The WORST Components for Rock and Pop Music

Like many of you, I enjoy a wide variety of music.

Although there have been a few threads on topics like: "what speakers can really ROCK" etc, I have not found them to be very useful, as many of the recommendations would not suit my other preferences in music.

So here is an interesting and hopefully thought provoking way to look at this dilemma from a different perspective:

What components or systems, have you owned and loved, UNTIL you tried to play your favorite rock and roll or pop music?

What audiophile components would you recommend for everything BUT rock and pop?

For me, this brings back a memory of the CES show, circa 2004 when I was really excited to hear a gigantic pair of Sound Lab speakers.

They probably would have sent shivers down my spine with Patricia Barber, but with Jim Morrison and the Doors playing Peace Frog, I stood up and left the room.

Thanks for any thoughts or ideas.
Opera speakers would be it for me. With classical and female vocals they are great. But put on some classic rock or heavy metal, and they sound awful.
Quad ESL's?
With out a dipoles I've ever listened to sound as good as big old monopole boxes kicking out bass heavy rock music.

While dipole bass sounds more correct, ie... (has better tone) to my ear...I still prefer big cone bass for rock.

The reason for this (my cone bass preference for rock) is in the way the two load the room.

This is why I run two very large subwoofers with my Apogees even though the Apogees are nearly fullrange (27hz) and will play at high spl's...(two of the things needed for a good rock speaker)...they all (dipoles) fail the Maxell "blown-away guy" test. The exceptions being some of the hybrid designs (the Gilmore speakers come to mind).

All that said: "The WORST Components for Rock and Pop Music"

Bookshelf speakers, the B&W's I used to own come to mind.
Amps, the SAE amps I used to own
Preamp, again...SAE
cd players...almost all of them!

Eminent Technology LFT-8s. These were exceptional with Patricia Barber and the like but when I put Kula Shaker in the cdp I knew they had to go.
Any component that sounds "lean" won't work too well for rock music. Sucks the "drive" and "energy" out of the rhythm section and kills the "growl" and "chunky" sound of the guitar.

Having said that, the first brand of gear that came to my mind was Musical Fidelity. Sounds very neat and clean without coming across as being "solid state" or "sterile". Somehow made rock music sound anemic. I wanted to like it, but at the same time, i couldn't tap my toes. Sean
Spica TC-50's, Rogers LS3/5a, low powered tube amps, Electrostatics, and AR speakers maybe? early Wilson WATTS?
But I'm talking ROCK (say, Aerosmith Walk this Way or Zep's Black Dog) not pop-rock...
Beuhorns probably the leader in the list above.
Vandy's except 1c (not worst but close to)
Classe, Cary and Unison Unico for amplification.
Martin Logans... Loved the way they sounded with piano, vocals... But, they made Fugazi sound polite. Had to get rid of them.
Whatever is suitable for one type of music and not suitable for another type of music isn't considered BEST equipment overall.
I'm only posting this because of the reference to Soundlabs,as not being to good on rock. The first real hifi system I ever heard in a friend's home (as opposed to at a dealer) was made up of Accustat 1+1's,a Mac amp and pre,a Lynn table Rosewood cart.----AND yup, the Doors was one of the selections being played. This was back in the early 80's.Light years ahead of what I had and yes, being able to follow the bass lines was a big part of the attraction.
Xiekitchen: Most electrostatic speakers lack the dynamic output to sustain high spl's, let alone the bass that is needed to "drive" the music. On top of that, the way that most people build systems that are E-stat based may have something to do with this.

Having said that, i can assure you that a well designed E-stat based system CAN rock. Only problem is, these are very few and far between as most commercially built E-stat's are quite compromised by design. Most of this is due to marketing restraints.

I listen to mostly very hard & heavy music and my main system uses a line array of E-stat tweeters, a line array of E-stat mid-woofers and four dynamic sub-woofers per channel. While it is physically huge and i have six stereo amps configured as actively crossed monoblocks driving it, i can assure you that it DOES "rock" quite well. With over 2400 wpc available, it should : )

What most of these systems lack are surface area, headroom and low frequency content. By removing those factors from the equation, you can have all of the speed and dynamics that a system is capable of while retaining the proper amount of "bass weight" that is required to rock.

Next on your list was AR speakers. My HT system is AR based, centering around what used to be their top of the line models. Granted, these speakers are VERY far from stock now, but even in stock form, they would "rock". They just needed GOBS of power to do so. With a factory rating of 6400 watts rms, this system isn't hurting in that area either : )

As far as low powered tube amps go, you might be surprised what they can do with high efficiency speakers. I've heard some amps that were well below 10 wpc jam quite well. Maybe not as loudly or cleanly as i would like, but then again, i like things louder than most. Once again though, this comes down to system building and the goals / desires of the end user.

Other than that, i agree with your comments about the Spica's, Rogers, etc... when used by themselves as the mains of a system. These speakers simply don't want to play loudly and lack the low frequency weight to get the job done. Trying to force them to do so would only push them further out of their element, making them sound worse rather than better.

With that in mind, actively crossing them over and removing the low frequency content from the mix that they are fed can do wonders in this regards. You get all of the benefits of the focus and clarity that these designs are capable of while relying on a sub-woofer ( actually, more of a "woofer" in most cases ) to deliver the bottom end weight. In doing so, the smaller speakers can not only play louder, but also cleaner due to the reduced excursion requirements. Once again though, this comes down to system building and the goals of the end user.

In case you were wondering, my bedroom system is built much like this i.e. two small stand mounted time aligned monitors that are actively crossed over to dual subs : )

As a side note, have any of you ever noticed that certain changes that you made to your system have caused you to make changes to your listening habits? That is, substituting a piece of gear made you want to listen to more "softer" music rather than what you would normally listen to? I've seen this happen quite a bit with many folks / systems.

What happens here is that the system no longer gives you what you want out of it with harder music, so you shift to listening to music that it can deal with more easily. Psychologically, we don't want to listen to music / a system that doesn't make us happy, so listening to music that doesn't highlight the problems of such a system is what we do. This is more of a subconscious decision more than anything else.

I think that many audiophiles end up listening to Patricia Barber / Diana Krall simply because their system no longer "rocks" like it should. This is not to say that either PB or DK are bad performers, as i listen to them too, but that our musical tastes change with our system capacities.

The end result is that we end up losing the joys of much of the music that we loved in the past, simply because our system sounds too "hi-fi" or "clinical" rather than "musical". There's a fine line between what we call "accuracy" and "musicality". Finding a way to straddle that line can be quite costly, time consuming and difficult to say the least, but it can also be quite rewarding when one achieves the results that they were looking for.

After all, if music that you thought sounded "good" now sounds "bad" on your system, chances are, it's not the "good" music that went "bad". It's probably your system robbing the "life" out of the recordings. This doesn't mean that there aren't such things as "bad sounding" recordings, but that you should still be able to enjoy music that you previously enjoyed, regardless of the type of system that it is played on. Sean
Greetings, I personally run Klipsch laScalas and find their rendering of ROCK to be outstanding. Their super high sensitivity and ability to play extremely loud are just a couple of their superior attributes.

That said, I really don't agree with your initial premise. I believe the following to be true:

1. That a truely outstanding full spectrum set-up will sound excellent with all kinds of music.
2. That certain types of music are more able to bring out the weaknesses and strength of any given system.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say, is that the issue shouldn't be what type of music sounds the best with certain components, but rather, what are the actual strengths and weaknesses of those components.

Happy listening...
Some old rock cd's sound best when played back on boom boxes, A remaster of some of these older cd's does help sometimes.

Sometimes the album (vinyl) sounds wonderful, god only knows what happened in the cd transfer?

I still own my old VMPS Supertower/R' of the best rock speakers ever, IMO...however, they will not take a cd with a bass freq response of 100hz at best, and a screechy hi-end and turn it into something it's not.

I have read that some "members systems" can do this, I have never listened to a system that can do this with my own ears however....short of my boombox..... which sounds pretty much the same with all music. (I think it's the pair of 4" speakers and the mega-bass button :D) that converts these over?>

As far as the "Doors" cd's...most are recorded fairly well IMO, and should sound (at least good) on any speaker system. If they don't...somethings wrong somewhere.

Plus you have to factor in the fact that some rock recordings are poorly engineered (overcompressed, etc.)
I would like to 2nd the opinion of Sogood51- i wanted something to play rock/pop music for my bedroom, and ended up with a JVC "Kaboom" box which sounded amazing in the store. when i fired it up at home with some jimi hendrix set to a volume i rarely listen to, i felt i had re-captured that REALLY ROCK-HEAVY dense sound i hadn't heard in years. in addition, the side firing speakers produced the kind of stereo field that hendrix and others were exploiting in those days (ping-ponging). they still make these boxes, and they do not distort until pushed almost all the way. i prefer not to play Mozart on the JVC, but it's really sad the last time i played Crosby, Stills, and Nash on my "accurate" system, where all of the sloppy mixing and timing errors drew my attention away from the timelessly great performances.
i can understand that these guys just wanted to record those great songs they had composed perhaps with a minimum of fuss, but those alblums are now classics; yet, their production standards are pretty low compared, for example, to recent madonna cd's...
I run Martin Logan Prodigy Speakers,have for years with excellent results and I basically only listen to hard rock.
I will say the system is far from sounding polite??
It all depends on they way you set it up just like it does with any other speaker or components,its all setup.
Really, none of the modern, sleek loudspeakers with one or two 6.5 woofers are good for rock, they just lack the push for rock.
Sounds like you have some electrostatics there!
As for the AR's, I had forgotten about the real big ones, esp. with the dual side firing 10's or 12's, yeah they probably really rock given enough juice. I'm thinking more in line with the 3's, 4's or 2's, the classic "new england" sound of 3 decades ago that AR is famous for, vs. say, Altec Lansing.
I agree with Sean,
many high end systems do make Rock and Roll sound anemic. Its like you can also hear the production through the speakers. Interestingly enough what did improve rock and roll through my system was playing it from my ipod.
As if degrading the sound actually improved it.
Just my 2 cents
That makes a lot of sense to me as I usually listen to rock in the car where fidelity is not an issue. Good point mitch.
Something along the lines of "Pink Floyd The Wall" or any other of the hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of well recorded rock albums... do sound good on any hi-end system that can playback at fairly high Spl's...most e-stats and planers can not do this except in small rooms.... all though their are a few exceptions.

I don't listen to a lot of rock music at this stage of my life but I do own lots of it...from "those" days.

I think Pink Floyd sounds as good as I've ever heard it "when I do play it" on my Apogee speakers/VMPS sub based system.

The problem is:

Most of the rock albums I own are from the 60's-80's...most, are not well recorded. They do sound ok in my truck and on my boom box because those two playback systems have a very limited freq range, ie....I don't expect much, so I just enjoy the music.

With our "big rigs" it can be somewhat hard to "just enjoy the music" when we.... "expect so much"

I will add that my 35 year old stepson is "very heavy" into rock. I have played back some of his music for him on my system...he was, as we like to say...BLOWN AWAY!

Most of the rock he listens to are bands that I know nothing about....tons of heavy bass and lots of screaming! I guess if I did enjoy his music (a good amount of beer did help)...I would enjoy it "more" on my system than his.

>>Most of the rock albums I own are from the 60's-80's...most, are not well recorded<<

Interesting. My collection covers the same period although mine begin about 1957 and most are recorded very well. Almost every one is a first release which may or may not be a factor and all are in mint or near mint condition. There are a handful of compressed recordings but the majority sound superb.
Go figure.

My bad, I have a bad habit of saying albums...I should have said cd's.

I do have many old albums (Linn Axis Turntable)...I re-bought many albums "cd replacements" from those years because I thought at the time it was the way to go... (better sound forever) and all that. I still own many of those old cd transfers and this is mostly what I was talking about.

I do not own most of my old vinyl...gave it away?

I have all of the Supertramp and Alan Parsons stuff on both album and cd for instance...the albums are worlds better.

Note: In this case I re-bought the albums...I never play the cd's

I find the bass MIA, and the highs distorted on most of these old transfers to cd....not all.

In the's all about recording quality regardless of format...a turd is, a turd... be it Classical, Rock, Country, Blues, ect.

Well put Audiofeil, but I would date it even further back that, there are some incredible 'mono' recordings. Shellac, 78rpm, and a dog sitting besides a wind up stereo with a horn (not the dog, the player) comes to mind.
Dave, have you ever heard any of the Classic Records HDAD transfers of the Alan Parsons releases? I have not, but I'm sometimes tempted to buy one.

Do a search for "Parsons" on the website linked above to find the Alan Parsons releases.
thiel cs 3.5 and adcom 585

No I have not heard those, I would expect them to sound very good though!

I have an older "Classic Records" 24/96 DAD from a few years ago of the (I Robot) recording that sounds very good. The only other Alan Parsons I own (other than vinyl) is a DTS surround sound disc... (On Air}.