Music Lovers Speaker vs. Audiophile Speaker


In my quest for a new set of speakers to replace the Paradigm 5se I've had for 25+ years I've come across a couple of terms I'd like clarified: the musical speaker and the audiophile speaker.

What's the difference? 

I can think of two analogies, both of which may be way off mark.

One is the "mp3" analogy. mp3's dumb down the music, but capture what a music lover may consider to be the important stuff. The audiophile version is the CD.

So in this case, the musical speaker doesn't perform as well as the audiophile speaker, but it is at the right price point or has other features (particularly finish) that the listener desires.

The other analogy is the "radio station" analogy. The station doesn't dumb down the music, but it does intentionally change the sound to suit the audience. Classic rock is bass heavy, and dynamic range may be compressed to raise the overall level. An easy-listening station will have a lighter sound with different frequencies emphasized.

Comments ...
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I’ve come across a couple of terms I’d like clarified: the musical speaker and the audiophile speaker.

What’s the difference?

There is none. An audiophile speaker can be a musical speaker and vise versa.

Being an audiophile has nothing to do with price or a certain class of equipment. It has to do with being serious about getting the best sound that you can and that’s within your budget. And to do that, you have to select the speakers that will properly match your electronics and most importantly, sounds best to you. Then you’ll have both a musical and an audiophile speaker at the same time.



I like this answer! I consider myself an "audiophile" but I don't own expensive equipment but what I've matched together sounds very musical and satisfying. In my response to an earlier thread, I mentioned the PSB 300i spk. A very musical speaker. Easy to listen to but I know its shortcomings when comparing to an "audiophile" spk. such as the Dynaudio DM 2/6. Both types req. system matching to sound their best. The "audiophile" spk. will most probably require more $$$ vs. a spk. such as yours or the PSB 300i which would sound good w/a $30 used receiver.
I'm not sure of your terminology, but I would say that there are two different approaches in designing speakers.
In recent years, some speaker designers have developed a more analytic approach in reproducing music, they are more detailed, highs are crisper, bass is faster and tighter. To use your term, an audiophile speaker.

Other speaker brands focus their design on musicality. These speakers can be every bit as detailed, but present a smoother, more natural and realistic sound. Our brains react to these sonics differently, some reactions are a more emotional response where the music pulls you in and you are more involved. Other speakers can have a more analytic effect on your hearing/brain processing. I think the majority of audiophiles favour a musical speaker as long as it meets certain criteria such as good imaging and realism. A well designed musical speaker still falls into your "audiophile" category.

I don't think price enters into the designer's approach or style. He is designing each model for a specific price point for retail.

 But I like your "radio station" analogy. Some speakers (and components), are designed with emphasis on the highs, possibly the bass is heavy, and the overall feel is to give that familiar sound which is so prevalent today.
@Lowrider57 and I are thinking along the same lines. When most posters say "musical speaker" they mean a design that aspires to reproduce the fabric of the musical whole while the "audiophile speaker" tends to allow one to focus attention on emphasis of individual instruments with sharper image outlines and more detail.

IME, live unamplified music often provides less image specificity and a less delineiated soundstage than many "audiophile" speakers. Dynamic contrasts are more easy to follow live than with all audio gear and the best "musical" speakers get closer to reproducing the variations in dynamic swings between instruments. The best speakers let you get close to both goals. Some are much better at one or the other. 

A completely different paradigm that also comes into the discussion at lower price points, that being "additive vs. subtractive". What I mean is that as designers choose their preferred compromises to hit price points, some prefer eliminating the lowest & highest frequencies and just try to get the midrange right. Others prioritize different aspects that might add various distortions or colorations. "Musical" speakers often follow the "first do no harm" maxim, while some "Audiophile" speakers might prioritize getting the best frequency response, bass/size ratio, etc. etc.
None of these decisions are ultimately right or wrong, just preferences an priorities that might align with some listeners over others. Cheers,
Spencer  
I don't think it is an analogy but a non-specific, useless characterization. If you are listening to a stereo what good is asking yourself, "analytic or musical"?
For many, I think this analogy works:   A solid state amplifier is more accurate and reproduces  more precisely what is on the recording.  The tube amp on the other hand, may not be quite as accurate, but gives that wonderful warm sound and is more musical.  I am not saying that I agree with this, but some do.

There is a thread going on regarding the Quad ESL57, and I believe there are statements such as "it may not be the most accurate speaker, but it sure makes the music sound good".

My Merlin BME are both.....at least I think so.
In today's world, the difference seems to be that that an audiophile speaker doesn't have Bluetooth.
Audiophile speakers are judged by specs and measurements.  Musical speakers are judged by the human ear, without regard to specs and measurements
@stevensctt
In general I agree with you. But there are exceptions. IMO I have audiophile speakers but the specs and measurements look horrible. They are tuned by the designer using his ears in the end. To me my speakers are exceptionally musical sounding but have a ton of detail - speed and clarity. They are Raidho D2's. When most folks see the window sticker of Raidho they tend to run - not walk away.

Bottom line is use your ears. Everyone has different expectations and personal taste. Some folks want a rock concert in their home while others prefer the sound of a smaller more intimate setting. In the end it's your budget and expectations.
In my mind an Audiophile is a person and a speaker is a speaker.
Of course all speakers are not Audiophile worthy, so I understand calling a speaker an Audiophile speaker, but beyond that, not so much.
Analytical vs Musical?
A detailed speaker that plays music very to the point, without a real flow can certainly be considered analytical, but I have changed equipment in front of such speakers and found that they were very involving.
As mentioned above,  sometimes peaks and dips are designed into the speakers frequency response,  other times they are hard to get rid of and the speaker builder chooses to leave them rather than adding complicated networks to try to remove the issue. This is the case with many (but not all) High sensitivity speakers (zu and tekton come to mind).  Overall,  once you are into a speaker that makes it to the Audiophile level... as all things with our bunch.  Its all subjective. Tim
I try to avoid this trap of categorizing things using these labels as if they're ideologies or political parties.   I don't care what a pair of speakers costs - if you like them, and you feel they present the music accurately, then guess what...they're audiophile speakers.   The alternative is that we project our own standards onto other people...those speakers aren't expensive enough, or exclusive enough, or detailed enough, etc.    At the end of the day, it's just about enjoying music.  However you get there, good for you.  I still remember my first AM radio, sitting under a tree in our yard listening to '70s music.  I must have been 8 years old.  That radio cost my dad $6 - I don't know if music ever sounded better than it did from that $6 radio.  

In my quest for a new set of speakers to replace the Paradigm 5se I’ve had for 25+ years I’ve come across a couple of terms I’d like clarified: the musical speaker and the audiophile speaker.

What’s the difference?
I’m sorry but i think there is a difference & I seem to be also thinking along the lines of lowrider57 & sbank.

IMO, an audiophile speaker is one that has all the attributes an audiophile would like: soundstage height, soundstage width, imaging, PRaT, attack, decay, deep bass response, blah, blah, blah... but the sound is sterile & playback thru such a speaker does not emotionally engage the listener. This sort of speaker creates excellent sound but does not create music.
A musical speaker has all the audiophile attributes listed above without calling any attention to these audiophile attributes & at the same time also makes music. In my experience a musical speaker rarely wows the listener (unlike the audiophile speaker which is designed to wow the audience but after a while the wow factor disappears & the listener is disengaged) but it definitely engages the listener from the get-go (there’s that foot-tapping, dancing in your seat, pretending to play the drums, pretending to be the symphony conductor while listening) & you forget about the audiophile attributes & are drawn into the nuances of the music. Upon further long term listening you discover that all the audiophile attributes are present; just not in your face.

Going one step further, in my experience, all the musical speakers that I’ve heard are to some degree or another time-coherent speakers which almost always use 1st-order x-overs. Examples from my listening experience: Green Mountain Audio, Vandersteens, Meadowlarks, SoundLab, Sanders Sound Systems, Apogee, some stand-mount Audio Physic, single driver speakers (the range of music you can playback on these Lowther, Jordan driver speakers is (very) limited but in their music range the sound is simply superb). There are others such as Eminent Tech but I’ve not heard one.
I kind of have a gut definition for this one. If the speaker/system makes me think, "What a great speaker," then it's "audiophile." But if a speaker/system makes me think, "What wonderful music," then it's musical.   :-) 
It all comes down to taste...what you listen to, and how you like to listen to it.  Speakers, IMHO, all have different 'voices', much like us.  Room acoustics vary so much that a given unit in one room sounds terrific, whereas in another sound like garbage.  And then there's the option of 'ignoring the room' and  going to active eq.

I've opted for the latter, going 'flat' as possible.  It sounds a little odd at first, but in a short time you wonder why it's not a more common approach.

I've two sets of speakers, BTW.  A more conventional array, and a set of DIY Walsh omnis.  Both lean on a sub for a bit of bass extension.

Anyhow...let your ears be your guide, and let your wallet follow. ;)
I thought this article by Jeff Day from his blog at jeffsplace.me regarding his "Listening Bias" might be helpful. I know it was for me. Jeff is a writer/reviewer for Positive Feedback and 6 Moons in the recent past. Here is what he says on the topic. 

Listening Bias

I thought it might be handy for those following my writing at Positive Feedback Online to know what my listening biases are to aid you in interpreting and decoding my reviews. Just to alert you, my listening perspective is somewhat of a minority opinion in the Hi-Fi community of North America, but will be more familiar to those listeners in Turkey, Africa, and Japan, who tend to be more familiar with timbral ways of listening. My hierarchy of importance is aligned more closely to how well a Hi-Fi rig plays the musical content of recordings (I know, it’s a heretical concept), rather than how it ‘sounds’ in the more traditional audiophile ‘sonic’ sense.

As a result of my being drawn towards the musical content of recordings, I tend to be a bit more of a timbral listener than is typical for a lot of Westerners, meaning that the reproduction of the textures, colors, and tones & overtones in the music are really important to me. To this end I look for timbral realism at the band level (the band’s signature ‘sound’) and at the individual instrument level (the unique ‘voices’ of instruments). I want them to sound recognizably like themselves in tone and texture, so that their full tone color can develop, which I think helps lend a feeling of beauty and expressiveness to the music. I like the melody (the tune you ‘whistle while you work’), harmony (treble & bass accompaniments to the melody) and rhythm (the steady beat that determines the tempo) to have a life-like flow and connectedness in how the musicians interact—just like in real life. I want dynamics (variations in loudness) to evoke that which I hear in life for an emotional connection to the melody and rhythm. For loudness I like my music playback to be similar to live loudness levels, which for the kind of music I listen to the most, jazz, usually means 80 dB or louder. Finally, I want tempo portrayed so that both the mood and speed of the music are conveyed through it, just like it is with music in real life.

I consider the sonic performance of a Hi-Fi rig on the non-musical artifacts of the recording process to be of value, but of less importance to me than the performance on the musical content of recordings (as above). So things like transparency (being able to ‘see’ into the recording), soundstage (the three dimensions of the recorded space in width, height and depth), soundspace (the acoustic ‘space’ of the soundstage), and imaging (the feeling of solidity and localization of instruments & musicians on the soundstage) are important to me, but they are not my primary focus – the musical content is.

So I like my cake (the musical content of recordings) with a little frosting (the sonic artifacts of the recording process) for a balanced taste treat. Too much frosting and not enough cake puts me off. So that’s me, and you might be different, but at least now you know how.

Hope this helped. Best, Rob

Don't get hooked on only one design like I have to have only first order x over speakers. Many of the best speakers out there are a combination of different order networks. If the designer knows what he is doing you should not be concerned of the x over. Just listen to the speaker and judge for yourself.
Hi Rob,
    I understand the post, but for me, some I agree with and some is the opposite.  I agree with tonal balance and the texture of music that brings timbral realism, but an important part of pulling me into the music is seeing into the soundstage,  not only hearing the resonance of a string or the wind blowing through a trumpet,  but to hear how far they are in relation to each other and to get the image of a ensemble, quartet, band or orchestra in front of me.  It very much helps pull me into the musical enjoyment..... That more of "Live, Being There" experience.
Of course,  that's the joy of our hobby... I say, "but for me"... that's why one system can be incredible to one person and not so much to another... the whole discussion of Musical vs Analytical speaker is not far off from this.  Depending on taste... the same speaker could be Musical to one person and Analytical to another.  Tim
Music speaker follows music standards and audiophile speaker follows audiophile standards.

Music Standards vs. Audio Standards? Do those standards actually exist? I imagine Audio Standards have something to do with pink noise…or white noise…or, to be inclusive, "blacker blacks." (!) Speaker preference is an utterly personal and taste driven thing, and you can bet two people claiming to be either "audio geeks" or "music lovers" might not agree on what's right, and why should they? If a speaker masks some element of tone by being too bright or too dull or no bass or whatever it simply means it's not meshing with the rest of the system or room or yo MAMA, or maybe the designer had his (or her's) own ideas about tone and they're not yours. Signal goes in, sound comes out tainted by design. I'm a tube head (SS subs though …is there a tube sub?) for my primary listening through speakers reviewers have called "not bright" (like me), and these speakers have been praised for their mid-range by somebody (they're correct by the way).  Brightness appears in them anyway if the music contains it…not surprising, and after many hours of full range (and de-ranged) time spent with my rig I can hear a system at Goodwins that costs more than my car and it sounds "meh"…and perhaps too bright. Back to the drawing board Magico and Boulder! (heh heh...now Rockport…oh yeah, uh huh) I mix live concerts here and there and go for "less is more" flatness to fool people into thinking they're having fun…usually this works well.
Wolf,
I've mentioned that as one type of bullskit over the other anyways.
There are also passive subs that can be SS or tube depending on the amp.

Sorry to get off topic but I think this relates...Audiophiles (of which I used to be) primarily listen to their equipment, a music lover simply enjoys the music and doesn't fret over the sound too much.  This is NOT to be critical of the audiophile, Lord knows I have fretted over all of the usual suspects... Cabling, tubes vs solid state vs digital, cones n domes vs horns vs panels, digital vs analog and on and on... Ultimately for me the hobby just stopped being fun, so, about five years ago I decided to go back to my 70's roots and began delving into gear that I cut my teeth on.  First up was a beautiful Marantz 2275 receiver and large Advents, first time I cranked that combo up I was floored, BIG, rich full sound that was simply missing from my more modern gear. I no longer cared if it was accurate, I was having a blast.         I then acquired a museum grade Yamaha CR1020 which I have paired with two sets of speakers, ADS 570/2's and Yamaha NS690's.  Again big sound at a pittance in outlay compared to what I used to spend and every time I fire these systems up I can't stop grinning. 
I guess my point is, if you're listening to your system determined to find something amiss, I guarantee you will find it, real or imagined.
Museum Grade is a new term for me. Is there a Mausoleum Grade? How about Art Gallery Grade, or Restaurant Grade, or Road Grade (I am inclined to use that one)…Below Grade. And how do you stop being an audiophile? Therapy? I try to listen to recorded music without my hifi gear and absolutely no sound happens…the silence can be therapeutic I suppose, but being engaged in listening to great music and enjoying the gear pile one assembles that allows it into the room aren’t mutually exclusive. I think I call it fun…and I dig inexpensive great sounding stuff, don't obsess over it and change things when I damn well feel like it…being into less precious gear is as audiophile specific as otherwise, just maybe smarter. 
Once, an orchestra director said that while we just want his whole orchestra sound as a sole, unique, only one un-distinguishable sound...the audiophiles try hard to distinguish, separate each instrument.
Describing in "broad brush" terms what audiophiles do seems somewhat meaningless as this hobby contains seemingly infinite variation among people and their gear…I think you can say audio geeks want gear that sounds "real good" (to them) and are willing to mess around with the components to get there, where others simply don't give a rat's patootie even though they might like music to some degree…it's interesting to me that people love high def TV and wouldn't put up with blurry or otherwise inaccurate home video, but they're perfectly happy with low quality sound. The "High End" audio community is really bad at getting to those people, but that's pretty much the status quo.
Interesting topic. I would have disagreed with the premise a couple of months ago, thinking that the audiophile approach has the same goal in mind.

But I’ve recently had my audiophile bookshelf speakers bested by a small bookshelf that retailed for about $600. I was floored, and realized that this little speaker has a real synergy from left to right that makes magic with music. The audiophile speakers have ribbon tweeters and have a precision and exactness that can’t be denied, but I prefer the little concentric drivers of the Tannoys and the music just sounds more ’live’.

Both with the 250 wpc amp, and the Nad integrated with 50 wpc, the Tannoys make you want to sit and listen to the music, not the system.  I previously had Paradigm speakers from the Signature line as well as the monitor line.  I think they basically had the same house sound, which was more of a monitor's characteristics.  

Maybe it's just that I don't care for the monitor type sound, I find it too lifeless and boring.


I found at an considerable expense after buying/selling 20k+ of audiophile equipments, that there are two main types of speakers.

Accurate speakers/active monitors. Especially the 2-way horn/woofer designs. You can hear the difference between mp3 vs aac easily with these. You can also hear the difference between resampling vs no resampling. They let you hear what was actually recorded, and how your component actually sounds like. The JBL 3 series is a very good example at an incredible value.

Inaccurate speakers. These are all over the place. Audiophile speaker belongs here. They try to make things sound better than they are. The Pioneer FS52 is one such speaker that is worth a special mention at $120 each, oh boy does it make everything sound so good!

The expensive 4k+ stuffs are in generally not worth mentioning. Oh and btw, the room is the most important piece, a bad room will never sound good, regardless of how much money you throw at it, and an awesome room will make even el cheapo setups sound like a million bucks (and therefore there is no need to spend more).
Last year I had a several month quest to find a new pair of speakers, eventually replacing all my components.  At one shop the salesman asked if I preferred "analytic" or "musical" speakers.  I suspect what some think as "audiophile" speakers is what the salesman characterized as "analytic".  He offered Magico as his "analytics" and Raidho as his "musical" models.

Coli, I guess that explains a lot!  I really prefer sound, or music first.  I've installed Pioneer speakers in my car, and I think they are of the 'audiophile' type.  They sound great too.  
If you are an audiophile and not a music lover, you should shoot yourself because you will just waste a ton of money.  
My music loving friends love my speakers, and like listening to everything.  My audiophile friends do not. The difference I think is that audiophile speakers have trends, and fads, like wine. Looking at what gets the best reviews is often not a neutral speaker, but one with particular frequency tweaks here and there. 

In a perfect world this discrepancy would not exist, but "high end" loudspeakers have become lifestyle emblems that need to serve more than just music.  That's fine, but do I see and hear a distinct difference between what the audiophile crowd swoons over and what I do? Absolutely. 
213runnin that's tannoys for you, they sound great with all types of music!!  That's my rule of thumb, we've all had speakers that have us playing the "audiophile tracks" all the time as they can't rock out.  A musical speaker will make all genres sound like music. 
Tannoys got me off the merry go round. As someone else mentioned earlier, now I go to shows and listen to the latest megabuck stuff they're trying to say is the best thing since sliced bread, but I can't wait to go listen to my tannoys and 845 SET. 

213runnin: I'm curious as to what the $600 small bookshelf speakers are you refer to in your post above? TIA
In many cases you can make a Audiophile speaker into a music lovers speaker with the great preamp,amp and cables.
ebm3,298 posts06-15-2016 1:26pmIn many cases you can make a Audiophile speaker into a music lovers speaker with the great preamp,amp and cables.
It's far more simpler. Bring into room with audiophile speakers music lover and voila, the audiophile speaker will become music lover speaker.

A lot of expensive speakers might be detailed and image well but can't follow a tune and have poor resolution of timbre.So are lacking in musical engagement.
I think the move to small diameter/high excursion drivers mounted in a tall narrow  ported box has detracted from musicality.
Compare that to a deeply musical speakers like the Gale 401 or dual concentric Tannoys where the drivers are clustered together around ear height.
Some of us simply want it all; in one instant we want the detail, depth, imaging and staging, all the formal descriptive audio terms, and then a nanosecond later we want the pure-music-emotive-immersion thing, and then back again, and then switching again, or not, freely, as one joyful, satisfying listening experience.
I definitely fall in the "music lover" camp, but my trap is that I can't buy speakers simply buy listening to them. I suppose you could say I don't fully trust my ears, or maybe it is because the listening environment at the store can never match mine, or because it takes quite a while to really get to know a speaker.

I also need to know "audiophile" details - type of crossover, manufacturers say, what the reviews & forums say, build quality to make a buying decision.

I recently purchased a set of Vandersteen 1ci's. I'm very happy with them. But at the dealers I did notice that "dark" sound that so many comment on. I don't find that at home.
Sorry RBrowne, I just saw your post.  The Tannoys in question are the Revolution DC4.  They've since been upgraded to the Revolution XT Mini.  I'd like to eventually get a tower from Tannoy, and the XT line looks like the sweet spot.
I do not have cable or a TV in my house,take a look at how bright the video is on the new TV's.
When you walk around or look out across a landscape you see real life with your eyes, go look at the pictures on these new TV's and see if they look like real life.
Speakers  and audio equipment has the same manipulation.
The terms have absolutely zero impact on how I select speakers and set up rigs. Imo, they are completely negligible, aside from attempts by some to impress others.