Analytical or Musical Which way to go?

The debate rages on. What are we to do? Designing a spealer that measures wellin all areas shoulkd be the goal manufacturer.
As allways limtiations abound. Time and again I read designers yo say the design the speaker to measure as best they can. But it just does not sound like music.

The question is of course is: what happens when the speaker sounds dull and lifeless.

Then enters a second speaker that sounds like real music but does not have optimum mesurements?

Many of course would argue, stop right there. If it does not measure well it can't sound good.

I pose the question then how can a spekeer that sounds lifeless be acurrate?

Would that pose yhis question. Does live music sound dull and lifeless?
If not how can we ever be be satisified with such a spseker no matter how well it measures?
I went shopping for some headphones the other day and called it to my local hi-fi shop. I didn't know much about the headphone market and just started listening to various brands and models. Some were just boom boxes with bloated bass. Others were rather dry. The ones I liked the most were the AKG K601. Bass wasn't overpowering and there was plenty of glorious detail on guitar strings and cymbals and such.

So I went home to chew on it for the night and read reviews on the K601's before I pulled the trigger. It appears that a very popular peer of cans amongst audiophiles at the moment are Audeze LCD-2's. The K601's were also highly regarded in the same circles.

An interesting pattern emerges if you compare the frequency response of the two headphones I have mentioned plus some other more widely used headphones...
Actually, some 'live' music does sound dull and lifeless.
no debate for me, I take musical every time

hi fi is so far from the real thing you may as well listen to something that moves you - colorations and all...

imo of course
Why compromise ? Few speakers on earth split it PERFECTLY down the middle of analytical and musical .... The Vapor Audio Cirrus do this absolutely perfectly.
Most tube amps measure miserably especially SET but they do make music so why not speakers. Are we trying to satisfy designers and measurements or our ears?
The recording and/or the room acoustics and/or poor amplification would be the likely culprits for lifeless sound out of well executed speakers.
There are speakers that measure well and are musical. I don't think they're mutually exclusive ideals, I just think there aren't many designers who have both the ear and technical expertise to successfully accomplish both.
"musical" would be MY choice. I believe Richard Vandersteen would also agree since the setup for my 5A speakers was not a quest for straight line response (Richard told me that sounds awful)....but rather to simply eliminate the big peaks and valleys of the room.
I agree with Soix, the two don`t 'have' to be mutually exclusive. For me the choice has always been easy, I`ll always select the speaker or component that sounds the best and get me emotionally involved with the music. At that point measurements are quite meaningless to me.
I haven't heard live music sound dull and lifeless. It always sounds just the way live music is supposed to sound.
I don't reallly care how a speaker or anything else measures for that mastter. I am more interested in the overall performance. Maybe we should be measuring good sounding speakers so we know what to look for.
Go with what sounds best to you, whatever you may choose to call it.
How about well informed musical? In other words, musical but yet providing the most information of the recorded content without sounding sterile and analytical. But in the end, I take musical, as it is to relax.
I was about to say the same thing timtim, my pair of Vapor Audio Cirrus reveals more details then my Focal Utopia Be's did, and is more refined and musical than my Harbeth SHL5's were. Once you hear something like that it's the end of your search.

Yes I'm a Vapor fanboy, but they earned it ...
I agree with Philjolet, I'll take musical any day.I want to enjoy the music not have listening fatigue.
I pose the question then how can a spekeer that sounds lifeless be acurrate?



The recording could sound lifeless, thereby being accurately reproduced by the speaker.
When the Op goes out to buy speakers: Do you just go read a pile of specs? or do you listen carefully to the speakers with a variety of music?
If you acctually believe in specs, then the first should get you a perfectly satisfying set of speakers.
Most folks buying speakers do not buy them that way. They listen to them.
In all audiophilia, specs are not the last word.

And oddas it is, PLENTY of audio equipment which has lousy specs, sound great to plenty of audiophiles.
And plenty of items with impeccable specs sound like crap.
Well stated Elizabeth.Who would really buy speakers or a componemt based purely on superior measurements and thus believe an audition to hear them is unncessary? Does anyone rely on measurements to that degree? On the other hand you can buy based soley on how it sounds(within your system) without any idea of how it measures.
I'm having pair of speakers built using the same drivers as the first generation Usher 8571. The cross overs are of the same Usher design but use higher quality caps, resistors. I had several discussions regarding type of music, room dimensions and contents....., audio components - amps, preamp...
The builder then asked me if I was striving for ultimate detail versus a musical approach. I opted for musical.
He suggested using the older Usher silk dome which according to the builder is more musical versus the more current Diamond, Bery., Usher tweeters. There's no right or wrong here. It boils down to personal preference.
After owning speakers of many different designs and flavors, I'll take musical. The speakers I use don't look nearly as good on paper as some of the others but they sound much better to my ear. Actually, instead of the term musical, I describe them as more fun to listen to. I can totally relax into the music.
The Op trust his ears
I don't disagree with you that the consumer loudspeaker market is fragmented in term of what they consider quality. We all seem to agree that amplifiers, and BLU-Ray players should be +- 0.25 dB but with loudspeakers, all sense of rational thinking seems to go out the door. I think this has to do with poorly controlled listening evaluations and poor objective measurements because when you have good subjective and objective measurements , consensus is usually reached.

That said, I think there is convergence over the last few years among the larger, more successful audio manufacturers in terms of what they believe the optimal target should be. I know this to be true because I do a lot of competitive benchmarking of loudspeakers, and the differences among competitors have shrunk. They are reading the available scientific literature and the measurement equipment, design tools,etc have come down in cost. Some even have anechoic chambers for doing accurate measurements but they don't always calibrate them or use them to their advantage.

There are still cases, where marketing/sales are clearly voicing the speaker to sound hyped in the bass and treble (Speaker B) and not natural, or they are going for high midrange sensitivity at the expense of bass in order to be the loudest speaker (Speaker C) on the floor at Best Buy. Or in the case of Loudspeaker D they clearly don't have any serious subjective/objective measurement capability or truly believe that coloring/distorting the music differentiates them from the pack. I've argued with misguided marketing people who think accurate sound is boring and not sellable, but fortunately they are long gone, and I am still here.

But on average, the design target for the majority of companies is flat, extended frequency response. The better ones get it right off-axis as well. The differences are how well they achieve their target and the devil is in the details. " Sean Olive Harman international
It used to be when a speaker was bright it was considered to be a speaker designed for marketing. When comparing speakers in a stereo store the brighter speaker gets your attention, but when you get it home you change everything in your system in an effort to get better sound. These are now called audiophile speakers.
Slightly off topic - It is interesting that the holy grail is live music. For me, many of the venues for live music are far from optimal. Many major concert halls are wonderful, but the lessor ones can be pretty mediocre. And a major orchestra in an old gymnasium/auditorium can be dreadful. Many jazz clubs have reflections all over the place. And, anytime you have amplification you have already colored the sound. Then their are the concerts in basketball and football arenas, baseball parks, etc. with 20 foot speakers blaring at you. Even if the speakers are pretty good, the acoustics can be awful.

I love the ambiance of live music and the chance to experience the musicians in person. But, except in a few venues, I am not looking for optimal sound.

Un-amplified music in a great venue is awesome. It is just not that common.

Live music in general is just a different experience than music at home. Fortunately, I live near Boston and we do have many fine venues.

That said, "musical" home setups are what I look for.
I am not a fan of distinguishing audio in terms of musical or analytical. I just do not find much value in this distinction.

HEy, its music! Of course it should be musical! But so what? Ask 10 people what musical means and you will get 10 different answers.

THat leaves us with analytical. WHo would want to listen to music that is analytical but not musical? Data from STTNG maybe? OR Mr SPock? Not people.

SO in the end this distinction really serves no purpose. Listen with your ears and decide what sounds good or right to you. Once you have it, then you can let the adjectives flow to describe it. Analytical is not likely to be one of those if it sounds like music to you.
I agree with the OP`s choice of terms and find them applicable. I`ve encountered speakers/components that do present a character that can be categorized as "analytical". They do sound clinical,sterile,dry.flatten.bleached.Simply amusical and artificial.This sound is completely devoided of the emotion/joy music provides and strips the life from it. Some like that type of presentation others don`t.
Consider this:
I use protective glasses when I ride a bicycle. Thier primary purpose is to avoid damage to my eyex form projectiles like bugs or gravel. They also keep my eyes from being dried out by the wind. They usuaully come with four sets of lenses.
1. Dark shades
2. Clear shades
3. Amber shades
4. Yellow shades

The dark shades are to filter out bright sunshade and UV rays.
The other shades also filter out UV but are designed for low light levels such as clouds/rain and dusk/dawn.
We see then that the shades are acting as filters.
Intuitively we would think that the clear glasses would aas the medium of least filter. That is if we wanted to see things as they are actually are we would choose that one. thhen we choose yellow for early morning light/dawn, amber for evening light. Dark glasses for the brightest sunlight. Nowdays we have glasses thaat automaticall adjust as the light changes.
certisnly then we can us gleasse to ditort our back to 20/20. We can also amplify light or decrease it to bring it back to "a normal range."It would appear then the optimal speaker would be the replica of the clear glasses. How then do we define the "clear glass speaker?"

If we try and transfer this to speakers Ideally we want the that lets the music through. Empiraclly we would
One would think then the speaker that measured best by traditional parameters would represent the "clear glasses" and sound best.i think we can agree this has not been the case.
That would make speaker design by manufactureres and selection of speakers by audiophiles exceedingly expedient.

Just look at the measurements and chose. Other factors suschas compatibility, practicality,etc. would still factor in.
Carrying our clear glass anolgy to its logical conclusion we would expect the least colored spekered to bring forth the most vibrant sound analogous to live music. Yet most frquently we get the exact opposite. The excellent measurements translate t odull, lifelless and analytical.

A maddeneing conlcusion indeed.
How many times have you listened to an analytical system and changed amps or preamp and it was suddenly musical? or vice versa. I can discuss many reasons for speakers to sound the way they do, (time & phase, baffle step compensation, parts count, etc) but normally I find that if you match them with the right electronics, well designed speakers do what they were meant to do.
I can't describe it, but I know it when I hear it.
If you want to know what is on the recording you need a neutral and resolving speaker. Analytical has a negative connotation that a neutral speaker can't be enjoyed or it lacks the body and soul of music, that's a pure fallacy. Musical(less accurate) speakers are more popular because you can get away with lesser electronics/cables and poor recordings are more tolerable.
Yes anlytical has a negative connotation. SO does calling Musical speakers less accurate. Most proponents of analytical spekers calimthat cables have no effect and amplifiers all sound the same. Thefeore its the measurement group who claim they"can get awy with generic claims and basci amplifiers." One "skeptic" says zip cord is just fine and all you need in an amplifier can be had for $1k.
Musical is a compliment IMO, it means the speaker is closer and faithful to,well, music. That`s why it`s emotionally involving(like live music is). Analytical to me suggests artificial,canned and psuedo detail and clinical this=amusical.There`s nothing "neutral" or natural about that.The more something can mimic real music the more'musical' it is.
I've always found that the best components are the most accurate ones, as measured by their ability to recreate something like an original performance.

"Analytical" components aren't always the most accurate in that respect. For example, a speaker that beams will likely sound more analytical, because it minimizes room reflections. But two channel stereo is missing the lateral reflections that are crucial to a sense of acoustical space. So a loudspeaker that illuminates the walls will if the speakers are a sufficient distance away sound less detailed and more spacious -- less analytical, but more accurate, by comparison to the original sound.

In the case of measurements, I'd distinguish between naive measurements and properly-interpreted ones. An example of a naive measurement would be the assumption that the frequency response of a speaker should be a horizontal line. Speakers that have that kind of response don't sound like the original performance with natural two channel stereo. They sound too bright. This effect has been known for years and is probably caused by the rolloff of high frequencies in the reverberant energy of a large acoustical space. Cardioid microphones and microphones that are too close don't pick up as much of this energy, and so the balance shifts and becomes too bright. It has to be compensated, either in the loudspeaker, or in the target curve of room EQ.

Again, the goal is an accurate reproduction of the performance. A flat speaker may measure well, but the total frequency response of the recording/reproducing chain will be wrong.
A good explanation Josh.

It seems to me that a neutral (flat frequency response)speaker would not necessarily sound neutral. Let's go back to ny glasses anology. The clear glasse4s would let through the full spectrum of light. Whatever was there would come through. The mere fact that it(a speaker) always sounds neutral would indicate some type of "coloration." If truly flat it would present very different sounds based on the music prented to it.
Maybe its a left/right side of the brain kind of thing?
The quote goes

"If it measures well but sounds bad you measured the wrong thing."

The above is a fact, and is also pragmatic. Most measurements do a poor job as they really are not attending to human hearing rules.

'Musical' to me implies accurate without editorial. 'Analytical' to me implies excessive energy in the high end and that I might listen politely for a few minutes before trying to get out of the room.
Hi Ralph
It takes me more than a few minutes but the results are similar to yours.
Nice,true and concise Atmasphere.
Robert fulton Got it very right!..I have no idea how his speakers measure but they sure do capture a great deal of musical information, color, tone, dynamics, etc..

In short They Resemble the real McCoy

Musical Arts
Conundria (a word I just made up, or an obscure Italian town). I think it comes down to "things you like and things you don't like". Reviews that say "this speaker is too revealing for crappy gear", although sounding reasonable, is weird to me and makes me think somebody is trying to make me spend money. Non musical speakers are the ones they use for PA announcements in airports, and a musical speaker is somebody lecturing you in a "sing song" voice. I'd like to be in on the conversation among the designers at the "non musical" speaker company..."So Bob, we have to increase the tonal glare and destroy the phase response curves in this speaker...that bassoon is just too damn life-like". Yamaha ns10s, which used to be in every pro studio in the known universe, absolutely SUCK. I hate those damn things...non musical GALORE, but somehow somebody made musical stuff happen through them...analytical? No...just BAD, and I still hate them. I also think a lot of music is non musical, but that's another story.
The Yamaha ns10 probably measures very well.
All I can add is that, IMHO, there are clearly several speakers that measure well and sound very much like music. And, as an audiophile for some 40 years, I think there is no longer a debate "raging on".
No one denies there are good sounding speakers that also measure well. The question is why do some speaker measure well yet sound poor.Why are there good sounding speakers that measure poorly. The debate lingers.
Einstein once said:

"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."
To my way of thinking this is apropos to this thread...right down to the ground.

When designing a loudspeaker, the question should be, the FIRST QUESTION:
'Does it SOUND LIKE music?'
If there is any equivocation, change whatever is that is mitigating that realism.
For years, some speakers have been maligned for 'too much treble' or 'too much bass'...given that we ALL hear differently this isn't surprising.
But...BUT, there is no doubting that flat frequency response is the start, just the START of a design. Tonal aberrations are generally disqualifiers for most people as we usually can pick apart some tonal glitch that makes a cello sound 'wrong', or a clarinet sound 'wrong', as most of us have a good inner reference since we've heard these instruments first hand.

As usual, Charles Dad and Atmasphere give sage advice.
Years ago a Supreme Court Justice, in describing Porn said, 'I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I know it when I see it.' (Paraphrase)

Speakers, to me, at least one's that sound real, are the same. You'll know it when you hear it.
And one final thought...any slight aberration becomes major, MAJOR in a short if you hear 'a little too much treble' at first, within a week, you'll be absolutely least I am.

No sound from speakers without amp.

Amp got it easy without a source.

No hear sound without ears, brain.

My ears look funny. How about yours? When I cup my hands behind them everything becomes more musical! Cheap tweak! Girls laugh though. Bummer!

How many audiophiles understand the intricate details of how the brain works?

How many neurologists even? Any audiophile neurologists or neurosurgeons out there? Please help us.
How do you know that what where measuring for is really the way to a great sounding loudspeakers? Would have to have the assumption that designers truly know what to measure, how to measure it and if it really has a major effect on quality. And while we have made much progress loudspeaker design relies on measurement, simulations but mostly on ideas skill talent and yes listening.
"Years ago a Supreme Court Justice, in describing Porn said, 'I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I know it when I see it.' (Paraphrase)"

They went on to leave it up to community standards. What's obscene in a small town would not be obscene in the big city.

So like most speaker designers/ reviewer5s they punted.
In light of the fact that there are so many variables that comprise your stereo , I feel you have to go with what sound pleases you, the musicality camp over accuracy. Look, we have an amplifier, preamp,cd player and possible a separate DAC, turntable cartridge and tonearm, cabling, stands,speakers,footers etc. Then you place those in a room, no two of which are alike. You treat that room (or not) with differing products. Then add in that everyone's hearing is different. What if youre over 45 like a lot of us and you have some degree of presbycussis. What use are masurements against all those many variables? If someone says this component measures perfectly flat (as few ever do), how is the person with some hearing loss going to perceive that as opposed to someone with perfect hearing? IMHO 'tis a far far better thing I do to buy components and treat my room in a manner that gives me a sound I like and that I can listen to for hours without listener fatigue.
Many things common to small towns like lack of sophistication, racism, wife swapping, smallness, extreme smallness, lack of hipsters, a lack of "pretentious audio salons", lack of decent porn, are in my book (or pamphlet) obscene. So are Yamaha ns10s.

Also, a lot of brilliant audio engineers and musicians are "older" people who can readily work with music in spite of having old ears. So please, everybody stop with the "ageism" already. I've found that all good ("musical") sounding speakers have something in common: A designer who listens to them and does whatever it takes to make them sound good.