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How "bad" must a Speaker be for normies to notice?

teched58

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All of us here at ASR are accustomed to detailed tech dumps on speakers, in the many wonderful analyses by Amir and others. So I was wondering about the people -- probably the majority of buyers -- who don't look at any of that stuff. It raises a whole bunch of questions, and I was wondering if people have any insights into some of the following:

--1) What does the industry think people like in speakers? Is it basically smiley curve bright, with some added brightness on top? If so, is this informed by research or is it just accepted wisdom and manufacturers do it cause that's what they've always done?

--2) Was that "brightness" more important in the old days, when people bought speakers at the store with a salesman yammering in their ear? Does it still matter today when many people buy online without hearing the speaker (so they're buying solely on price, looks, and reviews). For ppl in the audio business, is my assumption correct here? If not, what are the go-to-market dynamics?

--3) How crappy does a speaker have to be for a normal, non-audiophile person to recoil and say "this sucks"? Here, my assumption is that there is a vast gulf between what the ASR-reading audiophile considers acceptable and what the person in the street is willing to tolerate (e.g., Horrortones.)

--4) Are "real" speakers (stereo bookshelf and towers) still a major factor in the market, or is it today more the case that, in terms of speaker speakers, Home Theatre (HT) and Bluetooth speakers are where the market is at. (Or maybe the real market is IEMs and headphones?)

I can't think of other specifics questions but I hope I've angled this so we can discuss the differences in how we at ASR look at things vs. the non-audiophile. Maybe we can learn something that we didn't know.
 
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Ron Texas

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The answer is it's in the eye of the beholder. Here at ASR good is defined by high preference scores plus dynamic range, a lack of hiss in active speakers and I probably missed something. Many members of the general public will buy the bright showroom sound and either like it or just stop listening, but never say it sucks. There is also the booming bass crowd which often is exhibited in car systems which shake the car in the next lane. We hate it, they love it.
 

Steven Holt

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That's a very difficult question to answer, as there are many variables involved -- the room, the listener's hearing, psychoacoustics, placement, perceived reputation of the maker, ect, ect -- but I will hazard a very general rule. If that speaker distorts below 85 dB, most people would walk away. Just talking about it, I can't emphasize enough the APPEARANCE of the speaker : if that speaker looks good, a person's brain is going to think it sounds good. Remember, Bose made the 901 for over 25 years. And Zu Audio wouldn't be in business.
 

Vincent Kars

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A posting I have seen quite often on Reddit, headphone section, runs like this.
Young guy has studied all the reviews.
Finally decided to buy that expensive headphone almost unanimously dubbed neutral.
Complains on Reddit how horrible boring it sounds.
Obvious, a V-shaped frequency response is the norm. Neutral is horrible!
 

Somafunk

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As long as a speaker makes a noise it will be perfectly acceptable for 99% of users, the folk who obsess over performance are the outliers.

I know of no-one who bothers with a specific hifi setup, everyone I know is happy enough with a Bluetooth/smart speaker such as HomePod/soundbars etc.
 

AllJazz

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The answer is it's in the eye of the beholder.

I think this rings true more than people think myself included. For me I think its read the reviews and measurements and then spend time listening not necessarily to see if the measurements where accurate but I feel like it filters out allot of junk and gets you closer with some advice and the other 50% has to be wether my ears like it or not.
 

ahofer

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I don’t know. At some point very early I noticed that aspects of the sound in the store didn’t hold up when listening at home. So it’s very true that consumers in a retail environment will go for sizzle and boom, I expect they lose satisfaction over time.

The right features for your apartment and listening habits probably dominate purchasing now, since it is often on line.
 

AdamG

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How crappy does a speaker have to be for a normal, non-audiophile person to recoil and say "this sucks"?
Something less than this I suppose…:rolleyes:

21hh-3qnduL._AC_.jpg
 

sajgre

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Where I live people never hear speakers in a store. Most of the time my friends hear a good system for the first time when they visit me. They are all impressed but rarely anybody invests in their sound system beyond sound bar.
When buying TV they spend all their money on TV, very little budget goes into sound if anything at all.
The best sound system they listen daily is in their car.
 

ernestcarl

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I was wondering about how many “bad” sounding Bose home speakers are out there. Just about everyone I’ve asked loved them or retain a fondness. I’m sure if you AB’d them properly they would notice the deficiency. But most people aren’t that obsessed about the details as long as the speakers sound somewhat “decent” and aesthetically acceptable enough to them.
 
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--1) What does the industry think people like in speakers? Is it basically smiley curve bright, with some added brightness on top? If so, is this informed by research or is it just accepted wisdom and manufacturers do it cause that's what they've always done?

I think the design is number one thing that is important for most people and the industry knows that. The speaker just has to sound OK, but given that, most people think much more about how a speaker would look in their room than about how it sounds. I also assume that most of them may think that they all sound the same, actually.

--3) How crappy does a speaker have to be for a normal, non-audiophile person to recoil and say "this sucks"? Here, my assumption is that there is a vast gulf between what the ASR-reading audiophile considers acceptable and what the person in the street is willing to tolerate (e.g., Horrortones.)
It has to be very, very bad, I think. A lot of people seem to accept the sound quality that comes out of their smartphones (I mean the small embedded speakers, not the headsets), so they find acceptable to listen to music like that. And that sound is just horrible, at least to me. I can't accept it even from the premium smartphones. It is OK for listening to voice messages, but not to music. But I've seen people listening to even classical music like this.

--4) Are "real" speakers (stereo bookshelf and towers) still a major factor in the market, or is it today more the case that, in terms of speaker speakers, Home Theatre (HT) and Bluetooth speakers are where the market is at. (Or maybe the real market is IEMs and headphones?)
I'm sure that Bluetooth speakers, home theater and headphones of all kinds is where the market is. The "real" speakers still are important though, but it's definitely kind of niche segment.

Said all of this, maybe this will come as a bit negative to some people, but I actually think that this situation is more or less the same in many other markets, like TVs, cars and so on. People tend to look at the design of the thing they want to buy. Often the design dictates the perception of how good the thing is, how performant it is and so on. A car has to look powerful rather than actually having a powerful engine.

Most of people just don't want or don't have time to investigate further. So the design and marketing in many cases play more important role than the engineering aspects of an item.
 

Timcognito

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After hearing a good one for awhile not that hard to recognize a poor one. As a kid I used to love my early 60s Japanese transistor radio because that's all I had. The key is hearing something decent and then one knows if something is much worse. Most debates in this hobby revolve around great and good and golden ears.
 

Steven Holt

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I was wondering about how many “bad” sounding Bose home speakers are out there. Just about everyone I’ve asked loved them or retain a fondness
That's true. I well remember going over to my friend's house and listening to them for hours. Wonderful, wonderful. (Of course, we were very stoned at the time)
 

DVDdoug

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I don't think it's about "noticing" I think it's about caring. I suppose a lot of "audiophiles" think they have better hearing than the average person, but it's mostly just that they care, and pay attention to sound quality.

Some people might hear a good system and say, "Wow, that sounds great!", but that doesn't mean they want to go and spend a few thousand dollars on on their own system. You can have a good meal without wanting to hire your own chef...

A lot of people don't mind listening to a song on their phone speaker.

Musicians are famous for enjoying music on a cheap setup. They are listening to the performance & music, not the overall "sound". And, no home system sounds like a live performance in a large space so maybe it's because nothing measures-up.

I have a home theater system (5.1 with huge speakers) but when I'm watching regular TV I just use the TV speakers. If I'm watching a movie or video concert, I'll turn-on the AVR.

Are "real" speakers (stereo bookshelf and towers) still a major factor in the market, or is it today more the case that, in terms of speaker speakers, Home Theatre (HT) and Bluetooth speakers are where the market is at. (Or maybe the real market is IEMs and headphones?)
Home theater speakers aren't really different from hi-fi/stereo speakers. There are great ones and not-so great ones. You NEED a subwoofer or you'll lose the "point one" channel and the trend is toward smaller surround speakers with the sub handling all of the bass because most people don't want (or don't have enough space for) 5 or 7 (or more) large speakers.

and Bluetooth speakers are where the market is at.
Usually those are for convenience but it's an improvement on the phone's speaker.

(Or maybe the real market is IEMs and headphones?)
Well... Everybody is carrying around a music player (smart phone). You can listen to your preference of music at high volume and high quality without bothering anyone. And great headphones/IEMs are way more affordable than great speakers and an amplifier.
 

MaxwellsEq

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For me the question is why would a member of the general public buy a pair of speakers? Most people hear music from some single-vendor system they've bought or a phone or smart speaker. Actually going into a shop a buying a stand-alone set of speakers is probably relatively uncommon these days. But if they do, a strong factor is looks, then how they compare to similar priced speakers and guidance from a salesperson.
 

ahofer

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I think the design is number one thing that is important for most people and the industry knows that. The speaker just has to sound OK
We’re seeing Sony, JBL, Apple, Sonos, and others invest in room correction and even appear to use preference research (dispersion, headphone curves) as differentiators. That’s progress.
 

Sokel

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I gave up "right" a long time ago,as "right" to me means lifelike level,impact,transients,etc. without coloring or (most importantly to me) piercing highs or thin sound.

So,what's left is to get near,have the ability to tweak and play,be reliable and of course looks.

And by looks I don't only mean beauty but the feeling that they are up to the task,either by size,number of drivers,etc.

My constant remainder,a concert bass drum can be up to 40 inches and it's not the only instrument playing :)
 

egellings

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A posting I have seen quite often on Reddit, headphone section, runs like this.
Young guy has studied all the reviews.
Finally decided to buy that expensive headphone almost unanimously dubbed neutral.
Complains on Reddit how horrible boring it sounds.
Obvious, a V-shaped frequency response is the norm. Neutral is horrible!
He likes a smile on his 10-band equalizer too, I bet.
 
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