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SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker Review

hardisj

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#81
I thought the reason he was becoming disenchanted with the objective process is that the objective process isn't as perfect as he had expected (or possibly had been led to expect). Amir's part in it was only to point out that the objective process isn't perfect. As such you seem to be arguing that when Amir doesn't agree with the score, the score is right and Amir is wrong. Are you certain of this, and if you aren't certain of this (how could you possibly be ...), then what motivated you to spin it the way you did? If you had simply said not to toss out the baby with the water just because the baby isn't perfect (like in the Seinfeld episode ...), you wouldn't have said anything controversial.
I never, not one single time, referenced "the score". Please read my above post.

I didn't even talk about the score until later when I said I don't even look at it because I don't believe a single score should represent performance. A set of data is more important to me than a single value assigned to represent the data. I still don't know what the score for this speaker was. And I don't care enough to find out. ;)


Alright, I think I've explained my original reply enough. Bottom line: if one person doesn't like a speaker but the data suggests it's a well performing speaker, we shouldn't just take the subjective evaluation of "not like" over the data. We need to do more work.
 

richard12511

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#82
Spinorama is still super important and reliable indicator of performance. It is the "Olive Score" that is causing the confusion and what is at odds sometimes with my listening impressions.

We have a single number that takes multiple variables. By definition then you can get the same number with many variations of the underlying parameters. Those speakers can't sound the same.
Don't get me wrong, I agree 100% that it's super important. It's definitely still the most important measurement we have to evaluate speakers. I'm just saying that this site has shown that there's way more to speaker sound than what the spinorama can show, and that's somewhat contrary to what was said by Voeks/Toole/Olive in the "How to choose a loudspeaker. What the science shows" thread on AVS. We've now seen several examples of good spinoramas that sound bad, and several examples of bad spinoramas that sound good. To me, that says that the spinorama is insufficient for characterizing a speaker.

I agree that the Olive Score is by far the weakest aspect of the Toole/Olive science. The outdoor Revel speaker was horrible without EQ(way too bright) but it's excellent directivity made it easy to EQ, but the Olive score doesn't care about that.
 

richard12511

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#83
This is only true if you assume score == spinorama quality. However, reading the actual measurements, this doesn't seem to be true at all. This speaker's directivity is a mess compared to the Revel M55XC.

There seem to be various ways that speakers can end up with a good Olive score despite having poor directivity(E: I think the Harbeth was the first big one), and it's an open question whether these speakers actually sound good or not.

Looking at this speaker's horizontal directivity I certainly wouldn't buy it at $500/channel nor consider it to be a particularly good option.
This is my feeling as well. I think the Olive score is by far the biggest weakness of the Toole/Olive science. I mentioned that in the Revel thread. The Revel actually has excellent directivity, but it's crippled by being horribly bright. The horrible brightness is easily taken care of by EQ, but the Olive score doesn't account for that.
 

hardisj

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#85
Don't get me wrong, I agree 100% that it's super important. It's definitely still the most important measurement we have to evaluate speakers. I'm just saying that this site has shown that there's way more to speaker sound than what the spinorama can show, and that's somewhat contrary to what was said by Voeks/Toole/Olive in the "How to choose a loudspeaker. What the science shows" thread on AVS. We've now seen several examples of good spinoramas that sound bad, and several examples of bad spinoramas that sound good. To me, that says that the spinorama is insufficient for characterizing a speaker.
I don't entirely agree. Like I said earlier, I think there are "edge cases" where there is more to it than a canned set of curves.

But, there are a lot of variables. In the world of data analysis I personally have seen and committed the mistake of dismissing data as "incomplete" or the like only to find out later (with wisdom or a mental break) that I wasn't looking at it correctly.

And aside from that, we still have the human element. You have one guy's opinion on a speaker. You used the Kef as an example. *Reviewer A* didn't much prefer it (I'm using your recollection; my memory suuuuucks). As such, that's a "data point" for you to say that the science doesn't match the truth. However, what happens if one of the people who do like the Kef was the one conducting the review? Well, then that data point "against" the data would be nullified. And we can't guarantee their subjective impression would always be opposite of the person who is providing the reviews. which just happens to be *Reviewer A*. At that point, you'd be taking one reviewer's opinion on the sound over another. So, again, the human element.

I think when you have specific cases of discrepancies it is best to be specific. Call those out. Note those. Let's see if we can determine there is something in the data or if it's likely just an aberration or a preference/reference mismatch. Sometimes I feel like we get pulled in to side arguments and don't discuss the data at hand. I'm guilty of it myself at this very moment.

And to everyone: think about the point I am making. I don't care who the reviewer is. Don't get bogged down in names. :)
 

richard12511

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#86
How do you guys figure? It has a huge midrange dispersion disruption. Just look at the horizontal polars.

IMO, focus on axis response, listening window, and horizontal polars, along with the DI from the Spinorama. PIR is interesting but not very useful.
It's about the overall balance, imo. There are broad dips and peaks, but they are very small, and the speaker is overall very neutral. I don't really look at PIR that much. That's what's interesting, though. I see an excellent spinorama, whereas you see a bad one. Obviously(based on the listening test), you're probably closer to being correct, but the question is why.

BTW, the Olive score agrees with what I see(though I've long since stopped considering it), but I agree that you and Amir are probably right here. The question is why.

I also agree with those pointing to the ringing in the CSD plot, but that's not part of the spinorama, so not relevant.
 

richard12511

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#87
I don't entirely agree. Like I said earlier, I think there are "edge cases" where there is more to it than a canned set of curves.

But, there are a lot of variables. In the world of data analysis I personally have seen and committed the mistake of dismissing data as "incomplete" or the like only to find out later (with wisdom or a mental break) that I wasn't looking at it correctly.

And aside from that, we still have the human element. You have one guy's opinion on a speaker. You used the Kef as an example. *Reviewer A* didn't much prefer it (I'm using your recollection; my memory suuuuucks). As such, that's a "data point" for you to say that the science doesn't match the truth. However, what happens if one of the people who do like the Kef was the one conducting the review? Well, then that data point "against" the data would be nullified. And we can't guarantee their subjective impression would always be opposite of the person who is providing the reviews. which just happens to be *Reviewer A*. At that point, you'd be taking one reviewer's opinion on the sound over another. So, again, the human element.

I think when you have specific cases of discrepancies it is best to be specific. Call those out. Note those. Let's see if we can determine there is something in the data or if it's likely just an aberration or a preference/reference mismatch. Sometimes I feel like we get pulled in to side arguments and don't discuss the data at hand. I'm guilty of it myself at this very moment.

And to everyone: think about the point I am making. I don't care who the reviewer is. Don't get bogged down in names. :)
I agree that perhaps I'm taking too much from 1 individual's opinion. Regardless of how trained he is, he's still only one person.
 

richard12511

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#89


First off, I haven't had the chance to analyze the data but this reply smacked me upside my head.

This, IMHO, is a significant overreaction to one guy's subjective impressions. You're talking about changing your mindset from believing a science that has reliably predicted preference (to more than a flip-of-a-coin degree) to no longer believing it because one person's subjective opinion didn't align a few times? I always listen first, take notes and then look at the data. In nearly every case I have found points in the data that explained why I heard what I heard. And in cases where I haven't I either don't know what to look for or I heard something that wasn't there. I feel strongly about that.

** Flame suit on... ** I hate to be that guy but have you considered that Amir simply isn't the trained listener it's assumed he is? No disrespect, and lord knows I don't need a scolding and paragraphs on Amir's listening sessions with Harman listed as reference, but let's be real here: you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater by taking Amir's personal subjective reaction in a sighted test over some people's near-lifetime of work to quantify preference based on measurements. The only people I would trust explicitly when it comes to subjective feedback are the people who made the music; decided what it was going to sound like going out the door and hopefully had a very neutral set of speakers they mixed them on. I appreciate reading others' takes as more of a recreation but certainly none that I would put significant stock in; especially if they can't help me correlate it to data. **... Flame suit off **

I am not saying it can all be bottled up in to a single set of charts *for every speaker* because there may very well be cases that kind of step outside the norm (the Philharmonic BMR is an example with its wide horizontal dispersion impacting the predicted in-room response). But I just think you're taking a leap that is too far without trying to look in to the reasons. There may be other data points that explain the differences. And maybe this data isn't as good as it may seem at first glance. Or there simply may be the human factor, which no one (myself included) is impervious of.
I'm not throwing out the science completely, I'm just starting to give it less weight in my speaker evaluations. I no longer think that spinorama is sufficient to choose a loudspeaker, but I still think it's a very good start, and easily the most important measurement we have.
 

hardisj

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#90
I'm not throwing out the science completely, I'm just starting to give it less weight in my speaker evaluations. I no longer think that spinorama is sufficient to choose a loudspeaker, but I still think it's a very good start.
I think that's unfortunate. You've cited your reasons for this change of heart as being based on Reviewer A's subjective (lack of) correlation with the data. I feel that's a mistake. But, I can't make you believe the data over someone else's opinion of the sound. I think your above sentence was spot on (about putting too much weight on a single opinion). So, I reckon' I'll leave it at that.
 

richard12511

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#91
Indeed. Here is an example analysis. I went to speaker review index and asked it to show all the speakers with rating of 5.0 to max (6.8). It produced 22 entries (really 23 but one doesn't have a recommendation from me):

View attachment 76237

Out of 22, I have recommended 17 for 77% approval rating! This means if I am wrong and score is perfect, then my failure rate is only 23%.

And we all know that the score can't be perfect. Derate it by 10 to 20% and you almost get to the ratio that I have.
I did this before, and it showed that you've been mostly in line with the Olive score. That said, I'm still trusting the Olive score less and less as time goes on. This review and the Revel outdoor speaker review are perhaps the best two examples to find the flaws in the Olive score.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #92
I think your above sentence was spot on (about putting too much weight on a single opinion).
It is not one opinion. It is an opinion expressed across 77 experiments so far.

And to everyone: think about the point I am making. I don't care who the reviewer is. Don't get bogged down in names. :)
You absolutely should care.

When Sean Olive subjected us to his "how to listen" test blind to see how well we could identify frequency response variations, the audience of high-end dealers went to level 2 or 3. I got up to 5 and 6. But sean sailed past me as if he had zero difficulty. In that sense, his acuity was as good as measurements. To then say that if he says some range of frequencies are accentuated doesn't mean anything, is completely wrong in practice. It assumes the worst case for the entire population and applies to the best case.

To say that the guys in the H column can be just as wrong as the rest of the groups goes directly against the science:



I mean why train the listeners if they are being just like everyone else?

From abstract of that research:
Differences in Performance and Preference of
Trained versus Untrained Listeners in
Loudspeaker Tests: A Case Study

Sean E. Olive, AES Fellow

1596346711334.png


So no, it does matter who the "reviewer" is. Training absolutely matters and that is what I have been doing across nearly 80 speakers in the last 6 months. That is exactly how I trained myself to hear small compression artifacts.

Of course I have explained all of this a hundred times. The reason it is not sinking in is because you have to gain this experience yourself to appreciate it. Absence of that, you have to accept the science and research. You can't continue to use lay assumptions and generalizations that "every reviewer is the same."
 

richard12511

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#93
I think that's unfortunate. You've cited your reasons for this change of heart as being based on Reviewer A's subjective (lack of) correlation with the data. I feel that's a mistake. But, I can't make you believe the data over someone else's opinion of the sound. I think your above sentence was spot on (about putting too much weight on a single opinion). So, I reckon' I'll leave it at that.
Maybe I should mention my specific grievances, rather than just calling it "the science", and saying I trust it less.

The main portion of "the science" I'm starting to doubt is the Olive score. John Schuermann in the "How to choose a loudspeaker. What the science shows" thread on AVS talked about how this score could predict with 86%(and 99% once bass was equalized) accuracy which speaker will be preferred based on spinorama alone.

The only other thing I'm starting to doubt is Toole's claim that the spinorama is fully sufficient to judge a loudspeaker. The biggest error I see here is the fact that it groups both horizontal and vertical dispersion into one directivity index, despite the horizontal being far more important. @napilopez originally brought this to my attention.
 

Dennis Murphy

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#94
I agree that the Olive Score is by far the weakest aspect of the Toole/Olive science. The outdoor Revel speaker was horrible without EQ(way too bright) but it's excellent directivity made it easy to EQ, but the Olive score doesn't care about that.
And I don't think it should care about that. Maybe you're not claiming that it should either, but in any event the point of the research was to explore what factors correlate with listener preferences using speakers as designed, as consumers would. What I think might be a much more important limitation is one you identified--the equal weighting of vertical and horizontal dispersion (at least I think that's a feature of the score). I absolutely agree, based only on my listening and designing experience, that horizontal dispersion characteristics are much more important than vertical. But I'm still not sure why. Do you have any insight on this?
 

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#95
Given speakers are a complex mash up of compromises should we not consider these ' bookshelf' (when obviously small and intended to be used near field) speakers to have been designed with a prejudiced for optimising that listening scenario, potentially at the expense of far field .

Considering this would it not make sense to asses these types in a way that's consistent with their intended use ?

Putting a bookshelf speaker down and sitting 3 meters away , treating it like any other makes little sense to me. Having said that I know many audiophiles buy tiny bookshelf speakers and misuse them in this way but still ...
 
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#96
I am getting a magnepan LRS for review. Will see whether the measurement system can capture their soundfield.

On your general question, they can sound really great on some kinds of music. I just don't care about them sounding that way on everything you listen to. Images are always tall, and sound always diffused. In Harman double blind tests, I voted the Martin Logan down substantially because of the latter.
Intresting. In the same way a truly omnidirectional (MBL let's say) speakers will have great directivity but as you said they can impact everything to sound in a similar way (as the Magnepans). For some kind of jazz, acustic, live or orchestral music is just perfect for my tastes but maybe not so much on other kind of music.
Did you ever got to test omnidirectionals at Harman or they are just to rare of a speaker type to be researched?
 
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ROOSKIE

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#97
I honestly can't fathom why it is a big deal when someone realizes the measurements are not a complete replacement for listening. Why is that?

I don't see where anyone threw the baby out with the bathwater, I only see someone realizing that the data does have limitations. I am not seeing any argument that makes a strong case against that, mearly people trying to draw a line in the sand in different spot. Well don't let that spot confuse you, you draw it where you feel comfortable but it exists, at some point the objective data must transition into the subjective experience. There are zero perfectly accurate to the "source" sound reproducers so we must choose.

I just listened to both the Infinity R162 and ELAC B6.2. They have a similar score and reasonably similar data when averaged out +'s & -'s. Both EQd closely to my house curve. Both sound pretty darn nice for the price and most buyers in the price class would be completely shocked by performance for $ and happy to have either. Done deal.
Yet they do not sound the same. I would much rather have the R162. The only way for me to find this out was to listen in my room, even with all that fun and great data.
Based on the data I predicted a tie, yet I assure you for me it is one over the other. Now additionally my money is on a tie 10-10 if twenty folks take a blind test. I can see how some will prefer the ELAC.
That (hypothetical) tie still changes nothing for me personally because I like the R162 more.
 

EchoChamber

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#98
I lived with a pair of SVS Ultra bookshelfs for a few years... Subjectively, I felt the sonic signature to be on the cold and bright side. I thought it could be some coloration from the metal tweeters.

Things I liked about the Ultras:
  1. Wide soundstage (one of the widest I’ve had)
  2. It would play really loud
  3. Integrated well with the “small” SVS sealed sub I had (SB -1000)
  4. Its cold nature complemented the “warmth” of the Schiit gear I had upstream
  5. Worked well for movies, I think SVS products are better suited for HT purposes
Things I didn’t like:
  1. “Cold”, metallic sonic coloration
  2. Midrange lacked texture
  3. Bright, not neutral
  4. SVS 2.1 system lacked bass detail
I later purchased a pair of S400 and found it to surpass the Ultras in most areas except soundstage and loudness.

Now with the ARA Be’s the SVS Ultras are much further behind. In all fairness, I also upgraded other components in my system with much better SINADs such as the D90 and the Purifi amps. The ARA’s are also able to play louder than the S400 with no obvious distortion, on par with the Ultras.
 
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ROOSKIE

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@amirm if you still have the speaker set up try a low pass around 15-18k (so that range is falling rather than rising)
I've noticed ( and am still exploring this) that, even with little content up here, there is a benefit on some speakers.
It seems to take some unquantifiable edge off or change the "feeling" for the better.
Who knows.
Be interesting to have your take. This is a perfect speaker to try this on.
 
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