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ASR speaker (and electronics) review - is it really objective?

BrokenEnglishGuy

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The initial 'meh' impression was largely due to room modes which @amirm had not started correcting back then (R3 was one of the earliest speakers to go on the bench). He re-heard the speaker correcting for that when reviewing another (think Revel) speaker later when he realized room modes were causing problems, and his impression was a lot better.

Many people in the KEF R3 thread have asked for this correction to be included, but it has never been done. So anyone landing on that thread will come away with a bad impression, unless they get to page 20+ of the thread (which I doubt many bother with).

Room EQ helped a lot to my R7s to really shine :)
 

amirm

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Did the scores not change slightly on the F208 for some reason. Maybe I’m confused
There was additional bass optimizations in the measurements for tower speakers. That is unrelated to my subjective assessment of KEF R3 which was tainted originally by not optimizing for room response. Once I realized other speakers that measured well but did not sound so well, I found and corrected for that one room mode and have been doing so ever since (except when it is not needed).
 

amirm

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but I'm afraid that not all reviews are truly objective and free from bias.
A "review" is subjective. In my case, it is based on combination of objective results interpreted subjectively, and actual subjective listening. So by definition a review can't be objective. You choose to put value on the review aspects, or just stick with measurements which is purely objectively.

The subjective opinion is expressed in many ways and you gave an example of that. For example, what the distortion graph represents. There, you are seeing an opinion from me -- subjective -- on how I would evaluate such a graph. That assessment is about engineering execution there as THD measurements are not perceptually correct. This is why I also listen to see whether the problem is real or not.

At the end, there is no perfect truth here. Your doctor runs a set of tests and then guesses what may be wrong with you. He can't be 100% sure that the tea leaves he is reading are completely correct. Same with me. I make measurements, and make assessments. If you know better then read the measurements on your own and decide.

Many people reading these reviews are not comfortable drawing conclusions on their own, hence my notations on them. They rather have that less than perfect assessment than making things up on their own. Again, no different than trusting your doctor because you are not similarly skilled and experience to him.

In general, my goal is to produce enough product reviews where there is little conflict between measurements and subjective assessments. Once there, you have plenty to choose from as to not have to take chances where these are in conflict. A speaker with vanishingly low distortion and me saying I heard no distortion is a far better bet than one that has a ton of distortion and you or I say we did not hear it.

In other words, there is a pragmatic approach here to an ultimately impossible puzzle to fully solve. It is the best approach I know of after having tested 150+ speakers this way.

Your test of whether I am right is to buy speakers that I rave about and show the same objectively and subjectively. Picking two speakers well below this mark and trying to say one is better than the other is no way to get this right. You are buying yourself risks by going in that direction.

Remember, if I am wrong subjectively, then you sure as heck can be wrong as well. The fact that you like such speakers is really neither here, nor there. Even in my subjective testing, I follow a strict protocol that I doubt you are doing, nor have the experience of testing so many speakers I have using the same identical protocol. You could be more right than me but the odds are against you.
 

Laserjock

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There was additional bass optimizations in the measurements for tower speakers. That is unrelated to my subjective assessment of KEF R3 which was tainted originally by not optimizing for room response. Once I realized other speakers that measured well but did not sound so well, I found and corrected for that one room mode and have been doing so ever since (except when it is not needed).
Thanks for the clarification
 

YSC

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People always get upset when someone else doesn't "like" the gear they own. Why do you feel your choices need to be validated by Amir? This thread is all about ego.
well as always, as for reviews of basically EVERYTHING ppl buys for pleasure, be it hifi/portable music, cars, watches, houses..... clothes...
 

fcracer

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The beauty of ASR is that Amir provides the objective measurements which can be used for easy comparisons. As an added bonus, he provides subjective listening evaluations that are just that, subjective. We can choose how much weight we want to place on each type of evaluation.
 

Blaspheme

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... For pure tones, the human hear cannot detect any distortion up to 30% THD, for low frequency tones (<300Hz). When it comes to music, no human can hear distortion up to 10% THD.

Have a look at this video, and judge for yourself:


I thought it was a good video/test. But my perception/results were different from the figures you give. I sat back with my eyes closed, as instructed, of course, the first time I opened my eyes to check the number, the cat was sitting in font of the screen.

The beauty of ASR is that Amir provides the objective measurements which can be used for easy comparisons. As an added bonus, he provides subjective listening evaluations that are just that, subjective. We can choose how much weight we want to place on each type of evaluation.
Except Amir puts his words on the graphs, so there really is no escape. :)
 

Blaspheme

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The initial 'meh' impression was largely due to room modes which @amirm had not started correcting back then (R3 was one of the earliest speakers to go on the bench). He re-heard the speaker correcting for that when reviewing another (think Revel) speaker later when he realized room modes were causing problems, and his impression was a lot better.

Many people in the KEF R3 thread have asked for this correction to be included, but it has never been done. So anyone landing on that thread will come away with a bad impression, unless they get to page 20+ of the thread (which I doubt many bother with).
I think the EQ parts of the (later) subjective reviews are generally well done/explained. Of course, you want consistency for subjective evaluation, so you can consider changing the signal to be problematic. On the other hand, the room does that for you (not necessarily in a good way). Personally I think it's reasonable to consider EQ and placement as part of a subjective evaluation. Making a note in the OP for that review would be sensible.

In other threads (not in this one so far, unless i missed it) people have commented that more directional speakers may be disadvantaged by mono evaluation (see Quad in Olive's seminal article) which may have been a factor for the KEF vs Revel in that review.
 
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YSC

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What this got to do with the price of fish? o_O

The DAC reviews are about performance measurements only, not build quality or long term reliability.

They are reviewed because units are sent to Amir to test, simples.



JSmith
True, and thing is there’s no way to objectively comment on a review unit reliability, sometimes even open up and see all top quality parts and still dies in a few months
 

redshift

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I think the EQ parts of the (later) subjective reviews are generally well done/explained. Of course, you want consistency for subjective evaluation, so you can consider changing the signal to be problematic. On the other hand, the room does that for you (not necessarily in a good way). Personally I think it's reasonable to consider EQ and placement as part of a subjective evaluation. Making a note in the OP for that review would be sensible.

In other threads (not in this one so far, unless i missed it) people have commented that more directional speakers may be disadvantaged by mono evaluation (see Quad in Olive's seminal article) which may have been a factor for the KEF vs Revel in that review.

Meanwhile IRL, those loudspeakers would soon find themselves tucked flush against the front wall because WAF’s. How about those room induced poles and zeros then?

EQ and DSP away the objective reality of a box not designed for its most likely operating region/position is just… Wank.
 

tuga

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Hello

I've read may excellent gear review on ASR, and as an electrical engineer, I have great respect for a scientific approach to audio review, but I'm afraid that not all reviews are truly objective and free from bias. Now I respect Amir and his work, and I know that the measurements results he presents are accurate. The problem is with his interpretation of the measurements results, especially when it comes to speaker measurements.

Let me just give an example. First, my gear is a simple home theater consists of Yamaha RX-2070 AVR, Focal Aria 906 and CC900 as front stage, Dali Spektor 2 as surrounds, and two sets of Dali Spektor 1 as front and back heights (effects). Together with dual SVS SB-3000, I'm overall very happy with this 5.2.4 system.

As the owner of both the Aria 906 and the Spektor 1, I was very excited to read both of these speakers reviews in on ASR:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/focal-aria-906-speaker-review.14085/

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ali-spektor-1-review-bookshelf-speaker.25063/

But I was shocked from Amir's very negative interpretation of the Spektor 1 measurements results. I've have the Spektor 1 for 3 years, and I must say that O really like how they sound and perform, even when wall mounted. Yes, they're slightly on the low sensitivity side, but this is not an issue for an AVR receiver with automatic calibration. Yamaha YPAO had detected then as capable of 70Hz, but I had them crossed at 80Hz. The A2070 is quite powerful, and they can handle that power with ease w/o any audible distortion. Their SPL capability is more than adequate for Atmos speakers. Using an SPL and test signals, I was able to measure 98dBs, 4 meters away from them. Playing music as load as 97dB, I wasn't able to notice any distortion, even after I've connected them as main front speakers and re-run YPAO calibration.

Based on my memory, after listening to my favorite music for 2 hours using the Spektor 1, I can say with confidence that they're just as good as the Aria 906!
View attachment 142941

In the recent Spektor 1 review, Amir presented the distortion test, and commented that at 96dB SPL, "the woofer is out of control", which is a misleading and false (subjective) comment. At 96dB from 1 meter way (I assume), the Spektor 1 is driven by 25W of power. For a speaker that designed to handle 100W of continues power, it should not have any problems handling 96dB from 1 meter! The low frequency <5% THD is very common in small speakers. This is called iron distortion of the crossover coils and/or voice coils due to magnetic saturation, but not due to over excursion of the drives, which will results in a very distorted sound. The measured distortion in the review is non audible, thus w/o including a disclaimer, these results are misleading.

For pure tones, the human hear cannot detect any distortion up to 30% THD, for low frequency tones (<300Hz). When it comes to music, no human can hear distortion up to 10% THD.

Have a look at this video, and judge for yourself:


Now, here are the distortion results graph from Warfedale Diamond 220, which Amir really liked and gave them a very positive review:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ersus-frequency-audio-measurements-png.87985/

And here are the same distortion graphs for the Spektor 1, which Amir seemed to really hate:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...lf-speaker.25063/#lg=attachment142075&slide=0

They're almost identical (3.5% THD vs 4.5% THD), and at 86dB, the Spektor does much better! Still, Amir decided to interpret the results differently and add his negative subjective comment for the Spektor 1.

The bottom line, despite the negative review of the Spektor 1, I can assure anyone from my own experience and well trained ears, that these speakers sound amazing for their price! After repeating YPAO calibration if using a subwoofer, both the 1500$ Aria 906 and the 250$ Spektor 1, sound just as good and just as loud in two channel stereo.

It's unfortunate that many potential buyers that may be scared off by such biased to not very objective review and miss out these great speakers. I've also noticed that Amir also slaughtered the Yamaha RX-A1080 AVR. Now I do not own it, but before getting the A2070, I gave Denon X6400H a try for a couple of weeks, and while it sounded good for movies, it sucked for two channel music. This wasn't the case with my current Yamaha A2070, which sound great in both movies and music, even when using Cinema DSP to get all 5.2.4 speakers to work, including the Spektor 1.

Which brings me to my original question, are ASR reviews, especially speakers, really objective?

How come Cheap Chinese made DACs get excellent reviews, while they are very unreliable (my friend had his Topping D90SE failing on him after 6 months of use, he had it replaced and the second one came defective with background high pitch noise from the right channel).

Love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers.

Measurements express the equipment's ability to "handle" the signal accurately. But accuracy may not be what you prefer.
 

Blaspheme

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I think OP has left the room..
Yes, very quiet on that front.

Meanwhile IRL, those loudspeakers would soon find themselves tucked flush against the front wall because WAF’s. How about those room induced poles and zeros then?

EQ and DSP away the objective reality of a box not designed for its most likely operating region/position is just… Wank.
I think speakers should be placed and reviewed as the design predicates. So no putting Carlssons in the middle of the room. It may also be useful to consider likely real life usage scenarios by the user demographic. Lots of cheap (and more than a few less cheap) speakers will indeed end up against walls or similarly misplaced. I also the think EQ is a late step in the subjective evaluation, after testing as supplied. Certainly after we've gone from mono to stereo (where stereo is the listening scenario). But I'll place mine where they work best, and apply Sonarworks, so that late stage is good for me.

Btw, the most extreme case of SOAF placement (SO = significant other, I prefer non-anachronistic acronyms and didn't ask which of the women in the relationship considered themselves W vs H) I've seen was a pair of black B&W 600-series floor-standers that ended their days unplayed in a wardrobe due to aesthetics. Scandi design flair would have helped there. I can't actually remember what the acceptable speakers were, but I think they were white.
 

redshift

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Yes, very quiet on that front.


I think speakers should be placed and reviewed as the design predicates. So no putting Carlssons in the middle of the room. It may also be useful to consider likely real life usage scenarios by the user demographic. Lots of cheap (and more than a few less cheap) speakers will indeed end up against walls or similarly misplaced. I also the think EQ is a late step in the subjective evaluation, after testing as supplied. Certainly after we've gone from mono to stereo (where stereo is the listening scenario). But I'll place mine where they work best, and apply Sonarworks, so that late stage is good for me.

Btw, the most extreme case of SOAF placement (SO = significant other, I prefer non-anachronistic acronyms and didn't ask which of the women in the relationship considered themselves W vs H) was a pair of black B&W 600-series floor-standers that ended their days unplayed in a wardrobe due to aesthetics. Scandi design flair would have helped there. I can't actually remember what the acceptable speakers were, but I think they were white.

Fair points. I just know from my own experience that people with floorstanders usually end up with them either flush against the front wall and/or in a corner, or simply replaced with a godawful sound bar and crusty sub booming away with the owner thinking that’s some great sound.

The Sonabs/Carlsson’s is basically 70/80/90’s tech, albeit with the practicality of the regular living room and enough fidelity to satisfy the usual aficionado. I’ve got the gear to compare with (near field monitors, cans), so there’s that.

That being said, they are still obnoxious boxes standing or mounted with their backs against the front wall. The Bremen “eggs” seem quite nice and WAF friendly though. Never listened to them though.

Anyway, let’s be realistic where this is heading. It’s cans, near field rigs and some non intrusive WAF accepted gear in the living room, and that will likely imply inwalls, onwalls and perhaps orthoacoustic onwalls in the spirit of Bremen, Larsen and Carlsson.

You know I’m right. :cool:

IMO.
 

Blaspheme

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Fair points. I just know from my own experience that people with floorstanders usually end up with them either flush against the front wall and/or in a corner, or simply replaced with a godawful sound bar and crusty sub booming away with the owner thinking that’s some great sound. ...
I'm not really sure I know any people with floor-standers in real life. They've started at, or drifted to your second scenario.
 

redshift

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I'm not really sure I know any people with floor-standers in real life. They've started at, or drifted to your second scenario.

I feely admit that it could be the case my anecdotal evidence hasn’t any bearing in objective reality.

One thing I would like to add is that people refrain from buying intrusive stuff. I.e. more crap on the floors. No thanks. Specially if the telly is 10cm from the front wall, hanging in the vesa mount, while the loudspeakers need to be, like, in the crotch of the aficionado in order to avoid the poles and zeros of the room. I mean; seriously? It is 2021. WTF.

I think the industry is doing itself a disservice by pandering to an elitist crowd with their obnoxious boxes, amps, cables and DSP’s instead of trying to squeeze the max out of the room in which they are intended to be in.

I’ve got zero brand loyalty. Non intrusive, well engineered and sounding gear is good by default.

IMO.
 

restorer-john

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The Dali Zensor 1s I have here are well behaved until they are not. They have a poor ability to stay controlled in the low/mid bass region when driven with considerable power. They certainly are not remotely capable of absorbing their rated maximum (25-100W) and, due to their lowish sensitivity, you have a narrow window of power/SPL to get the most out of them. A 40wpc amplifier will easily overdrive them on well recorded content.

They have a virtually identical driver, except 5.25"- same wood fibre weird looking cone.

When played at low-medium level, they are pretty good, but not remotely as good as the hype that accompanied them back in the day. They gather dust, unused in my speaker wall.
 

JSmith

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while the loudspeakers need to be, like, in the crotch of the aficionado in order to avoid the poles and zeros of the room. I mean; seriously? It is 2021. WTF.
Maybe a little bit of an exaggeration? ;)

2 - 3 feet is fine from the wall with the majority of floor-standing speakers... which isn't much unless one is living in a shoebox.



JSmith
 
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