JBH
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Speaker Reviews - Part 1
Doctor Fine
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Your point about phones is emblamatic of someone that has never heard a life-like holographic three dimensional "alive" stereo system in a domestic environment. "Cans" don't cut it.   Once you hear something in a home that is truly 3D (which is what "stereo" is supposed to do with two signals much like a 3D television does with two signals) you will not rest until you yourself own such an animal. It is like owning a Ferrari Dino when your friends all own Toyota Corollas.

I have sold high end audio for the last 50 years and have witnessed all the confusion in our price-no-object industry.  My forte is setup knowledge gained from building playback rooms for the recording industry along with putting together synergistic systems for thousands of well heeled customers over the years.  It is such a challenge and thrill to make a system "disappear" leaving only the orchestra or combo playing there in 3D as alive as talking to you face to face.  A well engineered perfectly set up system in your home allows you to "time travel" and be a fly on the wall at sonic sessions going all the way back to Enrico Caruso.  It is a priveledge and an honor to have the musicians alive and sitting right in front of you in 3D.

I will have to refrain from comment on the merits of your specific speakers in your review.  To me a speaker design merely serves a function and there are many properly designed products which would work depending on the room size and volume level the listener desires.  I have a few reference speakers around the house including the Harbeth Monitor 30s and Spendor Ls3/5 British BBC monitor speakers.  These both get out of the way of the music and sound far superior to any phones I have heard and my current phone setup is a tube headphone amp driving Sennheiser HD650s.  If you can swing it you should make nice with someone that has a true mastering grade stereo setup so that your ears have a comparison with which to judge this and that.

You will know it is a true reference if your ears can find absolutely nothing to latch onto and your ability to describe the system is completely non verbal.  Frankly anytime someone can describe the System there is something wrong with the System.  When there is NO system, just a sense of physical presence in the room with you---Voila!  Success!!!

You will never do that with phones.

By the way I enjoyed your review anyway as your passion and knowledge is quite evident.  My comments are intended to shine a light on system building and speaker integration as "King."  Your desire to analyze the characteristics of different designs has value and is fun to read.  However I am arguing that once a particular design establishes itself as a benchmark in a category (planar-compact box-horn-huge-small) the truly huge difference is that some guys know how to lock the system together and make it disappear.  And others will still hear unfortunate sonic signatures of the equipment above the music.  I am dedicated to bringing total realism out of most any good equipment.  That is where the big fun truly lives...

JBH
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Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I have to ask - Is your conclusion that among the Acoustats, Polk 10b's, the speakers described in the review posts, the other 40 odd models I listened to in the last few months, in no case did i experience what you call an alive stereo image?

My experience is that every one of the speakers listed is significantly more capable in this regard than the LS 3/5a's for instance, with the Acoustats and 10b's dramatically so.

You're obviously correct that headphones aren't apples to apples, but there are characteristics that define musical reproduction besides imaging, a few being frequency linearity, driver integration, and hormonic accuracy. Since phones typically only have a single driver, they easily win the second, and in terms of accuracy, i.e. a musical instrument or voice faithfully mimics reality, the $125 cans easily better all but the $10k speaker models here. To beat on the 3/5a's again, i personlly have a hard time listening to them given their coloration(s) and unrealistic frequency amplitude response. To say that there are plenty of design that work is true, but it totally disregards each one's individual sonic signature, which vary significantly.

As far as making a system capable of disappearing, again i already have that, but am loosing my dedicated space, and the successors will need to attempt to disappear in what i refer to as a domestic environment. Looked at in reverse, if you were to listen to both the Acoustats and the AT cans at the sweet spot of my current listening room, the AT's clearly can't compete. However, if you stand up and move a few feet in any direction, the situation is completely reversed.

This lack of "socialability" has long been the downfall of the standard stereo speaker configuration, and those who have attempted to address the issue (Bose 901's, some Alons, Fried) have had varied acceptance. That's a different topic though... 

JoeE SP9
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I've got to go with Dr. Fine on the headphone thing. There are some things headphones do very well. However, producing a sound stage isn't one of them. For me music without a sound stage might as well be mono. What good is wide pinpoint imaging as many lesser speakers produce if there is no depth? Cardboard cutout sounding musicians don't do it for me.

Throughout my 46+ years in this hobby I've tried all manner of headphones, from bargain basement to TOTL Stax ESL's.  While some of them sound very good, I've never been able to get used to the creepy (to me) feeling of the sound coming from between my ears. I have heard and own binaurally recorded material and it does produce a very good sound stage through headphones. Unfortunately, binaural recordings are so few and far between as to be unavailable for all practical purposes.

As for getting up and loosing the sweet spot, who cares? If you're moving around you're not really listening anyway. I'm acutely aware of this as the various Acoustat's I've been using since the early 80's have always had a rather small sweet spot. Besides, unless the phones are wireless you have a built in tether anyway.

BTW: When I bought my first pair of planars (Magnepan MG-1's) in 1976 I heard some LS3/5A's and some Watson Model 10's the same day. For the life of me I couldn't and still don't understand why anyone would want the LS3's. The Watson's had really good sound with bass to die for. I was however, already sold on the planar sound field. Since that May in 1976 my love affair with planar speakers has never lessened. I successively owned MG-2's and MG-3A's before switching to esl's around 1983. Since then I've had nothing but esl's. Currently there are two pair of Acoustats (Spectra 22's, Model 1's) in a surround setup in my dedicated room.

Allen Fant
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The Paradigm reference series is a great speaker.

JBH
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IMO someone interested in the LS 3/5a type of response but who are put off by the colorations and lack of frequency extension may want to look at the KEF LS-50. It has a similar overall frequency response, but the mid-range in particular is far better resolved. Image sizing and placement is also impressive for a speaker at its price point.

/IMO 

JoeE SP9
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I've been hearing good things about the LS-50's, from independant sources other than the review in Stereophile.

JBH
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bump for anyone interested

jgossman
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They kind of suck.  And so do most of thier progeny, the Linn Kan, Rogers 3/5, early small Paradigm Phantom Monitors (The newer ones, later than the mid 90's, are marvelous, and cheap.  The Phantom floorstanders are still a diamond in the entry level rough), the KEF 3/5a (I don't remember the KEF model # but it WAS a 3/5a), etc. That's not a knock on Harbeth, I've heard several Harbeth (although not a ton) that are as good as the classic "British" or "East Coast American" sound can be.  Including my own pre-Kevlar midrange B&W Matrix, which I consider a floorstanding "monitor" in the truest sense.

I guess what I don't understand is the whole line of the "review".  If you know you want to spend about 1-2k on a speaker that is small-ish, looks great, and with your space constraints can be driven by anything, why not just go French or Canadian.  Which is to say, we know companies like Focal, Triangle, PSB, Paradigm make better, cheaper products by science and engineering, rather than ehem, bullshit and guesswork, make your life simple and go with the companies that are ACTUALLY the best at what they do.

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