What creates the effortlessness in sound reproduction?


Hello, 
I have a chance to listen some speakers in the last 10 years. I notice that there are 2 speakers which produced sound 'effortlessly', even at low or high volume levels (I never tried max levels on them since they are not mine). With this effortlessness, listening to music is very relaxing. 

I wonder what makes the effortlessness in these speakers? 

Please shed some light on this. 

Thank you. 
Huy
Ag insider logo xs@2xquanghuy147
Hi Huy,

You’ve described one of the key qualities I like in a listening. It is like sitting on top of a mountain ridge and looking out for miles to the horizon.


My experience in trying to reproduce this is that it needs:
  • Speakers which are measurably neutral, and smooth especially in the midrange to treble region. Lots of high end speakers with great press are measurably ragged here.
  • Drivers which are free of compression
  • Excellent room acoustics and/or controlled dispersion speakers. 

Based on reading on room acoustics and learning and brain behavior, it seems we spend a lot of brain energy pulling room acoustics out of what we hear. If you’ve ever been in a bad room talking to some one, or just listening and found it exhausting, this is why.


Best,

E
I think it could be efficiency, at least in the case of a pair of 99db efficient speakers I use (Klipsch Heresy IIIs). The sound gets thrown out from the speaker post haste. 
@wolf_garcia 

As others have pointed out, high efficiency drivers tend to have a lot less compression due to low power and low heat.

The coils and motors just don't heat up the same way.
What’s upstream driving the speakers is a major, MAJOR influence in the audio performance you wines ..... planning for system synergy and investing here first matters. 

the old adage still applies: “garbage in = garbage out“


There are about six or eight critical system factors that result in the "effortless" sound of speakers. It's a holistic system result, not just the speakers.   
effortless can mean different things to people. The only way to find out the answer is to become involved in speaker design. There are no shortcuts. 

The electronics and the overall “system engineering.” Up to and including the speakers. 
In tune, fast bass, dynamic and distortion free are my best guess 
Huy, it is mostly the amplifier, speakers and room. You need an amp that can effortlessly drive the speakers to 110 dB. This will depend on the efficiency of the speakers. The speakers have to be peak free or even a little depressed (3 dB) in the upper mid range (3000 Hz) and the system has to have excellent bass performance. If all these criteria are met you will have that "effortless" performance unless there is a severe deficiency up stream. The program sources and pre amp are important but they have much less effect on the overall sound unless there is a significant problem. Also in my experience class A amplifiers are more "effortless"
Class A amps are certainly "snappy." Mine (Dennis Had Inspire Firebottle HO SEP) is anyway...a short path to the mojo transferring a clear upstream signal to earball pleasing immediacy.
Thank you everyone for the input!

@erik_squires : You are absolutely right about the feeling "It is like sitting on top of a mountain ridge and looking out for miles to the horizon"

I will try to go with room treatment and then amp replacement.  I will update if I have some improvements :) 

Huy


OP :

Highly recommend you reach out to GIK Acoustics.
Best,
E
lots of good comments about effortlessness already.

the word that comes to mind for me is ’headroom’; effortlessness in music reproduction requires all pieces of your system puzzle to operate in their best region of efficiency. if a piece in the chain is being stressed that causes distortion and inhibits the free flowing ease and authority which equals effortlessness.

another aspect of effortlessness is bottom octave extension past the needs of any musical material. this margin of error allows the music to matter of factly do deep bass without strain. having 10hz-20hz system performance requires extension below that.

effortlessness also comes from power grid optimization and anti-resonance treatments which allow the musical focus to hold together as it scales and not get muddled by strains on A/C power or hash and distortion from high SPL resonance feedback.

i could go on and on.

effortlessness has been a central theme of my system evolution. take a look at details of my system to see what i mean by that.
It is usually the result of an amplifier not being pushed near its limits when driving  the speakers.  
This is what I experience with the large mastering monitors I prefer to use. They just tell me IS THIS ALL YOU GOT!! whatever I throw at them. Great feeling :-)

I fully agree an in-room balanced and powerful bass is fundamental.


I have one word. Dynamic range.
Efficiency is key!

And nice shameless plug Peter. Do better, please........

Oz




Peter is above board. The shameless ones are those with ulterior agendas. 

Even without hearing the speakers he linked to I can see that they have many of the criteria necessary to achieve effortless sound reproduction - given the proper electronics and cables ahead of them. 

Larger drivers, extended frequency response, plenteous power, overbuilt x-over or active x-over, larger speakers well past 4', etc. Many speakers have a few of these traits, but this one he linked to seems to have the necessary attributes to create the effortless sound discussed here. 

I have reviewed larger Legacy Audio speakers for Dagogo.com, such as the V and the Valor, and these are fundamentally superior in creating the sense of ease and capability beyond the norm. So, Peter's link is not just shameless promotion, it's a snapshot of the characteristics in a speaker that lend themselves to "effortlessness".  

Btw, it seems the speaker uses a 12" mid. Those with discernment might look to see that also Legacy's Valor similarly uses prodigious midrange. Why is that? Because it is fundamentally superior. Period. End of discussion. Size matters, and big gets fundamentally better sound in the end. Sorry for budget audiophiles, but that's the realty. 

Now you know.  :) 
I will add that one of the reasons that panels, such as the Kingsound King III electrostatic I reviewed for Dagogo.com, are so popular is that they can capture some of the immensity and openness of huge speakers. It’s a much more affordable way to go; one does not need to spend $80K to get some of the attributes of "effortlessness", but some will be sacrificed, such as macrodynamics. No way a panel will come close to the impact of such dynamic hybrid speakers. Not even close. Subs would be mandatory. That is why I pair the Legacy Audio XTREME XD Subs (also reviewed) with the King III to capture some of what is lost when moving to a panel. :)


Simply put, "effortlessness" is on a spectrum, like all other parameters of performance. It's not an end point, but a very widely experienced phenomenon that is open-ended. 
This is all about distortion.

If higher ordered harmonics not part of the music are present, the ear will sense them as brightness and harshness.


If there are room reflections that are occurring at less than about 10mS or so, the ear will sense them as brightness and harshness.

So the amplifier plays a role- as does the rest of the system! The rule of thumb I use is the system doesn't ever sound loud, even when at 100dB. So I do everything I can to prevent the system making higher ordered harmonic distortion, preventing vibration from affecting the components and insuring that the speakers are properly set up in the room. If all this is done correctly, you will find that many speakers can be quite effortless. I find it easier with higher efficiency speakers as they tend to have less thermal compression. ESLs can work nicely too, since they have no thermal compression at all.
"The rule of thumb I use is the system doesn't ever sound loud, even when at 100dB..."

Exactly my experience.
I agree that it results from all components giving you the desired volume while functioning well within their operational envelope.
@douglas_schroeder : you mentioned that the size matters and big gets better in the end. I also read somewhere saying that big drivers tend to be slower due to their size and mass than the small one? How true is it?

@atmasphere : you mentioned:  "I use is the system doesn't ever sound loud, even when at 100dB". I'm sorry for my ignorance but I am not sure I understand this correctly. Do you mean that in an experiment of several systems which are playing at 100dB, some system will be louder than the rest? 
 
@erik_squires : I checked Gik Acoustics, should I go with bass trap or diffusion panels, how to decide which one I need?  I read some articles online but they are pretty 'technical' for me.

Could you give me a hint or direction? I am living in carpeted, small room 16ft x 16 ft with a pair of Devore Nines. 
Thank you
Huy
Hi Huy,
Talk to them. They'll help you get set up. Have a budget in mind. :)

They are really pros at this.  I'm an amateur by comparison.

Best,
E
As geoffkait indicated, but, in two words, dynamic range. Every listener, should have some experience, to listen to live, unamplified music, to get an understanding of what dynamic range, really is. ( real musicians, in a real space ). I am speaking of music and sound, as dynamic range is also associated with  vision ( photography.and video ).
I'm sorry for my ignorance but I am not sure I understand this correctly. Do you mean that in an experiment of several systems which are playing at 100dB, some system will be louder than the rest?
@quanghuy147  No. Some systems will **sound** louder. This is because higher ordered harmonics are used by the ear to sense sound pressure. If a system is making more of them than a 2nd system, that 1st system will sound louder even though it isn't. In fact this is so profound that the 1st system could be a good 15dB quieter and still sound louder.

Eliminating intermodulations and higher ordered harmonic distortion is the key. 
Larger drivers being slower is a misnomer. Often smallish drivers are wrongly claimed to image better, sound quicker, etc. It's mostly attempted justification for a lesser rig. Listen sometime to how much distortion a 6.5" woofer puts out in comparison to 15". I prefer not to introduce that level of distortion into low end performance. :)
As usual, YMMV
+1 to Doug

I find 18 inch Scaena subwoofer to be fast enough to match Lansche 4.1.

The most effortless speaker that I had heard is vintage Western big horn with  field coil magnet.

Because of high efficiency you need less than 20 watts of power to fill the big room.
The biggest problem though I believe is the lack of good recordings. Let me mention one that holds for any sound level - Cream reunion live at the Albert Hall. Bluray.
*S*  What I've appreciated from and by y'all is the 'brand-less' and 'item-less' qualities of this forum....

Don't tell me 'with What' you're 'using'....speak to me about What you seek.  What are you listening for?  The qualities, the impressions, the nuances...

Paint me a picture....don't brandish an advert.  If there's something 'specific' that you mention, we can always find a means to exchange that and those details...

I realize that this may strike as 'Pollyann-ish'....but, at least, for awhile, Here....

It's been mostly avoided...and I'll thank y'all for that. *S*+!^5's*all that....

(I'll give Eric a pass, though....he seems to live in a GIK padded cell, and I can relate...;)...

...I can only hope he realizes that I'm kidding Him Big Time...*G*)

Respect and admiration can begat parody and pun....and I'd be remiss if I'd didn't act 'to form'...*S*
"Effortless" for me is context-dependent, including the old trick of turning off the lights and listening with candle light only. Turning down the volume a bit, so I am dragged into the music rather than having it pushed at me. If I'm stressed, music sounds worse. So it is a matter of the listener not just the "objective" system. Add all the good advice above, like good source, preamp and amp, efficient speakers, etc. Avoid over-damping the room. Maybe consider a distributed bass system if it blends well with the speakers. - The Cream reunion album, mentioned, is very good on vinyl too.
Not all 6.5 inch drivers are made, measure or perform the same.  Look up the Dali drivers made in house.  No need for 15 inch drivers for effortless sound. It can be done other ways.  Also, products from Perfect Path Audio help greatly in this regard. Many roads to this goal.  
grannyring,  I agree with you that some companies/drivers are much better at attaining an effortless sound than others. Dali makes an excellent product, and I have thought of reviewing one several times. 

I am spoiled by regular use of larger speakers, which has skewed my expectation, standard of what constitutes refined sound. I would struggle to accept a monitor or smallish floor standing speaker as my reference. If the bulk of my experience was with speakers with 6-7" bass driver(s) likely I would agree with you entirely.

 I struggle to think of any driver under 8" across the industry that has an effortless sound when listening at higher levels compared to much larger drivers. Others disagree, so be it. The perceptions and expectations of audiophiles in terms of sound are as wide as the performance of systems themselves. I'm not expecting anyone who has not used much larger systems in their home to agree with me.  They may work hard to get a smallish speaker to sound far more relaxed and effortless relatively compared to their earlier systems, so they think it's got a high degree of that attribute. In my experience not so in comparison with far more formidable speakers. 

The smallest dynamic driver I have heard in my room that can put out 20Hz +/- 3dB and not sound strained is the Audio Technology 11" in the Vapor Audio Joule White speakers  (reviewed for Dagogo.com)  YMMV
All good points Doug. Many of us don't listen above 75-89db average weighted C when off the leach!
Effortless sound comes with a proper amplifier match to a given set of speakers.  
Obviously HE speakers need the least amount of quality power to deliver fast, responsive effortless sound without strain.  
Yet typical low efficiency dynamic box speakers can also sound effortless with the right amplifier.  
My 86db large british monitors sounded exceptionally dynamc and effortless being driven by a high current Bipolar transistor amplifier with 300 WPC.  The results were literally startling.  

I think a system's perceived effortlessness can be achieved by a judicious application of effort.
@douglas_schroeder --

Peter is above board. The shameless ones are those with ulterior agendas.

Even without hearing the speakers he linked to I can see that they have many of the criteria necessary to achieve effortless sound reproduction - given the proper electronics and cables ahead of them.

Larger drivers, extended frequency response, plenteous power, overbuilt x-over or active x-over, larger speakers well past 4’, etc. Many speakers have a few of these traits, but this one he linked to seems to have the necessary attributes to create the effortless sound discussed here.

I have reviewed larger Legacy Audio speakers for Dagogo.com, such as the V and the Valor, and these are fundamentally superior in creating the sense of ease and capability beyond the norm. So, Peter’s link is not just shameless promotion, it’s a snapshot of the characteristics in a speaker that lend themselves to "effortlessness".

Btw, it seems the speaker uses a 12" mid. Those with discernment might look to see that also Legacy’s Valor similarly uses prodigious midrange. Why is that? Because it is fundamentally superior. Period. End of discussion. Size matters, and big gets fundamentally better sound in the end. Sorry for budget audiophiles, but that’s the realty.

Now you know. :)

Indeed the size of speakers/transducers matter, but sadly large size and high sensitivity is often dismissed, no doubt partly due to size costing obscenely much these days with refinement being taken to ridiculous lengths and putting the price of small standmounts into 10’s of kilo-dollars (imagine where that leaves their grander brethren on the price scale).

And yet, where price is no issue it seems a fortune is generally rather invested in moderately sized speakers instead of letting physics have their say; sometimes it even appears as if physics to audiophiles, certainly in regards to speakers, is tangential to the importance of belief for an atheist.

Interestingly, but to no surprise John Atkinson of Stereophile "wriggles" his way around the question of large speakers as well:

https://youtu.be/QWU2sUnW-eM?t=1344

It’s worth mentioning that size (i.e.: air radiation area) is achievable via other means, namely from acoustic transformation as well - also known as horns. To boot this is the most effective way into high efficiency, you’ll have similar or more impact with less cone area (with all that entails in regards to inertia), and the coupling to the air is more effective in ways not only translatable into higher sensitivity. Of course, when we enter the region of bass the laws of physics dictate very large to monstrous size horns, depending on the specific tune and how low one needs to go.

Headroom is certainly paramount where effortlessness goes, and to my mind powerful amps are in vain if the speakers aren’t properly efficient to convert that power into actual SPL without strain and thermal compression (save active iterations like larger ATC’s). Realistic dynamics requires more than one would think. There’s also SET’s and how they provide that elusive flow/liquidity and ease to the sound (which, for full effect, requires high efficiency speakers - in effect mostly horns). Class A amps in general, incl. SS designs, appears to have that ability to some degree as well.

Thinking about it certain speakers are inherently ’easier’ to listen to than others, and this may be related to timing aspects in particular; music somehow presents itself more simply, relatable and genuinely via some speakers, as if the brain is working less overtime trying to stich together the sonics into a coherent whole. Listening to Synergy horns be Danley Sound Labs only confirms this..
GeoffKait has it right.  Its not about drivers, efficiency, box type, ported/not, amp type- it's about the ability of all the system elements (from source to speaker) to cover the dynamic range of the source and at the level you want it to play and STILL have significant headroom (distortion free power or SPL to spare).   So lots of combinations of drivers, box types, amp types can sound effortless.  It's how you combine and match elements-what goes with what-that becomes difficult to achieve.  

A combo of amp and speaker may work but it has a SPL limit until some sort of clipping/limitation (preamp input overload, amp clip, speaker break up, etc) occurs.  One SPL level can sound effortless but a small increase of just 3dB (3dB louder requires twice the power) clips the system.  Your ear detects extremely small amounts of distortion.  Real music can have huge swings in dynamic range (real life can have a 60-70dB above ambient level dynamic range).   Maybe a gigantic live PA can cover that, but not a stereo system.  That's why we all say larger power amps generally make our systems sound better, we gain dynamics.  

That's why some of us swear by high efficiency speakers: suddenly our system has more dynamic range with the amp we already own.  I know a Klipschorn was the first time I ever heard dynamics and it was a revelation!  High efficiency speakers often have qualities some of us don't like, like limited dispersion (horns), or poor bandwidth, but we often live with those issues to have the dynamics.  Nothing wrong with that choice.  This is exactly what a speaker designer does, trade off one benefit to gain something else.  A clever designer can address weaknesses by designing in an application.   Klipschorn corner horns for example:
1) super efficient horn (addressing improved dynamics from very small amplifiers),
2) appears to cover more listening area situated in a corner (addressing horn limited dispersion) and
3) couples the speaker to the corner for bass boost (addressing horn limited LF bandwidth).  

Brilliant engineering example balancing everything to achieve real life higher performance! 

Brad
Lone Mountain
  
      


Phusis- just read your post- right on, we are on the same page.  Danley for sure- he is a very talented designer who seems to be ahead of many, great sounding horns!  His stuff sounds so good.  (I've known him since Servo Drive days)  You mention ATC as well, Billy Woodman is the fellow behind ATC I work with here in the states.  He has found balance by developing unique drivers and pursuing active technology, another way to find dynamic range.   Floyd Toole also, he has done enourmous research on these issues and it enabled JBL to develop some very unique solutions to dynamics and room integration. 

Unlike some want to believe, you just can't stick a speaker in a box and sell it.
Brad