ALL speakers require high end electronics to sound their best. All sources require high end preamps to sound their best. All amps require high end speakers to sound their best. All anything requires all high end everything else to sound their best.
I can't believe I just took the time to write that. That is the end of this thread. There can't possibly be any other answer. .
Sorry Herman, I have to add one more thought. To sound their best, all speakers need to be fed by well matched components. A system put together with a bunch of high end mismatched equipment will not make MUSIC.
The question stems from Harbeth speaker designer Alan Shaw's statements that his speakers can do just fine with inexpensive amps. I know there are speakers out there that owners say would be need very fine electronics to make them work. So thanks for highjacking my little bit of entertainment with my hobbie.
If a loudspeaker has a benign impedance curve, it will usually sound pretty good with modest electronics provided the efficiency isn't extremely low or extremely high. The latter proviso is somewhat counter-intuitive, but often very high efficiency speaker sound their best with specialty tube amps, which can get pricey (but sound really good).
As a practical matter, an enormous amount of money can be spent on a quest for "the best". Most of us would run out of money long before we get there, but fortunately most of us are also quite happy with "great in the areas I really care about, with the inevitable compromises relegated to areas I don't".
I have heard sets with expenisve speakers and simple electronics and most of the time I don't like those sets. Expensive speakers ofthen let you hear all the things that the cheaper electronics do wrong. I've heard sets where the CD player was more expensive then the speakers that sounded very fine to my ears.
The new price of my amp is almost twice as expensive as my speakers.
kbarkamian, Your reasoning is correct. The weak link in a given system will compromise the performance of the other components within that chain without fail, no matter how high the quality of those components. Regarding the original question, the better the amp, the better the speaker will sound.
It is a matter of synergy of the equipment feeding the speaker and the speaker's requirements. I have fairly low to medium cost gear for high end but years of experimentation led me to use this gear while feeping my biggest investment my speakers stable. So it is speaker to system matching IMHO.
Ahandler I agree with you to a certain point. Some high end speakers are very revealing. If you use those speakers with mediocre electronics the result can be hard for the ears. In such a case some less revealing, more friendly sounding speakers might be better. Speakers that will not let you hear every detail so you will not hear you electronics that well.
I would guess if your speakers allow you to hear the difference between various electronics and cables they would more warrant / demand better upstream. I have Vandersteen 2Cis with Sunfire pre and power an NAD 541ci cd which are good enough to end up being at the mercy of the recording? Some sound as good as I can imagine they get, at least to my ears, and some music I really love is almost unlistenable because of the poor recording.
Is that as good as a system can get? that the weakest link seems to be the recording?
Most any good speaker will sound its best if matched to the right amp that is also of good quality.
Good quality and high end are not necessarily always the same thing in practice.
Many larger full range speakers require more power to be driven to the max. Generally, getting the right and good quality high power amp needed to drive these will tend to cost more in that it costs more in general to build a good 250 w/ch high current amp than a similar 50 w/ch one.
I believe what Alan Shaw means is that any well designed amp will work. In other words a nice Rega, or Arcam, any competent amp will do. The Harbeths aren't a difficult load. Will the Harbeths sound better will better amps , of course. But they don't need a huge 200 watter, or $10K to get good sound, a good amp will get one going. Fyi I have Harbeth SHL5 driven by a Plinius 9200 works fine. Would a better amp sound better? I'm sure it would but it sounds pretty good with the 9200 :-)
I agree with Mordante. IME, the more revealing the speaker, the higher quality other components in the system need to be for the speaker to sound its best. A less revealing speaker will in effect act as a filter, concealing to some extent the flaws and limitations of upstream components.
I believe that this observation about speakers can be generalized...
Matching a higher resolution upstream component with a lower resolution downstream component will typically yield better results than matching a lower resolution upstream component with a higher resolution downstream component.
This is a complicated question. I would never choose speakers that sounded really well with only very expensive electronics unless I had unlimited funds. On the other hand, I would not expect much from any speakers driven by $1k amp and weak source. It certainly makes sense to me to drive $5k speakers with $10k amp to get the best out of them, if I really like those speakers. What wouldn't make sense to me is putting $5k cartridge on $5k turntable and playing it through $2k phono stage.
"By stating that Harbeth speakers work just fine with inexpensive amps, he removes an obstacle to the potential buyer, thus possibly making another sale."
Most successful speaker manufacturer's work hard to avoid creating obstacles for willing customers, not just Harbeth, I would guess.
Its probably a best practice in general for most companies so as not to limit their potential sales right out of the gate.
Since a lot of what people like or do not like is highly subjective to start with it does not make sense for a speaker manufacturer to make any stringent hard requirements regarding what you use their speakers with.
As long as the speakers are compatible and work with the gear and the gear is not likely to damage them, that's really all that is required at minimum.
But I would expect better vendors though would provide more detailed information that can help to optimize results technically for a customer if one asks specifically in help doing this.
Or if not, there is always your friendly audio sales consultant. They can provide more unbiased product options to the customer. The good ones will do whatever it takes to make sure their finicky customers get the best bang for the buck.
Muse on this for a moment...This is the advice given by the Sonus Faber company in their manual for the Cremona M....The only thing we can say with certainty is that our speakers need a "good amplifier". This is the "advice" you get for 12,800.00.... So it is up to you to define "good".I guess they figure if you can afford their speakers for that price good is going to be,well,pretty good.Is that good enough?
Of all the speakers I have owned, I feel that Harbeths were the least fussy when it came to amplifier pairing. (Another way of saying this: Harbeths are less transparent to the source than other speakers I have owned.) So perhaps there is some truth beyond salesmanship to Alan Shaw's comment.
OTOH, my impression is that he is not like most of us; he does not think amplifiers matter much, high end cables are silly, etc. IIRC, he once posted in his forum that if anyone could demonstrate that high-end jumpers sound any better than the plain metal things that ship with his speakers, he would give them a pair of Monitor 40's.
I shop for a speaker that I like the sound of first. All speakers have coloration's that make them all sound quite different from each other. This includes speakers that may look similar as far as measurements go. When I have a good/great speaker that I'm happy with, then I start looking for the electronics that will satisfy me, and get along with those speakers. I used the electronics I had on hand with those speakers I chose. Being in this hobby for decades, buying my speaker of choice first always seemed to work for me. I found that this method works best for me.
To clarify, Alan Shaw believes(probably in an act of pretense) that all amplifiers sound the same and differences are non-existent between well designed amplifiers. He has explicitly mentioned in the user forum that a double blind test(unsighted) will reveal differences between amplifiers to diminish to nothing. That is the reason why he always advocates inexpensive amps with the Harbeth as in his mind most high-end equipment are considered as a rip-off, which can be true in some cases.
I'm not too sure if Herman's first post in this thread is a tongue in cheek. Most higher-end equipment sound better than the mid-range stuff but that does not necessarily guarantee that they are indeed "better" in most cases. It all depends on setup, system matching, listening preferences and some other factors. There are so many variables involved that it is quite impossible to assess or evaluate the quality or performance of one particular gear without taking all other aspects into consideration.
I guess Tvad hits the nail on the head with his analysis. Alan Shaw thinks about his speakers first and foremost as associated equipment take a back seat.
02-25-11: Drubin Of all the speakers I have owned, I feel that Harbeths were the least fussy when it came to amplifier pairing. (Another way of saying this: Harbeths are less transparent to the source than other speakers I have owned.) So perhaps there is some truth beyond salesmanship to Alan Shaw's comment.
May I ask what amplifiers have you used with the Harbeths? I have used half a dozen amps on the Harbeths and they always managed to take on a different character with each and every one of them, and the differences are not subtle. Although the Harbeths may not be as fussy as other higher-end speakers, I feel they are equally transparent and sensitive towards upstream components. The Pinkfish moderator Tony who has owned the SHL5 for a short period concurred that the Harbeths are not only critical towards setup and placement but upstream components as well.
I think like someone mentioned above, Alan Shaw says that so he doesn't loose sales to other companies also. I don't blame him either. Those people may buy another brand, because someone selling XYZ brand says you could use mid-fi gear with their XYZ brands. Years back, I used a receiver to power more expensive speakers I liked in the 70s,until I could afford the better separates they deserved. Harbeth speakers do show the flaws in the rest of the system. They at times will show mid-range flaws that a lot of speakers don't reveal. There are cheap speakers that do reveal the flaws of gear that are way higher than their price category. It all amounts to in the end to have a system with everything good enough and getting along while not being any standout flawed sounding pieces in the chain.
Is Audiokinensis' post difficult to understand? Assuming the amplifier was designed to maintain fidelity to the source, then when mated to an appropriate speaker load most amplifiers will sound alike. Even rabid subjectivist audio critics have made note of this - see J. Valin's comparison of the Soulution and Odyssey amplifiers.
Onhwy61, there is more to it than that- due to the fact that vacuum tubes failed to go away when transistors came in decades ago, two different methods of amplifier and speaker design, test and measurement exist to accommodate either technology.
One of the results of this is that equipment matching has become fairly important, otherwise there can be tonal aberrations, despite the amplifier and speakers having otherwise flat response.