Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
Non-sequiter: Did I say it was high-end? No, I did not. I said it was "excellent," which it is. It is far, far, better than "good."
I stand by my "mid-fi" comment. As you well, know, in the audio world "mid-fi" and "High End" are often used as qualitative judgments that have nothing to do with cost.
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
FWIW, only stereos in the over-$100,000 range will "move air" like you describe and have an semblance of musicality. You pay dearly for the last octave. Mine go down to 32 just fine.
First, let's get back to reality. A Scanspeak 18W8545 (the woofer in your Shearwaters, as well as the Wilson Audio Puppy and lots of other speakers) cannot go down to 32Hz with any degree of authority or accuracy, unless it has seven more helping it out. (And certainly not when you're powering speakers of about 82dB efficiency with 25W triodes!) The sonic character of speakers employing such pint-sized drivers is defined entirely by high levels of distortion on dynamic peaks starting at least two octaves up from that (128Hz). That's why all the pipsqueaks sound so different in the midbass, they all have high distortion but of different orders in different (high) quantities. Funny enough, once you get to speakers with high quality large midbass/woofers, solidly-constructed cabinets, and voicing to avoid the nauseating midbass frequency response most big cheap speakers have, the main differences you hear in the midbass are placement-based rather than intrinsic to the speaker. If you want speakers that easily fit into sub-$100k systems that move air with exquisite musicality and grace -note that all still require subwoofers for the really low stuff, both because of their no-nonsense high-efficiency designs and simply because speaker placement for lowest midrange coloration is generally disastrous for deep bass - here are some five examples I know well, off the top of my head. Prices exclude the costs of good stands, which are needed for all of them. 1) Genelec 1037
, about $10k/pair. (These are the front three speakers in my home theater, purchased because they simply sound more true-to-life than most "High End" audiophile speakers, including flagship models from Avalon, B&W, Maggie, Joseph Audio, Martin-Logan, Wilson Audio, and even in some ways the big-bore Sound Lab electrostats. Yes, they're pricey, though not compared to Wilson, Avalon et al. But keep in mind that they have amps built in as well, and filtering in the active domain rather than efficiency-burning and time-smearing passive components.) 2) Tannoy System 15
, about $8.5k/pair. Nicest speaker with a passive crossover that I've ever heard, "High End" or "studio". Not pretty, with that industrial grey plastic finish, but sonically these speakers shame Tannoy's beautiful-but colored home speakers such as the similarly-priced TD-12 and the much more expensive Churchill. I've been on the lookout of a used set of their discontinued big brother (System 215, which is twice the width and has a 15" helper woofer along with the 15" coax) for a long time. I want to soffit mount them in my study. 3) Danley Sound Labs SH-50
I think about $7k/pair. I demoed these speakers (or maybe an earlier version) at a demo set up in their factory, which is in Metro Atlanta. Pig ugly but such amazing, relentless accuracy. (Their subs are also astounding, and that from a guy with four Paradigm Servo-15's placed according to the guidelines in the well-known Harman whitepaper for maximally even distribution of bass.) The engineering is worth the asking price and then some. I would've gone with them except that I would've needed have extra components in my equipment rack to use them (multiple channels of amplification, whereas right now there's just the Mac mini, cable box/DVR, and TacT Theater Correction System) and they were too deep to hide effectively, as I've done with the Genelecs. 4) Tannoy Ellipse 10
, about $3.5k/pair. (I like these a lot, and think they're wonderful for the price point, but they did not wow me as I hoped I would. I auditioned them as potential speakers for my study, and I love the looks of them. They don't quite have enough cone area to do massed choral voices very well. I think there's a 12" version but I haven't heard it so won't comment on it. Also, there's a version with Tannoy's room correction software that's commands a premium, but (if their system is good; I haven't played with it) is probably well worth it for someone who doesn't have a top-notch standalone room correction processor such as the DEQX or TacT units. 5) JBL LSR6332
, about $2.5k/pair (Reasonably priced, somewhat crudely finished, but amazing sound for a passive-crossover monitor. Astoundingly similar in sound and capabilities to JBL's top-notch Asian-market statement speakers such as the K2 despite using direct radiators for mid and treble instead of the big boys' horns, but at a tenth the price. Though "Boston" and "West Coast" sound fans alike will hate the thought, it is very tempting to think of this speaker as superbly engineered, much less colored, modernized AR-3a in a utility cabinet) I didn't list any speakers from other outstanding speaker makers, such as the English firm ATC, because I couldn't quickly find prices for their speakers. Of course there's excellent vintage pro/semi-pro gear, such as Urei's awesome Altec 604 based speakers and the various Tannoys along with many others. (reply to another post)
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
There are two camps (as there are in all things): Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. Most readers of each despise the other.
I'd describe it has two-and-a-half camps. Using the names of the magazines that more-or-less advocate their positions, here they are. 1) The Audio Critic (TAC). Relentlessly focused on measurements, and demands proof in the form of double-blind same/different listening trials (aka "ABX") that. Their "gurus" are mostly credentialled scientists, people like Siegfried Linkwitz (of the Linkwitz-Riley crossover Earl Geddes, Floyd Toole, and maybe to a lesser extent Bob Stuart of Meridian and Ken Kantor of NHT. Hard core members of this camp probably despise J. Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson (founders of the following 1.5 factions) more than they despise the Janjaweed or OBL! 2) Stereophile. The most "big tent" of the groups. Objectivists like the fact that they take very good measurements - though I wish they'd do standard polar graphs for speakers instead of that linear graph they use - and that their editor occasionally submit their findings to peer-reviewed journals such as the JAES. Subjectivists like to read the purple prose, and some who are on the edge of the tent are probably sad that Jonathan Scull no longer takes literary dumps on its pages. Almost everyone likes the neat pictures of cool gear, and sensible people enjoy the cat pictures in Wes Phillips' blog, as well. They tend to refer to their "gurus," who are mostly trained writers, by their initials: JGH, JA, WP, and so on. 2.5) TAS, or the cult of Harry Pearson. Basically, The Abso!ute Sound clique are an extremist, vaguely occult sect of the Stereophile crowd. They believe science is useless, and that the only thing that is important is the gestalt that some intrepid marketer rams down one's throat. Often the most interestingly written, but also the most devoid of content. They're the ones who preach about raising speaker cables off the ground, painting CDs with green pens, putting wooden disks on top of amplifiers, and so on. Where am I? Somewhere between TAC and Stereophile. I glance at S'phile when I'm in a bookstore sometimes, read some of their speaker reviews online, and check WP's blog for the best cat pics since Kevin Drum blogged on his own instead of for the Washington Monthly. Once upon a time I subscribed to TAC, but was turned off by the siege mentality present in each article. (Oh, and the fact that they stop publishing for years at a time had something to do with it, too.) I've never found much difference in cheap vs. expensive CD players, amps, or preamps, and absolutely no difference in wires. I also don't shy away from using room correction, though the system I use (TacT) is definitely "audiophile" in build and design. And, unfortunately, price.