Who Stole The Bass? / No One Stole The Bass
When compiling the recommended listing, performance parameters are weighted equally: midrange verisimilitude has to be counted as equally important as the ability to produce well-focused stereo imaging; a clean, uncolored high end is no more or no less important than the ability to provide thunderous levels of low bass. If all loudspeaker designers aim at providing a complete performance package, then there should be very little disagreement about what models to recommend. But when a designer has chosen, instead, to sacrifice one area of performance in order either to push the others as far as possible with the technology at hand, or, with a low-priced model, to allow more of the limited resources to be concentrated where he thinks appropriate, this brings taste into the equation. To some listeners, on some kinds of music, the deficiency will be unimportant; others will argue that such a sacrifice denies the loudspeaker any chance of producing a high-end sound, no matter how good it is in other areas.
We present, therefore, a Minority Report on loudspeakers from AHC to accompany this issue's "Recommended Components."---JA
WHO STOLE THE BASS?
by Anthony H. Cordesman
A reviewer is supposed to be reasonably catholic in his or her taste. The point of a good review is not to impose one's personal taste on the reader, but rather to judge in terms of a range of accepted value, and to communicate enough information to the reader that the review can act as a guide in letting the reader make his or her own decision. Accordingly, I tend to be more tolerant in reviewing audio equipment than I am in choosing what I like to listen to---although I make no claims for excessive tolerance, even as a reviewer.
I also fully accept the fact that no loudspeaker is perfect. Let's face it---no loudspeaker does more than approximate the sound of live music, and all loudspeakers involve audible compromises with reality. Regardless of whether a speaker costs $50 or $50,000, the loudspeaker designer is always forced to make tradeoffs, and these tradeoffs are all too audible.
For example, there is no right pattern of dispersion. Limited side- and rear-wall reflection means more accurate imaging, but only in a comparatively narrow listening area. Most speakers have only a comparatively flat response within a relatively limited dynamic range. Many speakers only perform best at relatively moderate listening levels and have trouble with both soft and loud passages.
Drivers have to be chosen with careful compromises in terms of dynamic range and loudness limits, distortion, and bandwidth. Crossovers involve complex tradeoffs between phase accuracy and amplitude accuracy, and so on. No matter how good the illusion of music, any experienced audiophile will always be aware that something is missing or unnatural.
As a result, I tend to be only moderately critical when reviewing loudspeakers with restricted dynamic range and bass. Given all the tradeoffs that speaker designers must make, it is still possible to make a loudspeaker with a midrange good enough to partially compensate for the fact that it will not play loud or low. At a given price point, such a speaker may even be the speaker of choice, many listening rooms either being too small for a speaker with deep bass, or having other limitations.