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Why don't all speaker manufacturers design for flat on-axis and smooth off-axis?

mkawa

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dipole related question:

so, I own dipoles that were measured in the nrc lab as well as in house and the results seem fantastic to me, but that may be because they axiom figured out how to engineer a dipole on the spinoremeter.

can someone who has been through other dipole measurements give me an idea of how dipoles generally measured in toole's experiments?
 

KozmoNaut

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Zu Audio aren't selling high fidelity, they're selling a story. Just read their descriptions about the speakers, how sensitive they are to "room characteristics, tuning, electronics and cable matching" and the emphasis on system matching and how rewarding it will be when you get it right, plus "admitting" that they can also be frustrating.

They're very specifically targeting the tweak-crazy segment, the people who can't stop fiddling with every part of their setup. And because Zu's speakers are so all over the place (and combined with expectation bias), things will probably change when they tweak. Probably not for the better, but something will happen, which is rewarding on a primal level.
 

ernestcarl

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" _____________ Loudspeaker now get 600 hours of factory burn-in, it will sound good right out of the box but will not give you its best for several weeks, depending on how much play it get and what kind of music it sees. If at first you find it restrained and a bit conservative, relax, it will come around."

"Zu _____________ loudspeaker is sensitive to the cold. If you have received, moved or stored it in cold temperatures it will take a week or so to again sound its best."

Goodness! 600 hours? Several weeks!? And here I thought we have pretty much pathetic audio memory as humans. By the time you've played Bad To The Bone for the umpteenth time in your loudspeaker system, you're pretty much guaranteed to have forgotten how the record was even supposed to sound like in the first place.
 

MattHooper

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The ones with single 8 inch woofers that "put speakers with multiple 15 inch woofers to shame"?

Yeah, pull the other one, Audio Note :D
Not only that, as I understand it, they offer many models in accending price which are essentially the same model speaker, but the prices go up to the stratosphere merely by changing the internal wiring. So, yup, they are pulling both legs ;-)

Still, I heard the most impressive vocal track through those speakers I heard at the show (outside of the Harbeths, and in one way bettered the Harbeths) as well as some very impressive sounding drums, sax etc. Curated no doubt to the strengths of the speaker, but then most systems were playing the same kind of stuff too.

I demoed some Audio Note speakers a year or two ago. Thought they sounded nice, but didn't care for the corner-loading approach. (Though this show demo didn't have the speakers right in the corner, like most of their demos).
 

MattHooper

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Zu Audio aren't selling high fidelity, they're selling a story. Just read their descriptions about the speakers, how sensitive they are to "room characteristics, tuning, electronics and cable matching" and the emphasis on system matching and how rewarding it will be when you get it right, plus "admitting" that they can also be frustrating.

They're very specifically targeting the tweak-crazy segment, the people who can't stop fiddling with every part of their setup. And because Zu's speakers are so all over the place (and combined with expectation bias), things will probably change when they tweak. Probably not for the better, but something will happen, which is rewarding on a primal level.
Sure, that makes some sense.

Still, in my case I didn't even know I was listening to Zu, so didn't have any story associated with the speaker, but was drawn in to the room by the sound. And from the sound I heard, I understand why some people like those speakers. Maybe not people chasing high fidelity in measurement terms, but people who are attracted to that sound.
 

ernestcarl

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Sure, that makes some sense.

Still, in my case I didn't even know I was listening to Zu, so didn't have any story associated with the speaker, but was drawn in to the room by the sound. And from the sound I heard, I understand why some people like those speakers. Maybe not people chasing high fidelity in measurement terms, but people who are attracted to that sound.
I haven't heard said speakers in person myself, but noaudiophile's recording of the Zu's running on tube amps sounded quite laid-back and more relaxed to me, though the cymbals is just too emhpasized (listened over relatively neutral neumann monitors) -- details and much of the fidelity was definitely, unfortunately, lost in the mix; yes, but that's beside the point. So yes, I do see how some people could possibly like these boutique Zu speakers -- esp. when paired with their own unique amp(s) of choice -- rotating them, perhaps, depending on the current mood and season.
 
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Juhazi

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Sure, that makes some sense. Still, in my case I didn't even know I was listening to Zu, so didn't have any story associated with the speaker, but was drawn in to the room by the sound. And from the sound I heard, I understand why some people like those speakers. Maybe not people chasing high fidelity in measurement terms, but people who are attracted to that sound.
Never heard Zus, but my guess is that they played high-DR material. Those are so rare to hear nowdays that they draw attention! I used that trick and won "best sound" award at a diy meeting!
 

MattHooper

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Boenicke is another like Zu that seemingly makes no attempt at accuracy. Frequency response like a cross-section of the Alps, yet they have a following.

S.
That's actually another brand I've been wanting to hear. Those weird wooden drivers look intriguing. And I wouldn't doubt they do the spacious "disappearing" act attributed to that brand, based on that design. Looks like a fun listen IMO.
 

Sergei

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Zu Audio aren't selling high fidelity, they're selling a story .... And because Zu's speakers are so all over the place (and combined with expectation bias), things will probably change when they tweak. Probably not for the better, but something will happen, which is rewarding on a primal level.
I guess this contributes to the explanation. Marketing and "tweaketing" can be powerful purchasing motivators indeed.

Yet also, Zu's are based on "almost full-range" transducers, which have smooth phase response over all the frequencies where it matters. Also, the boxes are large, magnets are strong, and materials choices appear to be reasonable - this shall result in relatively low distortions.

I heard similar effect on some primitive and very cheap one-transducer systems: some genres of music - typically involving very limited number of instruments and voices - sounded unreasonably well on them, especially if the sound volume was set low.

On more sophisticated mixes the illusion of high fidelity quickly breaks down though. The breakdown can be delayed with some DSP, yet it doesn't appear Zu is advocating doing that - unless you count the "tweaketing" with tube amps as an analog of it.
 

ernestcarl

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I was watching a recent review of some Zu speakers at Thomas & Stereo, and to my surprise ASR was mentioned -- this is an audiophile YT channel after all. Not only that, a familiar face @confucius_zero came up as well. How about that?

I wonder how many ASR members deliberately buy into such severely non-linear types of drivers to get a particular sound effect they just can't get with most conventional designs of today. I know many still have turntables and tube amps.

 

napilopez

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I was watching a recent review of some Zu speakers at Thomas & Stereo, and to my surprise ASR was mentioned -- this is an audiophile YT channel after all. Not only that, a familiar face @confucius_zero came up as well. How about that?

I wonder how many ASR members deliberately buy into such severely non-linear types of drivers to get a particular sound effect they just can't get with most conventional designs of today. I know many still have turntables and tube amps.

There's a quote from Peter aczel of the audio critic fame that I think really sums up hi-fi speaker design succinctly:

"All, or at least nearly all, of the conflicting claims have some validity. The trouble is that most designers have an obsessive agenda about one particular design requirement, which they then inflate above all others, marginalizing the latter. Very few designers focus on the forest rather than the trees. "

I read that and suddenly all the weird designs out there made sense.
 
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Sergei

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I was watching a recent review of some Zu speakers at Thomas & Stereo, and to my surprise ASR was mentioned -- this is an audiophile YT channel after all. Not only that, a familiar face @confucius_zero came up as well. How about that?

I wonder how many ASR members deliberately buy into such severely non-linear types of drivers to get a particular sound effect they just can't get with most conventional designs of today. I know many still have turntables and tube amps.

Listened to Nelson Pass and Zu's founder Sean Casey at the recent Burning Amp Festival in San Francisco:

IMG_8970.jpg


Both are born marketers and extraordinarily likable individuals. A big part of their charm at the Burning Amp was in their communications appearing to be fully congruent: no noticeable dozes of snake oil. Neither claimed that his designs are superior to all others.

Nelson Pass admitted with a smile that, sure, his amps distort, and some of them distort a lot. However, he considers himself to be in "entertainment business": if his customers are entertained by the distortions, he is happy to provide the most entertaining ones he can come up with.

Sean Casey explained his design process. He has working knowledge of some acoustics. Yet he mostly relies on subjective tuning. According to him, he creates speakers that sound really awesome to him, and then it turns out that there are other people with similar preferences, who are happy to own his creations.

Makes perfect sense to me. The bulk of their audience at the Burning Amp Festival were people who are not content with buying "boring" high-end studio monitors. They either buy or build something really "out there". E.g. the creation below is more to their liking (I dig the "as much wood as technically possible" theme :).

IMG_8978.jpg


IMG_8979.jpg
 

RayDunzl

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I'll bet that has some interesting distortion plots...
 

Purité Audio

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I measured some Zu’s once at a customers request, worst measurements I have ever encountered no bass, rolled off treble , and what was left was extremely coloured , amongst the worst speakers I have heard.
Keith
 

Soniclife

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I measured some Zu’s once at a customers request, worst measurements I have ever encountered no bass, rolled off treble , and what was left was extremely coloured , amongst the worst speakers I have heard.
Keith
Did the customer like them?
 

Purité Audio

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Only because he hadn’t heard anything half decent.
Bought them on the ‘back story’.
Keith
 

MattHooper

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I wonder how many ASR members deliberately buy into such severely non-linear types of drivers to get a particular sound effect they just can't get with most conventional designs of today. I know many still have turntables and tube amps.

I don't know that I'm "deliberately looking for distortion in speakers" as, at least intellectually, I like the idea of competently built/designed, neutral, low distortion speakers. And I have owned, and currently own, speakers I'd fit in to that category.

On the other hand, I can't help noticing that I have also truly enjoyed speakers that have been disparaged as "incompetently designed and colored."
Ultimately for me it's what I enjoy listening to, however things shake out.

I was reminded of this when I was comparing speakers in my listening room last night. I have a very old pair of Thiel 02 speakers, very cheap speakers even in their time, no fancy time/phase coherence stuff, just drivers in a cheap box. I can hear that they are not perfectly neutral, a bit of a emphasis here, slight suck-out there, they can show a bit of roughness in the treble, and the box rings like a bugger with the slightest music signal. But I'll be damned if they have not consistently amazed me year after year, even when compared to much more expensive, more neutral/damped/controlled speakers including ones I currently own and ones I have heard. Sound has a sense of density, punch, palpability and texture that makes the instruments and voices just sound RIGHT THERE happening in the room, to a degree I've rarely experienced elsewhere.
Even enamored as I am with my far more expensive and elaborate Thiels, and my new Joseph Audio speakers, these little old speakers can still shock me when I throw them in to the system. Their presentation seems to "wake up" the musicians and give a "live" sensation that is extremely compelling. ( I have experienced similar things with other speakers desparaged as colored ).
 
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