Who Stole The Bass? / No One Stole The Bass

Editor's Introduction: Stereophile's "Recommended Components" feature is, as I am sure you will have guessed, produced by a committee. The reviews are studied, the reviewers polled to verify the continued validity, the merits and demerits of specific pieces of equipment are discussed or, rather, argued over at length by JGH, JA, and LA, and out of the whole business emerges the "truth." But, as with the findings of any committee, what is presented as a consensus will have significant undertows and countercurrents of opinion; if these are very strong, a "Minority Report" is often also produced. Such has been the case this time, concerning loudspeakers.

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

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.


mandyhousehold's picture

How can you steal something that wos never there? I have spent most of my life listening to live music, my ears are usually left ringing on a Monday morning (quite regularly), to acheive the same levels in my house, it seems it would be cheaper to just hire the band, I think you are all talking pish! I hate audiophiles, not because Iam jealous of what they own, but becuase of the pure pish they talk. Come down to the real world of music and domestic Hi-Fi, if you never hear it, you will never miss it will you? I hear you all waxing lyrical over Naim, Linn, Krell, Wadia, etc etc, 90 percent of the world will never be able to afford the hardware they sell, should they just give up on Hi-Fi and take up mountain biking or something else? NO, they shouldnt, because back in the real world, where the Mission 760i`s and Mordaunt Short Ms10`s live, there is some really really good hi-fi at large... and bollox to your high end nonsense, I buy Hi-Fi so I can listen to my music, I dont buy music so I can listen to my Hi-Fi. The Nad 3020 took the audiophile world by its Nads in the 80s, the Pioneer A400 took a bite in the 90s, everynow and then, audiophile equipment will be embarrassed by peasants, when this happens, it should be celebrated, not nocked and dissed, I have listened to some pretty high end Hi-Fi in my day of building my budget priced Hi-Fi in the listening rooms of the RETAILERS (that is another word for salesmen, well trustworthy yeah) and no, I could not afford the cables you needed to run them let alone the components, can I live without them? Is my budget Hifi awsome (which incedently includes a pair of 20 year old Mordaunt Short MS 10s which I have never been able to depart with despite having a rather larger budget to play with nowadays) HELL YEAH! If I won the lottery, I would re-commission the Nad 3020, Mission Cyrus One and Two, and the Pioneer A400 along with some of those crappy 80s mini speakers you talked about, and I bet they could shake up some of 2011s offerings all over again. Infact....if you can afford such awsome Hi-Fi, you obviously have money to throw away, so why dont you try that? I live in a terraced house, and I dont think the kind of speakers you say I should own would fit, and if they did, the neighbours would probably shoot me.