The Most Realistic Speaker Technology?

OK, maybe this is the question that I should have asked originally...

I need some help, because I am now more confused than ever. I am in the market for new speakers, and have about $10,000 to spend, more or less. I am looking for the most "realistic", "true-to-life", "you-are-there", quality speaker there is, at that price. But the sheer number of speaker companies, speaker technologies, and speakers out there is mystifying, stupefying, and bewildering, so my search has been extremely confusing. I am not a constant upgrade kind of guy, and I don't have a lot of money, and so the speakers that I buy are the ones that I have to keep for a long time, and so it is even more imperative that I make the right and wise decision.

I realize that everyone has their own different opinion of things, and that different people like different types of sound from their speakers, and that that may be their favorite whether or not the sound coming from their speakers sounds even remotely realistic at all. And, while I respect the right for everyone to like their own particular pair of speakers that puts out a particular type of sound that suits them that they like and that sounds good to them as their favorite, regardless of whether it sounds realistic or not, my tastes are slightly different. My particular idea of good speakers are speakers that produce sound that sounds "real", or speakers that sound like a live performer is playing right there in front of you. Please forgive my particular taste, I know that a pair of speakers can sound perfectly good to someone whether or not they sound very realistic at all, but that is just what I personally in my own opinion consider good speakers, speakers which produce music which sounds as lifelike and as close to reality as possible.

And so, the first step that I am trying to do in order to nail down my speaker search is to isolate the type of speaker technology that sounds the most realistic. Since I know that most of you have heard literally dozens and dozens more different types of speakers in your lifetime than I have, all from many different types of assorted speaker technologies, can any of you tell me what, in general, is the speaker technology or type of speaker that sounds the most realistic and true to real life, like having a live performer playing right in front of you, that sounds the most similar to that? I know that part of this depends upon the system setup and synergy, room treatments, etc., etc., and I know that people do not always prefer the most realistic sound, but oftentimes just prefer the sound that sounds good to them, but surely, there must be some speaker technologies that sound more realistic, and more true-to-life than others. Please keep in mind that I am only asking for the speaker technology that sounds the most realistic, and not for a speaker company or a speaker itself, as I think that that would be impossible for anyone to say.

Knowing that most of you have heard many other speakers than me, and from all different types of speaker technologies, I thought that maybe some of you guys could tell me, maybe some of you could then give me a good place to start, or at least some of the more stronger options that there are available out there in terms of true-to-life music and sounding the most realistic.

If you could please help me out with a little advice other than, "well it all depends on you, you just have to listen with your own ears, and try to find what sounds right, and decide for yourself", that would be great. Because, unfortunately, that does not help me out much because I do not have "golden ears" as they say, and I do not even know what to listen for. Can you guys please help me out, and at least give me some places to start in terms of which speaker technology I should be looking at more than others, to get the most realistic sound? I would really appreciate it.

Thanks to all of you for your responses, I really appreciate all of your help, and am grateful to you for any help, tips, and advice, that any of you guys can give me. All advice is appreciated.

Showing 1 response by audiokinesis

Transaudio wrote:  "low distortion and wide dispersion (ie.consistent off axis) are top priorities, which eliminates horns, dipoles, electrostatic and good number of other technologies."

I agree with you that low distortion and consistent off-axis response are top priorities, but some of the very best examples of speakers that do these things well come from the ranks of horns, dipoles, and electrostats!

The best, most consistent measured off-axis responses I have ever seen come from the JBL M2 and the GedLee Summa, both of which use a very high quality 15" woofer crossed over to a very high quality 1" throat constant-directivity waveguide-style horn.  Both of these speakers are extremely uniform across a 90 degree arc in the horizontal plane over most of the spectrum.

Probably even more uniform are SoundLab's faceted-curved panel fullrange electrostats:  Either 45 degrees front-and-back, or 90 degrees front-and-back (depending on the specifics) over the portion of the spectrum where the panel's directional characteristics dominate, transitioning to a dipole figure-8 pattern at low frequencies.  And negligible floor and ceiling bounces. 

Radiation pattern control is probably my top priority as a designer, and in my experience direct radiators are the inferior technology in this area.  If the dispersion is too wide, there is too much energy in early reflections.  Early reflections degrade clarity.  Wide dispersion speakers sound good because the benefit of the late-arrival reflections outweighs the detriment of the early-arrival ones, but ideally we want the beneficial late reflections without the detrimental early ones.  This calls for better radiation pattern control than we can normally get from conventional direct radiators.