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Quality speakers for classical music with high output/volume

excelsius

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I am building my first system where I am going to stream music from my computer to a streamer (likely Bluesound Node) and connect it to the speakers both in my office and in another room.

One of my first dilemmas is getting high quality speakers that can reproduce 24/192 sound (or at least 24/96) with high fidelity, mostly classical music, including vocals, but also be capable of high volume output (current room size is 13.5 x 20.5 ft). I have been considering KEF LS50 II, but according to a review linked on this forum, that speaker might not have a high output. Review says it's 90dB max at 13ft (4m).

My question is what speakers can I get that produce both accurate sound and also have high output? I'd prefer active speakers, but can consider passive with an amp (don't have an amp currently). The budget is under $3000, but can go a bit higher if it will make a big difference. Also would prefer bookshelf rather than floor standing speakers.
 

sejarzo

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The sample rate of your source material is utterly immaterial to the speakers you will ultimately use. Take a look at the distortion figures for even the best speakers available and you will see why.

What do you consider high volume? Is that average, or peak?
 

Sancus

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The closest thing that exists to what you want is probably the Neumann KH150, which play very loud indeed for their size. It's a bit over budget, but there's really nothing close to them that's cheaper.

But bookshelves in general aren't going to play that loud. If you're listening at 4m to any bookshelf it may be disappointing without subwoofers unless we're talking about "XL bookshelf" speakers like the Genelec 8361A or Neumann KH420. Depends on what you're used to and what output levels we're talking about, really.
 

LtMandella

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I am building my first system where I am going to stream music from my computer to a streamer (likely Bluesound Node) and connect it to the speakers both in my office and in another room.

One of my first dilemmas is getting high quality speakers that can reproduce 24/192 sound (or at least 24/96) with high fidelity, mostly classical music, including vocals, but also be capable of high volume output (current room size is 13.5 x 20.5 ft). I have been considering KEF LS50 II, but according to a review linked on this forum, that speaker might not have a high output. Review says it's 90dB max at 13ft (4m).

My question is what speakers can I get that produce both accurate sound and also have high output? I'd prefer active speakers, but can consider passive with an amp (don't have an amp currently). The budget is under $3000, but can go a bit higher if it will make a big difference. Also would prefer bookshelf rather than floor standing speakers.
Reference 3A DeCapo I. Well known for sounding wonderful and being very easy to drive speakers.
I listen to a lot of classical, but also many other genres. The DeCapos are the most musical I have heard aside from perhaps the ProAcs I owned. Tthe DeCapos are also fairly sensitive where the ProAcs required 200+ watts.
 
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excelsius

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The sample rate of your source material is utterly immaterial to the speakers you will ultimately use. Take a look at the distortion figures for even the best speakers available and you will see why.

What do you consider high volume? Is that average, or peak?
Can you explain why? I looked at harmonic distortion graphs and they do stop at 10 or 20 kHz. But my understanding was that usually a sampling rate of 96kHz can be detected by human ears (not the frequency itself of course, but based on how the waves are quantized). Are you saying the sampling rate doesn't matter at all or is there a cutoff?

I actually have never measured what I consider high volume. But I just realized that I could measure dB using a simple app on my phone. Maybe I'll do that next time I'm listening to music loud, but I only have small desktop speakers for now (but sitting right on my desk and close to me).
 
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excelsius

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Small speakers and high volume are mutually exclusive. If you want high SPL, you have to choose large speakers. Or you could choose smaller speakers, just sit closer to them. Before we proceed any further, you have to decide whether you want to sit closer to your speakers, or you can have a large speaker.
Maybe can do both: get an idea of the best that one can do with bookshelf, but also sure, let's discuss larger speakers. I'm not sure how large we're talking about and weather a larger speaker within the same budget might necessarily mean a loss in audio quality.
 
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excelsius

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The closest thing that exists to what you want is probably the Neumann KH150, which play very loud indeed for their size. It's a bit over budget, but there's really nothing close to them that's cheaper.

But bookshelves in general aren't going to play that loud. If you're listening at 4m to any bookshelf it may be disappointing without subwoofers unless we're talking about "XL bookshelf" speakers like the Genelec 8361A or Neumann KH420. Depends on what you're used to and what output levels we're talking about, really.
Interesting. Looking online, seems like I could get used or demo version for around $3000, though certainly not cheap. Also wish they had a bit of a better look. They seem rather ugly, but of course, sound is most important.

I'll definitely keep this as a possible speaker to get, depending on what other recommendations I get. In general, what is the best way to asses speaker output from the specs? Is it just max SPL with no regard for wattage?
 
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excelsius

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Reference 3A DeCapo I. Well known for sounding wonderful and being very easy to drive speakers.
I listen to a lot of classical, but also many other genres. The DeCapos are the most musical I have heard aside from perhaps the ProAcs I owned. Tthe DeCapos are also fairly sensitive where the ProAcs required 200+ watts.
Another interesting choice I've never heard about. Do you know if the precision and output of this speaker is similar to the KH-150?
 

Sancus

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In general, what is the best way to asses speaker output from the specs? Is it just max SPL with no regard for wattage?
It's not really possible without measurements. In the case of the KH150, it was measured by Amir and has the lowest distortion at 96dB of any speaker its size that has been measured. For most manufacturers, "max SPL" means a short burst somewhere in the midrange, often 1khz, and ignores the bass capability completely. Neumann gives you much more detailed information.

Without measurements or good specs from one of the (very) few manufacturers that provide them, you can guess by woofer size and that's basically it.
 

Keith_W

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Don't forget that larger speakers occupy the same footprint as bookshelf speakers because you SHOULD put your bookshelf speakers on stands, anyway. Stands raises the speakers to the correct height, gets it away from the wall, and offers you flexibility in where you wish to place them. It is only the visual footprint (and sound footprint) that is bigger. Placing speakers too close to the wall messes up the frequency response, and you lose spatial quality, but it can make them sound louder.

I think I was remiss in my earlier post not to ask if you have other considerations, like where you want to place them, whether they have to be visually unobtrusive, and so on. The tone of your first post made me think that sound quality, $3000 budget, and bookshelf speakers were your main considerations.

As for classical music, I have been listening to it for >30 years on a system I would consider "serious". In general, speakers which are competent for classical are also competent for anything else. It's just that we classical listeners are more attuned to what instruments should sound like because we listen to real instruments recorded in an acoustic space, and not synthesizers with artificial auditory cues to make them sound like they are in a room. The technical requirements of a good speaker are the same no matter what you plan to play on it. Having said that, I do listen to music on whatever system I can get my hands on, even though I know I am not getting the best experience. In fact, I do most of my listening in the car or computer speakers in hotels because I travel so much.
 

ZolaIII

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This may sound strange but here it goes.
I would twist the usual approach and go with strong and very clean amplifier. Some finished and great implementation based on Hypex NCx500 modules with input stage buffers (OP-Amp's).
For example:
As prices vary a lot from 900 to over 2K for such best would be to ask someone who has more experience with them about that including Rick.
Regarding bookshelf speakers. I don't know I guess you will have to ask Amirm what he considers ear bleeding in case of Elac DBR62's which are relatively cheap (about 500$ and you probably can find them cheaper if you give effort in it).
That would leave you enough money to play with like getting 2x 12" reasonably priced sub's (SVS SB 1000 for example), UMIK-1 and MiniDSP Flex if you find reasonably priced amplifier (around 1000$) that is which would be a very nice complete system. And that would play 100 dB program (about 10~12 dB more in bass peaks) quite well (about 96 on far field). Which is let's say night clubs level or very loud live events like rock concert for example mid crowd (not first rows to stage).
I don't know would that be sufficient or pleasing for you.
Just remember 2xW=+3 dB.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for possible hearing loss on such high levels nor longevity of any mentioned equipment.
 
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Ellebob

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Are you willing to use a subwoofer?

Loud and bookshelves whether active or passive don't really go together. A sub can help with that.
Without a sub you need a larger speaker and the question is how large is acceptable?

Most active monitors that are larger are likely over budget, you can look at PA type speakers but probably not as refined as you like. Of course towers are the other option.
 

Galliardist

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Are you looking for a desktop system here (for the office at least)? That came up here once before and in that case the KH-150 is a good bet as recommended.

If it's a more conventional "on stands" system, larger passive bookshelf speakers might suit, and the Wharfedale Linton 85th Anniversary (not the previous heritage model) may suit with the right amp. A sub would still be welcome, but not absolutely necessary to start with.
 

Digby

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I think LS50 is the kind of the opposite of what you want, if you a speaker that can go loud and clean and produce the scale necessary for classical.
 

sejarzo

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Can you explain why? I looked at harmonic distortion graphs and they do stop at 10 or 20 kHz. But my understanding was that usually a sampling rate of 96kHz can be detected by human ears (not the frequency itself of course, but based on how the waves are quantized). Are you saying the sampling rate doesn't matter at all or is there a cutoff?

I actually have never measured what I consider high volume. But I just realized that I could measure dB using a simple app on my phone. Maybe I'll do that next time I'm listening to music loud, but I only have small desktop speakers for now (but sitting right on my desk and close to me).

You have been led astray by claims that have no basis in scientific fact. If you were to read a one or two page summary regarding sampling theory you would realize there's a good reason that CDs sound just fine using a 44.1 kHz sample rate.

Bit depth affects the dynamic range of reproduction. 16 bits provides 96 dB of dynamic range. 24 bits provides 144 dB. Background noise in a typical concert hall is around 30 dB, maybe 25 dB if super quiet, and often is higher. An orchestra may hit a peak of 108 dB, or 78 dB above background noise, which only requires 13 bits to resolve....at peak.

Let's take a look at the distortion graph Amir generated for the KH-150, which has been recommended above, and as noted--is excellent for something that could be called a bookshelf speaker.

1679146968206.png


The average level of 96 dB SPL at 1 meter, measured for one speaker, would increase for two speakers in stereo, but then decrease with distance to the listening position.

In any case, that would be a reasonable approximation for what people consider "loud" at non-peak levels.

This excellent performer is injecting distortion at 40 dB across much of the critical listening range (not even considering the level of distortion below 100 Hz.) That's junk at 56 dB below the level of music, or just 9-10 bits of resolution between real information and gibberish.

The value of using 24 bits in recording is that makes things much easier for a recording engineer to set levels so that a crescendo or an overly ambitious whack from a percussionist does not clip and require the take to be redone.

You also noted you desire "bit-perfect" reproduction. Are you planning on using any form of digital processing to tame any of the several large and unavoidable peaks in bass response that you cannot avoid? There's no way to do that and be "bit-perfect". Read up a bit on "Schroeder frequency" and you will learn that what you hear below 200 Hz or so is largely your room, not your speakers, and there's only so much you can do.

Your reply to the comment that you consider the Reference 3A speaker includes "Do you know if the precision and output of this speaker is similar to the KH-150?"

What do you mean by "precision"? Please keep in mind that you are asking for advice on Audio Science Review.
 
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sejarzo

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I think LS50 is the kind of the opposite of what you want, if you a speaker that can go loud and clean and produce the scale necessary for classical.

Especially at typical listening positions, in as large a room as the OP has, and even then, it won't be anywhere close to reproducing bass properly.
 
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sejarzo

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Another interesting choice I've never heard about. Do you know if the precision and output of this speaker is similar to the KH-150?

Take a look at the frequency response for that speaker and the comments on it from Stereophile in the link below way back in 2003. That is not an accurate speaker by any stretch of the imagination.

1679152121433.png


 

BDWoody

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The budget is under $3000, but can go a bit higher if it will make a big difference. Also would prefer bookshelf rather than floor standing speakers.

If you up your budget a bit, the JBL708P might be an option.

 
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