Dealers and exaggerated treble


I've been thinking about some negative experiences I've had at dealers over the past few years. I don't mean the dealer's were unpleasant, they were not. I mean that I heard bad sound.


In a lot of those cases, the treble was exaggerated, or harsh to me.


I'm wondering, have you ever heard really bad treble at a dealer, but then you hear the speakers elsewhere and they seem fine?
erik_squires
No, because the treble is above the room transition frequency. Unless you are in a tiny room with no porous surfaces (the walls are made of glass or something), the difference in treble should be from whether you are listening directly on-axis or on a different angle...and if the speaker has un-even dispersion the differences in position will be exacerbated. I’ve never heard a speaker that’s bright that isn’t bright in every other room.

If you have an experience like the one you mentioned, and the angle you listened to the speakers didn't change, assuming the speaker is normally not considered a bright speaker, another possibility is the speaker has an existing peak at a frequency that was exacerbated by some reflections that grated your nerves and so it wasn't actually bright, rather you were just bothered by a high q resonant peak that was made worse. 
Erik,

I haven’t had that particular experience, though I’ve heard plenty of bad sound at dealerships.

I suppose in your cases, the harshness could have been exacerbated by the upstream components or lack of acoustic treatment.

As you well know, many speakers have HF peaks; so do many microphones; and so do MC cartridges. A bad combination could be tough to take.

Mike


When I had my shoppe(early 80’s) in Winter Park, Fl; a customer wondered how my 10", two-ways might sound, compared to the Boston Acoustics, that a local competitor carried. He wondered if he could borrow a pair to take to their location. Came back and said they were terrible. I drove over there(never had, prior) and looked around, finding a graphic EQ, far removed(on another shelf) from the system), but in the tape loop (set to BOOM and SIZZLE . He tried the comparison again, switching off the tape loop, returned and bought a pair of mine, as a kit. Knowledge = power!
Having worked in a Mid Fi store for a period in the late 70s there were all kinds of tricks the salespeople played. 1st of all the salespeople were "spiffed" on certain products management wanted to push. They got payed extra to move these products so of course they made products that were not spiffed sound worse mostly by lowering the treble or hooking the speakers up out of phase not to mention spewing out all kinds of BS. Finally I developed a relationship with the highest of the hi end stores on my area were I can attest none of this crap was done. It was much more fun doing systems that you knew in your heart were the best you could do for the money with the equipment you carried. Then of course there was the equipment you did not carry.......................
In a lot of those cases, the treble was exaggerated, or harsh to me.
ALL of the dealer demos i had recently sounded bad. VERY bad. The problem is dealers dont seem to realise how bad the sound is. They dont seem to know the difference between good and bad sound. I would say a not insignificant number of audiophiles are exactly the same which is why we dont hear many complaints like this.

What speakers were you listening to?

Many of the dealers i went to were selling some of the most expensive speakers on the planet. 





hooking the speakers up out of phase not to mention spewing out
all kinds of BS.
Please explain to me what this is about?

I recently went to an ultra high end store for a demo. It was by apointment so everything had been set up prior to my arrival by the store manager. In other words he must have surely sat down and checked the sound even if briefly. 
When i arrived, i immediately heard and pointed out that the speakers were wired out of phase.
He then corrected the mistake. I was shocked at how this could have happened. 

Either deliberate, or a mistake. Either way its deplorable. 


@kenjit : Your story of the out-of-phase demo reminded me that I once had that experience, too. It's hard to understand, because the system was set up with care and sounded great once we fixed that.

I suppose the explanation is, we're all human. Maybe a phone call came in at the end of the system setup. The dealer had done a lot of work moving heavy stuff to make that demo possible, so I forgave them -- and I've given them some business since.


Can't say I've noticed this, myself.
But then I'm usual active in my speaker auditioning: if not asking for a particular position for the speakers, then ensuring I experiment with my seating position to get the best, smoothest sound I can hear from the set up.
I drove over there(never had, prior) and looked around, finding a graphic EQ, far removed(on another shelf) from the system),


THAT is exactly the sort of BS I'm talking about.

What got me thinking of this is that there's a couple of brands I've heard and hated as ear drills, which others call sublime. Golden Ear, Jim Thiel era Thiels, etc.

I recently had the experience of walking into a Wilson dealer and hearing the speaker cables reversed. When that was fixed, the treble was still nasty hot. Several Wilsons have configurable crossovers which lets you turn the relative level of the tweeters up or down, so this was a case where it would have been impossible to tell if they were altered without tools.


I heard Magico's at another local dealer and I winced at the presence. I literally could not listen to them. 

I'm also thinking about other dealers who would not let me play my own music.


Using digital servers it is super easy to juice music tracks. You equalize them before saving them to your music server, and voila, you magically have detail you've never heard at home before. 

So, overall, I'm wondering:


- how much of my opinion about brands has been shaped by bad dealer setups
- How many consumers of high end gear are easily duped by it.  I mean, if the dealers lost money doing this they would stop, right?
@erik_squires ,
- How many consumers of high end gear are easily duped by it.
I think a large chunk of those with disposable wealth will be victims of dealer deceit, but mostly from their belief that paying more equates with getting the 'best'- All done without listening beforehand.

I pretty much gave up on Dealers after my experiences with them during the 80's. Luckily, I found John Rutan here on Audiogon.
(This isn't supposed to be a plug, but just that I finally found a dealer who not only knows his stuff, but is honest).
Bob
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I've been in a Bang & Olufsen dealer once and he showed me, for some minutes, their BeoLab 90 active speakers, ones that cost about 80.000 euros, and the sounded very bad, what a dissapointment.
The whole system costed more than 100k euros and my much much modest system was much better.
I guess some dealers dont know about how high end speakers should sound, I really dont know the answer because you can not sell multi thousand dollars system and not know how to install and voiced them to the room. Its incredible. 
I live in Tucson. Only "dealer" is Best Buy. Found the opposite. They were demoing some equipment and the bass was too loud, slow and muddy. SMH and left. We had some really good dealers BITD. Don't know where to go now.
I was at a dealer in Chicago before Christmas last year. They had speakers that are said to be very good placed with the drivers about 2 ft. from the front wall. I listened to a few cuts with the salesman in the room. The soundstage was not there and the bass boomed noticeably. There was also a hole in the middle of the sound as the speakers were aiming straight ahead. I was there as a potential buyer of these speakers. I asked the dude if I could move them out as far as the cables would let me. Then I fine tuned them to angle more towards my shoulders. The speaker drivers were now about 5 ft. into a fairly large room. Now the stage was quite present in both directions, the bass was powerful and clean, but still organic sounding. The mids were fantastic in every way--the strength of this speaker. Another salesman heard our demo and came in to listen. The original salesman went out and came back with a third salesman. We all sat there for many more tunes and enjoyed ourselves completely. All 3 couldn’t believe how good those speakers could sound. This place has many listening rooms and is a very large building. The guys don’t take much time getting to know the other guys and gals working there much it seemed.

Could these guys not hear the needlessly poor sound before? I guess you don’t know what you don’t know. All these guys were pretty young, as in under 30. I’m 66, with most likely less fine hearing than I once had--but still pretty good. These speakers were ATC SCM40 speakers. I’d read much about them, but never heard them in person. Personally, I believe most millennials just don’t get into the sound much and have to be to doing at least one other thing with the music as a backdrop, but louder than a typical doctor’s office--they were reading or playing video games when we first started.

I’ve been to a dealer that had all the speakers bunched up on the same wall and around the room while demonstrating Magnepan 3.5’s. The sound was not good in any manner. I really don’t think I’ve heard a properly set up pair yet, except for the Magneplanar Tympani IV’s with Audio Research stuff back in the late 60’s. They WERE awesome then and probably still would be very nice with current stuff. Back then, the dealers really knew there stuff and the lines they carried. They knew how to get the best out of their speakers!

So yes, I’ve heard poor sound from most likely very good speakers at a dealers. The Golden Ear Ones were right next to the side wall and about 2 ft. out from the front wall. I asked the dealer if I could move them after a few tunes and he said indignantly that they sounder their best this way. In spite of their location, they still sounded pretty good at the time. If I were a betting man, I’d bet they could have sounded better out further, toed in some instead of straight ahead and much further from the front wall. It was a long and fairly skinny room--maybe 25 ft. x 12 ft

Bob




I’ve been to dealer showrooms where the room itself is a terrible place to listen. One I recently visited had a dozen systems placed around the main listening room. It was also littered with other equipment in racks and on shelves with accessories and junk piled everywhere. Nothing sounded good. I don’t think the staff there knows much about audio or how to set up a system. But there is no competition anywhere near them and that’s why they do well. The good news is anything you buy there has to sound better when you get it home. 
Yes, I've definitely experienced the "salespeople have no idea what they are doing" syndrome as well.


At least it is benign of intention.

Best,
E
Unfortunately,  if you don't know much or are just getting into the hobby this can happen.  Otherwise, there's no excuse for a bad demo - it's on you for not asserting yourself.  It doesn't matter what the dealer thinks sounds good - do your homework and come prepared.  I once hauled PCs on a 10 hour flight to make sure the demo was as useful as possible.  If the dealer is too lazy to listen to your requests find another one.
kenjit
i immediately heard and pointed out that the speakers were wired out of phase. He then corrected the mistake. I was shocked at how this could have happened. Either deliberate, or a mistake. Either way its deplorable.
It’s "deplorable" to make a mistake?
Have you ever made a mistake?
To err is human.
yes deplorable to set up a pair of high end speakers without listening to them and positioning them and noticing that theyre out of phase. The guy didnt even notice until I told him. Either that or it was deliberate
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I've gone to two audio shows in the last 2 years (AXPONA, Tampa) and I've been surprised at the overall quality of the sound. I think they might try harder because you've got manufacturer reps on site who spend time tweaking and refining their setups. If someone is interested in buying speakers I recommend attending a major show. Not only can you likely hear the speakers you have in mind, you can also year many others that have a range of qualities. Plus you can hear several expensive state of the art systems to get an idea of what $250,000+ buys.

Many years ago I was comparing a couple different speakers at a dealer and I immediately noticed that one pair was out of phase. I pointed this out and the salesman gave me the stink eye and walked out of the room. Today I'm very interested to read that I'm not the only one who's noticed out of phase speakers in a dealer's showroom.
Erik: it's not just the dealers.  Perhaps it's not even primarily the dealers.  It's the makers.  A healthy percentage of new speakers today are voiced hotter/brighter than many of yesteryear.  The Thiels were always that way, so it's not exclusively a recent trend, just one that is more pervasive these days (I speak as a former owner of 3.6).  Whether this is closer to a quasi-objective norm of accuracy or not, is a matter of debate.  To you, me and others what is not up for debate is that they are not pleasant to listen to, especially for extended periods of time.
I stopped by my local shop some months ago to give a listen to the new Paradigm Persona flagships. I was met and struck with a strident and offensive top end. Being driven with a tube integrated this should not have been an issue. The issue as I found out several weeks later, was the extended break in period for these speakers which have a beryllium tweets. My Second listen was better but still grating. The third listen was almost 6 weeks after my first. They were adequately broken in. I imagine a lot of tweets made of beryllium have this issue. 

In terms of Thiel speakers, I love their imaging and time coherent approach top speaker design, but yeah the top end can be harsh. I think the metal dome tweets could have been better rendered./designed.  
The issue as I found out several weeks later, was the extended break in period for these speakers which have a beryllium tweets
you sure it wasn't the mains cable? That can make the sound pretty bright. 
8th note 1+    I think it is nice to see the extent of the market and at least be able to have a good look at the equipment particularly speakers to get an idea of how well they are built even if show conditions do not allow you to hear the equipment at its best. 
The best dealers have multiple showrooms set up to optimize certain equipment. Serious listening is always by appointment and it always helps if you drive up in a Porsche. A good shop owner will not try to sell anything but just answer questions and allow you to listen. This approach is usually limited to the best equipment. Once you get down to mid fi you will get more of the standard approach and the shop owner's assistant. My own motto is never let anybody sell you anything. Know what you want and evaluate equipment yourself in terms of sound and build quality. 

Interesting enough all the comments.  Personally I have found that most demonstrations are using servers to access music.  I have not found that many that to my ears sounded as good as a good transport and DAC like a CEC, Metronome, Audiomeca transport.  I am trying to get there myself but nothing that really does what these transports do.  So to me that is one cause of the treble issue.


I recently heard a ProAc monitor and a Vandersteen monitor.  At first, the Vandersteen sounded slow and not to involving.  The ProAC seemed livelier, faster and more open.  The Vandersteen had a more musical sound with better decay of notes and to me hearing piano notes fade away is the correct sound.  It was more spacious sounding also.  But the jump factor with the ProACs was fun.  It was during this comparison that I remember thinking the ProAC tweeter was a little tilted up in the frequency offering the fun factor.  Exciting but maybe over time not correct and long term listening could be an issue.  I wanted to have both but that was not an option.

Living in the NYC area, I get to hear so many systems.  I am able to understand more of what causes the poor sound from these experiences.  I find the issue mostly is coming form the source than the speakers.  I usually bring a DHT DAC with me so that I can hear what it does in these systems.  Usually within the first 30 seconds everyone hears the differences for the better.

So to me it is not as much the speakers or the set-up as it is the source feeding the system the sound most of the time.

Happy Listening. 




bigkidz (+1) Speaker systems, in general, are more accurate/transparent than in the past. That means; one’s more likely to be put on notice, of anything that’s strident/bright/screwed up(in any way) upstream(GIGO).
I personally don’t think that the speakers in general are more accurate and transparent than the past but I do know that different speakers do sound different in the same exact (rest of the) system.
@kenjit wrote.... I recently went to an ultra high end store for a demo. It was by apointment so everything had been set up prior to my arrival by the store manager. In other words he must have surely sat down and checked the sound even if briefly.
When i arrived, i immediately heard and pointed out that the speakers were wired out of phase.
He then corrected the mistake. I was shocked at how this could have happened.

Either deliberate, or a mistake. Either way its deplorable.
Perhaps one of the upstream components inverted phase.  One speaker wired out of phase WILL impact the sound, whereas, both speakers wire out of phase will have very little impact as you have a 50/50 chance that the source material was recorded with the correct phase.


Perhaps one of the upstream components inverted phase.  
does not matter where the phase was inverted. It should be immediately obvious unless you have bad hearing or it was deliberate.
I noticed sizzly treble in at least two models I auditioned.  One (Paradigm) seems to be tipped-up out of the box, per Stereophile measurements. The other I'm not sure about. The dealer's listening room had a live end (brick wall) at the speaker end of the room.  Didn't seem like a good choice.
I think people have different sensitivity to treble curves. So you may be quite different from a dealer in that regard and there is nothing "wrong." Also, dealers usually carry different speaker lines for different ears, so unless they are all bright i doubt there is an issue.

I would actually trust good dealers in LA moreso than any internet forum. Several of them are *excellent* setup guys. One took 12 hours to setup my friends Alexxs. But most audiophiles enjoy crappy setup sound at home instead to save a few $ vs using someone who has 20-30 years of experience in all types of rooms.

True, there can be an inverted phase issue from time to time - but that's an outlier not the norm. By golly guys...

@testpilot  wrote...Perhaps one of the upstream components inverted phase.  
@kenjit wrote...does not matter where the phase was inverted. It should be immediately obvious unless you have bad hearing or it was deliberate.
Sure it does.  A lot of pre-amps invert phase, therefore, many users will wire their speakers out of phase in an attempt to restore correct phase.  Also, please direct me to a link that describes the recording industry's standard for proper phase when recording.  You have a 50/50 chance of getting the correct phase due to the lack of an industry phase standard.
@testpilot  I am talking about one channel being out of phase with the other.  
Testpilot, Inverted phase in one channel only!
Even some speaker manufacturers over-emphasize the treble and fool the audience into thinking they are hearing extra air and detail -- but they are not; furthermore, when they get the speakers home, they find that they give them listening fatigue.
I’m Lucky to have two good dealers near me. AudioLab in Fairless Hills, PA and The Art of Sound in Lambertville , NJ
And of course John Rutan at Audio Connection, best in North Jersey 
+1 for John Rutan at Audio Connection
Hell yeah! The Rock system in New York a few years ago (2013?) was searingly bright. As was MBL. 
Even some speaker manufacturers over-emphasize the treble and fool the audience into thinking they are hearing extra air and detail -- but they are not; furthermore, when they get the speakers home, they find that they give them listening fatigue.


A bunch, IMO.  I think you have to be really diligent while auditioning to put yourself in a listening-at-home mindset.
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@erik_squires --

I’m wondering, have you ever heard really bad treble at a dealer, but then you hear the speakers elsewhere and they seem fine?

While dealer demos can be less than satisfactory in a number of sonic parameters the real problem to my ears is that a lot of speakers are simply tilted up or otherwise subjectively "trebly" in the upper frequency range; whether dealer demo or home ditto, it doesn’t make a difference. Maybe the predominant reason for this tendency - again, at least to my ears - has less to do with the treble itself and more with the overall tonality or frequency/energy balance of a speaker in the lower registers, and the midrange. Most speakers seem to lack fullness and presence in the upper bass and lower mids, and oftentimes this is also coupled with a slightly recessed central midrange. When the "fundamental tone" and central midrange "walk hand-in-hand" this way the sonic balance can err on the side of being a bit laid-back while sounding slightly thin or even malnourished. This aids the illusion of depth, and highlights spaciousness and detail reproduction in the upper frequencies in particular (unnaturally, I find), and is perhaps the overall recipe for a much lauded "hifi"-sound. Compared to a live acoustic performance however I find this deviates from an authentic presentation; there’s a lack density, natural warmth, presence and tonal richness, and typically also scale and ease.
Interestingly the lowest bass, certainly down to about 20Hz, and when reproduced with proper force and presence can impact the upper frequencies in lending them more substance.
@ctsooner +100.  Amen to that.