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Good value monitors for precise classical music listening

HarmonicTHD

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I tried a cheap and old pair of active speakers and they made really bad sound, most noticeably were crackling and popping. I suspect that the reason may lie in the electric cable. Also, I acknowledge that so many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on passive speakers which also require separate and compatible amps and cables. I suspect that they do this because the sound is cleaner in the passive design. Am I wrong?
Yes you are wrong. Neumann and Genelec are among the best studio monitors (and are actually used for music production). They measure superbly (see the measurements here or in Erin’s audio corner) and have absolutely nothing in common with what you described from decades ago.
On top they offer digital room correction which is by far the biggest contributor to neutral sound next to the speaker itself.
I use Neumann KH80/KH750 in my office and KEF Reference 3 plus Sub in the living room - one active the other passive and both excellent.
 
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cestx

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If you want a flat response in that budget actives are your best bet. In link i gave you read the reviews for the more capable ones because they all have trade offs (spl, hiss, connectivity etc). Then go, listen, compare.
Thank you very much! I will follow the link.

As for the flat response I understand that this is an ideal situation which may be practically unachievable. Definitely, I would like the response as flat as possible and makes sense without a room treatment which I am reluctant to do.

My listening experience suggests that I do need frequencies up to 26kHz (even though they are considered inaudible). As for the lower bound I am not sure. At the same time, the laptops and smartphones which I have used so far have never played symphonies particularly well. I suspect that this may be because of the lacking bass. Coming back to flatness, I do not have a feel of how much of it I need. Perhaps, requiring an ideally flat response would be an overkill.
 
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cestx

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After a brief consideration, I still think that I want to go for passive speakers because apart from the music itself I would like to see how things work. I am a complete novice in the audio subject and would like to use this opportunity to learn basics and to develop a feeling of how different components of an audio system work together.

My absolutely minimal requirement is that orchestral classical music be reproduced well and correctly. I can pay more money for this if necessary.
 

Loathecliff

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Your (2) suggest to me that only electrostatics will do.
But can the few makers of them satisfy your glue and location of parts demands.
NB placing them correctly will probably mean the bed will be in the way!
Bon chance! :)
 

Sputnik

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I tried a cheap and old pair of active speakers and they made really bad sound, most noticeably were crackling and popping. I suspect that the reason may lie in the electric cable. Also, I acknowledge that so many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on passive speakers which also require separate and compatible amps and cables. I suspect that they do this because the sound is cleaner in the passive design. Am I wrong?
Very wrong. You probably made a few wives come out of the kitchen, wondering what all the yelling at a screen is about.

Do you think you are better at finding the best amps for the drivers in your speaker than the best sound engineers in the world?

The audiophiles you speak of, notoriously keep buying every new product thinking that the fairy dust sprinkled on this cable or that dac is the best thing ever. They are never happy, and rightly so, because it is never perfect.

If you buy Genelecs you are done, the design, the drivers, the amps and the dsp all work together so well that it is generally regarded as the best anyone can do. And certainly better than you or I can do.
 

lherrm

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After a brief consideration, I still think that I want to go for passive speakers because apart from the music itself I would like to see how things work. I am a complete novice in the audio subject and would like to use this opportunity to learn basics and to develop a feeling of how different components of an audio system work together.

My absolutely minimal requirement is that orchestral classical music is reproduced well and correctly. I can pay more money for this if necessary.
Nothing wrong with going that way. You could be satisfied a lifetime with passive speakers, maybe eventually try active ones, prefer them, or not.
As for reproducing well and correctly orchestral classical music :
- a speaker doesn't reproduce a kind of music better than another. It reproduces the input signal more or less accurately (flat frequency response, good directivity, low distortion and resonances), no matter what the signal encodes.
- the system will only reproduce in its own way the encoded signal, but whether the signal contains a faithful capture of the original performance is not the concern of the speaker.


Your best bet is flat, good directivity, low distortion, etc.
Here are two speakers recommandation threads that may interest you :
- Passive speaker recommandations : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-recommendations-for-usa-by-sweetchaos.28296/
- Active speaker recommandations : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-recommendations-for-usa-by-sweetchaos.28269/
 

Moonhead

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I tried a cheap and old pair of active speakers and they made really bad sound, most noticeably were crackling and popping. I suspect that the reason may lie in the electric cable. Also, I acknowledge that so many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on passive speakers which also require separate and compatible amps and cables. I suspect that they do this because the sound is cleaner in the passive design. Am I wrong?

Yes you are wrong, Its the other way around, actives are clearer, sorry.
 

AM88

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I tried a cheap and old pair of active speakers and they made really bad sound, most noticeably were crackling and popping. I suspect that the reason may lie in the electric cable. Also, I acknowledge that so many audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on passive speakers which also require separate and compatible amps and cables. I suspect that they do this because the sound is cleaner in the passive design. Am I wrong?
Active crossovers are a superior technology to passive crossovers. That is not up for dispute by anyone, but you can get good and bad implementations of both. And that is just one part, albeit a very important part, of designing a speaker. I would suggest trying as many combinations as possible in your own listening space with a recording you are familiar with and compare what you hear with a good pair of headphones, like the HD 650 to see how close you can get to an unadulterated reproduction of the music. Personally, I would either go with some good monitors like gens/sennheisers.
 

Digby

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I have to say, my experience of Genelec 8030cs with classical music was not great. They didn't handle concerto & symphony dynamics without sounding like they were struggling. They weren't as convincing in reproduction of cello or piano as my Behringer B2031A, which has a much larger woofer.

I think there is a lot of music between the crossover point of a subwoofer and the woofer of the monitors that makes it preferable to have a large woofer for classical. The midbass frequencies derive some oomph from a larger bass driver that a subwoofer won't fill.

Also, I think Genelecs, as all brands, have a certain sound signature. To me they seemed a bit too much top tilted and the bass frequencies didn't seem quite correct, but then a 5 1/4" woofer vs 8 1/2" is not a fair contest, but price wise the B2031A is far cheaper.

I would try seeing if you can hear some of these speakers first. There are a few comparison videos on youtube, some are quite well done (speakers are set in to same in-room response). You'd be surprised how different speakers can sound from one another, even if they measure quite similarly.
 

mj30250

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Thank you very much! I will follow the link.

As for the flat response I understand that this is an ideal situation which may be practically unachievable. Definitely, I would like the response as flat as possible and makes sense without a room treatment which I am reluctant to do.

My listening experience suggests that I do need frequencies up to 26kHz (even though they are considered inaudible).

Just curious as to why you think you need reproduction of frequencies anywhere near that high? Your hearing is likely good to only bit more than half of that and there won't be any data of any consequence that high on a musical recording.

As mentioned by someone else, the new Ascend LXs are extremely neutral bookshelf speakers capable of high power-handling and offer extremely respectable bass extension and output for their size. I'm not sure what country you live in, though, and as I don't believe they are offered yet in domestic cabinets, would not adhere to your non-PRC requirement. FWIW, the company is USA-based and the speakers are designed and assembled there.
 
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cestx

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Just curious as to why you think you need reproduction of frequencies anywhere near that high?
This is one thing which I am confident about. I have listened to many recordings of different quality and observed that cutting frequencies at 20kHz (which is regarded as an audible limit) results in the noticeable reduction of quality. This concerns orchestral recordings. For solo piano for example, even cutting at 15kHz I think usually preserves the sound.
 

diablo

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After a brief consideration, I still think that I want to go for passive speakers because apart from the music itself I would like to see how things work. I am a complete novice in the audio subject and would like to use this opportunity to learn basics and to develop a feeling of how different components of an audio system work together.

My absolutely minimal requirement is that orchestral classical music be reproduced well and correctly. I can pay more money for this if necessary.

I play quite a lot of classical music during the day. Mainly as background music but sometimes to listen 'properly'. The system I had played chamber music quite well but orchestral music sounded a bit messy so I decided to improve things.

The thing that has made the most improvement has been incorporating Dirac. It isn't a minor difference, if I toggle it off and on the difference in clarity is very obvious - there is no visible indication of whether it is on or off, so I ain't cheating.

I don't think it is the room correction itself. It is the change in impulse response that makes the difference. I ran a test a few days ago - connected my Oppo PM1 phones to the amplifier. Now obviously the room correction was all wrong - but switching Dirac off and on made a massive difference to the clarity.

Some reviewers use the phrase 'lifting a veil' on the music. Using Dirac is like lifting a horsehair blanket. :D

If you were to get active speakers then adding a Dirac box (MiniDSP) in front of them might be a good future move.

Incidentally, the pop/rock/alternative music which I sometimes listen to usually sounds better with the dirac off. :oops:
 

youngho

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After a brief consideration, I still think that I want to go for passive speakers because apart from the music itself I would like to see how things work. I am a complete novice in the audio subject and would like to use this opportunity to learn basics and to develop a feeling of how different components of an audio system work together.

My absolutely minimal requirement is that orchestral classical music be reproduced well and correctly. I can pay more money for this if necessary.
I think it will be helpful for you to consider how you would define good and correct reproduction of orchestral classical music, especially when recording techniques can vary quite widely (http://www.playclassics.com/trtsound). You could even go further and consider what sort of listener you are, as concert hall preferences typically fall into one of two broad categories: clarity vs reverberance, though this could be refined a bit further (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-of-lokki-bech-toole-et-al.27540/#post-950580). Besides Tapio Lokki, you might also skim http://www.davidgriesinger.com/, like this article: http://www.davidgriesinger.com/Acoustics_Today/AES_preprint_2012_2.pdf

From my reading of the reviewer Robert E Greene, who is very much interested in classical music reproduction and is extremely sensitive to timbre, speakers should address issues like floor bounce, since this can rob orchestral music of its power, and have a flatter directivity index over a critical frequency range (compared with the steadily rising directivity of speakers like Kef and Genelec), which seems to be typically achieved with a wider baffle (see my linked post above regarding timbre). He also discusses the issue of using frontal speakers to reproduce what should be a predominantly diffuse field (also discussed here: https://www.linkwitzlab.com/models.htm#H), also advocates for the use of multiple subwoofers like https://www.audiokinesis.com/the-swarm-subwoofer-system-1.html from @Duke, which may enhance the perception of envelopment at low frequencies that's part of the concert hall experience but very difficult to reproduce in a domestic setting (see Griesinger's website, specifically the paragraph that reads "The concept of interaural fluctuations has been used to solve a very old riddle - the riddle of how many independent bass drivers one needs in a sound system in a small room, and where should these drivers be put. To make a long story short: you need at least two low frequency drivers, and ideally they should be at either side of the listeners. This work is described in the papers on small room acoustics. The latest paper on this subject is the one presented in Vancouver in 2005: “Loudspeaker and listener positions for optimal low-frequency spatial reproduction in listening rooms” This paper is highly recommended. Others include:
Speaker placement, externalization, and envelopment in home listening rooms
General overview of spatial impression, envelopment, localization, and externalization")

Young-Ho
 

Chaconne

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This is one thing which I am confident about. I have listened to many recordings of different quality and observed that cutting frequencies at 20kHz (which is regarded as an audible limit) results in the noticeable reduction of quality. This concerns orchestral recordings. For solo piano for example, even cutting at 15kHz I think usually preserves the sound.
If I had to bet, I'd say you've fallen prey to some kind of psychoacoustic influence in this area. It happens to all of us. I take it you're well aware that compact discs (16/44.1) have zero information above 20kHz. Which would mean you would find every CD ever made to be unsatisfactory. Is that the case? Or do you listen only to higher-res recordings? Even a speaker that extends to 26kHz can't play what isn't there.
 

tuga

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Thank you! Could you elaborate on this please? Orchestral (especially) and organ music is essential for me. I have sensitive ears. It would be rather disappointing to spend $1000 to only discover that I can really listen to solo instruments only. I think that it is not so difficult to reproduce solo music. Even my smartphone can do this pretty well. Orchestral music is a real challenge.

Smaller 2-way speakers have 3 shortcomings: limited low frequency extension, limited high sound pressure level capabilities and higher levels of intermodulation distortion.
I would add (potentially) wider directivity as a downside for the reproduction of classical music but many seem to enjoy its effects so it might be worth trying.
 

youngho

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If I had to bet, I'd say you've fallen prey to some kind of psychoacoustic influence in this area. It happens to all of us. I take it you're well aware that compact discs (16/44.1) have zero information above 20kHz. Which would mean you would find every CD ever made to be unsatisfactory. Is that the case? Or do you listen only to higher-res recordings? Even a speaker that extends to 26kHz can't play what isn't there.
Furthermore, concert hall acoustics are typically quite damped at higher frequencies, certainly well below 20 kHz. Look at the frequency-dependent reverberation curves in the fact sheets: https://www.nagata-i.com/portfolio/sapporo-concert-hall-kitara/ and https://www.nagata-i.com/portfolio/suntory-hall/ (credit to REG), also figure 3 here: https://users.aalto.fi/~ktlokki/Publs/patynen_2013_JAS000842.pdf.
 

fredstuhl

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Thank you very much! I will follow the link.

As for the flat response I understand that this is an ideal situation which may be practically unachievable. Definitely, I would like the response as flat as possible and makes sense without a room treatment which I am reluctant to do.

My listening experience suggests that I do need frequencies up to 26kHz (even though they are considered inaudible). As for the lower bound I am not sure. At the same time, the laptops and smartphones which I have used so far have never played symphonies particularly well. I suspect that this may be because of the lacking bass. Coming back to flatness, I do not have a feel of how much of it I need. Perhaps, requiring an ideally flat response would be an overkill.
No surprise - try listening to a bass player on your phone, most will struggle to make any audible sound with lower notes. For full reproduction of orchestra music, your speakers need to be quite capable at low frequencies. And if you want a good representation of organ music, this is even more important. A big pipe organ can go to incredibly low hz, far beyond audible limits, so in contrast to many other instruments, they can produce lots of content around your lower hearing threshold. This is where huge subwoofers and good bass management really pay off.

I‘d suggest you read some of the other forum threads here, you‘ll quickly lose your reservations about active speakers. A combo of some highly accurate monitors such as the neumann kh120 with a capable subwoofer and a room correction solution for low frequencies of some sort will get you exactly where you want to be. (Minus the material choice wishlist, i am afraid :))
 

HarmonicTHD

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I would say pick any speaker in the top category (which are recommended) here, which fits your budget, and your loudness (SPL) requirements (room size - for the smaller ones add a subwoofer) and your aestethics and you will be on the right track sound wise. I would first look into brands such as Revel, KEF, Genelec, Neumann, JBL but others are good too - regardless if active or passive.

(2nd page and filter for "recommended").

1650645279090.png
 

BobbyTimmons

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Considering OP describes himself as a novice, he will surely be happy will most any of the speakers he listed in his original post.

I don't understand why people here are fussing about whether he should buy expensive studio monitors, when he asked about cheap passive speakers. It seems like there is an obsessive need in this forum "to be the best".

Any of these cheap speakers he listed in his first post will likely satisfy him, as he literally says he is listening to music on his phone, so any of those will be a very significant upgrade for him.
 

kthulhutu

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If you want "precise classical listening" and are as serious as your OP suggests, you should be considering the room just as much as the speakers.
You will need to heavily attenuate all the specular reflections and make sure reverb times are well controlled to avoid introducing your own room sound.
Of course, you would be even better served by headphones for this purpose.
 
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