Sometimes a speaker will have a rolled off high end, other times it will not have the resolving detail to show all of the inherent sonic nasties, that lesser audio components tend to have. A forgiving speaker is less apt to show these sonic aberations from the components upstream, or a lesser recording.
'more forgiving' is possibly a nice way to say that the speakers are not very 'revealing' and has a voice of its own to cover other problems in your signal path.
What would you rather have, a system that only sounds great on great recordings (referring here to the sound, not the musical performance) and makes a normal recording unlistenable, or a system that might not reveal the Nth degree of realism on the best recordings, but makes normal recordings sound listenable? If you are familiar with live, unamplified music, you will notice that most audiophile type speaker are skewed towards the high frequencies. This incorrect tonal balance is sometimes mistaken for greater transparency or detail.
Here's an example of more forgiving speakers in my system.
I have a pair of ProAc Tablette 50 Signatures and a pair of Sonus Faber Concertinos. The ProAcs are very revealing in my system. They are what I listen to when I get a new CD and want to hear everything in the recording. The ProAcs are very lifelike and involving, but also expose any weaknesses in my set up. Whether they expose true or imagined detail and flaws, I'm not sure of.
The Concertinos on the other hand, have a softer and rounder presentation. They are a less revealing, a little less detailed and have a distinctly woody voice. Much warmer overall. They are what I listen to when I just want to kick back and relax.
Depending on the recording, these two speakers can sound similar or starkly different. Jumping back between the two highlights any differences. But when I listen to the Sonus Fabers for an extended period I adjust to them, and am no longer aware of the loss of detail.
I hope this helps.
This is my constant battle, to try to balance detail with musicality. I don't think I'm alone here, that pretty much is the holy grail of audio. A 'more forgiving speaker' might also be described as more musical. The above threads are all on target. A more forgiving speaker will make a weaker recording sound better. The trade off? Damn, there always seems to be a trade off. The trade off is, on a very good recording, you will not 'reveal' more information, like a unforgiving speaker. So it comes down to: warm, musical, relaxing sound versus: Woooah! I never knew they used two drummers on this track! Sometimes it can be a very tough call for me. I WANT IT ALL! But you can't have it. So I try to balance. For me that looks like a revealing preamp combined with a musical amp. It's all a matter of taste, and what is important to you. I hope this helped.
Very well said Jmcgrogan: the detail vs. musicality balancing issue is one that I've struggled with for a very long time. Certainly it would be great to have both, but I guess the compromise is to have two great rigs, one each tuned appropriately. However since I have only one system, I agree with your great preamp + musical amp approach. My speakers are pretty doggone revealing, which normally combines well with the aforementioned lineup, that is until you get involed in some less-than-stellar source-material. Fortunately my preamp has defeatable tone controls for those nastier sounding recordings; seldom used but still indispensable IMO.
It seems there is a growing awareness that live (the absolute sound?) and high-end home hi-fi...is very different. There is crowd noise, seating location...the building your in...and many other variables that make the live performance sometimes less than you can re-produce in the quiet of your own home. But from the best live Jazz and Classical I have heard in great halls..and famous clubs...I would agree that either the live performance is softened on the top end..or that home hi-fi gives us a false top end...but, actually, I think it is another choice. If you attend an audition in a great hall..or a rehersal..most of the top end will be there. Crowd noise..and the ability of many humans and thier clothing to absorb directional sound(ie: the highs)has always given the live event a softer than real impact.
Nice thread. Informative and understandable answers all around, and all leading to a shared conclusion from different perspectives. I don't play the ratings game, but you all get high marks from me on this one (including Wc80 for asking the question). Don
Regarding live vs. home reproduction of high frequencies, there is an issue regarding microphone placement. In a music hall the listener is sitting anywhere from 25 to more than 100 feet from the musicians, whereas in recordings, typically the microphone can be as little as inches away from the performer. Obviously, the frequency spectrum of the music will differ for each perspective. If you have a system that accurately reproduces the input signal, then close miked performances, all other variables held constant, will sound somewhat bright. Ultimately, I have resorted to using an equalizer as tone controls to modify certain records to what I consider acceptable sonics. Typically I'm cutting or boosting less than 2dB in the 8-12KHz area.
Everyone above as made very good points and I sure can relate. Onhwy61 your point is especially well made and reflects my sentiments to a T. I used to be in the forgiving camp when I first got into hi-end. Over the years either my hearing got worse or my values in reproduced music changed. Can't really tell for sure but my guess is getting closer to real has become more of what I’m looking for. Maybe I need to get my hearing checked out, too many rock concerts.
A highly resolving system can sound bright because of the effect of microphone positioning but...overall on most recordings one becomes more involved with the music. The biggest shortcoming in virtually all systems is reproduction of high frequencies. It is so very hard for the highs to come across as natural in the manner that it is heard live. I really feel this is because of mic placement as much as anything else on an otherwise resolving system. So it really comes down to balancing the system to one's individual taste and a lot of fine tuning. If I went back to a forgiving system I'm sure that the "life" that I hear on the best recordings will be lost. Then again my ears would adjust. Then again I would be wanting more…then around and around and around in the circle game etc. etc. To me it is about capturing the “reality”. This is just a personal preference thing and is neither right or wrong. I’m willing to sacrifice the lousy source material to a highly resolving system that reveals it all than a forgiving one that doesn’t ever fool me. Pick you poison or as Gunbei, set-up 2 systems.
I’m real excited about my new OTL amp. Time to go for a listen. I’m hoping that I’m as excited a year from now as today and finally come to realize that just maybe I have found the Holy Grail. Isn’t that just like being an audiophile?
I think the only true way to be happy is to have 2 systems. I'm convinced the answer is in the software. A poor recording can scream for a forgiving system, while a great recording can take you to the pearly gates with a high resolution system. Now I'm thinking..... maybe I've been going in the wrong direction all these years trying to find a do-it-all system. I just need to add on another room....better run it by the wife first.....NAAAAAHHH!
Thanks to all of you who responded to my question. You have helped educate me in how to evaluate stereo speakers -- and have been most forgiving of my ignorance!
Wc80, while I've been an Agon shopper for almost a year, I've only started to access this forum for a couple months. Early on I'd been too much of a coward to ask questions and relied on brave people like you to create threads and their ensuing discussion that would enlighten me. You are the one that I should thank.