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Do We Want All Speakers To Sound The Same ?

Keith_W

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I have always understood the purpose of the Harman curve has a commercial imperative, if the majority of listeners prefer this over this, then the profitable way to go is to manufacture, market and sell "this". What one may learn on the way, especially in the field of psychoacoustics and other forms of human behaviour is a bonus and well worth exploring.

Exactly. I have always wondered what the error bar and confidence intervals were in that paper and I question those who think that any deviation from the Harmann curve, even by a few dB, is "incorrect". I would really like to read the original paper.
 
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MattHooper

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Excellent answers. I may have some questions, but I figure I should answer my own question as well:

My answer to the main question would be "no" (I wouldn't want all speakers to sound the same) though with caveats.

First, I very much would like significant research and engineering to continue to push the state of the art, and at least one version or aspect of that is low distortion/accuracy. I very much want neutrality/low distortion/accuracy as one of my options! (It's why I use some Benchmark equipment for instance).
And of course I would never want to make my own tastes conscribe anyone else's, so I'd want all sorts of excellent neutral gear available for those with those goals.

But personally, and I think some of this is perhaps because I still have a foot in the Old School: I have always enjoyed the Wild West aspect of high end audio, often on display at audio shows, where you can find everything from Revel flagship speakers to some hopeless new start up whose product might have some intriguing qualities.

I can see why some evaluate speakers by comparing them to some ideal in terms of measured performance. I have yet to encounter a speaker that sounds as if there were no speaker in the chain, so every speaker to me has some character or another. In that sense I am not comparing speakers to a set of measurements, but to other speakers. How does speaker A sound to me vs speaker B?

And since I've had an almost life long interest in comparing real sound to reproduced sound, I can't help evaluating speakers to one degree or another as to how it sounds further or closer to "the real thing." Some speakers do A and B more like the real thing, some others may do C and D aspects of the real thing.

So I find I end up appreciating different characteristics from different speakers. Sometimes I luxuriate in the electrostat sound, other times in an Omni, other times in a narrow dispersion speaker, other times in a wide dispersion, sometimes in an extremely even, neutral speaker, sometimes in a colored speaker that sounds really awesome with some stuff.

Reminds me of today: I was at my friend's place (reviewer) listening through some tall, narrow speakers. The sound was astonishingly clean, open, boxless, detailed, utterly detached from the speakers, with the sensation of every iota of detail evident in the tracks. So it did a lot of the detail/imaging "wowee" magic act. But when I sort of took stock and thought "ok, forget about how gee wiz the imaging and clarity might be - how compelling is the general character of the sound of each voice and instrument? In the end, it wasn't to my taste. Neato to visit, but not much to love in terms of the tonality I seek.

Whereas when he had the Klipsch La Scala speakers I just couldn't get enough of them! The measurements I've seen for the La Scala's are awful by the standards used here. But..my god... the life-like sensation they created! The density and propulsiveness of the sound - drums, guitars, sax - everything sounded more solid and moving air rather than the sort of airy holograph many speakers create. On those speakers I just wanted to keep putting different records on all day! Not sure I could live with them, but glad as heck someone is making them and I got to experience that sound.

(Same with the Shun Mook speakers I once reviewed. Much of the design brief for those speakers seems ludicrous - would be rightly scoffed at on ASR - and yet, despite that, they produced an almost unique sound that has stuck with me for years as one of my favorites).
 
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Bleib

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Sound the same? That's never been the case.
 

Thomas_A

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If the speakers should sound the same how would you design a nearfield monitor with the far-field loudspeaker in mind?
 

JeremyFife

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Nice thought experiment. My layman's view: I want my streamer to be bit perfect, I don't want my dac or my amp to change (colour) that signal. Why would I want my speakers to change the signal either?

I appreciate that the cost of overcoming real world restrictions (laws of physics and all that) makes this a hypothetical exercise for me at least. Especially since I'd need a 'perfect' room to put these perfectly transparent speakers in. I'd like to get reasonably close one day.

I use DSP to try to remove problems, it would be a great step to be using it to add colour (seasoning) to reflect my mood, or a particular genre or even recording.

Not going to mention vinyl :)
 

posvibes

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We could frame the original contention in another way eg what posesses a speaker designer/ manufacturer to develop a product that is light years away from a competitor, even if both are "incorrect" how do they both justify their house sound as being hi-fidelity?
 

amirm

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Frequency response sets the tonality of the speaker. Speakers still differ massively in other aspects from dynamics to dispersion. And of course come in all sizes, shapes and prices. So there is no danger of the audiophile life becoming boring that way.

On tonality, we must insist on flat anechoic and similar off-axis. When this happens we have a standard that production and consumption can be based on. Without it, it is wild west. Who here wants skin tones to be blue or pink if we were talking about displays? There was a time when that was true. Today, display technology has advanced so much that even random displays come with very close calibration to standards. Yes, standards. What we lack in audio.

I test many speakers as you know. It is such a delight when a speaker is neutral enough to sound like all the ones before it. It is a relief and pleasure that needs to come to every audiophile and not the select few of us.

Finally, EQ is mandatory if you want to have good response in bass. Once there, you can overlay a target curve to your liking.
 

Timon VDB

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No, Engineering is about trade-offs. What to trade for what is determined by the application and taste. But they should try to approach the platonic ideal speaker. So also yes :)
 

tonycollinet

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Thinking of the distant future.

"All speakers sound systems will employ listener tracking, and beam forming such that a perfect FR (/other auditory characteristics) is projected directly to the listeners ears."**

At that point, they will all sound the same - perfect. Of course, even then (or especially then) it will be possible to tailor the characteristics exactly to the listeners preference.

In that respect, yes the goal should be that all speakers sound systems sound the same, in exactly the same way as high fidelety electronic components do. Anything else is simply an attempt to match preference by selecting complementary imperfections in components, rather than doing it in a controlled manner.



**A fantasized technology - replace with whatever other methods might be used to achieve the same result - eg direct auditory cortex interface - at some point it will arrive.
 

YSC

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Frequency response sets the tonality of the speaker. Speakers still differ massively in other aspects from dynamics to dispersion. And of course come in all sizes, shapes and prices. So there is no danger of the audiophile life becoming boring that way.

On tonality, we must insist on flat anechoic and similar off-axis. When this happens we have a standard that production and consumption can be based on. Without it, it is wild west. Who here wants skin tones to be blue or pink if we were talking about displays? There was a time when that was true. Today, display technology has advanced so much that even random displays come with very close calibration to standards. Yes, standards. What we lack in audio.

I test many speakers as you know. It is such a delight when a speaker is neutral enough to sound like all the ones before it. It is a relief and pleasure that needs to come to every audiophile and not the select few of us.

Finally, EQ is mandatory if you want to have good response in bass. Once there, you can overlay a target curve to your liking.
Avatar creators I suppose:)
 

Absolute

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I don't care. I just want MY speakers to sound good in my room across all kinds of music at all playback levels.

Science can help you get so far, but sooner or later you'll need to dip your toes into testing different stuff to see what works in your specific scenario. As long as there's compromises needed to achieve different things in speakers there will always be differences in a reflective environment.

Thankfully.
 

MaxwellsEq

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It's long been the case that Monitors designed for large, professional music recording studios have been disliked by many HiFi fans. They are sometimes described as "dry, bright" or "soulless". In reality, they are relatively close to a flat anechoic response. They also have low distortion right up to SPLs which can shake your fillings loose.

ASR is the first community I've encountered which seriously consider studio-type products for home music use.

I feel a high priority should be that distortion is as low as possible up to sensible SPLs (e.g. 105dB) and that the frequency response should be measured as anechoically flat and consistent at 65, 75, 85, 95, 105dB.
 

Shadrach

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It rather depends on what the same is doesn't it.
Assuming "the same" is represented by perfect measurements, then yes, all the same would be great.
Loudspeakers are a tool just like any other tool. I don't want to find that one brand does the job less well than another.
I want all my bifocals to be the same, no matter which brand I buy. I'm not interested in some bifocal salesman telliing me but Sir, the world looks so much better when it's a bit fuzzy around the edges. If I want fuzzy I can smear a bit of grease around the edges of the lens.
 

YSC

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It's long been the case that Monitors designed for large, professional music recording studios have been disliked by many HiFi fans. They are sometimes described as "dry, bright" or "soulless". In reality, they are relatively close to a flat anechoic response. They also have low distortion right up to SPLs which can shake your fillings loose.

ASR is the first community I've encountered which seriously consider studio-type products for home music use.

I feel a high priority should be that distortion is as low as possible up to sensible SPLs (e.g. 105dB) and that the frequency response should be measured as anechoically flat and consistent at 65, 75, 85, 95, 105dB.
For that perception I do think is a heritage/legacy believe from the era of NS10s, which are the most well known "pro speakers" you will find in almost any studios. back then they don't have even the idea of off-axis directivity, and quite some studio monitors are bass shy, hence the lack of bass combined with potential rough mid/highs would make music sound dry, bright, soulless etc.

Fast forward a few decades the perception from the experienced audiophiles would likely junk a speaker choice when it's classified as "studio", but then tech moved so much you can get desktop studio monitors to be anechoically flat, with bass extension to 50-60hz while larger ones with 8" woofer can go to some 30-40hz.
 

killdozzer

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Design and array bring differences. Still, all design and arrays should strive to not color the recording (you know, like buying a book on Rubens and wanting all shades in reproductions to resemble actual painting as much as possible and not buying the one where cherries are not as red). This feature should be shared by all speakers.

Coloring should be available, because some people love it, in form of some sort of DSP+effects+EQ box that could be added to the chain if the listener prefers to add it.

There's NO good reason why one's personal preference should be built in/contained in the speaker itself.
 

-Matt-

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@MattHooper: I hope you will take this in the light hearted spirit it is intended... You are possibly the most polite and engaging troll on ASR!

No, seriously, thank you for your thought provoking comments.

If we are talking about ideals... my answer is that I'd like all speakers to have the capability to sound however you want. At the very least it should be possible to tune such a speaker to the ideal frequency response and directivity. But that is just the starting point, after that you should be able to adjust your target curve and dispersion to personal preference.

The current situation in the real world is that even with DSP no speaker quite achieves such an ideal; so you can pick whichever flavour of error you prefer. Also, what constitutes ideal directivity is still somewhat up for debate and is very likely room dependent and listener dependent anyway.
 

MaxwellsEq

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For that perception I do think is a heritage/legacy believe from the era of NS10s, which are the most well known "pro speakers" you will find in almost any studios.
There is a bit of myth about Yamaha NS10s and studio control room monitors. They were used because they were very considered reliably consistent, rather than accurate. I don't think anyone in the industry considered them an accurate "Studio Monitor". Auratones serve the same purpose - nobody thinks they sound flat or accurate, but a mix tested on one set should sound the same in a different control room.
 

Mnyb

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"Yes" in the respect of closing the circle of confusion, if there were a kind of standard the recording engineer and I would hear similar things, and that would be good and not the random wild west we have now.
 

Digby

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I hope you will take this in the light hearted spirit it is intended... You are possibly the most polite and engaging troll on ASR!
Even if meant in a light hearted fashion, I have to come to Matt Hooper's defence.

I think understanding of the world troll has changed over time, it used to mean someone who would say things purely to get an angry response. On the contrary, I think Matt likes to ask interesting/difficult questions because he is inquisitive, and honest in seeking knowledge. He is not looking just to rile people up, even if that is occasionally the result. Those that get riled up at the polite asking of probing questions, rather than resorting to the word troll, might want to turn that finger inwards once in a while.

Anyone who is particularly inquisitive is at risk of being called a troll, just through their persistence in pursuing an idea where others give up/fear to tread. I don't think that kind of person is actually a troll, although more and more people resort to using that term to attempt to terminate, oftentimes interesting, discussion.

If Galileo had access to the internet in his time, perhaps he would have been considered the biggest troll of them all.
 
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