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The most important link in sound reproduction

Loudspeakers are the most important link in the sound reproduction chain. Mainly because, they have the highest frequency response variations, highest Harmonic, distortion, highest intermodulation distrotion, highest spurious responses like chuffing, resonances etc, highest negative effect on other components acting as nonlinear loads. Only badly designed, over driven single ended tubea amps and listenning room effect can come close! kaanseler@gmail.com

Buddha
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

Hi,

I'm prone to agree with you about the impact of the room and the speakers as being the 600 pound gorillas of hi fi.

But then, once I've made my declaration, I ponder how that crude dynamic noise making device can end up being so refined that I can hear the differences between phono cartridges or other devices that "shouldn't" have the degree of subjective impact that they do.

I guess the speaker and room can also greatly "amplify" the smaller differences that exist between other types of gear. Which I find utterly mind boggling.

I'm constantly amazed that something as grossly "distorted" as my speakers can still convey and make plain such small incremental differences that happen further up the reproductive chain.

I'm also evolving my opinions a little. I think the device that makes the greatest impact on the sound of someone's system is the one that has most recently been changed.

As creatures of habit, we get accustomed to the sound of our system (I'd call it "system accomodation" for Kal Rubinson) and when we make even a relatively small change, it's apparent impact can be greatly amplified or exagerrated for someone who's grown used to the previous sound.

Which, of course, makes me wonder, how does this affect our hobby and what we hear when we do something to our systems? If I've gone 5 years without a change, would I be more likely to notice a difference in cable than someone who changes cable every month?
Is there a "refractory period" for re-setting our ears, especially for listening from one change to another? If so, what amount of time should we spend between changes to recalibrate our ears.

This notion of sonic turnaround time seems like it could have a bigger impact than we think.

Monty
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

You can certainly get a lot of different flavors with speakers, that's for sure. I'm also sure that 90% of the audio nuts would agree with you in that they are the most critical element of good sound. In fact, speakers always get the most attention in reviews and everybody loves reading about the latest in speaker design and sound.

I'm a lot more critical of source components than I am of any other, though I am nutty about all of it.

dcrowe
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction


Quote:

I ponder how that crude dynamic noise making device can end up being so refined that I can hear the differences between phono cartridges or other devices that "shouldn't" have the degree of subjective impact that they do.

I guess the speaker and room can also greatly "amplify" the smaller differences that exist between other types of gear. Which I find utterly mind boggling.

I'm constantly amazed that something as grossly "distorted" as my speakers can still convey and make plain such small incremental differences that happen further up the reproductive chain.

Hi, Buddha!

Just because a speaker is distorted in a number of ways does not mean we can't hear differences in the rest of the system when played through those speakers. The speaker limitations restrict the fidelity of the final sound, but do not necessarily limit resolution (the ability to distinguish differences between components that are changed). So, while a speaker may not give an "absolute sound", it may still give a "different sound" when fed with different source components or amplifiers, etc.

In other words, resolution and distortion are different things.

Cheers,
Devon

Buddha
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

Right you are. The old "accuracy" vs. "precision" thing.

They sure can be precise enough to yield alot of great info.

___________________

I tend toward pack rat-ism, and speakers are definitley the things I've accumulated the most of in my equipmenet graveyar...er...suspended animation tank.

Interestingly (well, to me, maybe,) my second highest volume of mothballed equipment is preamps.

I wonder if that is telling me something that my brain hadn't let me in on before with regard to which components I consider to be most important!

Good to see ya, Devon!

Buddha
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

Check that, old turntables may be more prevalent than old preamps.

I need to check my archives (storage) to determine this more accurately...

dcrowe
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction


Quote:

I tend toward pack rat-ism, and speakers are definitley the things I've accumulated the most of in my equipmenet graveyar...er...suspended animation tank.

Buddha, your liquid nitrogen bill must be huge. I would llike to see your equipment museum some day!

Devon

Buddha
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

No flames from me.

You are right for you.

Along your line of thinking, I have heard demos of high end electronic gear that made mid-fi speakers sound much much better than they had any right to, so your observation is apt!

Hi fi is interesting. I've seen terrible fights and flame wars over the difference between two cables or the degree of audibility of a certain component's contribution to the sound chain - minor stuff in the larger sea of being audiophiles.

We're all enthusiasts in the same hobby, that's good enough for me!

Besides, if we all agreed on everything, we wouldn't need forums to compare thoughts. That would be pretty dull:

Member One: I think "this" is true.

Member two: I agree.

Member Three: Yes.

Member Four: IBID.

Member Five: It is self evident and universally true.

Member Six: Ditto.

That would be Hell. Cliff, rave on! Vive le diffrence!

Jim Tavegia
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

I would much rather listen to a Hafler amp on a pair of Dynaudio or Wilson (anythings) than any Mark Levinson system on a pair of Best Buy bought Klipsch speakers. This would be like drinking some fine wine out of an old Nike.

RGibran
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

I suspect this is why Robert Reina has favorably reviewed so many sub $1,000.00 loudspeakers. Take a hard look at his associated equipment.

RG

Buddha
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

You know, Rgibran, that is a great point.

Jeff Wong
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

I try to address my system as a whole, but, I'm definitely of the source first camp when push comes to shove. Over the years, I've upgraded all the components that come before my loudspeakers and have continued to gain audible improvements with each change or tweak. Last year, I was planning on upgrading to what would probably be considered a Class A loudspeaker system, but, the funds didn't quite work out as expected. Even though I'm listening to speakers that aren't worthy of the stuff upstream, I'm enjoying my system more than ever and am not feeling a desperate urge to make any significant changes. If work picks up sufficiently, I may take that final plunge and buy what I was planning to complete the puzzle, but, for now, I'm content.

gkc
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

Hello, Cliff. This is for you, Monty, Devon, Jeff, Buddha, and Jim. I think it depends on how you define "important." You can draw an accurate cow by starting with the nose, tip of the tail, body, udder, hoof, with ANY part...or you can do like those matchbook art schools say and start with circles and sausages -- i.e. the general shape of it -- and refine the details later. The latter is like starting with speakers, it seems to me. For reasons stated by "anonymous," who began this thread, the speakers do more to GENERALLY "shape" the sound than any other components. You can't take speakers you don't like (i.e., too bright, too bass-heavy, too laid-back, etc.) and then make them likeable by fiddling with electronics and cabling. You'll change the sound, for sure, but only in relatively subtle ways. The things you didn't like about the speakers originally will remain, perhaps SLIGHTLY ameliorated by other system changes, but still unsatisfactory. I've tried it. I bought K-horns, about 35 years ago, and was hell-bent to make them work, because they were beautifully crafted, impressive and imposing in their size, tremendously efficient and sensitive (you could fill Yankee Stadium with one watt), AND prestigious to own. Yet, they had that damned 4,000 - 8,000 Hz peak that turned massed violins into massed banshees. I tried different tubes, different phono-pickups, even refused to play certain "hot" LP's that I otherwise loved (Epics, Columbias, some Angels). I even tried wiring a resistor into the crossover, as per Paul Klipsche's instructions. There were some small improvements, but they still drove me nuts. Their basic character, timbre, or Gestalt, or whatever you want to call it, simply would not change. I finally gave up. I have had similar experiences with other systems over the years, most notably with the Mirage M1-si's. You can REFINE and tweak speakers, but you can't change 'em. While I can't totally disagree with Cliff, my own personal experience tells me to start with speakers that I like WITH ALL MANNER OF DIFFERENT SOFTWARE. Because that's the sound you are going to have to live with. THEN you try different amp-preamp combos, different source components, wires, room tuning devices, etc., and get the exact details you want. If your cow starts out looking like a squid, there's no way in hell your gonna get it back to a cow, unless you erase the whole damn thing and start over. I think this is a serious question for anyone who is passionate about enjoying the best system he/she can afford for the home. The speakers have more to say about the general character of your sound than any other aspect of the system, but you certainly want your other components to make the speakers perform to their full potential. Cheers, all. I hope I can get to meet some of you guys at HE. Clifton

ohfourohnine
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

Anyone offering an opinion on this question has been around our hobby for a while and is well acquainted with ithe course of system refinement. Those of us who're happiest about the way our systems have grown learned, at some point, the wisdom of beginning with the speakers. The best advice we can give to newcomers is to slate about half the startup budget for a two channel system with one music source for speakers and at that price level, to audition and select the speakers which please us most when matched with our musical tastes. It is virtually inevitable that source and amplification components will be swapped out incrementally over time based on listening acuity, budget availability, advancing technology, and the compulsive behavior of addicts like us. Replacing the speakers comes later, but only when that budget element provides for another balloon-like jump. Alas, that starts a new refinement cycle. But all along, the music goes round and round and it comes out here. Where? Through those speakers.

dcrowe
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Re: The most important link in sound reproduction

I have another example that is in line with the general trend here toward saying that the speaker is the most important link in the chain. I had assembled a moderate system (about $7,000 invested) that was admired for its sound by some audiophile friends who had spent less. Over time I became aware of a deep disatisfaction with the congestion in that system. I tried changing sources and amplifiers without fixing the problem, even though some aspects of the sound did change. When I changed from one of the high end speaker manufacturers to a different one, I suddenly got a huge improvement. Then, I could sort out the source and amplification changes much better. The speakers made (very roughly) about 80% of the improvement that I later enjoyed, the source 15% and the amplifier 5%. No source or amplifier was ever going to satisfy me through the first set of speakers. The second set was far superior with any of the sources or amplifiers. If I had been luckier in my selection of speaker brands the first time, I wouldn't have had this experience of just how important the speaker change would be to me. Every experience I have had since has only confirmed the speaker as the dominant link. The speaker/room combination dominates a number of parameters that are even detectable in double blind tests, such as frequency response. More important to me personally after all these years, the speakers dominate the congestion and distortion. Both speakers are "revealing", that is both have high resolution, but only the second is satisfying to me with long duration use.

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