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Thread: A Tale of Two Speakers

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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    A Tale of Two Speakers

    Remember:

    A dialectic is a dialogue between two parties (who may have conflicting viewpoints) and yet wish to seek the truth of the matter through discussion and refinement of those ideas and view points. It is unlike a debate - in which both sides wish to win the debate either by persuading the other side that they are right, or proving the other side to be wrong. It is also not a rhetoric, which is designed to persuade an audience to side with their viewpoint.

    An important characteristic of a dialectic is the ability to put up with contradictions - that there can be opposite viewpoints which are equally valid - whereas much of Anglo-American intellectual culture trends towards positivism. Hence, it is sometimes referred to as a "Continental" philosophy, but the culture of dialectical thought first flourished during the period of the "Hundred Schools of Thought" in China from 770BC to 220BC (which ended with the burning of books and burying of scholars by the Qin). Let's hope this dialectic does not end that way - but the thoughts and ideas discussed and refined in those days still profoundly influence lifestyles and society up till today.
    John Atkinson posted an interesting article on Stereophile that might have been missed with the excitement over CES:
    http://www.stereophile.com/content/tale-two-speakers

    It opens the Pandora's Box as he states:

    After a quarter century of measuring the performance of audio components for this magazine, I'm not so sure that we have a firm handle on what makes audio products sound different from one another.
    So, does it make sense for Stereophile (or any of us) to still consider electronic measurements as an objective gauge of the quality any hifi component? I've always said that you can tell how lousy a loudspeaker sounds from its measurements, but measurements cannot tell you how good a loudspeaker sounds. We've had any number of objective/subjective food fights, so I am proposing a dialectic:

    Objective Measurements can tell us how bad a hifi component is, but it takes Subjective Judgement to tell us how good it is.
    Discuss.
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    great article, and yes, i did miss that one. Thanks for posting. Particularly interesting coming from someone who has been responsible for a lot of the 'Measurements' sections of many reviews over the years at the magazine.

    The manufacturers i have read about or spoken with or both (Lew Johnson-CJ, Yamada San-Zanden, Flemming Rasmussen-Gryphon, David Wilson-Wilson, Gerard Chretien-Focal, Andy Payor-Rockport, Ken Ishiwata-Marantz) use science and measurements...but also listen to their own equipment as part of their design process. If that is how these major names build and develop their own audio equipment...that tells me quite a lot.

    I think this IS because they feel that the human ear and how it hears music/sound is not entirely understood and certainly not yet 100% encapsulated in any series of measurements...particularly when any one component then has further interactions with the rest of the system and the room.
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    Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] DonH50's Avatar
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    There are far more measurements that can be taken than are placed in the data sheets. Understanding them could resolve this issue. However, now and then one of the biggest issues I see is correlating measurements to what we hear. These days we have to tools to do that IMO but it is an immense amount of work. And probably little incentive since most audiophiles poo-poo measurements anyway, and few technical types have the resources (equipment, time, knowledge) to pursue such research.

    Pretty much agrees with LL21.
    Don Herman
    "After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    I totally agree with Don about correlation and resources. In discussions (not debates) with Sean and J-J in the past. We talked about the difficulties of measuring stereo pairs and why standard measurements of today are of single loudspeakers. Adding just one more speaker adds so many variables that the "suggested" application of results could be simply a crapshoot.

    Take Gary's speakers. Playing just one, if someone walks in front, between you and the speaker, the expected happens. In pairs, that person might as well have been made out of gossamer. There are only handful of speakers manufacturers that manage this feat and they do have measurable things in common (dispersion), a metric you hardly ever see outside of microphones and even there not in stereo pairs. The room then becomes the wild card or in this case the table or coat in the alley on which the dice are used. Many manufacturers don't even consider this an important feat, because wide coverage isn't a performance target at all. They aren't wrong either. In the end what they all have in common is that they want their customers satisfied and as Lloyd already pointed out, everybody has their own unique sets of hot buttons.

    bad is the baseline, good will vary.
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackD201 View Post
    I totally agree with Don about correlation and resources. In discussions (not debates) with Sean and J-J in the past. We talked about the difficulties of measuring stereo pairs and why standard measurements of today are of single loudspeakers. Adding just one more speaker adds so many variables that the "suggested" application of results could be simply a crapshoot.

    Take Gary's speakers. Playing just one, if someone walks in front, between you and the speaker, the expected happens. In pairs, that person might as well have been made out of gossamer. There are only handful of speakers manufacturers that manage this feat and they do have measurable things in common (dispersion), a metric you hardly ever see outside of microphones and even there not in stereo pairs. The room then becomes the wild card or in this case the table or coat in the alley on which the dice are used. Many manufacturers don't even consider this an important feat, because wide coverage isn't a performance target at all. They aren't wrong either. In the end what they all have in common is that they want their customers satisfied and as Lloyd already pointed out, everybody has their own unique sets of hot buttons.

    bad is the baseline, good will vary.
    Oops - sorry, but I totally missed this one.

    If you take the Distal Theory in the Philosophy of Sound, this characteristic of my loudspeaker design can be viewed as a manifestation of this theory. However, it is important not to dismiss the Proximal and Medial theories as the listening environment need to be taken into account too.

    We had a discussion of the various theories of sound some time ago - here's a link to the Distal Theory.
    http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...ll=1#post55324
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    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    Marantz' KI not our Ki Mentions how traditional measurements are static akin to snapshots of a ballerina dancing instead of a film/video. Anybody monitoring output of any selected noise via FFT measurements in realtime will witness serious fluctuations. That is the nature of noise after all, random-ness. Take a shot, define a time window and average it, I don't think the brain works that way. That I think is a reason why correlating what we're seeing on the display (aside from the time lag or perhaps because of it as the measurements are taken and displayed, seen and visually processed by our own brains) is so difficult. When I do sub integration I have a single tom strike on loop and use a Phonic to help me find the FR "curl" or "curls" in the decay. I believe you use a particular piano key if I recall correctly Gary. In this case the measurements are easy to correlate. It is only a single sound event and one that I have listened to more times than I can or care to remember.

    For the rest of the range doing set up by ear then measuring then doing fine set up by ear has always netted me best results. Even after getting things as close to standards like say DIN 4, I've found that I could always make things just a measurably tiny but significantly bit better.
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    WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)/Member Sponsor [Technical Expert] garylkoh's Avatar
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    Yes, that's right. We tend to view a sonic event as a static measurement and yet it is as fluid as a ballerina dancing. How she gets to a position is as important as (if not more important than) the position itself.

    I use the strike of a piano key - and a piano scale. Making tiny changes in phase/speaker positioning is easily heard, but much more difficult to measure. Rough set-up by ear, then measure, and then fine-set up by ear is also my procedure.
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  8. #8
    John may not know but I can assure you that Sidney Corderman of McIntosh did and Peter Thomas of PMC does.
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    I've found this to be an impressive point of contention.

    Our ears deliver terabytes worth of information to our brain a second. How can a 16kb jpeg of a frequency response tell us what our brain is receiving? It can't. It's not that we aren't measuring whatever the information is that could tell us the difference between audio gear, it's that we don't know how to evaluate it.

    It seems you share this point Gary. You know what's more challenging than convincing engineers, and people that think DAC's are all identical because an ABX test says so? Explaining to musicians the quality of their music can improve without changing the specific sounds they've created by better quality power. One's doctor may intervene to hopefully reduce hypertension kidney death...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Folsom View Post
    I've found this to be an impressive point of contention.

    Our ears deliver terabytes worth of information to our brain a second. How can a 16kb jpeg of a frequency response tell us what our brain is receiving? It can't. It's not that we aren't measuring whatever the information is that could tell us the difference between audio gear, it's that we don't know how to evaluate it.

    It seems you share this point Gary. You know what's more challenging than convincing engineers, and people that think DAC's are all identical because an ABX test says so? Explaining to musicians the quality of their music can improve without changing the specific sounds they've created by better quality power. One's doctor may intervene to hopefully reduce hypertension kidney death...
    Excuse my simplistic query..

    When you are listening to the music that was on a mp3 or on a CD where do those "Terabytes of information per second" come from?
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