Do $2k speakers + DSP = $50k speakers?


Now that I have your attention, I’d like to share one of my recent experiments. Like many of you, I've never truly been satisfied with my system and often consider purchasing higher-end speakers. I have a variety of speakers in my house including small, high-quality monitors, and mid/high level floor standers and a few subs (all names left intentionally blank) from $2k to $15k. One part of me enjoys the flexibility of monitors while the other part prefers the full-range sound of floor standers. I have a mid-sized room with some strategically placed panels, but the room is average at best.

As a fun project, I used Dirac room correction and bass management, via a MiniDSP unit, to tweak the frequency response of my floor standers. I then used Room EQ Wizard to further tune the frequency response and properly integrate my subs. They sound “good” (and far better than they did without the EQ), but I suspect they’re ultimately limited by the room. I then used this result as a baseline to see how far I could go with my monitors (1/10 the price of the floor standers). I set up my monitors in nearly the same position and went through the same process. I worked to bring the response as close as I could to the floor-stander baseline as possible. I did not fully invest the time to seamlessly integrate the subs, but I must admit I was pretty shocked as to how close I got things when I A-B'ed them.

There are so many speaker manufactures out there with unique strengths and focuses. If you select a speaker with good quality drivers, a solid cabinet, low distortion, good off-axis response, and solid engineering behind it, is the only hurdle left frequency response differences? Can a $2k speaker (with subs and DSP) = a $50k speaker? Thoughts?

hifiguy5
Properly integrated, subs are magic.
Better with room acoustics being brought in before EQ.


I'll go further: You can get better sound with satellites and a sub IF (and only IF) you can integrate them with each other and the room well.

Otherwise, smaller floor standers will tend to do better.

Best,
E
I’m gonna go with “nope”.

Every speaker has compromises. The more you spend the fewer the compromises. At $2k, there are MANY compromises. DSP might mitigate room modes but will never mitigate a loud cabinet, lack of bass, resonant drivers, or underwhelming passive parts, among others.

Other than low bass, I consider my system to be very well accomplished. I have experimented with Roon’s DSP feature. I can flatten the in-room frequency response but not sure it really improves musical enjoyment. I just run Roon with default flat settings.

I have been pondering the same question for a while and do think it is possible with the right monitors (untested hypothesis). Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile, in his review of the Kii Audio Three hinted at the answer: “If I use Dirac Live equalization to correct my room's sound, my current reference speakers, the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond 802 D3s, don't sound much different from the Kii Threes….” The Kii’s are $12k (and he was not using Subs) compared to his $22k B&Ws. The Kii’s use inexpensive drivers according to diyAudio (Peerless $20 x 4, Dayton $16 and Seas $74) but do rely on sophisticated DSP techniques. I would be very curious if one uses a less expensive well-engineered monitor with “good quality drivers, a solid cabinet, low distortion, good off-axis response” such as the $4k Revel M126Be or $4k Ryan S610, (both that can get to ~50 Hz) and add subs and DSP, the sound can actually get there. Anyone in my area with Revel’s want to conduct a fun experiment?


A similar question to ask is can adding DSP to an existing system/room make $2K speakers sound like $12K speakers, all else being equal? 
Only if the 12000 speakers are Bose.     
Big boxes only are necessary for low bass. If you properly integrate stand mounted speakers with subwoofers, it becomes competitive with their bigger box siblings. If the tweeter and midrange speakers are the same, a pair of subwoofers sounds great if properly integrated. DEQX or a high-end DAC with low and high pass filters (Bel Canto Black EX) is the only way I have successfully integrated subs.
Well if you buy into the Harman school of audio theory, there should be no audible difference between a passive speaker using a quality DSP like DiracLive vs an active speaker with room correction, provided both speakers have similar directivity, since frequency response at the listening location dominates what we hear.
@kalalid

I think Computeraudiophile.com already compared $1k LS50 with $4k JBL Cinema 4722 and said they sounded more or less the same after correction with a much less comprehensive room correction than DL (REW).

I think at 90 db and below provided your $2k speaker has perfect directivity and follows a good target curve you can EQ it to sound as good as a much more expensive speaker above 100 Hz, regardless of price. Obviously below that a bigger, more expensive speaker will have better dynamics. But once you introduce a subwoofer that changes completely. 

I have occasionally been tempted to buy a used top-end speaker from the likes of Magico, Vivid, Focal, etc. I think that in a perfect room without DSP, they will sound very different and have their own personality. However, I am starting to believe that in a non-perfect room with DSP and Subs, if a speaker measures well (flattish frequency response, low distortion and good off-axis) they should be able to be tweaked using Dirac or similar, to sound like an uber expensive floor standing speaker. It seems most large speakers use the same tweeter and midrange as the smaller speakers in the series and the prices go up significantly for the larger cabinet, low production and exclusivity. I love high-end audio and occasionally enjoy going to a show and listening to all the gear out there. But, if this is true, it is a huge “game changer”. I may have to conduct the experiment and hope it is not true. It’s probably time to start looking at SoundStage! Canada's National Research Council (NRC) speaker measurements and ignore my previous listening observations to pick out a few candidates.


I'm sorry but...I don't think so.

Subwoofer or not, I've never heard a monitor speaker throw out a soundstage that's remotely comparable to say a Sonus Faber IL Cremonese.  They simply don't "scale" like a large $50k speaker does.

Those speakers throw out a 3D soundstage that will make your jaw drop and ask how the hell is that even possible?  I've never heard a monitor come close to that, even the Guarneri's which are no slouch in their own right.
The Kii’s use inexpensive drivers according to diyAudio (Peerless $20 x 4, Dayton $16 and Seas $74) but do rely on sophisticated DSP techniques

This is typical even for 10K speakers. A 2K speaker may have even less expensive drivers. That the Kiis with these drivers and DSP came close to B&W 802 D3S does not reflect well on B&W. B&W tend to use small 1 1/4 inch diameter long voice coils similar to the Kiis even if their cone materials are more advanced.

So the answer really depends on driver quality rather than price.

Exceptional drivers with large diameter short voice coil operating in a large gap with extreme tight tolerances will easily outperform cheap drivers with DSP. These kind of drivers cost at least $200 each for a low cost version but can be as much as $1K -$2K each.

So if the 50K speaker has drivers that are commensurate with that price (rather than just expensive cosmetics - veneers can be exceedingly expensive), then the drivers alone could cost double the price of the entire 2K speaker and will outperform in power/dynamics/precision much in the same way an Audi R8 will destroy a Toyota Camry.

Wide baffle speakers are _amazing_ and less room dependent.

I wouldn't say the issue there is range, but baffle shape. A 2-way in a wide baffle would probably be pretty awesome.

Still, those Sonus Faber wide baffle speakers are among my all time favorite in the commercial space.

I was a bit confused with your tag line question.

If you were to say DSP applied in an active crossover, I would say a $2K speaker could sound like a $8K speaker.

Since you clarify that your DSP was meant to actually refer to room correction, I would say a $2K speaker could be made to sound like a $4K speaker.

My opinion and experience.

So you are saying running DiracLive on a Genelec 8351 for instance would increase the sound quality much more than say running the same thing on a TAD ME-1? Simply because the electronic crossovers have steeper slopes and do phase correction? I mean DiracLive also corrects for phase too, so it sounds like we are talking about just steeper x-o slopes.

The Kii 3 being stand mount speakers go down to 20hz without a sub,. Having 6 speakers and 6 Amplifier's per cabinet. Amazing really.....
Wonder how the Kii 3 compare to the Dutch & Dutch 8c.
Wonder how the Kii 3 compare to the Dutch & Dutch 8c.
that would surely be a great contest.
DSP the bandaid of audio design 
@johnk

+1 but fancy cables, re-clockers, mats, power cords, fancy fuses etc, are ALL BANDAIDS. If one has to resort to bandaids then it means the components are inadequate to begin with.
Assuming DSP is used to correct an already well measuring speaker to overcome room acoustics, it's a band aid insofar that you are either too poor or too lazy to build a custom house that has perfect acoustics...