Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand Symphony Edition loudspeaker What's Up with Flat?

Sidebar 3: What's Up with Flat?

Some 30 years ago (yikes! has it been that long?), the late J. Gordon Holt, founder of Stereophile, wrote an "As We See It" column titled "Down With Flat!." It raised some hackles. Gordon, of course, didn't intend it to mean that smooth response (not necessarily the same thing as flat) wasn't desirable, and he was clearly speaking of a speaker's in-room response. In any case, I was reminded of the piece as I was evaluating the Vienna Acoustics speakers. Why? Because I've read many reviews of Vienna models (not necessarily this one) that included measurements like those John Atkinson takes for speakers reviewed in Stereophile—measurements revealing in-room frequency responses that are anything but flat, or even particularly smooth.

We'll see what JA's measurements have to say about the Beethoven Baby Grand Symphony Edition, but in the meantime, I simply had to see how they measured in my room. However, I took these measurements only after I'd done all of my listening tests and finished the "Listening" section, above.

Having JA do the honors was impractical—we live 3000 miles apart. And while my measurements were taken at the listening position, and averaged 21 readings taken at and around that location, they can't necessarily be compared with the in-room measurements JA performs for some of Stereophile's speaker reviews. I used the Omnimic system from Parts Express, a less sophisticated setup than JA uses.

The in-room response curve (fig.1) was relatively flat, about ±4dB from 125Hz to 10kHz, with the expected uniformity issues common to my room below 125Hz, including a prominent peak at about 80Hz. But the top end was surprisingly smooth. A small dip in the 3–4kHz range (relative to the average responses between 1.5 and 3kHz and between 4 and 9kHz) may explain the Vienna's lack of hardness and edge, despite its slightly bright sound. The most prominent feature was a plateau of roughly 5dB between 700 and 1100Hz (relative to the levels at 450Hz and 1.5kHz). This could well explain the Beethoven Baby Grand's immediacy with voices and solo instruments.—Thomas J. Norton

Fig.1 Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grand SE, spatially averaged response in TJN's listening room.
V.A. Lautsprechermanufacktur GmbH
US distributor: VANA Ltd.
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