phase to make the sound larger. 
It seems like a win-win-win situation. Buyer bought what he liked, seller sold what he could, Audiogon gets to pat itself on the back for being better than the fool who does not know what is good.

He somehow manages to know what he likes without prejudice and technicalities and is even capable of seeing his purchase from more than one side. He can multitask and include colors, too. Kudos to an honest and capable buyer. Now, if more people would be like that...
Plus 1 genesis777. That’s what I thought. 
They probably s&$t themselves laughing when he choose the ones they rigged. 
How do we know the lower priced speakers were out of phase?  Unless you know whether each piece of equipment in each system isingerting or non-inverting, you don’t.  It’s possible that one system was inverted at the speaker outputs compared to the other system, and speaker cables on the lower priced system were reversed to correct that.   
Maybe they were “un”breaking them in...
Hi @tarheelneil
I meant the speakers were out of phase relatively to left and right.
If all the statements about one system being so much better than the other one are true, could it have something to do with the difference in price? From what we know, better-sounding system was more than twice the price. Maybe, price does mean something.

Often, hearing "good" is good and then hearing "better" is noticeably better. However, going back from "better" to "good" in a short time may give an impression of a much bigger difference. Which seems to have been a timeline here.
"...you can score some fabulously performing gear at a fraction of what this buyer was going to end up with."

It is probably true, but do they come in colors? Many would gladly pay more to have something visually appealing. Many speakers come in one or two, maybe three, finishes and they are often quite bland.
+ 1 Glupson
It seems like a win-win-win situation. Buyer bought what he liked, seller sold what he could, Audiogon gets to pat itself on the back for being better than the fool who does not know what is good.

He somehow manages to know what he likes without prejudice and technicalities and is even capable of seeing his purchase from more than one side. He can multitask and include colors, too. Kudos to an honest and capable buyer. Now, if more people would be like that...

Some equipment manufacturers preamps and amps are 'out of phase' by design.  The easiest way to get them 'into phase' is to reverse the wires at the speaker posts.  One such manufacture is Conrad Johnson.  There is a plausible explanation as to why they do this.....I just can't remember why at this time of posting.  I'm sure someone will chime in.  A $20K system should sound good in my humble opinion, if set up correctly.
Actually, one customer does not an example make. If would have been interesting to have at least a dozen people hear the two systems that day and THEN, go back one week later to hear if it still sounds the same. I've heard some decent set ups in years past. I've taken a friend back (and visa verse) to share my wonderful experience only to find.....it sounds different that day! Anyone else experience this? Joe
Some equipment manufacturers preamps and amps are 'out of phase' by design. The easiest way to get them 'into phase' is to reverse the wires at the speaker posts. One such manufacture is Conrad Johnson.



I think that several readers are misreading my original post. This was not related to this. The L and R were wired incorrectly relatively to each other.

Best,
E

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jnovak,

".....it sounds different that day! Anyone else experience this?"
Me. Sometimes with my own system that I, by now, should be familiar with.

What is my point? The people buying the top end gear are not necessarily the one’s with decent ears, so we really cannot trust price points to be any sort of guide to value.

I know that guy!!

his wife told him, “Don’t buy the first thing you hear, and make sure they are available in Jade Green to match the living room furniture”.


prices are not set by the buyer, but by the seller. or by the maker. MSRP has to be the base line used to equate value on brand new components.

an ‘agreed’ to private selling price is a bit different. it is only then we get to see what the actual margins might be on various goods.

one thing is for sure in any aspect of the American economy, there is no accounting for taste, nor is there much real thoughtful consideration going into the bulk of what American’s buy.

in a valueless society price is king.

buyer’s preliminary investigations only revolve around price! nothing more.

bring up audio in a room with 20 folks. half of them if not more will automatically either think or outright mention ‘Bose’, not that there is anything wrong with Bose. although it reveals just how invested into audio most people are.

I think Bose is to blame for why most folks believe speakers alone are the reason why a sound system is good, better, or best.

often the average Joe Q Public is thinking bigger speakers mean better sound.

I learned long ago not to mention to those not truly in the ‘know’ how much anything I own cost.

especially wires.

if I do relate how much, either they doubt my sanity further, or openly giggle or laugh at the amount I disclose.

if or when they see a tube amp on the rack, they always ask “so you are into antiques?’

on the flip side, to a person, everyone says its the best they have ever heard outside of a live performance.

BTW, I thought ‘out of phase’ meant the wires on each speaker were reversed. not just the channels.

of course, if one walks around and stands behind the miswired reversed channel speakers, all will be well. … unless of course they are as well , wired ’out of phase’ then, it won’t matter where you stand.

I would mention such a thing at any dealership just to see what they do or what they said about it.
"I would mention such a thing at any dealership just to see what they do or what they said about it."
+1

They might have not done it on purpose and it would have been a nice gesture.

Naturally.

it pays to have a small LED light around in so many ways, and have only one person wiring up the rig.
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@blindjim


 +1 on the bose comments...no doubt that 40 years ago, Bose became at the very least a household familiarity...and even today, every time you go into a Costco or Sams...over by the TVs...there is a Bose set up displayed....so, it is not a surprise that the non audiophile thinks of Bose when the hear home audio.


I have a buddy who had a $7k Bose system...sound quality doesn't mean anything to him...but the fact that he has 13 speakers...that part is his pride and joy
Having sold audio for a number of years  I realized every persons hearing range can vary to certain sensitivities ,and preferences from razor sharp leading edge 
detail ,to silky smooth , and as ones ears get older you do loose different parts 
of the audio range 16khz is about average for many high frequencies over 50. Especially if playing 
music over 90db over time .  Including myself I get tinnitus sometimes 
which truly sucks from all this 100 + dB Deep purple ,ELP ,Stones Sabbath type concerts ,and 2,000 watt multi amp stereo systems in my cars . As well as all
the weapons I fired in the service without ear protection. My point is there are 
a lot of factors  that dictate how one hears the same music.
I had possibly a worse experience: 
I went to a dealer who was selling both Magico and Alexia speakers, after auditioning the magico I asked to plug the Alexia to the same amp (d'agostino momentum), the dealer did the connection but.. in a wrong manner. both speakers were plugged to the same channel..
the sound was so transparent and pleasant that nobody in the room realized the mistake.. we auditioned a few songs but then I so unsatisfied with the sound that I told the dealer: a pair of 40k speaker cannot sound so badly.. there must have been some mistake. he put a Demo disk on and heard "this is the right channel" from the left channel speaker. 
after adjusting the connection he came back to me very proud and sai: ha, you can listen now how good these speakers sounds. 
please....
What audioman said is pretty much the main thing one needs to realize to have any chance of explaining why people make the sound choices they do. The second thing behind the variable metrics of human hearing is the even greater variability of how one reacts to what they hear at any particular time. People are humans not machines.
You lost me.  How can you determine whether the speakers are connected to an amp out of phase.
You lost me.  How can you determine whether the speakers are connected to an amp out of phase.


By looking at the color coded speaker terminals and comparing them to the wiring.

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In this case, the bass was weak, but also wonky. It sounded like it was reverberating in a giant hall. Like a bass echo.

In any event, that was my clue, but the confirmation happened when I walked behind the amp I was auditioning.
Anytime I have mixed up the speaker wires it has been immediately noticed . The imaging was nonexistent .
There's no shortage of guys with way too much money and way, WAY too many dealers who find educating them too much work when its far easier to simply take their money.

One of the best things that happened to me was the dealers who happily let me alone to just listen. One of them even made a few suggestions, not components but what to listen for. At the time I couldn't hear any difference between DACs and CDPs. Or rather I could hear the differences, but only just barely, and with no idea what I was hearing.

Almost everyone listens to a stereo about the same way they look at an x-ray: they see the picture quite clearly, but with no idea what it means. Pretty much everyone's vision is plenty good enough to read an x-ray, but unless they have a pretty darn good knowledge of anatomy their odds of having a clue what they're looking at is slim to none. Even then its gonna take some practice. I mean, I can read pneumonia on a chest x-ray better than most of the docs where I work. Most people (and I mean most people everywhere, hint, hint) have no clue that just as you can't read an x-ray without a killer knowledge of anatomy and a lot of practice you can't evaluate components without a similarly specialized knowledge base and vocabulary.

Eric for example knows very well the importance of speakers being in-phase and what can happen when they aren't. Most high end customers couldn't pass that test. They are in effect looking to get into college with a grade school education. And not little house on the prairie grade school either, but modern public can't do maths can't spel either.

Its a shame that dealers are so happy to just take your money. Too many find its just too much work trying to educate their customers. In an age where everyone's ego's been inflated along with their (and I hate this word) self-esteem, I can see where they'd be afraid any more to take the risk. Just sell the guy his blue speakers. 

But it means Eric is right on. In a world where so much crap is fobbed off on people with more money than brains you can indeed score some killer deals and build a really musically satisfying system if only you take the time to develop the listening skills and knowledge base. 
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