Bass, Frequency response, Etc...Noob Question

Sorry if this has been covered before, but I looked through a bunch of pages and didn't really find exactly what I'm looking for. I'm confused by many of the spec numbers provided by manufacturers with regard to bass and frequency response and how these numbers relate to real world listening. I'm mainly talking about the bass end of the spectrum here...For example, a speaker manufacturer lists a frequency response of their speaker to be 35Hz-20kHz +/-3db, which while, not quite full range, appears to provide a nice amount of bass (I know there's a LOT more to this such as room size, placement, etc, just bear with me). My confusion comes in when writers or reviewers state that a speaker with the above specs to be better suited for vocals or jazz, and not meant to "rock", while a speaker with similar specs (sometimes even not as low on the bass freq) might be recommended for rock. What makes one speaker more suited for a specific type of music than another? Is it the "oomph" and controlled power of the bass frequencies? I'm just curious as I've seen speakers that I'd consider checking out, only to read or hear that they are not suited to "rock" music (my primary listening). I know this is very vague, and I'm unable to properly articulate what I'm trying to get at (sorry it's late). I guess a quick example would be why a speaker like the Reference 3a De Capo is not as suited to rock music as say a Klipsch Heresy might be...Any help would be appreciated!
I'd probably have a hard time looking at sets of specs and reliably picking out which speakers are best suited for rock.

In my opinion, for rock music you want bass down to 40 Hz or so (you probably don't need it deeper except for synth rock), and then you want as much dynamic contrast as you can get.

The challenge of a small speaker trying to reproduce rock at SPLs that do it justice is that as the speaker runs into its thermal and mechanical limits, power compression occurs. An example of power compression would be a 20 dB musical peak comes along, and your speakers only give you 17 dB. The emotional impact of the music is diminished, because musicians use dynamic contrast to convey emotion. The Heresy is likely to give you very close to the full 20 dB peak that the music called for, whereas a smaller and/or lower efficiency speaker probably will not.

As far as bass specs goes, unfortunately there is no real uniformity in how those numbers are arrived at. And even worse, some marketing departments are a bit... how shall we say this?... optimistic. There is a trade-off relationship between box size, bass extension, and efficiency: If you want good bass extension and good efficiency (which usually but not always translates into good dynamic contrast), then you're going to need a big box.

In general, bigger woofers seem to have more impact than smaller ones even at the same sound pressure level. I don't really understand why - by definition both are moving the same amount of air if they're playing the frequencies at the same SPL. But to do justice to rock music, imho you want a lot of cone area.

My (not unbiased) preference for playing rock music would be speakers that use prosound type drivers. In general prosound drivers are not as smooth-sounding as hifi drivers, but there are exceptions to that rule - and prosound drivers exhibit negligible power compression at normal in-home loudness levels. Intelligent speaker choice is about making eyes-wide-open tradeoffs to get what you want while steering the inevitable compromises into areas that don't matter as much to you.

I hesitate to suggest a rule of thumb... but heck why not. To do justice to rock music, I'd suggest speakers with at least 1.5 cubic feet of internal volume and an efficiency of at least 90 dB/1 watt. This combination of box size and efficiency will give you good extension down to about 40 Hz, and maybe lower depending on speaker placement and/or room acoustics. The efficiency is high enough that you should have good dynamic contrast unless you crank it really loud.

There are a couple of speaker/amplifier matching tricks that imho do a better than average job of giving you good dynamic contrast and bass extension, but that would be a tangential subject.

I also cannot see what specs would make a speaker more suitable for certain types of music. My guess is that those reviewers are equating rock with loud listening so a speaker that handles more power is able to play louder and, by circular reasoning, more suitable for rock. That doesn't mean it sounds better than other speakers at higher volume nor worse at lower volume.
I would think speakers that do rock more justice in the area of bass would be those with superior dynamics as well as extension. Dynamics are aspects of the sound that are difficult to measure correctly and interpret, thus the confusion. Don't expect to read a spec sheet on a loudspeaker and, by numbers alone, be able to tell what it is going to sound like in your room with your amp (and with the type of music and volume level that you prefer.) Unfortunately, specs don't tell the entire tale and that is where we turn to the aforementioned reviewers to better guide us (hopefully). Please don't get caught up in the numbers game when selecting your next speaker system. Instead, we must depend on listening to make the right choice. BTW, 25 years ago, I owned Klipsch Cornwalls and loved them - they really rocked the house - great dynamics. Keep in mind that horn speakers are a class themselves with unique characteristics that you may or may not like over time.
kids say you see with your eyes not with your hands. you choose speakers with your ears not with your eyes.unfortunately specs have become an advertising ploy. an honest manufacturer may have worst real world specs.

some would suggest that rock does not require a high quality speaker. I disagree. to handle all that volume without breaking up is a tall order. if you ever heard a bass guitar on a truly coherent speaker system you'll night what I mean. drums also are very difficult o produce.
my own recommendation is solid state amps with dynamic speakers.
I agree for 90% of whats needed 40hz with power is enough.. But if you can get it 32hz will work a little better.
an honest manufacturer may have worst real world specs.

That was a gem and it is certainly true of some of the few honest high quality manufacturers... speaker specs are a constant source of exaggeration often in room specs ( yeah give me a break - which room???)are given when the user expects anechoic response...
Thanks for all the information everyone, I appreciate it. I know that in the end specs for speakers mean very little, but other than B&W (which I own), Bose, Paradigm, and Klipsch (non Heritage), there's very few speakers I can easily audition. I'd love to hear the Cornwall's and I think they might be what I'm looking for, but brand new they are out of my price range, and if used, many folks aren't willing to ship them (HEAVY!)
Undertow said, ".. But if you can get it 32hz will work a little better."

Yes, that is true, and 20hz will work even better than that.
Well my only point was basic coverage down to the lowest bass note of about 31.5 hz is normally good enough for rock music, very rare they have a Steinway lowest A key of 27.5 hz or a pipe organ of 16 hz!! ThatÂ’s All I meant by it.


I used to be a dealer for Reference 3A and used the mm de capos to party with. Great rock speaker. Keep in mind that you are after a speaker that can handle a lot of power without scorching itself. Also to much bass is much worse than not quite enough because it often gets your room resonating, just like a car subwoofer gets the whole car bouncing. What you don't want are big 10" or 12" woofers which by their nature can not move as quickly as your smaller midrange driver and tend to sound sluggish.
Hi Undertow, my point is that 20hz is the prefered freq for all music.
This thread has got me thinking. I recently replaced my Kef Reference 3s (40Hz on the low end) with von Schweikert vr4 iii hse (20Hz on the low end). I listen to a fair amount of jazz, and the lowest note on an acoustic double bass is 41HZ or thereabouts, but the VRs, w/o sounding at all boomy, seem to get WAY down, even on instruments that don't get below 40Hz. Am I hearing harmonics "below" 40HZ, or it just the greater volume of air that the VRs push at 40 Hz?
I'm not looking for over-exaggerated, overblown bass, but I just want the speaker to reproduce (with some degree of accuracy and authority) what is on the record. I have to admit, choosing speakers is confusing! Especially when you can't audition them easily!