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

amirm

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So you can go on reasoning, for example, are some speakers worth 5x or even much more their price than other speakers?
As Ray mentioned, the answer to this is yes. As you go up in dynamic performance and bass response, there is almost no ceiling. Speakers can get massive quickly, weighing upwards of 1000 pounds and in multiple enclosures! Clearly such speakers will be hugely expensive, often going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They will project a huge soundstage and incredibly good bass response and seemingly have no limit in how loud they can get. Sadly many don't have good measurements so they may be flawed but some of the cost is easily justified in scope and scale of the speaker.
 

Ron Texas

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A speaker designer once told me speakers are 80% marketing, 20% technology. So clearly with proper marketing, any speaker sells.
This applies to so many things.
 

DonR

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Anything more than TV speakers is probably sufficient for most thus the proliferation of speakerbars and, as mentioned above, Alexa/Google speakers. I think of it like video. VHS tape was considered OK (equivalent to TV speakers). DVD was a huge improvement (today's mainstream offerings like sound bars), Blu-ray is an improvement over DVD (a good speaker), 4K and 8K is a marginal improvement over Blu-Ray (SOTA speakers).
 

Anton D

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I call normies "civilians," and they hear the music, not the system.

Look at what we hear in garages and yards and kitchens of the world. Civilians just hear the tunes.

So, to answer to question, somewhere below an AM transistor radio quality sound.

I jokingly think of us as the 'afflicted' for needing Hi Fi to get done what normies do all day.
 
D

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In the first place, the vast majority of people I have seen buying speakers are buying on price. Maybe I'm hanging around with the wrong income bracket, but that's what I see.

If the buyer is young, the speaker needs to have LOTS OF BASS. Considering the disposable income of young people, this means that sacrifices will be made in other areas of speaker design.

Locally, I see ten times as many IEMs as speakers ... maybe even more. I no longer get into enough homes to comment on home theater, but I don't hear many people commenting on it, either.

As for brightness:
The people that I see who can buy more expensive items are older. Their hearing, therefore, is declining. They are attracted to speakers that have an "abundant" treble, sometimes so much so that younger people with good hearing notice the shrieking treble immediately.

"The Industry" in audio is the same as the industry in any other merchandise; they manufacture what sells. For every one model of speaker that you can say has longevity in the marketplace, how many others were there that were just a flash in the pan? Five? Ten? Twenty?
That is more trial-and-error than what we may want to admit, but I assure you that if Brand XYZ Model 1 sells double what Brand XYZ model 3 sells, the manufacturer will see that everything that they design in the future will have the characteristics of the Model 1. He doesn't do it because he likes the "sound" of the speaker, he does it because he knows that a company that doesn't give the customer what they want doesn't last very long.

Jim
 

Steve Dallas

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It is all relative...

I know about great sound for two reasons:

1. The drummer in my high school band's father had a system consisting of an early Sony CD player, Yamaha integrated amp, and JBL L100 speakers. Listening to that was a revelation compared to listening to my boom box or my father's Realistic system.
2. Being a former musician placed me in many recording studios (I later owned a project studio) where accurate sound often exists.

I have above average systems in my media room and office at home as a result. Having said that, I am fine with the factory stereo in my truck and the JBL Flip 3 in my garage. Good music is good music.
 

Axo1989

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So you can go on reasoning, for example, are some speakers worth 5x or even much more their price than other speakers?

Given that you can no doubt buy a cheap speaker for less than a dollar, but a Genelec 8381 costs ~100,000 times that, I'd say your question needs some additional parameters to be meaningful.
 

AudioJester

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The flip side is that often people will acknowledge a better sounding system, but not think the expence and effort is worth it. The classic example being a soundbar versus 5.1 etc.

Then there are audio hobbyists who will spend ridiculous amounts of money on what is often inaudible.

The difference is in perspective/goals and self fulfilment etc.
 

lowkeyoperations

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I’d say non hifi speakers are getting better. But even the best of them, like the original Apple HomePods, were still niche products.

I have a pair of original HomePods and to be honest, they are better than anything I’ve heard at any of my friends houses. And they are simple to use. Plug them in, get Apple Music, done.

They aren’t my main speakers. I have Amphion One15s with Dirac live in my studio and Dynaudio XD20s with Dirac live in the lounge room, but even then my wife will often just ask Siri to play something on the HomePod because it’s not worth it to her to run the main system.

At low levels the HomePods really are pretty good. The bass is really solid. At higher sound levels the bass is just overbearing.

But even they are too ‘high end’ for most to pay for, so Apple introduced the smaller ones that are much cheaper. And downgraded the system from a 100mm “sub” and six tweeter array to a single full range driver.

I have convinced quite a few people to get these new little HomePods as they are cheap and sound miles better than the little Bluetooth speakers they were using.

Even my most “hifi” friend, who has a turntable, runs it via Bluetooth to a little Bose soundbar :lol:

Most people just listen to music. They don’t care to listen to differences between speakers or the exact acoustic details in the recordings.
 
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restorer-john

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but when I'm watching regular TV I just use the TV speakers.

There is NO way I can do that. I would rather read a book than watch regular TV on the TV speakers. :)
 

Holdt

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There is NO way I can do that. I would rather read a book than watch regular TV on the TV speakers. :)

Having recently replaced an old Panasonic Plasma with a new 4K flat thingy, the first thing I did was to scout out another way to get sound from the TV. ANY other way than using the built-in "speakers". I'm allergic to tin-can sound. I often tell my wife to turn it down when she watches some video on her phone. Sometimes she works on stuff in the hobby room listening to music on her phone.. I couldn't do that.
 

Galliardist

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I think back to my visit to a hifi store in 2021, where a demo room system costing over half a million dollars was so bad that someone's phone speakers did the job of conveying the music much better. In fact my three worst experiences of "domestic audio" all involve expensive setups, come to that.

Most of the "lesser" items mentioned in this thread are designed to at least be limited and tolerable (although some recent TV speakers are truly awful) and I can happily enjoy music on them (which is why I don't think of "enjoying" as representing a true standpoint for judging high fidelity); indeed, most will give you the key components to listen to and get the key points of a musical performance.
 

Galliardist

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There is NO way I can do that. I would rather read a book than watch regular TV on the TV speakers. :)
The purpose of modern TV speakers is not to convey sound, but to promote the soundbar purchase.
 

Holdt

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The purpose of modern TV speakers is not to convey sound, but to promote the soundbar purchase.

I don't think you are right. (It's because there's a race to have the flattest screens on the market) but even if you were right, they are doing a great job of selling sound bars. Not to me, but I see the market for them is huge.
 

Galliardist

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I don't think you are right. (It's because there's a race to have the flattest screens on the market) but even if you were right, they are doing a great job of selling sound bars. Not to me, but I see the market for them is huge.
In the worst cases, they should just take the speakers out and sell them as monitors, or bundle in a half decent soundbar with a way to attach to the bottom of the screen.

It isn't all about the "thinnest". We have a small Samsung Frame so not the thinnest bezel, with the electronics in a second box so the back can be flat. There's still space to fit a pair of those old 1960s TV speakers that at least sort of worked, in the TV, and the sound is still dire by design. Our previous 2003 set was actually no thicker and sounded fine.
 

TonyJZX

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it depends on how fussy your demographic is

there's HEAPS HEAPS of people who find the inbuilt speakers on LCD TVs to be acceptable, even for watching movies.

I cant do this.

For every tv I have, even a 2ndary unit for kids I have a PC based 2.1 system hooked up to the 3.5mm out.

eg. Logitech z623 is a typical unit - this at least gives some body to vocals and increased intelligibility.

I remember I did an experiment one day.. I had a big pair of floorstanders with 7.5" drivers... speakers made in England. Big Parasound power amp and a typical Sony ES surround digital preamp.... 12 awg wire everywhere.

I used this for music, HT, games. news, everything.

Even when I had to go down to a large set of 6.5" bookshelves you could hear the vocal tone change.

And so it comes down to what you get used to.

You can work out what 'normies' get used to... bluetooth pills, soundbars, JBL RGB single column party speakers. Its a bar we dont get.

I bet 'normies' cannot understand why we use a $99 Fosi V3 or why you might pay $1,000s for Revel bookshelves.

To me I havent even found many or any sub 5" bookshelf that had reasonable performance compared to a 6.5" and over.

If we are this fussy and yet people are fine with the piezos in a Vizio TV? To me a typical TV is just a 'monitor' - you need something even $100 to boost the sound to listenable levels.
 

DonR

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For every tv I have, even a 2ndary unit for kids I have a PC based 2.1 system hooked up to the 3.5mm out.

eg. Logitech z623 is a typical unit - this at least gives some body to vocals and increased intelligibility.
Yes. One of our TVs has a Logitech Z313 using the headphone jack. A large improvement in sound especially in dialogue.
 

Curvature

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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.
I would note that in controlled blind circumstances with fast switching, all the difficulties you mention fall away.

In sighted circumstances... in other words normal circumstances, your ability to discriminate is lower. There's no getting around that. And I think most people conflate speaker sound with that of the music and everything else you mention, which is like trying to assess a giant nebulous glob. So they don't, rightly. The only place where that changes is when they are trying to buy speakers. And there it becomes extremely difficult despite the buyer using whatever critical ability they have. Marketing accounts for almost all available information. You don't have much to lean on, and you can't really go to a speaker store for the most part to try anymore because of online shopping. Cue the rise of reviewers.

If we think back to the very realistic-sounding, for the time, single driver radios... or megaphones for PA. Or someone shouting from another room. Seems like we are almost always in circumstances where sound sort of sucks and we have to make do with whatever sound cues are available. That's a passive position, and it doesn't lend itself to imagining how sound could or should be different or better.... unless the sound is abysmal and the message is obscured. Then you yell at the other person to come closer, or revolt against the very muffled dialogue of the theatrical version of Tenet. Those are obvious examples, while assessing a speaker for its sound is in no way obvious.

Take the 901. It is a speaker engineered to take advantage of walls and early reflections. How are you supposed to assess that or figure out what's wrong? Or take any normal speaker and read the impossible comments about more or less bass, boominess or limpness by people who don't understand room acoustics. They think they are assessing the speaker when they are assessing the sound at that point in the room, which is moreover dominated by the room.

I once had a guest comment on my amazing system at home. I later sat on the same spot on the couch, which was off to the side of the firing line of the speakers, and leaned to rest on the couch's arm like she did. Her head was in a room mode. Just huge bass at 60-80Hz at that one spot, way more than anywhere else in the typical listening positions of the room. In a way, her compliment made me suspicious enough to investigate. I knew it was wrong because I have years of striving for neutral sound in my head. She didn't because she enjoyed the oomph. It's hard to make the right distinctions and ask the right questions of yourself unless you are somehow motivated to do so.
 

Curvature

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A speaker designer once told me speakers are 80% marketing, 20% technology. So clearly with proper marketing, any speaker sells.

Evaluating the performance of a speaker by itself is incredibly hard even for experts. This is why research into preference for speakers usually compares 4 or 5 speakers against each other. That way you can distinguish the really broken ones as those will stand out as odd ones. This again says that any speaker can sell since no one does comparisons like this.

The market is divided like this:

1. Speaker is designed to sound good to the designer, or in bigger company, to the marketing/product planning person. Needless to say, they could very well be wrong and produce junk.

2. Speaker is designed according to science with as flat of an on-axis response and smooth directivity. These have a chance to sound good in majority of situations. This is the camp we are in.

3. Lifestyle speakers which are designed first to sell to non-audiophile. Limitation of their performance keeps them from killing the audiophile market regardless of their brand power. But of course they sell in huge volumes if successful.
For 3, we have plenty of crossover into 2. Kii's new 7, Cabasse's Rialto, Devialet and most importantly Sonos.

Unfortunately we know about their standards and science because we are obsessive nerds and hobbyists, not because of any significant effort on their part to inform their buyers. So we could even call that good sound incidental.
 

Palladium

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The Creative Pebble V2 I got for 25 buckos sounded way better than I originally expected for the price.

Getting good sound at moderate SPLs even from cheapo speakers is technically trivial by this point.
 
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