You have to do a lot of listening, that is the only way to tell. Try some of the following recordings for some very specific evaluations:
1. Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" on the "Time Out" album. At about 2:45 into the recording there is an extended drum solo. If reproduced correctly, there should be a lot of air around those drums, cymbals, and sticks. Also, the drum solo has the pace of a machine gun attack.
2. Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain" on the "From Elvis in Memphis" album. The desperation in Elvis' voice, the stark bits of silence, the tension in the air should all be audible and convincing.
3. Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington's "Duke's Place" on "The Summit" album. The piano is clear, razor sharp, and all so crisp.
4. Coldplay's "Politik" on the "A Rush of Blood to the Head" album. The thumping sound created by the piano stomping during both the song's opening and closing should be very musical in its presentation.
I am sure that you have other examples, but also pick out some music that has a lot of range and variety to it, and see which speaker is the less fatiguing to you. Listenability over time is the real test.
Pay particular attention to the piano passages on the music you've chosen. I believe piano tones (decay etc) is very difficult to reproduce accurately.
Listen to on set of speakers for an extended period of time (maybe 4-5 straight hours) to get a feel for the sound and see if listening fatigue sets in. Then do the same with the other pair, you don't necessarily have to listen to identical music, just something similar.
It's so difficult when we're changing out speakers after a couple of songs over and over again.
Use your ears and preferably listen to each speaker pair with the same equipment; yours.
I agree with Rar1 and Mt10425. As Mt wrote, piano is the most difficult to get right and Rar1 is pointing out specific music with characteristics that when reproduced well "jump out at you."
I suggest you use music that you have heard many times, with which you have an emotional/viceral connection. That way, when you have the speakers placed to their optimum (no small task, I use tape on the floor to remember where each was located for the last listening) you can find the pair that does "it" for you.
Best of luck & good listening.
Here's a good article that I keep bookmarked:
Some great suggestions above. You might also check out Chesky's "The Ultimate Demonstration Disk." It contains a dozen or so well-recorded pieces, each selected to focus on a particular characteristic (presence, depth, transparency, etc.), and each preceded by an introduction advising what specifically to listen for and how the piece "should" sound on a good system. For me, this CD has been not only useful in comparing gear, but educational as well.
Buy some Green Mountain Europias, or Harmonic Precision Caravelles and use them as references! Hee Hee!
Thanks for all the replies.
One question. Will it make a difference if I connect one set of speakers to the speaker output A and the other to the speaker output B of my amplifier and use the speaker select switch to switch between speakers?
Using the A/B speaker selector switch should not make a difference. Just make sure that you listen to the speakers at the same volume level, because most people will choose the louder speaker as the better sounding speaker. So you may need to experiment a bit before you get into serious listening, for example volume level 3 for speaker A may be the equivalent of volume level 4 for speaker B.
Good luck, Rich
First, it would be helpful if you do some blind listening - that is, where you don't know which speaker is which. Use single speaker vs. single speaker, as it probably won't be posssible to position two pairs of speakers for comparable sound in your room. Ideally, have an assistant put the two speakers side-by-side behind a thin curtain and switch back and forth between them at your signal, adjusting the volume as necessary so that you won't know which is which.
It's perfectly legitimate to listen to single speaker vs single speaker, as there is a very strong correlation between single speaker preferance and stereo speaker preference. If you don't have a mono switch, buy a Y-jack from Radio Shack to make sure both speakers get the same signal. You can switch from one speaker to another easily by feeding the split signal into different inputs (say CD and AUX 1). Using a Radio Shack SPL meter and a pink noise test disc, make sure you match up the levels.
Also during your listening tests, try this: Turn the volume level down way lower than normal, and see if one speaker sounds better than the other. There's a good correlation between low-level enjoyment and long-term fatigue-free listening. Then, turn the volume level up a bit louder than normal, and leave the room. Listen through the open doorway. Is there a convincing illusion of live music happening back in there? If so, that indicates smooth reverberant field response and good dynamic contrast, and is a very good predictor of long-term listening enjoyment.
Best of luck to you!
I would suggest three ways to go, two of which involve forming some kind of opinion: 1) Decide which speakers sound most enjoyable to you, using the music you most enjoy and will play most often, played at the volumes you will typically favor, and positioning yourself anywhere and everywhere you're likely to be found when playing music 2) Decide which speakers offer reproduction that most resembles your preconception of how real music ought to sound, using primarily your most naturally-recorded acoustic/vocal source material, played at the most realistic-seeming volumes to suit each program, and positioning yourself in the sweet spot 3) After trying both #1 and #2, if you still can't form an opinion and still like both models equally, then just buy either the less expensive pair or the most attractive pair and be done with it, because you'll know you couldn't have gone far wrong (at least until you come to the point when you've gained some more critical listening experience and may want to upgrade again down the road).
The other important things to stress are that you play the same choice of audition material through both speakers, not just randomly hunt and peck through your collection based on mood, etc., and that you attempt to compensate for any inherent volume differences between the models and then hold it constant between same-program comparisons. I feel that at this time, it would likely be premature and possibly counterproductive to try and give you a laundry list of audiophile attributes or specific audition passages to listen for, rather than just advising you to listen for enjoyment and/or realism as outlined above, or to start talking about optimizing room positioning for each set of speakers individually. With advice from the dealer, just pick one set of L/R spots for your speaker positions that should theoretically work for both models and still be practical for you, and then audition each pair set up in those same spots (you might mark the spots with masking tape on the floor to help switchovers go more quickly). The A/B switch idea is not bad, but actually moving the speakers is better, with one pair 'onstage' and the other 'offstage' at any one time. Try to do both some fairly rapid comparisons, using single musical selections repeatedly, and also some relaxed long-term sessions, maybe on alternating days, just to see if anything crops up that might start to bother you about either of the two models over the long term. Have fun and best of luck!
To be a complete simpleton about this, forget about analyzing which does piano better, etc., etc, and focus on which speaker gets you off the most. It's a simple as that. Which is the one that causes you to want to stay up all night pulling out recording after recording and trying things you haven't listened to for years? Go with that one. There's some risk, but less so, I think.
For jazz I like to turn down the lights, close my eyes and imagine that the musicians are in the room with me. Each instrument has it's spacial position, lot's of "air" around it, and realistic sound. Piano, string bass, horn, drums. That's a good speaker/system.
The second aspect is toe-tapping. With some speakers, my foot just ends up moving to the beat. I like that.
The third aspect is listener fatigue. I want a speaker that I can turn up and listen to loudly when I feel like it without having my ears start to hurt.
Hope this helps. If you can't decide, that means that both speakers are pretty good!
Depends. If your speaker outputs are wired in series or parallel. If series, yes it will make a sonic difference, with the "B" speakers sounding worse. The owners manual might be of some help in answering this.