What is Reference Quality Sound?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Dingiswayo, Oct 19, 2007.

  1. Dingiswayo

    Dingiswayo Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    0
    Following on Dave's asking of what may sound like silly questions, what does it mean to have reference quality sound or to have a reference speaker>
     
  2. MaxL

    MaxL Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 26, 2006
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    0
    It means marketing works.[​IMG]
     
  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,791
    Likes Received:
    201
    Real Name:
    John
    It's supposed to mean "really good", but it also depends on who it is coming from. With manufacturers, it is generally marketing BS. With magazines, they usually have a "reference" system, which is basically just what they consider the "best" of what manufacturers are currently letting them hang on to, and they tend to compare other things to that.

    It has no definitive meaning, and any time anyone is trying to give it real meaning, it's usually BS.
     
  4. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2001
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Two different semi serious meanings.

    Average SPL of 85 dB, peaks of 105 dB for the main speakers, 10 dB hotter for the subwoofer (at 20 Hz, no less)

    The other is that a reviewer is supposed to have a reference for what is "good"-- a well known standard by which he or she judges a piece of equipment or a recording. Many reviewers are known for changing their references often, which devalues the standard.
     
  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,791
    Likes Received:
    201
    Real Name:
    John
    Actually, the dB settings have little to do with quality. Of course, it takes equipment of certain capabilities to accomplish the output, but they are really THX reference level settings.
     
  6. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2001
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ah. There are some who say that you can't hear all the details without using reference level. I'm not one of them.
     
  7. Ar3d

    Ar3d Auditioning

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    0
    this means that you can optimize the quality of your sounds...
     
  8. Gabriel.H

    Gabriel.H Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think what reference quality is supposed to be is to have equipment (receiver, amp/pre-amp, speakers) that are capable of creating the sound and image that the director/composer intended for it to sound like (or look like).
     
  9. Dingiswayo

    Dingiswayo Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    0

    This was my impression, basically likening their speakers to studio monitors. But I'm guessing that Max and John Rice are right that usually this just means marketing BS.

    I only ask because I'm looking at the Onix Reference 1 Monitor Loudspeaker. In the monitor v. speaker thread I posted my fake new speaker name, utilizing all the trendy BS I could think of, but this Onix is pretty close to what I came up with only real.

    I'm looking into bookshelf speakers (kudos to everyone who posted on the $600 bookshelf thread) and I'm looking for accuracy. But I don't want to just get studio monitors because of their near-field aspect and hardly anyone makes passive monitors (I don't know how I'd connect active monitors in any way other than stereo - my receiver doesn't have 5.0 preouts).

    Anyway, thanks everybody. I love the range of answers.
     
  10. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 1999
    Messages:
    11,576
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    NorCal
    Real Name:
    John
    Almost every company that makes active monitors makes passive versions as well. Near field application doesn't mean that they won't sound good a few feet away, seriously. One of the better stereo setups I've heard used powered Mackie monitors.

    "Reference" used in the name of a speaker is nothing more than that: a name.
     
  11. Dingiswayo

    Dingiswayo Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    0
    So what exactly does "near-field" mean? I read somewhere long ago that it means the bass drops off after usually 6 feet or so. I can't for the life of me figure out how this is possible but, then again, I have no idea how lots of things are possible that are nonetheless.

    And I think the market for passive monitors is going the way of the dodo. Tannoy still makes some and Alessis, maybe a few others, but in my searches there definitely aren't passive versions of all active monitors. Oh, you said every company, not monitor. Right, that makes sense.

    But if the near-field thing isn't a limiting factor for a mid-sized room then I'd consider the passive Tannoy monitors, because like I said I'm really looking for accuracy.

    Okay, I'm editing this post to add comments I found about near-field:

    "Usually it means you are at a distance where room reflections usually don't enter into the listening, between arms length and double that at most. Near field monitors are usually not very efficient and have a very broad dispersion(radiation) pattern designed for close-in listening to ensure a decent sweet spot. "

    and another:

    "When a speaker manufacturer says their design is a "near field" they mean the speakers are intended to be listened to from relatively close by (i.e. near).

    As you back up from a pair of speakers, the room itself becomes a larger part of the sonic equation as reflections from room surfaces contribute to the ultimate sound you hear. In this postion, you are listening from within the "reverberant field".

    By changing your listening distance you move from one "field" to the other, with the proportion of reverberant (i.e. room) energy increasing as distance increases. Many listeners find a balance between the two to offer the most "spacious" sound and most comfortable listening.

    In those situations where the room is very small or in a room whose listening qualities are questionable (i.e. most studios), listening in the "near field" will offer a proportionately smaller amount of "room sound", allowing you to hear more easily what is on the recording.

    Generally speaking, smaller speakers don't do as good a job of "filling" a room and are therefore better used in the "near field".
    This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Quality of the speaker or whether it is designated at "Pro" or "consumer"."

    one more:

    "They have very flat response. That's what mixers look for. But they are certainly not a speaker for home use." -why not for home use, that makes no sense?

    If the room response is the only aspect of near-field monitors (meaning that they sound best up close, before room reflections become an issue) - does this mean that home speakers have a narrower dispersion pattern to keep the sound focused over longer distances? If that is the case then using monitors over a longer distance could actually sound terrible. Any thoughts from those more knowledgeable?
     
  12. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,791
    Likes Received:
    201
    Real Name:
    John
    Not at all.

    For instance, any bi/dipolar speaker has a very wide dispersion pattern, since they actually radiate from both sides of the speakers. The speakers I have (Thiel) are designed to rediate as evenly as possible at greater than a 180 deg angle.
     
  13. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2001
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  14. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Messages:
    3,168
    Likes Received:
    0
    Because to many people, most highly accurate speakers sound very dry & sterile when listening to music for pleasure (HT is another matter). This has also been backed up by DBT sessions. It's basically similar to the difference between looking at a painting and a photo of a landscape: the first pleases the heart and the latter satisfies the mind.

    Plus there is the matter of individual physical hearing differences (outer ear/inner ear etc) & how the listener's room affects that accurate speaker's output: while the speaker may be reproducing an uncolored version of the electrical signal sent to it, by the time a person's brain finally receives that signal, it ain't the same anymore! So I bet all this is taken into account when designing a home-bound speaker for the "typical" owner and the "typical" living room.....and maybe why so many older speakers sound so much more musical and easy-on-the-ears i.e. they didn't have computers and other similar test gear to dictate how the speaker "should" sound.

    Personally I think this issue of accuracy without considering where a system is being listened to and for what purpose, is unfortunately what helped to eliminate the loudness button, a very useful feature IMO & something which used to be on 99.9% of all receivers until around the early 90s. When engaged, a loudness circuit would help make up for the human ear's documented INsensitivity to low bass and high treble at low volume levels (google "Fletcher-Munson curve") i.e. pretty much any volume setting under the standard reference point of 75dB. But without it engaged, at low volumes most systems sound lifeless. So it's no wonder so many people feel the need to run their subwoofers "hot", because that's the only way to hear them properly at more normal volume levels. Some audiophiles may wring their hands over a loudness circuit's (tiny) amount of additional distortion they add, but I would submit that music/movie sound is MUCH more "distorted" when you can't hear it in its correct proportions! So I'll take the loudness button over 100% signal purity any day.

    Lastly: trust me, there are a lot of CDs and vinyl in my collection - many made in the last decade - that *don't* benefit from being heard via accurate/highly revealing speakers.
     
  15. Dingiswayo

    Dingiswayo Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2007
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for the articles Jeremy. I printed and read them and I'm going to give them to my roommate who thinks anyone that buys regular home speakers is either misinformed or stupid.

    Also, that's the first defense of the "loudness" button I've heard.

    Accuracy or coloring, such a tough decision...
     
  16. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Messages:
    3,168
    Likes Received:
    0
    At the risk of sounding like an audio snob, many people aren't aware of that Fletcher-Munson/human hearing issue; plus all of us get bombarded by the pseudo-science loudly spewed by the many science-hating super audiophiles (who seem to have made it their mission to spread their opinion-stated-as-fact misinformation at any time & any place [​IMG]), but it's the audio newbies who are most easily affected by those audio voodoo messages.

    In addition to loudness circuits* being "evil":

    * any kind of EQ, even just bass and treble knobs, are awful things to use (ignoring the 800lb gorilla that is called room acoustics and don't forget crappy recording engineers!)

    * anything other than tiny monitor speakers with 5" woofers sound horrible (larger speakers are more sensitive to room placement because they can produce lower frequency bass notes, so if they aren't located properly that lower/more powerful bass can sound boomy or thin or overly colored...but the ignorant super audiophile [who may be a fan of nothing but noseflute solos anyway] chalks it up to "bigger is bad" [​IMG]).

    I'm certified to teach Earth Science so I'm obviously just a bit biased towards the science side of things......but I also am aware of the limits of science and feel that at certain times, it is better to listen to what your gut tells you rather than a chart or a digital readout says.

    * loudness circuits aren't always a perfect solution: they usually only boost one set of frequencies & those frequencies may not completely agree with the speakers and/or room being used. Also, a good loudness circuit should reduce its effect as volume is increased, but really cheapo versions don't do this and their effect can be become clownish at higher levels.
     

Share This Page