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Unfussy setup for deeply imperfect listening space

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psqqa

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Answering your earlier qustions:

The technically correct terms are "direct field" listening vs "reverberant field" listening. There is also a term called "critical distance", which is the distance from the speakers where the contributions to the total sound from the reverberant sound (i.e. those from the room reflections) and the direct sound are the same. Beyond the critical distance, you are in reverberant field listening; within it, you are in direct field listening. The critical distance depends on the room dimensions, its shape, and the amounts of wall and other absorptions.


There are already a lots of threads on this subject (an example is given below).
The short answer is it all depends on the implementation. There are class-D amps that have absolutely state of the art performance. The main advantage of class-d amp (especially when paired with switch mode power supplies) is that they generate little waste heat, and can therefore be much more compact in size. The economy of materials required to build them often leads to significantly lower cost.
You can usually tell an amp is class A or A/B if they have sizable heat sinks to help dissipate the heat from their output transistors.


This also depends on the implementation. It is more difficult to build a two way speaker that have good dispersion characteristics at the cross-over region. Most of the newer JBL Pro speakers are two ways with large waveguides for the tweeters to help blend in with the woofers at cross-over. The top of the line JBL professional monitor, the M2, is large 2 way.


If your music source is digital (anything that came from the internet/computer/smart phone), then you must have a DAC somewhere in the chain. If your speakers (active speakers in this case) accept digital inputs, then they already have DAC's built-in and you don't need a separate one. If not, then you do need one if there isn't already one in your chain.
Audio DAC is a solved problem, so many of the economical ones are just as good sound-wise as the expensive ones. However, it is not a given that someone won't botch up the implementation.
Thank you so much for this!! It's some of the most basic terminology that gives me the biggest headaches. I'm a great researcher, and could easily find basic definitions, but generally they're decoupled from context and relevance, and with the sheer amount of moving parts that I simply do not at even the most basic level understand, it generally just leads to a rabbit-hole of further Googling until I've thoroughly confused myself and zero information has actually stuck.

I've got to run at the moment, but I'll return to address this all in more detail. I really appreciate you taking the time to lay this out for me!
 

kemmler3D

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Thanks so much for this, very helpful, easy to digest overview! I've got to run, but I'll come back to address your points in more detail. Super appreciate it!
Totally!

Also somewhat related, if you want to familiarize yourself with what different frequencies sound like, you can mess around just listening to tones:


This will give you some feeling for what different frequencies in Hz sound like, which can be helpful when evaluating frequency response charts or equalizing / evaluating speakers.
 
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psqqa

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Okay, so, I've gone and done some research, some reading, and even some basic math, and this is where my current thinking is:
  1. Elac DBR-62
  2. Yamaha A-S501
  3. Wiim Pro (or potentially super cheap bluetooth audio receiver while I figure out the streaming part)
I used a basic dB meter on my phone to get a sense of what kind of volume I'm looking for. And I played the opening of Mahler 5 to get a sense of what kind of peaks (and dynamic range) I might be looking at for that. With the volume at slightly louder than I find comfortable for the louder sections, it indicated a maximum of 82 dB-A (the other options on the app were dB-C and db-Z. Not sure if one option is better than the other for this, but dB-A was the default, so I just went with that. Some further checks with songs with less dynamic range indicate I'm generally listening to things in the 60-70 dB range.

From there I used the information from this post and the calculator here to get a sense of what kind of wattage I'm looking for. With the Elac's sensitivity being given as 86 dB, and my main listening position being about 2.5m away, if I'm looking for a peak of, let's say to be safe 85 dB, I'd really only need 2W, it appears.

The Elac's nominal impedance is 6 Ohms and the test measurements on the review here indicate the minimum impedance is 5 Ohms. I tried to figure out how to interpret the circled portion of the bode plot in the Elac review, but every part of it is just so far beyond both my mathematical and physics knowledge that I had to give up (I texted my sister and her combined math/physics/history and philosophy of science degree to ask if she was familiar with Fourier Transform and got back an "Oh man"). It would seem, though, that the A-S501, which is rated 100Wx2 for 6 Ohms, is overkill and I could maybe settle for the A-S301, which is rated 60Wx2 at 8 Ohms and 70W. That would probably give me at maximum volume something in the realm of 100dB, which seems like it would be more than I would ever need (certainly probably more than my neighbours would prefer). That seems pretty tight, though, given that I am sometimes also in the kitchen or cleaning or whatever and I believe running an amplifier at its max power is generally considered ill-advised. I might be way overthinking that, though. I'd already built in some headroom by focusing on the 82W peak, after all, and even 32W would give me around 97 dB where I'm sitting. So calling it "pretty tight" might itself be an exaggeration.

Some of my thinking there is I feel like the A-Sx01 series has the build quality and basic inputs that it would be a really solid base I could keep around even as I upgrade my speakers or expand into further components. But within that I feel like the A-S501 would travel better with me to a larger space and/or larger speakers than the A-S301. I could be wrong, though. It might really just be overkill.

I don't quite yet have a grasp on the range of options, good and bad, around streaming capabilities. The general sense I'm getting is that the Wiim Pro is the best add-on for this at the moment, certainly for balance of cost and quality and range of options. I'm sure streaming is the area where we'll be seeing the most advancements most rapidly in the coming years, so although it wasn't my original plan, keeping it separate from the rest of the system seems like it might actually end up being the best option. That being said, because I'm still figuring the streaming options out, part of me just wants to get basically a dollar store-equivalent bluetooth receiver I can throw onto the amp for now until I figure that out. My research is indicating, though, that those might be genuinely unlistenable and the next step up from there is hitting price points where I may as well just go for the Wiim Pro from the get-go.

@NTK thank you for the list of speakers and your concise list of amp suggestions. That really gave me a shortlist to dig into and compare as I went about figuring out what I actually from this system. And thank you as well for your straightforward knowledge drop to my very basic questions. I cannot overstate how welcome it was to not have to wade through 20 concepts just to get a basic answer for these.

@b7676 thank you similarly for your input on amps and your speaker brand suggestions. There's so many manufacturers out there, having a list to focus on really does help.

@Tom C thank you for your input on spinorama, amps, and EQ, your warm encouragement of my learning journey, the links you provided, and just a sense of where to focus my efforts and attention.

@ahofer thank you so much for your input on dispersion. It really worked for me as a concept to guide some of my reading and learning, and ultimately I have a much better grasp on all this thanks to that. It's also definitely something I'll be looking at more actively in my next speaker upgrade. At the price point I'm looking at, overall basic quality is really what I have to focus on.

@AlfaNovember thank you for your input on the "middle box" as well as the overview of your own system. It gave me many, many options to look into! A ton of headaches too, but ultimately, again, a better understanding where to focus my attentions, as well as everything else. You've also got me looking into NAS possibilities! I'm not sure how I completely missed the existence of these over the years, but somehow I did and they are exactly what I (and my digital hoarding) have been looking for. I definitely see myself building out on what I've listed above in the future as I figure myself out.

@kemmler3D thank your very digestible overview of some of the basics, your input on EQ, and your system suggestions. I did a lot of mixing a matching with all the individual bits and pieces of info from each of the responses, and having the Wiim Pro suggestion really rescued me from the tangle I got myself into re: streaming options.

I really appreciate so much the responses each of you gave me. Even if it didn't make up a huge part of my final decision, all of it was helpful along the way. Even just looking into the concepts and components you all raised helped give me some focus that really started to bring all the disparate terms and measurements and forth together (there are so many of them I was getting lost in it all), and I am on much more solid footing now.

If you see any glaring issues with the system I've decided on, or even just better suggestions, I am happy to listen. It would not surprise me if I had missed some critical piece of information/equipment that should have been taken into consideration.

If you happen to have any recommendations for speaker cables, I wouldn't say no to hearing them either. Spending ridiculous amounts of money on them is my line in the sand, but I'm sure there is still some level of minimum quality required and I'm not quite sure what that would be. I'm looking at this post now and I'll do some more digging around the forums as well, but anything to cut down the time I have to spend making a decision, or even just to give me a sense of what to expect, is always appreciated.

Thank you all, once again, for your help!
 

kemmler3D

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Okay, so, I've gone and done some research, some reading, and even some basic math, and this is where my current thinking is:
  1. Elac DBR-62
  2. Yamaha A-S501
  3. Wiim Pro (or potentially super cheap bluetooth audio receiver while I figure out the streaming part)
I used a basic dB meter on my phone to get a sense of what kind of volume I'm looking for. And I played the opening of Mahler 5 to get a sense of what kind of peaks (and dynamic range) I might be looking at for that. With the volume at slightly louder than I find comfortable for the louder sections, it indicated a maximum of 82 dB-A (the other options on the app were dB-C and db-Z. Not sure if one option is better than the other for this, but dB-A was the default, so I just went with that. Some further checks with songs with less dynamic range indicate I'm generally listening to things in the 60-70 dB range.

From there I used the information from this post and the calculator here to get a sense of what kind of wattage I'm looking for. With the Elac's sensitivity being given as 86 dB, and my main listening position being about 2.5m away, if I'm looking for a peak of, let's say to be safe 85 dB, I'd really only need 2W, it appears.

The Elac's nominal impedance is 6 Ohms and the test measurements on the review here indicate the minimum impedance is 5 Ohms. I tried to figure out how to interpret the circled portion of the bode plot in the Elac review, but every part of it is just so far beyond both my mathematical and physics knowledge that I had to give up (I texted my sister and her combined math/physics/history and philosophy of science degree to ask if she was familiar with Fourier Transform and got back an "Oh man"). It would seem, though, that the A-S501, which is rated 100Wx2 for 6 Ohms, is overkill and I could maybe settle for the A-S301, which is rated 60Wx2 at 8 Ohms and 70W. That would probably give me at maximum volume something in the realm of 100dB, which seems like it would be more than I would ever need (certainly probably more than my neighbours would prefer). That seems pretty tight, though, given that I am sometimes also in the kitchen or cleaning or whatever and I believe running an amplifier at its max power is generally considered ill-advised. I might be way overthinking that, though. I'd already built in some headroom by focusing on the 82W peak, after all, and even 32W would give me around 97 dB where I'm sitting. So calling it "pretty tight" might itself be an exaggeration.

Some of my thinking there is I feel like the A-Sx01 series has the build quality and basic inputs that it would be a really solid base I could keep around even as I upgrade my speakers or expand into further components. But within that I feel like the A-S501 would travel better with me to a larger space and/or larger speakers than the A-S301. I could be wrong, though. It might really just be overkill.

I don't quite yet have a grasp on the range of options, good and bad, around streaming capabilities. The general sense I'm getting is that the Wiim Pro is the best add-on for this at the moment, certainly for balance of cost and quality and range of options. I'm sure streaming is the area where we'll be seeing the most advancements most rapidly in the coming years, so although it wasn't my original plan, keeping it separate from the rest of the system seems like it might actually end up being the best option. That being said, because I'm still figuring the streaming options out, part of me just wants to get basically a dollar store-equivalent bluetooth receiver I can throw onto the amp for now until I figure that out. My research is indicating, though, that those might be genuinely unlistenable and the next step up from there is hitting price points where I may as well just go for the Wiim Pro from the get-go.

@NTK thank you for the list of speakers and your concise list of amp suggestions. That really gave me a shortlist to dig into and compare as I went about figuring out what I actually from this system. And thank you as well for your straightforward knowledge drop to my very basic questions. I cannot overstate how welcome it was to not have to wade through 20 concepts just to get a basic answer for these.

@b7676 thank you similarly for your input on amps and your speaker brand suggestions. There's so many manufacturers out there, having a list to focus on really does help.

@Tom C thank you for your input on spinorama, amps, and EQ, your warm encouragement of my learning journey, the links you provided, and just a sense of where to focus my efforts and attention.

@ahofer thank you so much for your input on dispersion. It really worked for me as a concept to guide some of my reading and learning, and ultimately I have a much better grasp on all this thanks to that. It's also definitely something I'll be looking at more actively in my next speaker upgrade. At the price point I'm looking at, overall basic quality is really what I have to focus on.

@AlfaNovember thank you for your input on the "middle box" as well as the overview of your own system. It gave me many, many options to look into! A ton of headaches too, but ultimately, again, a better understanding where to focus my attentions, as well as everything else. You've also got me looking into NAS possibilities! I'm not sure how I completely missed the existence of these over the years, but somehow I did and they are exactly what I (and my digital hoarding) have been looking for. I definitely see myself building out on what I've listed above in the future as I figure myself out.

@kemmler3D thank your very digestible overview of some of the basics, your input on EQ, and your system suggestions. I did a lot of mixing a matching with all the individual bits and pieces of info from each of the responses, and having the Wiim Pro suggestion really rescued me from the tangle I got myself into re: streaming options.

I really appreciate so much the responses each of you gave me. Even if it didn't make up a huge part of my final decision, all of it was helpful along the way. Even just looking into the concepts and components you all raised helped give me some focus that really started to bring all the disparate terms and measurements and forth together (there are so many of them I was getting lost in it all), and I am on much more solid footing now.

If you see any glaring issues with the system I've decided on, or even just better suggestions, I am happy to listen. It would not surprise me if I had missed some critical piece of information/equipment that should have been taken into consideration.

If you happen to have any recommendations for speaker cables, I wouldn't say no to hearing them either. Spending ridiculous amounts of money on them is my line in the sand, but I'm sure there is still some level of minimum quality required and I'm not quite sure what that would be. I'm looking at this post now and I'll do some more digging around the forums as well, but anything to cut down the time I have to spend making a decision, or even just to give me a sense of what to expect, is always appreciated.

Thank you all, once again, for your help!
Solid choices all around. I would stick with the WiiM streamer because it's compatible with a lot of streaming apps, and if you want more speakers in the future, you can add more of the WiiM units to do a SONOS-like multi-room thing.

I am not sure if the Yamaha is the absolute optimal choice. It's a good one, but the specs can be beaten by somewhat cheaper gear here and there. As you note, you don't need a lot of power, so some of the cheaper amps from Aiyima or even Fosi could deliver similar performance for less money. But the Yamaha is probably going to last longer and it's more flexible... not a bad choice but maybe a little fluff there.

One thing to keep in mind about SPL vs. Amp power: Peaks vs. continuous sound. When you measure the sound with an SPL meter app, you're basically measuring the average. In music sometimes you have stuff that goes way above the average (hard drums or fortissimo moments, you get the idea), these are referred to as peaks.

To get the full peak, you may need to go up 15-20dB or so from your average volume. This requires a SURPRISING amount of power above the average, because each 3dB of SPL requires DOUBLE the amp power. (this is the worst news you're going to get about home audio, probably.)

So if you're listening around 1-2W normally, you may need 100-200 watts per channel to get the full peaks out of very dynamic (read: big difference between the highest and lowest volumes) music.

You are more than welcome to not care too much about this, it's more of a technical point than anything, but it's really the main thing to consider when amp shopping. Most amps and speakers can deliver reasonably loud sound on average... peaks are really where the extra juice comes into play. I would say that "delivering unclipped peaks" is something you'd care about for a fussy setup so maybe just file this away for future consideration. 85W is more than enough for day-to-day casual listening (I'm listening to an 85W integrated amp as I write this.)

As for cables... unless you are running them >50 feet you really don't need to worry about it. Very little can go wrong with cables that aren't absolute garbage.

Pick some that have the right type of connectors on the ends, that are the right length, and that look decent to you, and ideally feel nice in the hand and flex well, but by no means should you ever spend more than a few bucks a foot.

I personally like to get the shortest cables I can, to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Worlds' Best Cables sells some reasonably priced, high quality cables on Amazon in many lengths. Monoprice is also pretty decent for slightly less money.

As for USB and ethernet cables - there is NO AUDIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM AND THERE NEVER WILL BE. Anyone trying to sell "audiophile" digital cables is a lying liar or doesn't know what packets are. Either way - as long as they work, they work.
 
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psqqa

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I am not sure if the Yamaha is the absolute optimal choice. It's a good one, but the specs can be beaten by somewhat cheaper gear here and there. As you note, you don't need a lot of power, so some of the cheaper amps from Aiyima or even Fosi could deliver similar performance for less money. But the Yamaha is probably going to last longer and it's more flexible... not a bad choice but maybe a little fluff there.

I'm working under the assumption it's not the absolute optimal choice either, but I find that in any consumer purchase journey, after a certain point the balance of "optimal choice" and "convenience" starts tipping towards the latter. Where "convenience" includes things like "total time spent", "number of headaches", and "number of open tabs". "A little fluff" falls firmly under "good enough" in the current balance, a solid midpoint between "just about enough" and "complete overkill". Thank you for your evaluation there! That's basically exactly what I was trying to confirm.

One thing to keep in mind about SPL vs. Amp power: Peaks vs. continuous sound. When you measure the sound with an SPL meter app, you're basically measuring the average. In music sometimes you have stuff that goes way above the average (hard drums or fortissimo moments, you get the idea), these are referred to as peaks.

Thank you as well for your input on this! That's where a lot of my going back and forth was coming from. It's also why I picked Mahler 5 for my test piece. He's got probably one of the wider dynamic ranges in classical music and they're on full display in the opening few minute of that symphony. The app I used actually very helpfully gave me an average (well, that's how I interpreted "equivalent sound level (LAeq)" at any rate) as well as the peak! The LAeq for the Mahler 5 opening was 54 dB and 82 dB was the peak. But I am taking those figures as broad indicators rather than anything exact, which is why I was reasoning in terms of what I guess we could call headroom for the headroom :)

As for cables... unless you are running them >50 feet you really don't need to worry about it. Very little can go wrong with cables that aren't absolute garbage.

Pick some that have the right type of connectors on the ends, that are the right length, and that look decent to you, and ideally feel nice in the hand and flex well, but by no means should you ever spend more than a few bucks a foot.

I personally like to get the shortest cables I can, to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Worlds' Best Cables sells some reasonably priced, high quality cables on Amazon in many lengths. Monoprice is also pretty decent for slightly less money.

As for USB and ethernet cables - there is NO AUDIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM AND THERE NEVER WILL BE. Anyone trying to sell "audiophile" digital cables is a lying liar or doesn't know what packets are. Either way - as long as they work, they work.

REALLY appreciate your input here. I hadn't realized before switching to look at passives that speakers even had their own particular type of cable with their own particular type of connector. It really caught me off guard, and then when I saw that the common audio cable brands seemed to priced starting around $100 and going into the thousands my internal gauge got entirely thrown off. Even if I refused to go into four figures for a cable, and even with my engineer uncle telling me that cable width is really mostly the important part, that still left a pretty huge range with no real sense of where "actually bad" becomes "good enough" becomes "only if you can afford it/are an actual professional", so I'm very grateful for the very straightforward advice here.

Crutchfield sells some self-branded cables here in Canada for what I consider a very reasonable price, and they've been around long enough I figure they wouldn't put their name on actual garbage. I'll likely be buying the speakers and amp from them as well, so that keeps things easy.

I had not yet put any consideration into ethernet cables, but thanks for the heads up on that! I wasn't convinced thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars would make a real difference to speaker cables, but was out of my depth enough to be willing to consider I might be wrong. Ethernet cables would have been an even harder sell given that, unlike audio cables, ethernet cables have been a part of my life for many years, and nobody around me has ever seemed to spend any time considering anything about them other than whether they have one and it's long enough. It's comforting to know that although I do not have anywhere close to the scientific knowledge required to grasp most of what is being discussed on this website, I at least have enough that my intuition is some small measure of safeguard.

Thanks again for the feedback and advice!
 

kemmler3D

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that still left a pretty huge range with no real sense of where "actually bad" becomes "good enough" becomes "only if you can afford it/are an actual professional",
Any reasonably thick (and I mean not obviously thin) wire made of copper is going to do fine until you're talking about 100+ feet.

Low-level signals (mics in particular) need XLR / shielded cable for long runs because interference really can be a problem. So that's more of a "actual professional" thing, but even then you don't need to spend major bucks to get a decent one... mainly you just need to steer clear of the knock-offs and bargain bin.

For 10" between your amp and DAC, or 6 feet between your amp and speakers, there isn't really much that a cable can help you with. The one thing that can and does go wrong is loosening or corrosion at the point of contact.

If you ask people around here, they don't have much to say about the wire itself, but there are strong opinions about the connectors. The wise old folks tend to favor spade connectors and screw-down binding posts, but banana plugs are also popular. Some go with bare wire. It all works as long as you have a good electrical connection. Mostly just make sure the plugs are all well-situated to avoid trouble.

The expensive cables are out there because intuitively, they seem like they should do something good for the sound. In reality, the ceiling for cable performance is (in dollar terms) very close to the floor... but this doesn't stop people from coming up with wacky reasons to charge 10 or 100x what a cable needs to cost.

Anyway, sounds like you're on the right path here - will be interested in your impressions of the new system once it's set up! :)
 
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If you ask people around here, they don't have much to say about the wire itself, but there are strong opinions about the connectors. The wise old folks tend to favor spade connectors and screw-down binding posts, but banana plugs are also popular. Some go with bare wire. It all works as long as you have a good electrical connection. Mostly just make sure the plugs are all well-situated to avoid trouble.

Somehow that doesn't at all surprise me. At my current level of knowledge the main scales by which I'm deciding on connectors are safety in terms of accidentally electrocuting myself and safety in terms of messing up and breaking/short circuiting something, and I do believe banana plugs win out on both those fronts. I do see the appeal of spade connectors, though, and they would be my second choice. Anything over bare wire, which sounds like a disaster in the making.
The expensive cables are out there because intuitively, they seem like they should do something good for the sound.

See, from my perspective, intuitively, the idea that anything could be done to a bunch of copper strands that could possibly warrant an $18,000 (or whatever other insane figure) price tag, was entirely ludicrous and highly suspect. If they'd gone with like $150 as the Fancy Cable Cost, they could maybe have sold me on this notion and my own lack of understanding, but it's a bunch of copper strands twisted together with a jacket to make sure we don't electrocute ourselves, surely we're into diminishing returns territory for anything over that price point. It's this issue that led me to ASR, though, so I suppose I can't be too outraged about it.

Very interesting points on the 100+ feet and the low-level signals. Useful to know for now, but also something I'm hoping to understand better as I learn more about all this, so thanks for throwing it in!

Anyway, sounds like you're on the right path here - will be interested in your impressions of the new system once it's set up! :)

I just placed the orders! I'm very excited to see (hear) how it turns out, and I'll be sure to check in with you guys to let you know! In the meantime, I'll start digging into the EQ stuff. The road goes ever on and on, etc.
 

kemmler3D

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intuitively, the idea that anything could be done to a bunch of copper strands that could possibly warrant an $18,000 (or whatever other insane figure) price tag, was entirely ludicrous and highly suspect.
Yes, you seem to have good intuition. :)
but it's a bunch of copper strands twisted together with a jacket to make sure we don't electrocute ourselves,
They make a lot of claims about different frequencies travelling in different ways, noise, interference, and distortion - some of which are complete fantasy, some are just wild exaggerations of extremely minute effects that have no relevance below the Mhz or Ghz range. None of these supposed benefits of fancy cables are measurable or audible beyond placebo effect.
 

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Hello all,

I'm looking to move from my ancient little Bose Colour bluetooth speaker to something that gives me a listening experience comparable in enjoyment to what I get from my really not very sophisticated headphones (i.e. I don't have well-trained ears that need optimal sound as my cheap headphones have been good enough for me, but my speakers no longer are).

I am prone to both research and decision paralysis, on top of last having taken physics over 15 years ago and not having been very good at it. I am thoroughly overwhelmed by all the technical elements, and even more deeply bamboozled by all the non-tech lingo, which does not lend itself to intuitive interpretation, and which I struggle to differentiate in terms of "actually meaningful" vs "snake oil". Essentially, please treat me like a five-year-old who barely understands that lightning is the same thing that comes out of an electrical socket.

I asked the very kind and helpful people in the r/StereoAdvice subreddit for input on this as well (see that thread here), but I like to get multiple opinions, and although I suspect some members of that subreddit are also members of this forum, this forum has an explicitly different approach to most of what I've seen out there, so I would like to see what you all have to say as well. (If anyone who saw that thread is seeing this one, please do not think I am not grateful for your input there or don't trust you, I really do just want as many opinions as possible to help offset my complete lack of understanding around this whole topic.)

Based on the responses there, I'm reframing my question somewhat to emphasize the fact that my listening space is not at all ideal, and although there are probably things I can do to make it better, I really do need speakers that will at the very least sound listenable as is within that space (and any future space I may find myself in), with any optimizations on my part only working to make them sound better, rather than baseline functional.

The main issues appear to be
1. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment so my living room and kitchen are in the same room, making for an unbalanced space
2. I require lots of natural light for my sanity, so one of my walls is entirely glass and any place I move to in the future will have similar levels of glass for similar levels of light. Yes, I could have curtains there, but I am not going to close my curtains every time I listen to music.
(3. The wall behind my couch has a bunch of framed prints on it that also have glass on them. They will not be moved.)

My couch is about 2.5/3m from where my speakers would be. The speakers will sit on my wooden credenza on each side of my TV (so about 1m apart?), which will put them about 10-20cm from an internal wall (depending on how large they are, I guess). The space does not allow for separate stands. Inevitably, the right speaker will be functionally in a corner made of the inner wall and the HVAC tube thing that runs through my unit (painted to look like a wall, and probably covered in some kind of plaster, but I'm sure that underneath it's metal (mostly really highlighting the fact that optimizing speaker placement and the space itself is just not much of an option). The overall dimensions of the room are about 3x9m, I would guess?

What I ended up with on my first go-around by going to an audio store was Klipsch The Fives, which I liked in store, but actively hurt my ears when I put them in my space. The frequency response graphs appear to indicate they are somewhat bright speakers (I cannot make heads nor tails of these graphs myself, so I'm taking people's words on it here), but the fact they were so bright as to hurt my ears suggests that I am both somewhat sensitive to brightness (which would make sense, given what I know of myself) and that my space is inevitably going to brighten any system. It also means I'm somewhat less inclined to trust my own ears in any space but my own, and also now wary of trusting salespeople to be able to advise (and at the same time, given the information overload, really needing someone to advise).

Beyond that issue, the original list of "wants" I had decided on when I set out on this journey were as follows:
  1. Not too bright (the irony)
  2. Detailed. The main one for me where I can tell this difference is Joanna Newsom, who I listen to pretty much only through headphones because my speakers push her voice to the foreground, and then shove the harp and all other instrumentation into one mass in the barely audible background and it drives me insane. I also really want to be able to hear detail at relatively quiet volumes because I'm somewhat paranoid about bothering my neighbours. (That being said, during daylight hours, I would also like to listen quite loudly, although I could not tell you objectively how loud that would be.)
  3. A sense of closeness? Intimacy? This is one that I love through headphones but am unsure whether that is a function of having the sound essentially right against eardrums or whether it can in fact be achieved with speakers. I find a lot of music just loses a lot of its impact through my speakers because it just sounds more distant. I think if I could replicate that without having to go super loud that would also affect how loud I'd be looking to play music at.
The other relevant elements:
  1. I would like one system for everything, so it needs to be able to hook up to my TV as well. Music, however, is the only one where the sound really matters to me. TV etc. will all be sufficient so long as they don't sound tinny. I'm really not that fussy about that. I'd like to have the input flexibility to add a CD player or phonograph or subwoofer, etc. in future if I so desire.
  2. Mostly I am listening to music from my computer either via Spotify or my iTunes library of downloads and CD rips. I tend to connect via Bluetooth because I'm lazy, but I'll use my aux cable as well. My genres are all over the place, as are the sophistication of the original recordings (e.g. beautifully recorded classical music vs 90s lofi vs a microphone held up to an elder in North Dakota in 1952, etc.), and, as indicated, the actual quality of the source files. It may well be that because of this, there is no point in getting particularly expensive speakers as they will just catch all the weaknesses of the source file and thus actually sound worse. Please do tell me if that is the case and what level of speaker you would recommend at that point.
  3. Active or passive speakers are fine, it's just that if you're recommending passive speakers to me you would also need to recommend matching amps and such, because I would be back at square one trying to figure out how to match those.
  4. My budget is CAD $1500. (Originally, I said CAD $1000 but willing to go up to $1500 if I could hear a clear difference, but the sense I'm getting is 1. yes, I would hear a solid difference, and 2. $1000 really isn't very high for stereo systems anyway.)
Now, the kind reddit folks mostly suggested powered speakers (as well as helpfully pointed me to the existence of things like Dirac, which I was completely unaware was a thing) but one person suggested going passive with an integrated amp to allow the amp mellow out any brightness from the speakers and my space in general. I would be curious to hear where you guys fall on this.

I've been looking at the reviews and recommended speakers and components this forum has, but I'm not sure how to interpret the results and such in the context of my space or in matching them to each other. Again, just extremely overwhelmed by huge amounts of technical lingo tied to scientific concepts I barely remember and the difficulty of differentiating between which buzzwords are actually important vs which ones are fully meaningless. I am comforted by the fact this forum does not seem to think I need to spend $6000 on a speaker cable (which I had not been planning on ever doing anyway), but it did start calling into question the validity of many of the other opinions I had come across and some of what had appeared to be consensus), so truly, any suggestions, advice, and input would be greatly appreciated.

Many, many thanks in advance!
My experience has me leaning towards SMSL amplifiers. I've had great luck with them over the years. I have had the sa100 and sa-300 SMSL amplifiers. Sa-50as well.
 

Kjasonl

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Somehow that doesn't at all surprise me. At my current level of knowledge the main scales by which I'm deciding on connectors are safety in terms of accidentally electrocuting myself and safety in terms of messing up and breaking/short circuiting something, and I do believe banana plugs win out on both those fronts. I do see the appeal of spade connectors, though, and they would be my second choice. Anything over bare wire, which sounds like a disaster in the making.


See, from my perspective, intuitively, the idea that anything could be done to a bunch of copper strands that could possibly warrant an $18,000 (or whatever other insane figure) price tag, was entirely ludicrous and highly suspect. If they'd gone with like $150 as the Fancy Cable Cost, they could maybe have sold me on this notion and my own lack of understanding, but it's a bunch of copper strands twisted together with a jacket to make sure we don't electrocute ourselves, surely we're into diminishing returns territory for anything over that price point. It's this issue that led me to ASR, though, so I suppose I can't be too outraged about it.

Very interesting points on the 100+ feet and the low-level signals. Useful to know for now, but also something I'm hoping to understand better as I learn more about all this, so thanks for throwing it in!



I just placed the orders! I'm very excited to see (hear) how it turns out, and I'll be sure to check in with you guys to let you know! In the meantime, I'll start digging into the EQ stuff. The road goes ever on and on, etc.
This may bring some laughs. I used a Blaupunkt cepb-870 I think was the model number. A car equalizer with a sub output run off a 12v 5a. wall wart. Worked very well.
 
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