Should audiophiles be disappointed?...

I have read several reports on CES '04 and it seems to me many speakers were dependent on room treatments to realize their potential. Am I in the minority... if I'm going to pay $10-25K for a pair of speakers I would expect the design and execution of those speakers to sound outstanding in any environment and without costly room treatments to enhance their performance! Not too mention the fact if I'm laying out that kind of money I would expect the speakers to play all types of music with equal aplomb, which is not the case in some designs. I understand nearfield concepts, defraction and other room environmental conditions, but come on. If I was a speaker designer my goal would be to create a design that would sound superb right out of the box (& get better with time) and require very little set-up and tweaking.

It's discouraging to me to hear the variation in sound based on set-ups for so many of the speakers showing at CES. Maybe I expect too much, or perhaps the audiophiles of this world are expecting too little. Good speakers should sound good anywhere?
Your expectations will never be met at any price. The room is an integral part of the sound of your system. Get some books on acoustics and read up - a little knowledge about acoustics will save you a lot of disappointments in the future.
No way can you get around room treatments. Acoustics dictate this. It is one of those physical things we live with. Can you make your voice sound the same in any enviroment? It sounds hollow in an empty room. It sounds better in a acoustical dead room. How could you possibly design a speaker that would perform well in all enviroments? It want happen. Sound reflects off of surfaces. How would you propose to stop that with a speaker. Sound venues spend a fortune with acoustical engineers trying to allow different speaker systems to sound good. Some manufacturers do build in equalizers to compensate for room acoustics. Not the best idea but I suppose better than nothing. People could spend more on room acoustics, buy cheaper speakers and have better sound than the kilo buck jobs in an average room. You just can't slap a speaker in any room and expect perfect sound without a little setup effort. Sorry, we don't live in a perfect world and science can only go so far. It is kinda like designing a tire that will work properly on every car, from a racer, dragster or whatever to the family sedan and work in all kinds of weather and conditions.
Speakers built to be only in the special room built just for them!
You can purchase various 'speaker+rooms' for only $500,000. including installation in you living spaces.
So the room is an exact perfect space for the speaker... The NEXT THING!!! in speaker/room treatments
Designs from Tudor to Adobe to ranch...
My impression that it is kind of a waste to pay 25k+ for a set of speakers unless you really have no worries about any expence.

Would be better to buy a set of 15K speakers and spend another 10k on room treatments.

i consider myself lucky. I like a good setup, and i realize the importance of placement, but im not so finiky that i cannot appreciate a good speaker in any enviornment.

There are no perfect rooms in my view. I guess it boils down to how anal are you with yer music?

Im enjoying my radio shackers shack every last bit, cause i still hear the music and i still love it.
Doesent mean i dont have a major upgrade bug though. :)

Maybe too much gunfire damaged my ears. Whatever the case. I doubt i will ever have a 2ch system that breaks 20k. It just gets too damn expencive to make minor improvements at that point. Im talking from a budget mind here.

The way i see it, if you can afford a megabuck system like Brainwater, all the power to you. Get the best stuff you can afford. Hell, i would! I'd love to blow a few hundred k on a stereo, and you can bet yer ass if i win the powerball lottery that ill blow over a a million bucks for the best system in can afford.
But at the same time, if you find yourself unable to appreciate music on a $5,000 budget system, then i think you lost sight of the intent behind the hobby.

Every time i listen to my trash heap of a rig, i am reminded of that. Because it sounds alot better than i thought it would. Honestly, i think losing my last rig, while not up to par of most of A'goner's gear, was the best thing to happen to me. Listenging to this hand-me-down garbage system helped me realize that after blowing wads of cash because the grass is greener on the other side, that my own lawn wasnt that damn bad after all. If that makes any sence.
I guess it just helped me appreciate lower end gear a little bit more. It is less finiky, it sits put, and it does its job well. Kinda like the old dodge truck you had way back in the day vs. the lexus you drive now eh?

I mean, at what point does a system stop upgrading and just slightly change? sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Music aint perfect, so how can your system be?

I feel bad for people who cannot stand to listen to music on anything but the best. They kinda need to come back down to earth. No offence intended to anybody.
That's what headphones and/or "real" near field setups are for.

You expect the nearly impossible.
I wasn't there but I would imagine that the rooms were not exactly designed with good sound in mind. Accordingly, the most optimal way to demonstrate the equipment would be to use room treatments.

Slappy's right though, it is the music that counts. But good equipment helps. Powerball helps with that. Question is, do I spend my next $10 on Powerball tickets or one of the remastered Rolling Stones hybrids?
The proper use of acoustic treatments can only add to the reproduction capabilities of a set of loudspeakers. Their use can result in smoother bass, tighter imaging and a better defined soundstage. It's not a defect in a speaker design that acoustic treatments can have these effects. It's been my experience that careful setup, not absolute equipment quality, is the greatest determinate of a system's overall sound quality.

Any number of manufacturers make or have made speakers that were designed to have specific interactions with the room. The Vandersteen 5s and some newer Infinity models have built in bass equalization. The NHT 3.3s have a unique shape and require positioning very close to the rear wall in order for the woofers to "see" a room corner. The new B&O flagship speakers have built in full spectrum digital room correction. The Klipschorns required corner placement for proper bass response. The list goes on.

Slappy makes a good point. It probably is more cost effective to buy $15k speakers and spend another $10k on room treatments than it is to just buy a $25k speaker and place them in an untreated room.
Read up on Dynaudio DDC. 2nd paragraph of this link gives a brief description. I believe the product brochure has a more detailed explaination.

Comment on $$$ on lotto tickets:
I remember waaaay' back when the Illinois lotto started, and a janitor dude stole a $16,000.00 roll of lotto tickets from a bank.
Of course the lotto commission had a copy of the ticket numbers.
When the drawing was held... guess how much money was won by the 32,000 tickets?
Under $1,000.
They caught the guy trying to cash in a $200. ticket. Of course, he was charged with stealing $32,000.
Spending money in a lottery is about as dumb as burning money, and planting the ashes so a money tree will grow.
However, I do agree that a few folks have extraordinary good luck... and for those talented folks, the rest of use are just meat on a hook.
Hey Elizabeth!!!

Im sure you have heared of those poor bastards who get hit my lightning twice?
I wonder if they have ANY faith in the direction of thier luck and play lottery.


I jump in on the office pool every now and then. Just cause i KNOW i wont win, but i would be pissed if i diddnt play one day and they all DID win. And im sure it will be the one time i dont play.


The only thing i think is dumber than playing the lottory is those people you see at slot machines. Pump in a buck, press a dollar. pump in another buck. press a button.

I know where my luck lies. No point in me gambling. hahaha
The room is in some respects an extension of the speaker. The speaker moves air, and the boundaries of the room affect the air in one way or another. You need the room interaction or you would not have the kinetic energy of the speaker--i.e. most speakers don't sound too good out in a corn field. However, untreated or poorly designed rooms with bad modal response in the bass region will lead to disaster, and what's worse, is that typically the better the speaker the greater the sound degredation from the room. We think of the room as the invisible component--the first thing you start with and the last thing most people think about. The only speaker that won't have interaction with the room is the one that doesn't move air in the room--basically that leaves you with headphones.

We were in 7 rooms at CES and THE Show and it was predominantly the speaker manufacturers that invited us to be there, knowing full well that the room would take away what they had intended for their design to deliver. Keep in mind, room treatment including devices like our PARC are not compensating for speakers or for electronics. They are compensating for the room--to create positive interaction with the room rather than negative--thus allowing the equipment to perform as it should.

You might want to visit our website. Rives Audio There is an educational section that has quite a bit of information on different types of room interaction and solutions.
Thanks guys, I knew I was swimming up stream on this one from the very beginning! Thanks Rives I'll take a look at your site and see if I can't pick-up some tips.
If Rives has posted this will probably be redundant, but it doesn't matter how good a speaker is, if the room is bad the speakers will sound bad!

It is simple physics. Room dimensions, volume, and materials have profound effects on the speakers ability to reproduce a signal accurately. The room will exaggerate some frequencies and minimize others. No speaker can compensate for those issues. A speaker can't even be designed to compensate since virtually every room is different.
Check out the B&O Beolab 5. It seems to deal with the problem nicely.
Rives makes a very valid point regarding "the better the speaker".. Regarding passive designs, I think in general the tighter the tolerances on driver matching, crossover tuning, and all the many design elements in a speaker design the more revealing they will likely be to changes in the environment they are placed in.

Logically, if the characteristics of the speaker are fixed, then they will not sound the same under different acoustic environments. By contrast, active speakers that can adapt to their environment by utilizing EQ, DSP, etc. (like Meridian's active DSP models, for example), can compensate quite a bit for less-than-ideal placement or acoustics up to a point.

In the reference manual that came with my Hales Revelation Two's, (a very nice speaker if do say so myself!), there is a very in-depth chapter on finding the best placement in your room and the importance of room acoustics. At the end of the chapter, Paul Hales candidly writes: "as awesome as your Hales loudspeakers are, they will sound bad in a bad room". He obviously has no illusions about the importance of the environment affecting sound quality!