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Neumann KH120 for living room?

Newman

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Jan 6, 2017
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#41
@Glasvegas @fredstuhl “Critical listening distance” is not applicable to the home environment and not an indicator of anything useful for home listening. You can ignore that chart, as far as choosing your home speakers is concerned.

KH120 plus 2 subs has no deficiencies worth considering for home use at 2-4 metres listening distance. Your challenges will be to set it up well, treat your room in a balanced manner, and EQ the bass up to about 250 Hz. Set the bass level (not the shape) ‘to taste’, since research indicates that personal preferences vary most in bass level. Even 1 sub can succeed very satisfyingly for a single listening position.

Caveat: there is no accounting for what your personal mental filters/cognitive biases do in sighted listening conditions. The sky‘s the limit. If your personal filters force you, for example, to hear boxed-in sound from any speaker with a cabinet, then that’s that. And I would not discourage you from acting on it. But the point is that you will have nothing instructive to say to anyone, anywhere, except yourself, on that point. But the audio forums are awash with people, with helpful hearts and in all sincerity, saying “it sounded like this to me” as if they were talking instructively about sound waves, when in fact they aren’t. It’s no wonder, since the brain is hard-wired to tell us that perceptions are always describing objective real external phenomena, for survival. The educational challenge, for us in this hobby, is to come to terms with this in a way that stops us from accidentally and sincerely misleading one another, while still being an amicable community of people sharing a hobby and helping one another.

cheers
 
Joined
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#42
Would you mind explaining the term critical listening distance and how it should be interpreted then, because I must have gotten it wrong if you say it's in no way relevant for loudspeaker choice at home. Not trying to argue, just want to learn and avoid spreading misinformation.

As I wrote initially - I was in a similar situation just a short while ago and then started testing various speakers at home. I have a patient girlfriend who did the switching for me and we volume matched as well as we could. It was certainly not an ideal setup for true unbiased testing, not trying to say that in any way. Now, since the pandemic was preventing visits in audio stores, I had to order any speakers that I was actually interested in trying/ buying, so before doing that I basically tested all speakers I could get hold of from friends and neighbours in my room to learn what could work for me in principle (masks and >2 m minimal distance when handing over gear).
In these tests some speaker models that looked basically as different as they get in terms of size and driver numbers/ types and everything were suprisingly (to me) hard to tell apart from each other when listening from a position < 2m. However, when incrasing listening distance and/ or leaving the sweet spot, some of these speakers that sounded so similar close by, were behaving very different to my ears (in blindfolded tests at around 5 m distance or at random other places in the living room that are used for casual music listening) and my speaker preference would change at these different spots. Since my goal was to narrow down the actual speaker models I wanted to test and buy for myself, I then naturally tried to find an explanation/ generalisable principles for this. At the same time I was reading more actively here in this forum and on different speaker manufacturer websites. I was sure I didn't max out SPL capabilities of speakers, however, I read about different dispersion characteristics and that seemed to fit very well from all I knew about the models I tested and what I was hearing. I reasoned that speakers with uniform directivity would be extra valuable in my living room (concrete walls and ceiling, hardwood floor, sparsly furnished, hard surfaces, no curtains -> this is how we like it, speakers/ acoustics come second or I'll be single soon) and that I'd probably also benefit from a higher ratio of direct sound/ reflected sound (in this room).

The ratio of direct to reflected sound at a given position is just another way of expressing directivity width of speakers, did I get this right? I first didn't understand why this ratio would increase with speaker size when played at same volume (Genelec website, that table we should ignore for home use), but I read here that directivity of drivers is related to their diameter, so that sounded like a good explanation to me (I am being aware, however, that one could change directivity with waveguides or fancier ways like in the Kii three or Dutch&Dutch that I really need to read more about). So in the end this Genelec table with critical listening distance seemed absolutely relevant for me, since I was convinced that this could at least partially explain the discrepancy of my personal preference for loudspeakers at different listening distances in my living room (and probably many living rooms that are equally bad in terms of acoustics). Long story short, things came together in my head when learning about speaker directivity during/ after I had listened to some speakers at home that suprised me. I was happy about that - especially since I thought I found now some principles that from now on will help me with speaker choice
-> @Newman, please, I'll be genuinely thankful if you correct me if my current understanding of these things is wrong - it is not unlikely, I am new to this stuff and I had to arrange my thoughts with very limited experience and information (so happy to finally have discovered this forum!).

Again, I don't want to mislead anybody and I totally acknowledge having been potentially biased by the looks of the speakers or my preformed opinions (although I could not see them during comparisons, I could at some point recognize them with high accuracy. However, it was in some cases very easy to tell them apart by base extension alone (and I did not have the equipment or knowledge to do a very precise volume matching, which could have been another unconscious cue), so the rest of the perceived differences could have been biased of course) and even if I heard real differences in actual sound and not just imagined them -I don't have enough technical knowledge about speaker design or acoustics to attribute these differences to any construction properties of the speakers- so they might only be true for the exact models I tested/ I could have completely misinterpreted causalities here.
 
Last edited:

hyperplanar

Active Member
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Jan 31, 2020
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Location
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#43
Would you mind explaining the term critical listening distance and how it should be interpreted then, because I must have gotten it wrong if you say it's in no way relevant for loudspeaker choice at home. Not trying to argue, just want to learn and avoid spreading misinformation.

As I wrote initially - I was in a similar situation just a short while ago and then started testing various speakers at home. I have a patient girlfriend who did the switching for me and we volume matched as well as we could. It was certainly not an ideal setup for true unbiased testing, not trying to say that in any way. Now, since the pandemic was preventing visits in audio stores, I had to order any speakers that I was actually interested in trying/ buying, so before doing that I basically tested all speakers I could get hold of from friends and neighbours in my room to learn what could work for me in principle (masks and >2 m minimal distance when handing over gear).
In these tests some speaker models that looked basically as different as they get in terms of size and driver numbers/ types and everything were suprisingly (to me) hard to tell apart from each other when listening from a position < 2m. However, when incrasing listening distance and/ or leaving the sweet spot, some of these speakers that sounded so similar close by, were behaving very different to my ears (in blindfolded tests at around 5 m distance or at random other places in the living room that are used for casual music listening) and my speaker preference would change at these different spots. Since my goal was to narrow down the actual speaker models I wanted to test and buy for myself, I then naturally tried to find an explanation/ generalisable principles for this. At the same time I was reading more actively here in this forum and on different speaker manufacturer websites. I was sure I didn't max out SPL capabilities of speakers, however, I read about different dispersion characteristics and that seemed to fit very well from all I knew about the models I tested and what I was hearing. I reasoned that speakers with uniform directivity would be extra valuable in my living room (concrete walls and ceiling, hardwood floor, sparsly furnished, hard surfaces, no curtains -> this is how we like it, speakers/ acoustics come second or I'll be single soon) and that I'd probably also benefit from a higher ratio of direct sound/ reflected sound (in this room).

The ratio of direct to reflected sound at a given position is just another way of expressing directivity width of speakers, did I get this right? I first didn't understand why this ratio would increase with speaker size when played at same volume (Genelec website, that table we should ignore for home use), but I read here that directivity of drivers is related to their diameter, so that sounded like a good explanation to me (I am being aware, however, that one could change directivity with waveguides or fancier ways like in the Kii three or Dutch&Dutch that I really need to read more about). So in the end this Genelec table with critical listening distance seemed absolutely relevant for me, since I was convinced that this could at least partially explain the discrepancy of my personal preference for loudspeakers at different listening distances in my living room (and probably many living rooms that are equally bad in terms of acoustics). Long story short, things came together in my head when learning about speaker directivity during/ after I had listened to some speakers at home that suprised me. I was happy about that - especially since I thought I found now some principles that from now on will help me with speaker choice
-> @Newman, please, I'll be genuinely thankful if you correct me if my current understanding of these things is wrong - it is not unlikely, I am new to this stuff and I had to arrange my thoughts with very limited experience and information (so happy to finally have discovered this forum!).

Again, I don't want to mislead anybody and I totally acknowledge having been potentially biased by the looks of the speakers or my preformed opinions (although I could not see them during comparisons, I could at some point recognize them with high accuracy. However, it was in some cases very easy to tell them apart by base extension alone (and I did not have the equipment or knowledge to do a very precise volume matching, which could have been another unconscious cue), so the rest of the perceived differences could have been biased of course) and even if I heard real differences in actual sound and not just imagined them -I don't have enough technical knowledge about speaker design or acoustics to attribute these differences to any construction properties of the speakers- so they might only be true for the exact models I tested/ I could have completely misinterpreted causalities here.
To put it simply, the critical distance is the distance at which the ratio of direct and reflected sound is 1:1 in a hypothetical room. So yes, the narrower the directivity of a speaker, the longer its critical distance will be.

It's a useful yardstick to get the roughest idea of a speaker's directivity, but it says nothing about the shape of the directivity curve, which is arguably more important. In a home listening environment where reflections play a strong role, the predicted in-room response graph is good to look at—no matter how flat the on-axis/listening window responses are of two different speakers, their directivity can result in very different looking predicted in-room responses, which is probably what accounts for your experience of speakers sounding different at farther distances.

Also, directivity seems to be quite subjective, beyond "the directivity curve needs to be smooth." Some people prefer very narrow directivity speakers for the utmost clarity, some people prefer wide directivity speakers for a sense of envelopment and the music being played "in the room", some people prefer constant directivity, while other people prefer a downwards sloping directivity, etc...

To get back to the original topic, the KH120s would be great for normal living room use, although a sub may be necessary for movies. However, despite their flat on-axis response, their sound signature in a reflective living room environment may come across as dark, with the low-mids being somewhat emphasized (although this can be corrected for with room EQ) and recessions at 2 kHz and 6 kHz (which can't be corrected):
1616213520049.png
 

Newman

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Jan 6, 2017
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#44
Would you mind explaining the term critical listening distance and how it should be interpreted then, because I must have gotten it wrong if you say it's in no way relevant for loudspeaker choice at home.
Sure, but I’ll quote Dr Floyd Toole for the sake of precision in this area.

The distance from the source at which the direct sound equals the level of the reverberation is the critical distance (also known as reverberation distance, reverberation radius).” [my note: not direct:reflected, it is direct:reverberant, which, in a home hifi room is always above 1 because early reflections don’t count as reverberant (a diffuse sound characteristic), so the critical distance is never reached.]

“Over ....the range of listening distances typical of small rooms, listeners are in what can best be described as a prolonged transitional sound field, neither direct nor reverberant. This means that critical distance is not an appropriate concept.

“Considering the distances at which we listen in our entertainment spaces and control rooms, it is clear that we are in the transitional region, where the direct and early reflected sounds dominate, and late reflected sounds are subdued, and progressively attenuated with distance. The sound field is not diffuse, and there is no critical distance, as classically defined.

“This transitional sound field appears to extend over the entire range of listening distances we commonly employ in small rooms. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the large-room concept of critical distance is also irrelevant in small rooms. This said, there is much anecdotal evidence of a perceptible transition occurring at some distance from loudspeakers in a room. None of this appears to have been systematically investigated in terms of examining the nature and consequences of this perceptual change. Since critical distance is not the appropriate measure, a new one is needed. A reasonable hypothesis is that it is related to the ratio of direct to early reflected sound; a topic for some useful research. .... In the end, we need new measures. One of these would be a replacement for the large-room measure, critical distance. In small listening rooms it seems to be important to have guidance about the optimal amplitude or energy relationships between direct and (collections of) early reflected sounds.”

IOW, home rooms are a messy, transitional environment of direct/other sound. Critical distance does not apply, but, at least anecdotally, something does change with distance, but we haven’t determined what, or what to measure, or which is preferred (blind), or especially what speaker physical features correlate with preference as distance increases. We certainly haven’t determined that small baffle size creates a validated disadvantage at normal listening distance.
 
OP
Gurkerl
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Thread Starter #46
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread, answering all my questions & helping me out a lot. I want to say that made things easier for me, truth is however, when I finally got to a dealer to try out some of the options mentioned in this thread, I was as clueless as before :D

In the end I went with a pair of Adam T7Vs - why the lower end model, when my budget allowed for a "better" pair? Honestly I was just so surprised hearing how well the lower end models stacked up against more expensive options. Of course the dealer's room was far from ideal, but it did provide enough for me to compare different models against each other.
After having the Adams set up now for a few days, overall I am happy with my choice. The low end is lacking obviously, so the next quest would be to mate them to one or probably more subwoofers & figuring out room correction.


@Newman: I am sorry I did not respond to you. I did read your replies & they certainly made me consider the KH120s again. I went with the T7Vs for the reason stated above.
 

Newman

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#47
No worries, good to see you have made your choice and enjoying your new hifi!

I don‘t see any imperative to spend to the top of our budgets ‘on principle’, when goodies at a lower price point do the trick. Anyway, the presumed link between price and performance often turns out to be misleading.

A good sub at the presumed budget level would be the Elac Debut SUB3010, partly because it has a convenient built-in EQ system. In some ways, a pair of them would offer more than a single sub for the same outlay.

cheers
 
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todkos

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Apr 13, 2021
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#48
My 5.2 setup with 5 kh120 and 2 svs sb1000 subs in my living room.
No treatment
Amplifier is a marantz sr5013 (from pre outs)
Listening distance 3.2 meters


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