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Passive Speaker Recommendations for USA (by @sweetchaos)

amper42

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Objective scores are useful. But what would also be useful would be like a metacritic for speakers. Simple probabilistic reasoning dictates that if a large percentage of people in a sample like something, then you are likely to like it too. Whereas it's not clear what exactly the Harmon score is predicting or why.

Here's a small example of the Harmon scoring problem.
Revel F328Be scores 6.5 - with sub 7.7
Revel M105 scores 5.9 - with sub 8.2

I have both of these speakers. I foolishly bought the M105 based on it's high score realizing it was smaller and would be less dynamic but the score led me to believe it would be fantastic. I A/B'd the M105 with the F328Be and it's a joke. The F328Be beats the M105 by a MILE. Using a sub with the M105 cannot make it sound anywhere near as good as the F328. The M105 tweeter is weak compared to the F328Be. It's a totally different animal. While the F328Be is solid down to 29Hz and can fill a 24'x28' room while barely on - the M105 easily begins to distort with bass under 70Hz. No contest between these two models. Yet, the score can easily be read to show a different story.

Since that experience I place very little weight on the Harmon score when the speaker is not the same size with similar drivers. The composition of the drivers can make a big difference in the sound too. Yet, I don't see any part of the score that considers it. For all practical purposes, I can't rely on the Harmon score when making a purchase. I might look at the data - but I know comparing the scores can be a HUGE mistake even among speakers from the same brand.

I listen to Dr. Sean Olive explanation of how the Harmon score should be used and it didn't bring out all the issues I experienced. Dr. Sean Olive indicates speakers with a difference in score of less than 1 point can be similar. I did not find that to be true. The score is broken for my use when there is no component for displacement, size of the speaker or driver materials. It's way too limited for me to use as a major factor in speaker purchases.
 
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Sancus

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#1 Get a sub. If I'm reading your totally awesome index correctly even basic speakers with a sub will outperform well designed, high-end speakers without a sub.

The score's assumption is a *perfect* sub (-6dB @ 15hz) that is *perfectly* integrated to the point it performs as a genuine +1 way system with the speaker. This is challenging and/or expensive to say the least, and for many people in many rooms, may actually require more than 1 sub, and certainly will require research and experimentation. Unless they have access to excellent autocalibration(GLM or Dirac Live w/Bass Control qualify here, but Audyssey doesn't IMO, takes too much manual tweaking).

In general, if you just add any random sub, using the sub's built-in crossover, you won't achieve what the index is suggesting.
 

luft262

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The score's assumption is a *perfect* sub (-6dB @ 15hz) that is *perfectly* integrated to the point it performs as a genuine +1 way system with the speaker. This is challenging and/or expensive to say the least, and for many people in many rooms, may actually require more than 1 sub, and certainly will require research and experimentation. Unless they have access to excellent autocalibration(GLM or Dirac Live w/Bass Control qualify here, but Audyssey doesn't IMO, takes too much manual tweaking).

In general, if you just add any random sub, using the sub's built-in crossover, you won't achieve what the index is suggesting.
You won't achieve the score presented without a perfect sub, but any satisfactory sub will get them a hell of lot closer than they were before. I agree with multiple subs are better, but like everything else there are diminishing returns and it won't be twice as good. IMHO it will always require manual tweaking. If you have access to both auto calibration and manual that's the best, but I'll take a Umik 1, REW, and trial and error over Dirac live any day.
 

Sancus

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You won't achieve the score presented without a perfect sub, but any satisfactory sub will get them a hell of lot closer than they were before. I agree with multiple subs are better, but like everything else there are diminishing returns and it won't be twice as good. IMHO it will always require manual tweaking. If you have access to both auto calibration and manual that's the best, but I'll take a Umik 1, REW, and trial and error over Dirac live any day.
Unfortunately it's really not that simple. You don't have to look far to find audiophiles who claim they can't cross their sub over above 60hz or it becomes "localizable"(total nonsense). Nor to find those who prefer no sub at all, or are confused and think REL subs are more "musical" when all they provide is less bass, so that screwed up bass doesn't sound as bad since there's.. well.. less of it. A whole business built on misconceptions about subwoofers. If your single sub is affected by room modes sufficiently different from the speakers it's crossed over with, it can stick out in a "localizable" way even though those frequencies by themselves aren't localizable. Vibrations and harmonics can cause the same issues. A poor crossover can create a null due to phase problems. A poorly optimized sub can sound worse simply because bloated low bass is worse than none.

There is another disadvantage of the single subwoofer beyond integration. It reduces you to 1 bass source. Stereo speakers provide 2 bass sources. Flexible positioning can compensate for this, but that requires you to actually consider and measure multiple locations. How many setups have you seen where the sub is positioned right up next to one of the speakers at the front of the room? I've seen many. This is another case where a sub can be worse than no sub.

2 bass sources help a lot with all of these issues, especially for those not using EQ or inexperienced with it. For example, here's an old and very illustrative post showing the difference between 1 sub and 2 subs *without* DSP. Later on in the post DSP is added, but the response is surprisingly decent when 2 subs are used even without EQ. And you definitely can't achieve what Dirac Live Bass Control or Multi-Sub Optimizer accomplish manually. It's physically impossible. They go through thousands of different settings to find the perfect combination.

I don't want to turn this thread into the sub thread, as we already have one of those. But it is indeed possible to make things sound worse by adding a sub, and I think it's more common than many would admit. Unfortunately, they usually blame the sub, which is not the real culprit.
 

luft262

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Unfortunately it's really not that simple. You don't have to look far to find audiophiles who claim they can't cross their sub over above 60hz or it becomes "localizable"(total nonsense). Nor to find those who prefer no sub at all, or are confused and think REL subs are more "musical" when all they provide is less bass, so that screwed up bass doesn't sound as bad since there's.. well.. less of it. A whole business built on misconceptions about subwoofers. If your single sub is affected by room modes sufficiently different from the speakers it's crossed over with, it can stick out in a "localizable" way even though those frequencies by themselves aren't localizable. Vibrations and harmonics can cause the same issues. A poor crossover can create a null due to phase problems. A poorly optimized sub can sound worse simply because bloated low bass is worse than none.

There is another disadvantage of the single subwoofer beyond integration. It reduces you to 1 bass source. Stereo speakers provide 2 bass sources. Flexible positioning can compensate for this, but that requires you to actually consider and measure multiple locations. How many setups have you seen where the sub is positioned right up next to one of the speakers at the front of the room? I've seen many. This is another case where a sub can be worse than no sub.

2 bass sources help a lot with all of these issues, especially for those not using EQ or inexperienced with it. For example, here's an old and very illustrative post showing the difference between 1 sub and 2 subs *without* DSP. Later on in the post DSP is added, but the response is surprisingly decent when 2 subs are used even without EQ. And you definitely can't achieve what Dirac Live Bass Control or Multi-Sub Optimizer accomplish manually. It's physically impossible. They go through thousands of different settings to find the perfect combination.

I don't want to turn this thread into the sub thread, as we already have one of those. But it is indeed possible to make things sound worse by adding a sub, and I think it's more common than many would admit. Unfortunately, they usually blame the sub, which is not the real culprit.
I agree with all of that. Luckily I have 2 subs, auto calibration, Rew, etc. But I still think a random person who doesn't have or understand all of that will usually or even almost always be better off with 1 over 0 subs with the vast majority of stereo speakers.
 

luft262

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Unfortunately it's really not that simple. You don't have to look far to find audiophiles who claim they can't cross their sub over above 60hz or it becomes "localizable"(total nonsense). Nor to find those who prefer no sub at all, or are confused and think REL subs are more "musical" when all they provide is less bass, so that screwed up bass doesn't sound as bad since there's.. well.. less of it. A whole business built on misconceptions about subwoofers. If your single sub is affected by room modes sufficiently different from the speakers it's crossed over with, it can stick out in a "localizable" way even though those frequencies by themselves aren't localizable. Vibrations and harmonics can cause the same issues. A poor crossover can create a null due to phase problems. A poorly optimized sub can sound worse simply because bloated low bass is worse than none.

There is another disadvantage of the single subwoofer beyond integration. It reduces you to 1 bass source. Stereo speakers provide 2 bass sources. Flexible positioning can compensate for this, but that requires you to actually consider and measure multiple locations. How many setups have you seen where the sub is positioned right up next to one of the speakers at the front of the room? I've seen many. This is another case where a sub can be worse than no sub.

2 bass sources help a lot with all of these issues, especially for those not using EQ or inexperienced with it. For example, here's an old and very illustrative post showing the difference between 1 sub and 2 subs *without* DSP. Later on in the post DSP is added, but the response is surprisingly decent when 2 subs are used even without EQ. And you definitely can't achieve what Dirac Live Bass Control or Multi-Sub Optimizer accomplish manually. It's physically impossible. They go through thousands of different settings to find the perfect combination.

I don't want to turn this thread into the sub thread, as we already have one of those. But it is indeed possible to make things sound worse by adding a sub, and I think it's more common than many would admit. Unfortunately, they usually blame the sub, which is not the real culprit.
My original comment wasn't about subs per say, it was just to show how the preference list can be disceving and you have to think and not just take it at face value. Sweetchaos made a comment that there were like 20 speakers cheaper and better than the Focal Aria and I pointed out that depending on how you look at the data that is a disceving and misleading comment. If one is willing to get a descent subwoofer and integrate it properly there are only like 4 or 5 top tier speakers that have been measured here. If you eliminate the discontinued models, the $8,000 each tower speakers, and consider eliminating the Revel (due to potential bias as the person doing the measurements sells them) and the SVS ( reviewer couldn't subjectively recommend them) then your basically left with just a pair of Kef and Focal standmount speakers and they both cost about $1k. This is far different from the 20th best and most expensive Sweetchaos commented back to me and I wanted to point out why you don't want to just absentmindedly use such a list or any one person's opinion of the data as they may be looking at it in a narrow fashion.

As far as subs go if a person is taking all the time and potentially money to be here making an amazing sound system they should definitely look into getting a good sub and integrating it as per the preference scores it can make a huge difference. Also, for home theater it will be even more important. The potential is there for a mid range measuring cheap speaker to sound much better than an expensive and well measuring one if it has a sub and the other does not getting you better sound for less. This would be especially true with hip hop and electric music that has more information in the lower frequencies. I would liken it to getting an OLED TV that has 15% of the pixels burnt out vs a Walmart TV with all the pixels intact. I'd rather hear the whole spectrum of the recording than hear part of it better.

On a side note I am very grateful for the lists sweetchaos has assembled and use them myself. So thank you to him for that despite our potential differences regarding the how to look at that data. Also, I agree with you that subs aren't plug and play so thank you for pointing that out. If it came across that I was suggesting such a thing I apologize.
 

Sancus

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Also, I agree with you that subs aren't plug and play so thank you for pointing that out. If it came across that I was suggesting such a thing I apologize.

I was replying to you, but that stuff comes up a lot so I elaborated more for anyone else reading the thread -- wasn't really just directed at you.

On a side note I am very grateful for the lists sweetchaos has assembled and use them myself. So thank you to him for that despite our potential differences regarding the how to look at that data.

At the end of the day, how to evaluate options comes down to personal opinion. There's only so much that reviews and measurements can help with. This particular list is sweetchaos's, so it's subject to his opinions, yep. If anyone disagrees enough to assemble their own list, they could do so! But it's a lot of work.

I think the value of these lists is that, if you pick something off the list, you're going to get a pretty good speaker. It may not be the absolute best option for your use case, as that would require more research, but if somebody cares about that, they're likely to do more research anyway.
 
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sweetchaos

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This particular list is sweetchaos's, so it's subject to his opinions, yep. If anyone disagrees enough to assemble their own list, they could do so! But it's a lot of work.
Yes, feel free to create your own lists.
Yes, it took a LOT of effort.
I think the value of these lists is that, if you pick something off the list, you're going to get a pretty good speaker. It may not be the absolute best option for your use case, as that would require more research, but if somebody cares about that, they're likely to do more research anyway.
If I list every speaker reviewed, it won't fit on one post, and it wouldn't be called "Speaker Recommendations (by me)".
You would need a spreadsheet for that.

This is a short recommendation list for a reason...which is to help you narrow down the options quickly.
If you want the full list of speakers reviewed, you can check out the ASR's "Review Index", Erin's website, and lastly, pierre's website.
 

Ml2316

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Yes, feel free to create your own lists.
Yes, it took a LOT of effort.

If I list every speaker reviewed, it won't fit on one post, and it wouldn't be called "Speaker Recommendations (by me)".
You would need a spreadsheet for that.

This is a short recommendation list for a reason...which is to help you narrow down the options quickly.
If you want the full list of speakers reviewed, you can check out the ASR's "Review Index", Erin's website, and lastly, pierre's website.
Poor jbl a130...
 
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sweetchaos

sweetchaos

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Poor jbl a130...
JBL A130 is still a mystery to me.

While Amir reviewed it and gave it the highest award...this was the spin:
asr.png

This had a score of 5.1 (or 5.5 with sub).

Then, when Erin measured it, the spin was much worse:
erin.png

This had a score of 3.5 (or 5.3 with sub).

I think there was some discussion about how JBL must have changed the design and the sample that Erin reviewed was more representative of what the speaker sounds like.
Erin mentioned it in his video at 10min:42sec:

But basically, this made me question whether I should include it in my list, and so after some consideration, I left it out.
 
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Ml2316

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JBL A130 is still a mystery to me.

While Amir reviewed it and gave it the highest award...this was the spin:
View attachment 196358
This had a score of 5.1 (or 5.5 with sub).

Then, when Erin measured it, the spin was much worse:
View attachment 196359
This had a score of 3.5 (or 5.3 with sub).

I think there was some discussion in either of the two threads (Amir's or Erin's) about how JBL must have changed the design and the sample that Erin reviewed was more representative of what the speaker sounds like.
But basically, this made me question whether I should include it in my list, and so after some consideration, I left it out.
Oh wow didn't know that thanks
 

Tom C

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That’s really an interesting spin. Hard for me to believe such things are left to chance by this particular group of designers, so must be intentional. But not like any of their other designs that I can recall off hand.
 

Haint

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Here's a small example of the Harmon scoring problem.
Revel F328Be scores 6.5 - with sub 7.7
Revel M105 scores 5.9 - with sub 8.2

I have both of these speakers. I foolishly bought the M105 based on it's high score realizing it was smaller and would be less dynamic but the score led me to believe it would be fantastic. I A/B'd the M105 with the F328Be and it's a joke. The F328Be beats the M105 by a MILE. Using a sub with the M105 cannot make it sound anywhere near as good as the F328. The M105 tweeter is weak compared to the F328Be. It's a totally different animal. While the F328Be is solid down to 29Hz and can fill a 24'x28' room while barely on - the M105 easily begins to distort with bass under 70Hz. No contest between these two models. Yet, the score can easily be read to show a different story.

Since that experience I place very little weight on the Harmon score when the speaker is not the same size with similar drivers. The composition of the drivers can make a big difference in the sound too. Yet, I don't see any part of the score that considers it. For all practical purposes, I can't rely on the Harmon score when making a purchase. I might look at the data - but I know comparing the scores can be a HUGE mistake even among speakers from the same brand.

I listen to Dr. Sean Olive explanation of how the Harmon score should be used and it didn't bring out all the issues I experienced. Dr. Sean Olive indicates speakers with a difference in score of less than 1 point can be similar. I did not find that to be true. The score is broken for my use when there is no component for displacement, size of the speaker or driver materials. It's way too limited for me to use as a major factor in speaker purchases.

You have to apply the score with a helping of common sense. Of course a 5" bookshelf in a 6500+ cubic foot room is going to sound inferior to a $16,000 tower with triple 8" woofers. The F328's mid-range woofer alone almost definitely has more output than the M105. However if you were to put them both in say a 2000-2500 cubic foot room from a typical 6 - 8 foot listening distance, I would hazard a guess the much more complex sound field of the F328 and SBIR chaos from all the different woofer positions would quite possibly sound worse than the M105 within it's limits (i.e. crossed to multiple subs and up to 90-95dB or so).
 
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kenimaru

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I don't mean to be rude, but how did you place Sierra-LX so high on you list when they are not even shipping? Did you get a demo unit to measure?
 
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sweetchaos

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I don't mean to be rude, but how did you place Sierra-LX so high on you list when they are not even shipping? Did you get a demo unit to measure?
The spin was provided by Ascend Acoustics, since the owner, Dave Fabrikan, bought a Klippel NFS.
Then on Ascend Acoustics forum, Dave Fabrikan posted the official spin.
You'll need to be a member of their forum to see the spin, but luckily a member posted the spin graph on ASR.

index.php

Then, Dave Fabrikan provided the raw spinorama data to Pierre, and Pierre calculated the preference score (6.9) and LFX (36hz).

I'm listing the pre-order price of $1400/pair since it's a promotional period, which means anyone with that budget can purchase it while it lasts.
 

kenimaru

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Thanks. I have some itch to get a new pair, already have the BMR, debating on the BMR tower or something else...
 
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sweetchaos

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kenimaru

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Unfortunately the BMR towers get into the category of too heavy and too expensive to just ship to someone on the Internet...

The only way that I feel comfortable is If someone local can front the cost I am willing to take them at cost after the spin, maybe...
 
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Ciobi69

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The spin was provided by Ascend Acoustics, since the owner, Dave Fabrikan, bought a Klippel NFS.
Then on Ascend Acoustics forum, Dave Fabrikan posted the official spin.
You'll need to be a member of their forum to see the spin, but luckily a member posted the spin graph on ASR.

index.php

Then, Dave Fabrikan provided the raw spinorama data to Pierre, and Pierre calculated the preference score (6.9) and LFX (36hz).

I'm listing the pre-order price of $1400/pair since it's a promotional period, which means anyone with that budget can purchase it while it lasts.
Do you think they are better than the r3? Based on only score they are, and I've read that they can manage a lot of power,but I've seen the directivity are different,the kef are more narrower, i currently have the R3 and reselling them wouldn't be a problem
 
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sweetchaos

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No one has heard them yet, so it’s hard to definitely say.

That said…Their spin looks great, but so does Kef R3.
The advantage of R3 is their better vertical directivity control.
We’ll need to see Ascend speaker tested by Amir or Erin to make a final recommendation.

Right now, Ascend Acoustics Sierra LX looks very promising.
 
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