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