Systemic Development > Speakers

Specs versus experience

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Like many here, I've played with countless speakers (in the proper context of synergistic systems).  Everything from apparently perfect 'specs' to speakers that defy the specs with the experience they provide.
A good illustration of this contrast (IMO) would be Quad versus B&W.

Personally, I've done extended at-home demo with B&W Nautilus(and similar statistically optimal products) and felt that the experience was not even close to what I've experienced with other (not so 'perfect') speakers.  Granted, the 'spec jocks' sounded very nice.  They just didn't involve me.  I felt like they coldly presented the source material for my analysis.
I can appreciate that precision.

However, that is not the reason I listen to music.  I listen from an experiental perspective, and find connection to other realms as a result.  It is sort of like the difference between analyzing a water sample in a test tube versus the deep nourishment that can only be experienced by drinking the water itself.

In the Audiophile realm this makes me a 'music lover'.

If anyone else here has seen the youtube video on the Athens audiophile club, it seems apparent that at some point, this is the experience we all seek, regardless of the path.l

Any thoughts?


I did see that Athens Audiophile piece and enjoyed it.  I was happy to see the gents seems to know the extent of their preoccupation.  It was also nice to see the passion, humor and obession.  I saw pieces of myself in them.  I must say when the one gent. clicked the (pepper grinder) anti-static gizmo over his turntable I almost lost it though.  I mean it was truly like he was preparing an aural feast, all the labor and attention to detail, and that pepper shaker was there last hint of flavor.  I laugh every time I think about that.  Only a music lover could understand that, if my wife saw me do that I doubt she'd ever look at me with a straight face again.

I always envisioned having two systems.  

System 1: The Forest
System 2: The Trees...

Loudspeaker systems fall victim to many things. The room, amplification and source material for the most part.

With source material, the mixing and mastering processes and the loudspeakers being used during these events (and rooms) have a significant bearing on the presentation of the recorded and assembled art.

This variable alone is very noteworthy.

If loudspeaker manufacturers choose to voice their loudspeakers using program material that is sonically inferior then you have another 'can of worms' involved in the fray.

Universal testing methods have not been universally established.

With loudspeakers..the "pick your own poison" method applies.

In the 70's, the JBL 4310/11 control monitor was the dominant device for making artistic judgments of the presentation. the translation of this loudspeaker DID cause many manufacturers to design "loudspeakers which would work well" with recordings from that era. The same thing is happening now.

The inverse curve of the mastering/recording facility is the result in a production. If the mixing monitors have too much bottom, the engineer will compensate for that and you end up with a universally "thin" sounding production. as is the inverse of that.

I personally "dont care for" the presentation of music projected through most of the B&W loudspeaker line..(myself) but this does not mean that the industry will quit using such loudspeakers in the professional realm.

it is a pity that some loudspeaker manufacturers are using inferior productions as a gauge to voice their loudspeakers. Who knows WHAT productions are truly "good enough" to use for loudspeaker voicing?

You will find many conflicting answers..all of which may be "correct" for the person doing the answering.

Great post!  Two of my personal examples:

Stereophile review of the Yamamoto A-08 SET amplifier.  I own the successor, the A-08s.  The subjective reviewer loved it, JA trashed it, I think he even speculated whether it was broken.  BTW, I LOVE mine.

45 minutes in a dedicated room with my music on Wilson Alexandrias and $100k worth of "perfect" Halcro, etc. electronics.  My buddy and I just walked out shaking our heads.  BTW, we heard three pairs of speakers that day and agreed the DeVore Super 8's were the best.  I've heard them two other times and those are really nice speakers.

Can measurements define the space created by a system?  How about the 2nd and 3rd harmonics that give body and life to an instrument?  Do they measure soundstaging/imaging properties?  (the latter are "false" qualities, IMO, the province of systems/listeners who have not discovered the first two)

I've heard systems with measured "flat" response that sounded dead.  I'd speculate one way to achieve flatness is to pad everything down to the lowest denominator.  Of course, this makes for boring listening but measures great!

I think this inquiry is at the heart of our obsession.  While solid engineering and expertise is absolutely needed to build the great gear we need, there is an element of art that creates the special magic separating greatness from the also-rans.

The lesson here is that when you find a really special piece, try not to sell it.  You never know when it might be needed again.

I state a nice example, concerning the watt /Puppies./

Lets fall back to 1995. During that time, engineering in a full scale production facility. Main loudsepakers were the Westlake BBSM10's. the mixdown i was working on contained 41 channels and the translation I was getting between the Westlakes, the meter bridge monitors and my home system was very consistant. At that time I had MG20 Mags.

I was very concerned of one channel, sub bass, the producer (French) called the channel "graves" and most of the info was 16 to 25Hz on that channel. Watching cones, listening to the Westlakes and even the car audio system, I obtained a level balanced between the 'graves bass' and the regular electric bass guitar track. All systems displayed the extra weight and even the fundamentals (mainly) of this 'graves' bass line.

A local dealer had Martin-Logan, Wilson, Krell, Meridian, you know..typically higher end gear. He also had a recording facility in his back room.  The name Don Turnipseed was the proprietor.

(you can look up "Turnipseed music" on the web.)

With DAT master in hand, we preceded to listen to the Krell/Meridian/Watt-puppy system.

Ill defined and wrong is what I heard. The Wilsons simply could not reproduce the lower end with any kind of authority. Not even proper in the 'weight' perspective. The top end sounded small and the midrange was 'closed in and boxy" and this was a nice room. We moved the speakers around. They just could not "track" the performance that was on the DAT.

Sorry for writing a mini novel here but if this does not tell you...from direct production to listening room if a problem is happening or not, I don't know what is.

NOW, if I had of mixed this production on the Watt/pups, then it would have sounded great on them and everything else would have sounded out of balance.

I take issue with the fact that some mastering engineers use the B&W speakers as the "holy grail" and well, look at the state of many modern productions. Only if you have the B&W's are you to be "close" but they are far from level as it compares to the last 40 years of high fidelity productions. they (engineers and speaker systems) are manipulating the art in a direction away from established balances.


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