Are your speakers designed for your listening taste and hearing ability?
It occurs to me that speaker manufacturer’s and designers in many cases design their speaker ( and its subsequent sound) to the expected ’typical’ buyer. IME, a lot of high end speakers are designed to appeal to the consumer who has a certain amount of ’hearing loss’ due to age! This might sound odd, but I think that there are a lot of a’philes who have reached a certain age and have now two things going for them..1) A large enough wallet that the expense of the speaker isn’t really the issue and 2) a certain amount of high frequency hearing loss. This circumstance leads to designers and manufacturer’s bringing out speakers that are a) bright, b) inaccurate in their high frequency reproduction and c) not accurate in their reproduction across the frequency spectrum ( some may be tipped up in the highs, as an example). My impression is that a certain technology catches on--like the metal dome ( beryllium or titanium, as an example) and the manufacturer sees a certain public acceptance of this technology from the --shall we say-- less abled in the high frequency hearing dept, and the rest is as they say...history. Your thoughts?
Given that there are hundreds of speaker companies, there will be hundreds of different approaches. Some will tune their speakers to sound good to their ears while others will guess what audiophiles want and try to tune accordingly.
I think the key thing to remember is that:
A) Audiophiles have such bad hearing that you can get away with pretty much any kind of sound thesedays. Just stick a high price tag on it and it will sell.
B) Speaker designers are not 100% knowledgeable about what they are doing or how to achieve what they want. It's all trial and error folks. There are no standards to meet so there's no right or wrong!
@kenjit Agree, mostly. However, I do think that there are some folks who can actually hear when the high frequencies are tipped up, or the hard metal dome is ringing like a bell. So, IMO, there are some things that are obviously wrong ( to those that can hear them, that is) and some things that are right.
It occurs to me that speaker manufacturer’s and designers in many cases design their speaker ( and its subsequent sound) to the expected ’typical’ buyer.
Yeah well a lot of things happen "in many cases". "In many cases" Sony, Bose, JBL, and other large manufacturers really do design speakers by committee, where you can be sure the marketing department is very well represented. For sure. And yet, "in many cases" Tekton, Audiokinesis, Klipsch, and other small manufacturers build speakers primarily to their own individual requirements and tastes. I mention Klipsch as an example of how "in many cases" what started as a one-man show can grow to Fortune 500 size.
Thus proving beyond a doubt that "in many cases" is a phrase utterly without meaning. In many cases.
IME, a lot of high end speakers are designed to appeal to the consumer who has a certain amount of ’hearing loss’ due to age!
Spoken like a man of inexperience. So what you're saying, the ears are microphones, and the brain is incapable of EQ and requires compensating treble. Interesting point of view. What actually seems to happen is the same processes that lose high end hearing also tend to increase sensitivity to a loud or tipped up top end. In plain English it hurts our sensitive ears. Yeah I said "our". Mine, and a lot of other guys.
Oh, and 30 years ago when I was half my age and active with audiophiles my age or younger? Those guys ALL craved and went ga ga over a hyped tipped-up etched top end. Two I recall had systems totally unlistenable for that very reason.
Its NOT an old guy thing.
There's just as much diversity among the old as among the young. Sign it. Cash it. Spend the money.
My impression is that a certain technology catches on--like the metal dome ( beryllium or titanium, as an example) and the manufacturer sees a certain public acceptance of this technology from the --shall we say-- less abled in the high frequency hearing dept, and the rest is as they say...history. Your thoughts?
My impression is its a combination of factors. Look at any field, you will see the great majority involved at any one time are relatively new and inexperienced. As a very active PCA region driving instructor pretty much every event was 10% first-timers, 80% active 3 years or less, and the last 10% had been around 10-20 years or more.
It was like that when I learned to rock climb with the Mountaineers, Scuba with PADI, criterium with USCF.... and learned to listen with audiophile clubs in the 90's.
Only sorry, I lied. All those other groups, they really did have formal developmental programs. PCA has four for driving alone: Driver Skills, Driver Ed, Autocross, and Tours. Listed in order of emphasis on learning skills. Audiophiles have nothing like this. At least I'm assuming nothing has changed. Based on comments on this forum thats money in the bank as well.
So more than likely its simple listener inexperience. A hyped top end is the easiest way to fake detail. Millions fall for it. To not is practically a badge of honor.
Also never discount monkey see monkey do. Like, in many cases its safe to blame the old rich guy.
Most speakers have a significant roll-off in the treble in a normal listening room. Often starting as low as 5-6 khz. I'm not sure the speakers are necessarily the problem. The big problem, for me, is the "hot" recordings whare you try to create sharp voices in the studio that can't be listened to loud in a good system without tone controls or dsp.
I suspect most respectable audiophiles strive to improve their room acoustics over time, maybe even continuously, so whatever speakers they happen to be using would continuously change how they sound. Not to mention the speaker locations would need to be changing continuously as room acoustics warrant, and as tweaks warrant. It’s a very dynamic situation.
Its not just compensating for age. Most people will pick a speaker that has a tipped up high end when comparing 2 speakers back to back. The flat response speaker will sound muffled by comparison. At least at first. Its only after you get the bright speaker home do you find it gets fatiguing with longer listening sessions.
Same goes for speakers with a bass hump. I doubt you will be able to sell a Millennial a speaker without a 20 db boost under 150 hz.
One flaw in the logic of bright speakers adjusting for hearing loss is that the hearing loss is still present when listening to real sounds in the real world. That means, if a speaker's reproduction is intentionally made bright, it will no longer sound like live music. One may like a brighter sound, but it is still an artificial adjustment.
Second, is the brain is capable of doing a marvelous job of compensating for the signal its sent by the ears. I'm in my late 60s and have hearing loss above 12K along with tinnitus, yet music sounds just as wonderful to me now as when I was much younger. I hear a lot of live acoustic music and want the sound I hear at home to match that a closely as possible. I don't need a speaker to "correct" anything for me.
IME, a lot of high end speakers are designed to appeal to the consumer who has a certain amount of ’hearing loss’ due to age
Yes. This has been my point about Stereophile speaker darlings for years. Maybe it’s changed, but for a while the speakers they loved were absolute ear drills to me. You can find the explanation in the FR. My other possible explanation is purely financial.
. My impression is that a certain technology catches on--like the metal dome ( beryllium or titanium, as an example) and the manufacturer sees a certain public acceptance of this technology from the --shall we say-- less abled in the high frequency hearing dept, and the rest is as they say...history. Your thoughts?
I don’t see this tied together the same way, because the FR of the tweeter in respect to the other drivers is under the control of the crossover designer, and not all metal tweeters sound the same, or remain uncompensated for. I think the branding (Be for instance) is what’s really mattering here. One interesting thing I found about Stereophile was their darling speakers had the same ragged response in the mid-treble. Nearly identical, regardless of tweeter type.
But also, finally, I don’t care if a speaker is neutral or not in terms of product quality. We don't buy lab gear. Buy what you like. Listen to what makes you happy, but don’t come to me with a nasty FR and call it neutral.
Also see the posting from Toole about how impossible it is to actually create and listen to neutral speakers.
I have found there are a lot of “screaming tweeters” on the market. One writer and photographer from a publication literally said they were relieved when they walked in my room at AXPONA.
I am am not sure that it is hearing loss that leads manufacturers tube speakers so forward. The reality is, to get more perceived detail in the sound profile manufacturers turn the volume on the tweeter up a bit. It is less the type of tweeter and more the tubes profile. I have heard smooth and amazing beryllium tweeters and others that make me want to take an ice pick to my ears. Same with silk domes.
You can deliver some amazing “wow” moments that will sound detailed and jaw dropping with the right tracks and hide the brutal forwardness that may be exposed with the wrong. It is critical that whenever you evaluate a speaker you hear your music on it.
I have found there are a lot of “screaming tweeters” on the market.
@verdantaudio Oh yeah there are.
The reality is, to get more perceived detail in the sound profile manufacturers turn the volume on the tweeter up a bit.
From some careful examination, this is definitely one way speaker makers stand out. The other way is to make the mid-treble ragged, accentuating narrow bands. When you go from other speakers to the ragged, you go "Oh wow, I’m hearing things I never heard before!" even with the overall balance not as bright. The B&W and Golden Ear comparison in my blog post is a great illustrator of this phenomenon.
No difference from the way in big box stores they turn the Brightness, Sharpness, etc. controls on TVs up to MAX. The problem is, with 95% of the speakers, you can’t turn them down again (at least not directly on the speaker).
Thats what nigel thinks but the other possibility is that the measurements are all wrong and so is his interpretation of them.
Please tell us everything you know about interpreting data badly, Kenjit. What you fail to understand is that my standard for bad data interpretation is very low, and you are among the best there is. Not only do you interpret data badly, but just when the world thinks you might be onto something you contradict something you said five minutes before. I mean, wow. The ability you have to be in my grill while constantly changing your point of view is a feat of shameless mental aerobics that is a site to behold.
Most designers admit that the correlation between measurements and sound quality is tenuous. But Nigel you seem to think that the correlation is perfect. You correlate every tiny difference that people claim to hear with a simplified on axis response curve. Thats where you're mistaken.
As a 62 year old, in the past couple years I replaced my old ‘bright’ and ‘ear fatiguing’ speakers for Vandersteen 1C’s then almost immediately a pair of 2CE Sigs (have both still). Most say these Vandersteen’s are ‘dull‘, ‘warm’, and sound like they ‘have a blanket over them’. They sound good to me, and what I want my music to sound like vs the previous, especially in their tonal qualities. And, they have metal dome tweeters, so, go figure. I can listen to them for hours on end, and do.
if I purchase new speakers, I will want the same qualities as the Vandy’s but better and more of it. But if someone tells me a speaker is ‘bright’, I discount them right away; not to my taste.
I have to agree more with the above, newer music is compressed and recorded bright and ‘hot’, is often played back on ‘high tilted’ speakers, and is loved by most much younger than me. So, I doubt that is happening because audiophiles are old and their hearing is compromised, I doubt many listen to those types of recordings. I very rarely if ever do.
I’m sorry, Kenjit, but you fail to understand that my standard for discussing fact based issues is very high. You make up so many I can’t possibly talk to you.
Remember you spent an entire thread arguing that science and engineering did not matter? Now you claim to have knowledge about what designers think or say. In fact, that's your whole shtick, making up things about speaker makers, designers and science.
In my 50 years of this “hobby” I have never bought any equipment that I didn’t think sounded excellent. Why would I? My advice for those that it matters to, is do your homework, but always, always, always buy what sounds best for you, not your friends or the pundits...
So now there is no objective reality, only subjective preferences? J. Gordon Holt was right about the direction Hi-Fi was taking, and is rolling over in his grave.
For anyone yearning for some truth/facts about loudspeaker design, all you have to do is go to You Tube and do a search for GR Research speakers. That search will lead you to the videos Danny Richie has made, wherein the theory and mechanics of loudspeaker design are explained and demonstrated. JL: "All I want is the truth.....just give me some truth."
As to the original question, I am happy with my Spatial Audio M1 Triode masters. They seem best at midrange and highs with the equipment that I have, in my small living room. The two reasons I think I am missing anything is due partially to age(I'm 54), but mainly because I need to improve my source.
While many olderphiles might have some hearing loss, you have to remember that this same hearing loss is what they use when they go to a live concert. So if live concerts, particularly those without a lot of doctored music, are the reference, that is what they should be trying to emulate in their home systems.
So if the high end is peaked up, it should sound unnatural compared to a life reference sound.
I built my own speakers from Dayton Audio RS 7” woofers and Morel’s Tweemid integrated soft domes on a single plate. I put L-pads in series with both domes so I could tune the balance to sound most like live concert recordings from Symphony Hall of concerts I attended myself, with mid orchestra seats. Yes at 68 my hearing ain’t what it was, but the truthfulness to the real sound is undeniable. With rock recordings, it varies, as you might expect.
Swapped out silk domes in my Monitor Audio 352s in the 80s. Did not like the new treble. Fatiguing. I swapped them back out and stuck them in my car. Only to blow my eardrums with them listening to The The with the windows up.
I must have listened to 30 speakers before I purchased mine. I almost purchased a pair of Martin Logan Motion 60's. I went back to the dealer three times and the last time there I listened for two hours. Thank God I did because I discovered I would develop ear fatigue from the ribbon tweeters.
I do wish there would be a way for consumers to listen to speakers in their homes before they purchase them. In my case, they sounded much better at home.
I think it is very important to spend at least two hours listening to a pair of speakers before purchasing them. It is also important to play some of the music you like to play.
I do think adding a pair of REL S3 SHO subwoofers transformed my system. I really like their high level connection because they act like additional woofers to extend the bass smoothly. They are tricky to dial in. I was surprised by lowering the volume to about 40% solved the boomy bass problem. I also noticed how they took some of the load off my tower speakers to help them play better in the mid driver and tweeters. Voices sure sound better like Diana Krall. I would imagine others have noticed this. Lucky for me, my room acoustics are so good.
@larry5729 Nice post. Agree 100%. The most important thing when shopping for speakers is to have a home trial...if at all possible, IMHO. The speaker has to have synergy not just with your upstream gear, but also your room. I also agree that dialing in two subs is very tricky...and quite time consuming. The way you describe the set up is about how I ended up as well, although I have dialed my subs back even more than 40%...they are about 25% up on the volume dial....but then I also have a very small room.
Interesting OP and replies. IME when you factor in the source equipment chain, room acoustics and media recording quality, all speakers can/will sound different. I have never been happier with my system than now, simply after having moved it into a different room which is smaller, more regularly shaped, has a concrete floor and came with curtains covering the sliding glass doors.
The previous much larger multi-purpose listening room had wooden floors, a raked ceiling, uncovered glass bi-fold doors for the view and compromised corners but was where I had to be due to family reasons. Kids moving out freed up what used to be the rumpus room. Now I find the soundstage more credible, the treble is less harsh and the bass improved dramatically. Speakers are vintage Klipschorns.
@daveyf I think you may have young ears. As you get older you do lose the upper frequencies, but until you get very old (80+) you will, on average, have all the main frequencies for music in tact bar the odd splashy cymbal. But what a lot of over 50s start to get is a greater sensitivity to upper frequencies, sounds around 2khz and up. So older ears often do not like bright sounding speakers. They hurt us.
@duckworp, then I will consider myself relatively lucky. *S* At 68+, I have 'rolled off' a bit but still have a taste for the 'brighter side' of speakers... I do 'roll up' the 'top end' with EQ, but still keeping the space basically 'flat'. As much as practical with that in mind, but not creating a 'top' slope that heads for the clouds. I'm happy about all this, since my 'take' on the 'hobby' includes DIY.....a lot. But that''s my situation....*G* Fortunately, most music doesn't include hf that etches glass..yet... ;)
I'm 65+ and recently did some upgrades. No question my hearing ain't what it used to be and it occurred to this is last system I'll want or need. Speakers first. Bose Acoustimass SE 5s to Difinitve Technology Mythos Gem XL's and a DT ProSub 800. The other was finding a vintage Tannoy Micro with a Stanton 681EE. Can I hear the difference? You bet! It's almost like my hearing's improved. I'm going to weight in here on the notion that we stop hearing the difference between mediocre and outstanding. It's a lot of BS and I'm here to bear witness.
@geoffkait ....*G* Well, so far....*knocks on head, standing in for wood*....that 'air' is still There....*pointing around*...
The 'sweetness' varies with what's playing...but that's kinda normal. ;)
@gosta....MHO is 'perfection' is our daily reality, walking about this sea of air. *S* Anything coming through a mass of electronics and wires, exciting various membrane types is and always will be a depiction of it.
We strive to get as close to It...but, it's still a simulation.
I love to hear pianos, violins, guitars, 'synths', drums, all that....
...but it's always better In Real Life...Up Close. *S*
First post. Agree with duckworp and others that old ears can be irritated by very bright speakers (and especially headphones). I'm busy reconstituting my stereo system after years of attrition. I just had my New Advent speakers re-coned and the 3-position crossover switches replaced with continuously-variable pots, but I'll likely run them around the middle settings as I always have. I listened to some speakers in a stereo store (remember them?) and observed that they were lacking in midrange. The salesman checked and sure enough, the bass and treble controls on the crossovers were turned all the way up. That was 48 years ago, so I don't think I've changed much in my listening and would still shop for speakers with balanced delivery were I in the market. Having said all that, those speakers in the shop were set to somebody's taste, so it wouldn't surprise me if some manufacturers are pushing the ends of the aural spectrum at the expense of balance.
Somehow every speaker I've liked over the decades was amazingly designed just for me as the result of a happy engineering accident. My current Klipsch Heresy IIIs must have been the result of Roy Delgado secretly stalking me, as he nailed it...how did he know what I was gonna drive 'em with? That I was gonna buy 'em? Even knew where I live? Sneaky bastard...
One of the posts above says, "
So now there is no objective reality, only subjective preferences?"
Actually, there is an objective reality--it's called music performed in real space. And since no audio system, either high $$ audiophile type or mass-market type, can accurately convey all that information, yes, we're down to subjective preferences concerning the inevitable compromises made by each speaker designer.
It's depressing how quickly this thread degenerated into a variant of the very old & tired accuracy vs musicality debate. I may be an old dude now w/the inevitable hearing dings, but 35+ years ago, when I first got into high end audio, I ran into this debate like a very scary buzz-saw. Some dealers were pushing reviewer-praised & pricey gear that emphasized accuracy/detail (and razored my ears off). Others were pushing stuff that sounded way better to me: more natural, life-like, and yes, musical. Richard Vandersteen's stuff was in the latter camp. Clearly heard it from the 1st minute.
But it's a big audio universe and people can buy whatever designs sound best to them. But pls stop beating those of us who do that over the head with graphs & reviews to prove that your choice is the only rational choice.
Is "music performed in a real space" always acoustic? And if so, what are the acoustics? Tall feathered hats and corrugated steel walls? Outdoors with actual bird sounds (back when there were birds). Carnegie Hall? What seats? Can you sit under the Steinway? I'm a decades long (and 6' tall) successful musician and frequently over paid live concert sound producer/mixer (as well as a coconut margarita mixer), and I can say with confidence and a slight lisp that there is no bottom line regarding live anything. Or maybe there is. I've recorded an acoustic guitar on state of the art (maybe) recording gear and played it back on my hifi rig while sitting there playing the same thing on the same guitar as a demonstration for a friend or two. My hifi rig replicates the guitar tone very well, thus proving something I already knew that I don't care much about. If a recording sounds great to me, it just does...if it doesn't sound great it doesn't. How do I test that? I don't need to. Except where previously noted.
One big advantage of my DIY speakers is that I am not afraid to keep modifying them until they sound right. Since I got my fully horn loaded, DEQX DSP'ed speakers to playing in 2004 I have changed woofer drivers, folded corner horn enclosures, midrange (actually wide range) drivers, all amplifiers, added supertweeters and upgraded the DEQX DSP. I have finally got the triamplified three way horns to sounding and measuring as good as I imagined them before I started sawing wood and machining metal. I am very gratified to say that my audiophile friends all say that they sound very good.
20 years ago I was the ‘tube nut” making full range speakers that had a nasty shout....things change and I learned that a lo powered tube system has to do sound from more than just the parts....they work to bring out the best of it all....room included.....now people are amazed that they hear a really hi-dollar “sound” in 2-3 watts from nice horns well placed—-the ‘live in the room’ music.....from invisible speakers!!!! 2 ways of getting there I guess.......