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Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Salk WoW1 stand-mount/bookshelf speaker. It was custom ordered by a member and drop shipped to me. Standard pricing from the company is US $1,295 for black or white finish and $1395 for veneer (pair). The version I have for testing uses solid figured wood with custom staining so I suspect it cost even more.

The finish is furniture grade and definitely not something you find in mass market speakers:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Audio review.jpg


You can see the figured (maple?) hardwood better on the back:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way back panel custom finish Audio review.jpg


The stain/dye unfortunately makes the prized figure in the wood much more muted. Hopefully this is what the owner intended as otherwise a different finish should have been selected to bring out the beauty of "tiger" figure.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I used over 1000 measurement point which was sufficient to compute the sound field of the speaker. Measurement axis is the tweeter center.

Temperature was 80 degrees. Measurement location is at sea level so you compute the pressure.

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Spinorama CTA-2034 Frequency Response Measurements.png


A lot of disappointing things going on here. For starters we have very low efficiency. I kept increasing the gain to try to get to 86 dB SPL that I do my testing at (I think by accident I actually measured a bit lower although the graph is compensated for that). Then we have that pronounced dip in the 500 to 700 Hz range. The cause of that seems to be the port response dropping (green):

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Driver Frequency Response.png


We also have "directivity error" with the woofer becoming directional but the tweeter not at crossover region which adds to the dip we have in upper bass:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Spinorama CTA-2034 Early Window Frequency Response Measureme...png


Putting the two together doesn't create a good picture:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Spinorama CTA-2034 Predicted In-Room Frequency Response Meas...png


Impedance is higg in low to mid frequency for a bookshelf speaker:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Impedance and phase Measurements.png


Normally this would be a good thing but with the low efficiency and the fact that amps produce much less power at higher impedances, you better have a lots of amplification power on tap to drive this small speaker.

Beamwidth is wider in some frequencies but that is due to lack of uniformity:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Horizontal Beamwidth Measurements.png


Which we also see in our 3-D graph:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Horizontal Directivity Measurements.png


Vertically it is not good but this is typical of 2-way speakers:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Vertical Directivity Measurements.png


And here is our waterfall:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way CSD Waterfall Measurements.png


Distortion Measurements
The above measurements are what we call "small signal" measurements. Frequency response remains so at very low output levels. Speakers though are inherently non-linear devices and this aspect comes out the louder you play them. In that sense, these are "large signal" tests. Thought I introduce this terminology now as we use it more in the future.

Let's start with our usual distortion measurements at 86 dB and 96 dB SPL @ 1 meter using Klippel system:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Relative Distortion and Phase Measurements.png


We are used to distortion in low frequencies. Here they are certainly off the scale at 96 dB and to fair extent at 86 dB. The woofer is small so not much output can be expected from it. The rise in distortion in the tweeter is also there which is unfortunate.

Here is how it looks as actual level:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Distortion and Phase Measurements.png


I could audibly here the large distortion in bass where instead of low frequency tone you hear "Brrrrr." This is common though and is indicated usually by distortion that is actually higher than the signal itself as I have circled. So there is really no fidelity there below 50 Hz.

SPL limiting due to limitation of the woofer is gradual which is good:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Amplitude Linearity Measurements.png


Looking at distortion at different levels vs frequency we see:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way THD vs Frequency Compared to Revel M105.png


And through the levels:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way THD vs Frequency.png


I have been working on intermodulation distortion tests and finally have a good single metric value for any output level:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Dual Tone Intermodulation Distortion Measurements.png


We see a "nice" rise in distortion as levels go up as they should.

Here is our 32-tone intermodulation distortion:
Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way 1Multitone Distortion at two levels Measurements.png


Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Multitone Distortion vs Behringer Measurements.png


And some straight harmonic distortion make up:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way 100 Hz Distortion Measurements.png


Speaker Listening Tests
As luck would have it, I started listening with one of my headphone test tracks which is bass heavy. The response here was the worst I have heard from any speaker. Bass was muted, muffled and overall fidelity just wrong. Fortunately as the playlist progressed and I listened to typical "audiophile" tracks with light string instruments and vocals, the performance was better. But have any bass come into the picture and fidelity sinks and sinks low.

So I attempted some fixes using EQ and landed on these two obvious ones:

Salk WoW1 Bookshelf Speaker 2-way Equalization Roon.png


I had to boost the frequency of my low frequency cut to 40 Hz to a) reduce bass distortion and b) improve the fidelity elsewhere. It may be non-intuitive but this filter actually improves warmth and sensation of bass! How is that? There is such a strong spray of harmonics from bass that the tail end accentuates higher frequencies. Reduce that most extreme cases of that and you get to hear the music rather than distortion changing the spectrum.

The quick fix for the dip in upper bass worked very well. Directivity is good that region so EQ works well.

With both of these fixes in there speaker became rather enjoyable. It demands lots of power though and you have to be mindful of the little woofer getting too upset.

Conclusions
Without corrective EQ, I am sorry to say you are getting a lot more furniture than speaker. Company shows near flat frequency response on its website but as you see, I don't get anything close to that. They say the name "WoW" came about because how great this little speaker sounded. I don't know what their reference is to get such an impression. Without EQ I don't consider this speaker listenable unless you have a narrow taste in music where any amount of bass is excluded.

Yes, I know the woofer is small so put in a high pass filter so it doesn't have to play and distort. And fix the port tuning to not cause the dip in upper bass.

Overall, a very disappointing performance and an unexpected one at that. Needless to say, I can't recommend the Salk WoW1.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Nothing makes me more depressed than a review that shows a device to not perform well. Fortunately, nothing makes me happier than more money in my pocket so please donate as much as you can using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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MZKM

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#3
I'm disappointed by the overstated sensitivity (~5.5dB)

Company shows near flat frequency response on its website but as you see, I don't get anything close to that.
Assuming it's on-axis (and tweeter level), here is a compairson (matched at 2kHz):
Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 5.13.01 PM.png

Blue is Klippel and red is Salk.


________________________________________
@Dennis Murphy or the member who purchased these, can I know the shipping charge? If I'm not mistaken, the listed price doesn't include shipping, so I want to make my spreadsheets accurate.

Also, Dennis, Salk splits their speakers into 4 categories: floorstanding, bookshelf/surround, monitor, center

I see no differentiation for what constitutes being a bookshelf/surround or a monitor. Do you happen to know the reasoning?
 
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#6
How is the sensitivity that low? There must be a lot of components in the xover which also aren't fixing it's problems.
 

Sancus

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#7
This thing is a "mini monitor" but has larger cabinet volume than the 8030C(677 cu in vs 614) , much worse performance particularly in terms of distortion, AND costs roughly the same but without amps.

Guess those furniture-quality veneers don't come cheap.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #8

pjug

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#10
I don't have the invoice info on hand. Maybe Amir can say what shipping cost was, if there was anything included in the shipment? I think a little over $100 to ship MI to WA, for pair of speakers.

The price was the standard veneering price.
 
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KEW

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#13
Thanks Amir, The woofer looks like a SEAS. Do you know if it is?
From the Salk website:
We chose the incomparable 3/4" Hiquphon dome tweeter based on our successful use of it in many other designs. It is hard to beat. And we coupled it with a Seas Excel W12 with a magnesium cone.
Ah, sorry, I see my post was redundant.:facepalm:
 

franspambot

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#14
My condolences to the kind member who sent this in.
Does one have a reasonable argument for making a return if the speakers don't come close to the specs provided? This person should not have to keep these. I feel bad for Salk too. Something went wrong. They are gorgeous, though. That's a beautiful "dark orange." What this site dreams of, lol.

 

pjug

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#15
@Dennis Murphy
Do you see anything here that would indicate that they were made out of accordance with the design? Wondering if these are fixable.
 

kokishin

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#17
@amirm

I'm very surprised and disappointed. I've been following Jim Salk for years. So many of his customers sing such high praise of his speakers as well as Jim's overall demeanor in dealing with his customers. @Dennis Murphy does a lot of crossover work for Jim too.

I'm not making excuses for Jim but is is possible something is broken/defective with the speaker you tested?

I hope Jim reaches out to you to determine why the WoW1 measured so poorly.

Anyway, I'm always glad to get objective measurements from you irrespective of the reputation of the designer or manufacturer.
 

MZKM

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#18
My condolences to the kind member who sent this in.

@MZKM Feelsbadman
Well, that was when I thought their frequency response graph and sensitivity rating were accurate ;)

Since they do this service for other models, making this speaker rear-ported should fix that nasty issue ~600Hz.
 
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MZKM

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#19
How is the sensitivity that low? There must be a lot of components in the xover which also aren't fixing it's problems.
They state 84dB (no parameters given). Here is the manufacture graph for the woofer:
1595371346095.jpeg


We see the dashed line (estimated response for a sealed enclosure?) that at 100Hz it’s ~82dB. Then don’t forget about baffle step compensation in the midrange.

____

As for the port issue, @amirm it is interesting that Salk’s measurement didn’t show this issue. I wonder if at whatever measuring distance they use they don’t have that issue?
That said, you obviously heard it’s not that great of a speaker, especially in the bass department (yet the Innerfidelity review they show for this speaker has the reviewer stating: “That's not to say one would never pair these with a subwoofer, just that they do very well on their own.”) , and for the ~$1500 the member who sent them in paid, it is disappointing.
 
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