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What is Alan Shaw on about? (is "coloration" unmeasurable?)

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ahofer

ahofer

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I've never thought of coloration as one measure that can have a number assigned to it, like distortion or so many dBs variation in frequency response. Rather, it is the result of several issues, that can be quantified individually. When I first learnt about these things, coloration was caused by distortion, frequency response variations, cabinet resonances and energy storage, and the effects of the room. Some are easy to measure, although may be hard to interpret, like a waterfall plot of resonances and energy storage. Room effects of course aren't a property of the loudspeaker, but of its environment, but nevertheless affect coloration as heard in normal use.

Those Harbeth 'speakers I've heard have been 'low coloration', but there's no specification for it and as such I think is unquantifiable as one number.

S
As I suggested, “suite” of measurements, and everything you suggest can indeed be quantified individually.

Honestly, I think Alan wants to have his cake and eat it too-he is a man of measurements and science but his “uncolored” speakers are uncolored in some ineffable, unmeasurable way. I hope I’m wrong.
 

tuga

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To my simple world view the NFS measures all of those, because it measures the speaker at all angles, any resonance will be measured as a contribution to the frequency response. Reading those measurements may take a well trained eye, something I think many of us don't have.

Frequency response alone is insuficient to characterise performance, as has been shown here.
 

thewas

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Frequency response alone is insuficient to characterise performance, as has been shown here.
Just though as if seen as static single tone amplitude response, in the end also the non-linearity (HD/IMD) and directivity measurements are calculated from several frequency responses.
 
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ahofer

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He posted my last, and responded in two posts. I'm considering my response. I think this is evasive on the subject of measurement. He says "not really" which *might* be in response to my question about "are you asserting that coloration is too subtle..." question. He points out that people are sensitive within a certain band, but doesn't allow that we can still measure the 'coloration' within it. He doesn't really answer my questions. Thoughts on polite responses?

I'd like to ask him what is missing from a CEA-2034 and multi-level distortion panel, in terms of catching 'coloration'.

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Waxx

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I also suffer easely from listening fatigue, and did not find yet what cause it. But i'm sure you can measure it, you just need to find what to measure (and i did not find it yet, nor found someone who did). And in my case it's not room depending for me, it's more speaker depending. Older Genelecs were terrible to my ears (altough they measure good), but the new ones do it it better as example. And i'm not the only one who has this kind of issue, not depending on room.

But Allan Shaw, altough he is very capeble speaker designer, is also a salesman that knows his speakers are very easy on the ear, and here he is clearly trying to sell something, cfr one of his speakers. He smells an opportunity and acts towards catching it.
 
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sergeauckland

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It seems to me that AS was saying pretty much what I said above, that coloration doesn't have a single number, and it's the cumulative effect of several things. "The problem is that coloration is a human subjective issue. It has no units of scale. There's no such thing as 38% coloured.'

All a designer/manufacturer of loudspeakers can do is to minimise everything that contributes to coloration (distortion, frequency response errors, cabinet resonances, driver resonances) such that they become inaudible. No loudspeaker yet is totally free of coloration, but Harbeths are as low as any.

Back in the days of 'proper' audio reviewing, loudspeakers were evaluated against the Quad Electrostatic, with such comments as " the cellos sounded that much more tubby compared with the Quad' or 'male voices had a chesty coloration' or 'the brass had a 'cupped hands' coloration'. Totally subjective and comparative, but we all understood the meaning even if there was no "this loudspeaker is 38% coloured".

S.
 

Mart68

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I think he's also saying that some very small variations in FR and very low level resonances can still be audible issues for some people depending on their hearing sensitivity and physiological and psychological condition.
 

tuga

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He posted my last, and responded in two posts. I'm considering my response. I think this is evasive on the subject of measurement. He says "not really" which *might* be in response to my question about "are you asserting that coloration is too subtle..." question. He points out that people are sensitive within a certain band, but doesn't allow that we can still measure the 'coloration' within it. He doesn't really answer my questions. Thoughts on polite responses?

I'd like to ask him what is missing from a CEA-2034 and multi-level distortion panel, in terms of catching 'coloration'.

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I am surprised by the not uncommon comment about noise floor in electronics far surpassing that of speakers; if there was a correlation then we would not be able to indentify differences at the presently accepted thresholds.
 

DWI

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I've never thought of coloration as one measure that can have a number assigned to it, like distortion or so many dBs variation in frequency response. Rather, it is the result of several issues, that can be quantified individually. When I first learnt about these things, coloration was caused by distortion, frequency response variations, cabinet resonances and energy storage, and the effects of the room. Some are easy to measure, although may be hard to interpret, like a waterfall plot of resonances and energy storage. Room effects of course aren't a property of the loudspeaker, but of its environment, but nevertheless affect coloration as heard in normal use.

Those Harbeth 'speakers I've heard have been 'low coloration', but there's no specification for it and as such I think is unquantifiable as one number.

S
I used Harbeth for years and similar type speakers going back to the 1980s. Simple matter is, they are easy to position and not fatiguing. I've put other highly regarded speakers on the same spot and found them quickly fatiguing.

When designing a consumer speaker, you can't assume the customer will have much flexibility of placement or know what DSP is, let alone have equipment to use it. There are probably people here who design DSP, but I would reckon the number of regular audio consumers who use it is incredibly small. I have little idea and usually a good audio dealer will do it for you.

The irony is that Alan Shaw has probably done more measurements personally than just about any speaker manufacturer around. He is well known to have measured and recorded all his design work, on a daily basis for 35 years, in large books running to many thousands of pages. He may design a lot by ear, but he measures and records everything to see what he hears.

Sniping at his qualifications is about as useful as saying J S Bach must have been a dreadful composer because he never had a formal musical education.
 

thewas

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The irony is that Alan Shaw has probably done more measurements personally than just about any speaker manufacturer around.
Just measuring something like on-axis FR and impedance doesn't tell much, there are so many loudspeaker manufacturers and engineers with much deeper understanding and optimisation of loudspeaker design.
 
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Soniclife

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When designing a consumer speaker, you can't assume the customer will have much flexibility of placement or know what DSP is, let alone have equipment to use it. There are probably people here who design DSP, but I would reckon the number of regular audio consumers who use it is incredibly small.
Anyone looking for good sound who isn't using DSP (or extensive room treatment) is wasting there time in my opinion. It's the only really interesting thing to fiddle with other than transducers and turntables, it takes a while to learn what to do, but you really learn about sound, and make real changes. For people who buy a system, have a dealer set it up and then just listen to music it's not appropriate, unless the dealer does it, but for anyone who box swaps, reads forums, moves there speakers around etc it's a much more rewarding.
 

DWI

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Anyone looking for good sound who isn't using DSP (or extensive room treatment) is wasting there time in my opinion. It's the only really interesting thing to fiddle with other than transducers and turntables, it takes a while to learn what to do, but you really learn about sound, and make real changes. For people who buy a system, have a dealer set it up and then just listen to music it's not appropriate, unless the dealer does it, but for anyone who box swaps, reads forums, moves there speakers around etc it's a much more rewarding.
I think you've made my point. The people I know in the music world, if you mentioned DSP to them, they'd have switched off by the time you got to "P". Unless the DSP is automatic, press of a button, I'd be amazed if you got 1% of audio consumers to engage intellectually with DSP. Of course you may find it fascinating, but Harbeth and most other consumer brands design for the 99% who want plug-and-play audio.

I've lived with a technophobe for 30 years, so I'm well qualified to say that you can have as much tech as you like, getting people to use it is a whole different ball game.
Back in the days of 'proper' audio reviewing, loudspeakers were evaluated against the Quad Electrostatic, with such comments as " the cellos sounded that much more tubby compared with the Quad' or 'male voices had a chesty coloration' or 'the brass had a 'cupped hands' coloration'. Totally subjective and comparative, but we all understood the meaning even if there was no "this loudspeaker is 38% coloured".
I sold my pristine Quad ESL to a reviewer. His day job is as a professional violinist. He uses them for reviews, as well as other speakers. His reviews are from the musical perspective that you describe. At the same time, Quad made some of the best measuring amplifiers.
 

Phorize

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He posted my last, and responded in two posts. I'm considering my response. I think this is evasive on the subject of measurement. He says "not really" which *might* be in response to my question about "are you asserting that coloration is too subtle..." question. He points out that people are sensitive within a certain band, but doesn't allow that we can still measure the 'coloration' within it. He doesn't really answer my questions. Thoughts on polite responses?

I'd like to ask him what is missing from a CEA-2034 and multi-level distortion panel, in terms of catching 'coloration'.

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It’s frustrating. There’s nothing inherently unscientific about conjecturing that ‘colouration’ may either relate to something measurable in the speaker, or something in the listener, but once we get into statements that can be falsified, say with controlled blind testing, Alan does tend to shy at the jump. I think he’s may be more keen to discuss these sorts of things in private BTW. There can be no doubt about one thing though, Harbeth is unlikely to invest in r and d to resolve these questions as the average consumer doesn’t care one way or the other.
 
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ahofer

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It’s frustrating. There’s nothing inherently unscientific about conjecturing that ‘colouration’ may either relate to something measurable in the speaker, or something in the listener, but once we get into statements that can be falsified, say with controlled blind testing, Alan does tend to shy at the jump. I think he’s may be more keen to discuss these sorts of things in private BTW. There can be no doubt about one thing though, Harbeth is unlikely to invest in r and d to resolve these questions as the average consumer doesn’t care one way or the other.
I think he can measure them and has a good sense of where the distortion he cares about emerges, but the whole “expert listener tuning to human voice” is a much better sales pitch. And, frankly, it isn’t a bad way to listen to equipment to overcome auditory memory problems, inasmuch as we know what a voice sounds like and it is operating in a critical frequency range.

I’m quite convinced everything he’s talking about can be revealed in a suite of measurements like @hardisj or @amirm . But not just CEA, the distortion at different levels, etc.
 

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Latest post from A.S. about this topic.
The consumer auditioned a Harbeth speaker and bought it.:D
What a beautiful way to end the story, to promote his speakers.
:facepalm:
 

tonycollinet

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If you went to a doctor with non localised pain they would consider all the diseases or conditions that could cause non localised pain, and test for them until they found the one causing the pain. In other words - it's measurable/diagnosable.

You are doing the same. What can cause listening fatigue - well in room response can. Lets measure it.

This is not rocket science. And if it was - that is measurable also. :cool:


What is it with all these people who think that simple audio waveforms carried through the air (that we've understood in some form or other for 1000's of years) are somehow magical. :facepalm:
 

DSJR

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Latest post from A.S. about this topic.
The consumer auditioned a Harbeth speaker and bought it.:D
What a beautiful way to end the story, to promote his speakers.
:facepalm:
Oh for goodness sake!!!!! :(

I used to sell a couple of UK brands which offered active versions of their systems (adding extra expensive boxes in a stack and equally expensive shelving racks to display them in latterly in one of the manufacturer's cases).

The thing is, one of the makers made a HUGE point about getting the tweeter level set 'just right' with the upper end of the bass-mid drivers. I did it myself on one of the systrems where the hf setting was a rotary preset with click-stops. More than one step each way (around a dB I seem to remember), the 'sound' really did go off in a subtle way and getting it 'right,' meant hours of non-fatiguing listening as much as the system itself allowed ;)

Alan has posted (not just in the above quotes) that some new design prototypes they're investigating 'measure' very well indeed, but because of some slight issue at the crossover not seen in a frequency plot, the audible results aren't quite there.. Maybe a Klippel test might, but I'm clutching at straws here (and one European speaker maker with Klippel-level testing available, makes some pretty sh*t sounding speakers - incredibly strident and maybe for mid European tastes? - for tens of thousands of Euros I feel)

Going back to comments made earlier, we should ALL be willing to learn and widen our knowledge as we progress through life. I've known Alan for thirty five years now and I'd definitely say he's learned a heck of a lot and applied it to his work, the current product range sounding far more 'neutral' than the warmer gentler sounding speakers of twenty years back. I'd like to say I have as well and coming here to ASR with its many engineer and industry experts and generally friendly contributors, has also helped consolidate and focus concepts I had floating around my mind - some/many needed 'unlearning' and others more research to more fully understand, but now I'm not 'in it' any more to any great extent and not having finances to indulge as I once did, it's kept the hobby and 'dream' alive for me and shown me more vistas to explore. I hope @ThoFi can grow to appreciate this as it's so easy to sit on one's keyboard and chuck brickbats and so on... The ONE thing Harbeths do so well over the decades, is present as seamless as possible transition from mid to tweeter - it's an art form I feel and one not to be dismissed as 'bland British' as some have.
 

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Having met Alan and spoken to him at length, I sold him a pair of Spendors a couple of years back for his speaker archive, he's anything but the " do you know who I am type".

His online persona, speaker company owner/ designer is merely a snapshot of the man. In truth he's a fine numbers driven engineer, who uses his ears as the final arbiter of what sounds good for his target audience. He's not making studio monitors for mastering suites, he's selling to dyed in the wool home music lovers and designs speakers to please that audience.

He's right, there's no metric for colouration, it's a combination of steady state and transient distortions, power response, polars, timbral inaccuracy and electrical and thermal compressions caused by a raft of interactions in constant flux.

His audience don't care about the science, so "lies to children" oversimplifications are the communicated result.

Entirely understandable.
 
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ahofer

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Gently returning to topic...

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