The various Spendors have an excellent reputation for accurate reproduction with good imaging but non-fatiguing sound.
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1. All speakers are not flat in room.
2. Most CD players "give you ear fatigue playing CD's".
3. High resolution makes matters worse, not better
Q. What to do?
A. Alter the response curve in your room to provide smooth coherent sound at the listening position.
A. Use digital room correction. A used Tact a generation back (say a 2.0) can be had for a little over a thousand bucks. Get the model that accepts analog inputs (designated aaa).
smoothness and resolution are at opposite ends of a continuum.
too much smoothness obscures resolution. too much resolution eliminates smoothness.
it would seem that speaker designers may voice a speaker to provide a balance of the two.
it is difficult to recommend a speaker without listening. p[erception of smoothness and resolution is subjective.
that said, i think the aerial 10t is a good choice.
Other brands known for a smooth mid & treble range: Silverline Audio, Vienna Acoustics, Sonus Faber, Opera, Roman Audio and DCM TFE series. Of these, IMHO, the best resolution would be Silverline and Roman, and the Vandersteens offer decent resolution as well. The good news is that the sonic characteristics you seek are obtainable and for reasonable money. The bad news is that many factors play a part, not just the speakers, and just throwing money at your system won't guaranty the results you seek. I own Vandersteen 1Cs with a pair of 2Wq subs. While the sound from my rig is fairly smooth, I've heard smoother (Silverline, Roman Audio). Likewise, you cannot ignore the associated gear. Prior to a series of upgrades and fine-tuning, the same 1Cs sounded much less smooth and fatigue would set in earlier than in my present configuration.
Samujohn, I agree with you on #1, but it all depends on how you look at #2 and #3. If playing a CD give you fatigue, its more than likely got something to do with the rest of you setup...IMO more than the player. The player reads the digital info without conversion and such (as long as you keep the info digital until it has to be converted). Its the speaker and amps and other electronics (not to mention the weakest link, room) that brings about the fatigue issues...for the most part.
You are definately on track about the room correction. Without it #2 and #3 are big problems. Besides, everyone should know that precision room correction brings about better resolution to the music anyway :)
Back on topic...sorry. I've noticed that speakers that incorporate soft dome tweeters and mids tend to be more smoother than those who don't. ATC is one that comes to mind. Those using ring radiators offer many of those same traits too.
Don't forget the Magnepan 1.6's. They certainly present one sonic cloth, and yet can be very resolving. When slightly underpowered (not hard to do with the demanding load of a Maggie) they certainly seem smoother in that they won't have the dynamic punch to be truly fatiguing. In my experience, though the front end has more of an effect than the speakers, but your mileage may vary.
A speaker can be made to sound smooth by designing in a frequency response dip in the lower treble region (somewhere around 2 kHz to 5 kHz). The Silverlines mentioned by Zapper and Bondmanp often have a pronounced dip in this region and I think that Shahinans do as well, and a lesser dip is present in many British speakers (and I would guess something like that is present in most of the other speakers mentioned in this thread that I'm not familiar with). Maggies have a broader, gentler lower treble dip that smooths the presentation.
As Mrtennis points out, there are tradeoffs involved. To my ears, a speaker with reduced energy in the lower treble region is lacking in upper harmonic energy on many acoustic instruments, and so it doesn't have as much "life". I find myself wanting to turn the volume level up louder to hear the harmonic richness that I expect.
I used to own Quad 63's, and would not describe them as an especially "smooth" and forgiving speaker - they could sound somewhat aggressive with some program material. Quad 57's are smoother, and I haven't heard the latest Quads.
Speakers that are free from peaks in the 2-5 kHz region (whether on-axis or off-axis) are likely to sound fairly smooth without trading off too much upper harmonic energy. But if you want a speaker that sounds smooth even with a harsh recording, you'll need a speaker whose response dips signiifcantly in the lower treble region.
I personally love the Aerial 6's - I have a small square room (12 X 15)... lots of clean SS power (Levinson 23.5) and some acoustic room treatments. I am upgrading to the Aerial 9's as soon as I can find a nice set in Rosewood. I like the idea of the 20T ... but man, I just cant swing that much cash. For the price I thought the 6's actually sounded sweeter (less fatiguing) and had better imaging than the 7b's. I thought the 6's were a little weak when you hit higher volume levels - the 7b's did a much better job in that regard. The 9's were a combination of all the good in both the 6's and the 7b's...
I would suggest you check out Daedalus Audio. One of Lou's key design objectives is NO listener fatigue. I had the DA-1's for a couple years and they were the most non-fatiguing (yet lively and dynamic) speaker I've ever owned or heard--and I've owned several of the speakers mention such as Harbeth Compact 7's, Spendor SP1's and Spendor S100's. I've also heard the Aerial 7B's. If non-fatiguing sound is your thing, the Daedalus stuff is worth checking into. BTW, Lou is going to release several new models at the RMAF in a few weeks. He has two new "Reference Line" speakers and will be rolling out updated versions of the excellent DA-1 and DA-2. One of these models will be gracing my living room shortly. If your planning on being in Denver, go have a look.
Verity Audio....I have been in love with their smoothness since first hearing the Fedilo in 1997...
Couldn't afford them then and went all over the map until my recent purchace of the Parisifal Ovations.
For the most refined "smooth" sound go with the PO's. There are many speakers out their that are easy on the ears...Sonus Faber, DeVore, Dali...but the best of the best, IMO, are the VAs...
Ozzy, tell me about it. I am also looking into Dynaudio MC15 active speakers too. They use A/b amps. No Flying Mole digital stuff. Then all I would need is to build a dual mono motorized Alps pot volume control. The Marantz CDP is sort of harsh although really good for the $$$. Such a bummer the Sony SRP-P50 is no longer available. I also like the Creek A50r. Can't find those either.
I have built a variety of single driver speakers and even though they are fairly low resolution they are still harsh. That's because of the breakup modes, typically at 6 and 12kHz. No wonder people don't design these drivers into speakers to run full range, even though the driver can do it.
my latest speaker is the smoothest i have heard while still have the extreme detail and emotion. Avantgarde uno, previously i had martin logan and before that acoustats and they were smooth and detailed until i hear the uno's. what is also interesting is that i had various brand silver cables and they all make the systems sound bright, changed the entire system to paul spletz anti cable and the detail, smoothness and bass and high all sounded better. hope that helps.
You have many options, but two speakers that are remarkable for their smoothness are Sonus Faber Cremona, and Zu Druid. The Cremona is a voiced speaker that trades some ultimate resolution for musicality, and the Druid is an intimately holistic reproducer that intentionally sacrifices some of its big brother's extreme revelatory character to retain the warmth and unity of a simpler design. Two different price points, yes, but both can be used with a wide range of gear, including the best.
in striving to build smooth, detailed speakers i've found that the source is sooooo important. much of the harshness and unnatural sound that speakers get the blame for is often the source component. really good speakers reveal the weakness and strengths of the other components. often it's really hard to tell what is the component that is the 'problem'. right now i use an Art Audio tube DAC for listening evaluations.
I hate to argue with you Lou but in my experience it is the loudspeaker that is most often to blame for fatiguing sound. Before I found and fell in love with your DA-1's, I heard countless speakers--most often connected to top shelf electronics (both tube and solid state)--and often found them to wear on me after a relatively short period of time. There are very few speakers out there that get things so right that you can listen (at volume) for hours on end and never feel oppressed. I'm not saying that poor electronics can't mess up an otherwise good speaker but for the most part I think you need to get the loudspeaker right first and foremost. I think your success in this area transcends choice of electronics and source components.
Here's one When the drivers like this have incredibly low distortion, and the design is well implemented, you get a non-fatiguing "listen all day" type of sound
I think (as of today) driver distortion is my biggest detterent to enjoying the music. I can live without all the detail, bass, or treble, but if distortion is high.....no way.
The speaker that I have found to strike the right balance between resolution and smoothness is the Merlin VSM-MXe. The other speaker that seems to be as good are the various speakers I have heard from Verity; if I didn't own Merlin, that would be the speaker line that would most interest me. I also owned the Vandersteen 3As/2wqs, but the Merlin was an improvement in the area resolution and micro dymamic detail. The Merlin uses the Dynaudio Esotar tweeter and I imagine that is a reason for its smooth upper frequencies. Of course, using tube amps doesn't hurt.
For example here is a distortion plot and cummulative spectral decay of a mid range driver. Nice because it is playing at 96 db SPL at 1 meter (that is real world music loud - so it is playing at useful levels not soft levels for the test - this takes care of dynamics cleanly).
Distortion and Cummulative Spectral Decay (CSD) Note the CSD goes to -35 db which is an entire 10 db lower than you usually see on Stereophile plots - and remember you can ignore the breakup/resonances above 4K as this would be removed or taken care of by a crossover (it is a mid range driver - it can do tweeter duties)
The dispersion is nice and even also - see Dispersion plot
I agree with Pubul57 choice of the merlins and would add Dunlavy scIII,scIV,scV and scVI's into the mix;these are speakers that you could listen to forever.
I would also vote for my current speaker soundlab m2's except impedance curve and listening levels my not appeal the masses except I can listen all night long and not want it to end due to listening fatique or any other reason such as that.
For me, a little extra mid bass (or a little underdamping), combined with the falling FR through the presence region mentioned by Duke, defines "smooth".
Vandy's model 2 meets the description pretty well, so I assume that this is what you're after.
I own the Verity Parsifal/Encore and it's a textbook example of this. FR falls app. 5db (anechoically) from app. 2khz to 5khz and the bass will, in most rooms, be a bit elevated between 75hz and 150hz. While this may horrify some folks, the result is IMHO very, very musical.
Many of the older Sonus Fabers also feature this tonal combo, but the Cremonas, while retaining a bit of the mid bass bump, are much flatter through the presence region than were some of the vintage models.
I have owned both speakers for many years, so this post is based on extensive personal experience. However, as always, YMMV.