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 2 responses by transaudio

I think Shadorne has it-low distortion and wide dispersion (ie.consistent off axis) are top priorities, which eliminates horns, dipoles, electrostatic and good number of other technologies.  

Listening in a small room you are hearing more room than speaker.  For most of us, the only way to really hear the speaker is to eliminate the room- take your speaker outside or to a very large space.  While even these environments can have an effect on the speaker, you are finally hearing more speaker than room.  After you've selected what sounds best outside/in a very large room, now you have to return to your small room to listen.  Everything you thought you knew about your speaker will now change as this small room takes over.  Depending on your speaker's flaws or shortcomings, some of these flaws don't play well in small rooms.  

Poor off axis is a top problem made worse by nearly all rooms.  Uneven bass response is another one.  We are drawn to speakers with more bass in a demo- every time- yet bass is the one thing that is always different between one room and another.  The bass at the store will not be your bass.  The bass with the speakers along this wall will not be the bass when the speakers are put along that wall.  Sometimes 3 inches different can make or break bass in a room.  The bass sitting here will not be the bass sitting there.   All rooms will emphasize some set of low frequencies and will take away others, depending where you sit and where the speakers are.  

So focusing on off axis response and low distortion as values in the speaker inherently makes at least that part a non issue once you get the speaker in a room.  Now the next task to work hard at speaker placement once you get them home.  This is generally to get the best bass and the best imaging.  It amazing to read threads of speaker owners ready to jump ship yet have never moved them around in the room.  You should be moving them all the time, learning your room, learning how this is different from that.  Its usually a bigger difference than speaker cables!  After you find the best placement sonically, then you can attack the last of your problems with acoustic treatment and maybe just maybe, some very subtle room EQ.  

The idea you must avoid is thinking that placing the speakers at home where they look nice and never moving them is a good idea and that any problems or weaknesses discovered from the "look nice" position can be solved elsewhere.  The industry has not done itself any favors pitching a magic little built in software program and $10 microphone that came in the box fixes it all- and if it doesn't, you need new "better" speakers.  


HI Duke
Nice company BTW.  Interesting designs! 
You are right, there are examples that defy the norm and prove almost any (and especially my) generalization wrong: certain classes of speakers are outside the target of low distortion and wide dispersion.   I still stick by the point that for most home listeners, who need near field and off axis capability, its much more difficult to get good results from common, readily available examples of horns, dipoles and electro stats.   It certainly can be done, but you need to know a lot more to get good results.  

In all the years I have worked in pro audio recording, I have never seen a pair of Quads in any recording or mastering studio (and I've been in a lot).   So I don't think you'd get many recording engineers who even know what they are.   While neutral and very revealing, the limited dynamics makes them not practical for commercial recording.  I know Billy from ATC (which IS very common in recording studios) was quite good friends with the Quad guys.