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So we now have a speaker with >5% distortion which isn't audible subjectively. Is a SINAD of 96dB poor?

Frank Dernie

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#1
What do people think?
My experience tells me the SNR needs to be better than -80dB for it to be inaudible (to me) listening to music and I had accepted the old limit (around for 50 years+) that better than 0.1% distortion (-60dB) was inaudible, which is way worse than easily achieved in electronics these days.
Maybe I am wrong, I knew speakers were the limiting factor in distortion but never thought such a high level would be subjectively inaudible, and it was even in the frequency range where most of the music resides.
I have always been sensitive to colouration in speakers (I like to think :)) but had mainly attributed it to poor cabinet design or drive unit resonance.
This has left me a bit confused, on an objective front.
I had always felt that the performance available from a lot of electronics was way beyond anything needed for SQ - more a measurement of good engineering.
Is there a particular aspect of the distortion of a speaker which may make it inaudible whilst in electronics it would be? If so what?
 

Blumlein 88

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#2
I was taken aback by that as well, and have been pondering what to say or think or question about it.

So a good thread topic.

Most speakers of rather decent quality are 1% or so at higher levels maybe 2% in narrow areas. With music that isn't as audible as you might expect. With at least much music you'll have to hit 3% before it might be readily detected. For one thing with the variable levels you don't have sustained 1% or 2% distortion, but only on peaks which doesn't sound so unnatural. There are some tube gear designers who have the philosophy that a variable distortion which track level fairly well peaking around 3% at max power is actually a good thing. That it adds to the enjoyment of most music vs an accurate reproduction.

So with most good speakers being generally a percent or less it isn't hard for me to believe that distortion isn't really a big determiner of speaker preference. But 4% and 5% at only 90 db and right in the vocal range and above? Maybe this is something never entering into the Harman testing as it didn't generally occur. Maybe this even helps a bit since it is also 2nd and 3rd harmonic mostly?

Now I feel like if you could listen to this speaker and compare it blind to something exactly identical except low distortion you could hear a difference. That doesn't mean with the distortion it doesn't sound better than you might think. And it will not sound like an amp with 5% distortion across the whole band. This is only the lower areas served by the 4 inch mid/woofette.

Maybe we should utilize Pkane's Distort software @pkane to create files that mimic this speaker and compare to the file clean. Maybe a group listen and commentary on something like that.

But yes, hard to take Amir seriously when a DAC or amp only has 90 db SINAD, and he wants to bust balls over it not even reaching 16 bit levels of clarity. At least not after this.
 

Koeitje

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#4
But yes, hard to take Amir seriously when a DAC or amp only has 90 db SINAD, and he wants to bust balls over it not even reaching 16 bit levels of clarity. At least not after this.
It is also about what you can realistically get with proper engineering. It shows how much of a shit the manufacturer gave about getting it right.
 

Soniclife

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#6
I have always been sensitive to colouration in speakers (I like to think :)) but had mainly attributed it to poor cabinet design or drive unit resonance.
I've been playing with DSP recently, I'm coming to the strong conclusion that almost everything I care about in hi-fi is frequency response, a huge list of things I thought mattered really don't.
 

andreasmaaan

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#7
@Frank Dernie I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say 5% is inaudible - could you please send a link?

Is there a particular aspect of the distortion of a speaker which may make it inaudible whilst in electronics it would be? If so what?
I'd suggest there are three main aspects.

Firstly, as noted already, loudspeaker harmonic distortion is typically lower-order, and is therefore better masked by the auditory system (although it's worth noting that this does not necessarily apply to IM distortion).

Secondly, unlike most electronics, loudspeaker distortion is almost always highly level-dependent. When speakers play softly, they produce less distortion, and when they play loudly, they produce more distortion.

Auditory masking becomes more effective as SPL increases. Speakers' distortion performance tends to mirror this masking phenomenon (this is also why low levels of crossover distortion in a poorly designed class AB amp are likely to be more audible than relatively high levels of saturation distortion in e.g. a low-power SET amp).

Finally, speakers tend to distort most in the low bass, where our ears are least sensitive.
 

direstraitsfan98

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#9
But yes, hard to take Amir seriously when a DAC or amp only has 90 db SINAD, and he wants to bust balls over it not even reaching 16 bit levels of clarity. At least not after this.
Ive been complaining about this double standard for a while now. I gave up trying to prove my point because it’s lost in the sea of noise that is constant bashing on poorly measuring dacs.

I find the whole obsession about dacs bizarre...
 

Hiten

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#10
To have low distortion, well measured speaker is ultimate goal but could it be sometimes for casual listening at low volumes and at budget one can accomodate some trade offs ? If we think of it as . . . some expensive speakers have some bad measurements but still sells, so do some very cheap speakers with some drawbacks may have some use. Probably 1) price vs performance 2) where are they used 3) short term use etc. may justify selection.
Regards.
 
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D

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#11
Ive been complaining about this double standard for a while now. I gave up trying to prove my point because it’s lost in the sea of noise that is constant bashing on poorly measuring dacs.

I find the whole obsession about dacs bizarre...
If speakers inherently have a certain level of distortion, surely ensuring whatever reaches them has the lowest possible amount of distortion should be beneficial to the sound that you eventually hear?

I’m not an engineer though so could be completely wrong.

I do also agree with the earlier post regarding high quality engineering. Even if it’s inaudible, it’s interesting to see the art of the possible and I’d much rather give my money to someone who is trying very hard to build an excellent device than someone building just good enough.

When Amir started the forum he wasn’t measuring speakers, so if he had measured lots of DAC/Amps and just said, “they measure like X but doesn’t matter as speakers will hide it” every review, this forum would have been rubbish
:D
 

MZKM

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#12
Frequency matters a lot, that >5% is below 500Hz.


While this is not a peer-reviewed study, this is what Axiom Audio found:



5% (-26dB) becomes inaudible when below ~650Hz. That's just detecting it, so when it becomes subjectively harmful would be even higher.

As for DAC, Amir has shown that you can get super high SINAD for relatively very cheap, so there is no need to buy an expensive DAC with low SINAD, unless for some reason who like the looks or whathaveyou.
 

Thomas savage

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#13
I think we just went with measuring DACs because they were the most practical thing to start with.

It's human nature to start getting a bit ' top trumps ' about the numbers. It's unfortunate to see some get so obsessed with numbers that are clearly in the ' makes no difference ' Purley academic range that they seem to be getting very insecure about their purchases.

It's ironic as that's precisely what this sites help me to move away from , if we need to do more to make sure we don't encourage feelings of buyer remorse then we should at least try.

Ultimately you can't stop people from being human , you can't control how they will utilise the data we provide. We've done a lot more good than harm so I'm inclined not to worry too much.
 

sergeauckland

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#14
Although to be fair, the Fostex 'speaker is just the latest incarnation of their 'singing brick' loudspeakers which were everywhere in studios and radio stations for years. They were never intended as anything other than 'signal present' monitors, not quality monitoring, and anyway, measuring distortion at 90dBSPL on something that small is clearly well beyond its design capabilities.

Proper loudspeakers, i.e. those on which one can judge quality, generally have much lower distortion, comfortably under 1%, and at mid and high frequencies, typically 0.1%, maybe 0.2% at 90dBSPL.

S
 

SIY

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#15
Firstly, as noted already, loudspeaker harmonic distortion is typically lower-order, and is therefore better masked by the auditory system (although it's worth noting that this does not necessarily apply to IM distortion).
Most amps that have significant distortion have 2nd and 3rd predominant.

Secondly, unlike most electronics, loudspeaker distortion is almost always highly level-dependent. When speakers play softly, they produce less distortion, and when they play loudly, they produce more distortion.
Ditto amps. Their distortion is also highly level dependent. The drop in THD+N with level on the plots is noise dominated, then you see the distortion rise with level.

Auditory masking becomes more effective as SPL increases. Speakers' distortion performance tends to mirror this masking phenomenon (this is also why low levels of crossover distortion in a poorly designed class AB amp are likely to be more audible than relatively high levels of saturation distortion in e.g. a low-power SET amp).
More of a worry 40 years ago. I still haven't seen significant crossover distortion in a modern amp- it may be the case with some, but they're rare enough to have never crossed my test bench. And low power SETs have, contrary to legend, copious amounts of higher order distortion.
 

andreasmaaan

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#16
Most amps that have significant distortion have 2nd and 3rd predominant.
Ok. I wasn't suggestion that amps have predominantly copious higher-order harmonic distortion, but some certainly do (read your own final comment in this same post ;))

Ditto amps. Their distortion is also highly level dependent. The drop in THD+N with level on the plots is noise dominated, then you see the distortion rise with level.
I wasn't suggesting amps' THD drops with level, but rather that it is typically not as level-dependent as per speakers. I stand by that.

More of a worry 40 years ago. I still haven't seen significant crossover distortion in a modern amp- it may be the case with some, but they're rare enough to have never crossed my test bench. And low power SETs have, contrary to legend, copious amounts of higher order distortion.
I agree. I did not say, and certainly did not mean to imply, that amps with high levels of crossover distortion are common today, nor that low power SET amps produce only low-order distortion.
 
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briskly

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#17
What do people think?
Pay attention to the various lectures from J.J. and Toole. I hope this helps establish the primacy of linear parameters.

Is there a particular aspect of the distortion of a speaker which may make it inaudible whilst in electronics it would be? If so what?
The lack of "hard clipping" in most speakers is one. Some analogous mechanisms, such as a VC hitting a plate or an electrostatic panel touching the stators are not easily recovered from. These take several dB of limiting to be audible with electronic amplifiers normally, by which point THD and higher harmonic products shoot up.
Much has been said about the audibility of crossover distortion, but as SIY said, it doesn't seem to be a significant issue in modern amplifiers. A speaker analog to this might be rub and buzz, loose materials at sensitive points of the speaker. These are considered loudspeaker defects.

low power SETs have, contrary to legend, copious amounts of higher order distortion.
I don't think this can be overstated.
 
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wwenze

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#18
I feel that DACs above 0.1% start becoming irritating. ("TDA1543" from China). Time for a double blind.

Or we can make it even quicker if somebody knows of some distortion-injecting filter in Audacity, then we can play until it becomes detectable. All while on a speaker with a distortion higher than that.
 

andreasmaaan

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#19
I feel that DACs above 0.1% start becoming irritating. ("TDA1543" from China). Time for a double blind.

Or we can make it even quicker if somebody knows of some distortion-injecting filter in Audacity, then we can play until it becomes detectable. All while on a speaker with a distortion higher than that.
This is not perfect for true controlled ABX testing, but not bad, and very simple and convenient.
 

wwenze

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#20
The lack of "hard clipping" in most speakers is one
A properly set-up electronics should never encounter hard-clipping however. Though I admit it happens a lot. In the music itself. (Sigh)

Maybe this can be a starting point. Let's see how much I have to clip before I start hearing stuff. I know it sounds like static or sand-yness but how much % is that actually.
 
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