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what makes a speaker..a good speaker?


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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Raptor382

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Posted September 25 2013 - 06:51 PM

So, now that I have my system mostly complete, im curious.  What makes a speaker a "good" speaker?  Take the primus line.  They are low budget speakers I assume, yet, I have read, on this forum if im not mistaken, that 1) the drivers are some of the best you can get, and 2) infinity puts a ton into engineering.

 

If both of those are true, then how is it that primus ends up being one of the lower end speakers?  What is it that makes a speaker good, and what makes a speaker bad?

 

also, when shopping for speakers, you find some with 2 drivers and a tweeter, and you'll find some with 3 drivers and a tweeter.  I assume that the addition of the 3rd driver just increases the frequency response?  If that is the case, does this mean that if you have a sub, that a 3 driver speaker is essentially wasted, and you could get equal performance for better value with a 2 driver speaker?

 

take the polk tsx330 and the tsx440, one is a 2 driver and one is a 3 driver.  does the 3 driver speaker necessarily make it a better speaker, or that it will sound better, or does it mean that it will hit a larger frequency range, if you are not using a sub, essentially meaning that, buy the 440's if you dont have a sub, but if you do, then then 330's would be just fine.

 

also, i know it's been said that the debate of floorstanding vs. bookshelf has been going on for a long time, but, would it be safe to say that, if you are using your system mostly for music, that a floorstanding would be a better choice, and if you are using it more for movies, the bookshelf would be a better choice, and that if you go with bookshelf, you can actually get a better speaker for less money, than if you spent the same or more on a full tower?

 

if a person was going to be doing 50/50 movies/music, or maybe 70/30 movies/music, which option would give them better performance?  ive mentioned this before, but in that interview with Dr. Hsu, he said that if he were to build a home theater system, that he would not go with floor standing and would go with bookshelves.

 



#2 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 25 2013 - 07:20 PM

There is no concrete correct answer anywhere.

 

My 4 home theatre speakers are...

 

Infinity Crescendo 3007(two pairs with a homemade center speaker made from the guts of a 3006).

BIC Venturi V830 with 2 pairs of V820 and V62 height.

DCM TF600 with TF350 and a SurroundScape.

Polk S6 with Monitor "wedge" with I forget exactly what center.

 

So, those speakers are...

Emit tweeter with poly-graphite woofers in a sealed box.

Soft dome tweeter with Poly-rubber woofer with a canted Venturi port.

Philips tweeter and poly-paper woofer with a transmission line.

Polk hard dome tweeter and full rubber woofer and a passive radiator(on the S6).

 

I also have Infinity SS2003(or 2004, I forget) with the hard poly tweeter.

Altec Lansing Model 96 with the inverted titanium dome and full graphite woofers.

Dahlquist DQ10(probably one of the most enduring speakers ever. These are 30+ years old and have no equal)

EV (ElectroVoice. More pairs than I can shake a stick at)

 

There is no correct answer to what makes a speaker "good".

 

And, I've owned some doosies...

 

Apogee Centaur Major

Synergistics S72(a speaker than in 1976 was $1500/pair)

RTR w30 (you aren't going to find anything on these. Enormous cabinets with twin downfiring 15" drivers. single, dual or triple ampable. Could be ran with an external 3-way crossover to three amps...or just use the on-board crossover for 1/2 or 2/3. Or run with 1 amp)

The Advent Large

David and Goliath (M&K)

Magnepan(4 different ones in my life...even a pair of Tympani)

Cerwin Vega D9 (you ever want a speaker that will bang your head into the wall till your nose, ears and eyes bleed. Your search begins. And ends. At the D9. Period.)

 

There will never be a correct answer. You buy, you listen, you sell, you buy something else. Rinse, repeat.

 

Speakers I've never owned...(as in used personally. I've "briefly" owned many from this list. Not counting speakers where I've only had any of them for a month or less)

KEF

Tannoy

Zu

Paradigm

Martin Logan(Apogee ruined me from ever owning a pair of ML. Still searching for another pair of ACM)

Totem

JBL

PSB

Legend

James

Q

Definitive Technology

Celestion

Wharfedale

Mission

Dali



#3 of 22 OFFLINE   gene c

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Posted September 25 2013 - 07:47 PM

Infinity is owned by Harman Kardon and they have one of the best anechoic chambers (sound  rooms) around. They also hired away some of the top speaker designers. But that was years ago. The Primus series was designed a long time ago and the differences between the 160, 162 and 163 for instance are mostly cosmetic. They also barrowed heavily from the more expensive Beta series  and even the Revel Concerta's. Trickle-down economics.

 

They add additional drivers to move more air. Speakers are skinnier then they used to be for cosmetic reasons. it takes 3-4 6" drivers to move the same amount of air as a single 8-10 driver. The tower vs bookshelf will never be answered. They both have their advantages. But the cabinet is the biggest expense in manufacturing a speaker (I think).

 

A good speaker should have a well designed, solid cabinet, good quality components and a well designed crossover, which may be the most important part. I just pulled my Infinity Beta 20 bookshelf speakers out of one room and replaced them with Dynaudio Audience 50's. I noticed an immediate improvement in over-all sound quality. And I really like the Beta 20's (especially at the current used prices). But the Dynaudio's are better in just about every way except maybe bass output. They just seem to be "quicker" in reproducing the sound. And the vocals were locked into the center of the soundstage.

 

Excellent speakers can be had for a fair price. Mordaunt-Short Aviano's, Paradigm Monitors, various internet brands, etc. Even entry levels like the Primus series, Polk Monitors and BIC's among so many others. But a really good speaker takes things to a whole different level. A place where sound quality seems to take precedent over meeting a manufacturing price-point. Whether you like the sound or not is up to you. Regardless of the cost.


"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Dave Upton

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Posted September 25 2013 - 08:06 PM

Engineering plays a big role - drivers, crossover, cabinet. I think it's how all this works together that really matters. Typically, the small differences to improve performance cost ever increasing amounts of money.

 

My personal preference is to find the best performing speaker for the cost. I've always been a big Paradigm fan because they design and manufacture their own drivers.



#5 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 25 2013 - 08:12 PM

I'll add this. I used to sell CE wholesale(as in the company that sold Pioneer, Yamaha, Onkyo, LG, Zenith, Hitachi, etal...into Amazon, HH Gregg, Best Buy, ABT, Direct Buy...name the place...).

 

I won't say which brands of speakers we sold but. Talk about a crime against humanity.

 

A $1000 pair of speakers...typically...well let's just say you'd cry and curl yourself up into a fetal position if you knew what the cost "manufacturer" to us was...then what we sold them to Amazon and what you actually paid.

 

There is a really good ID brand out there that I want a new set of speakers from. I called him up(the type where you call, the owner himself picks up the phone) and said..."Hey I want a set of speakers".

 

We played a 2 week long song and dance(I know where some of his production staff is from) about how much I was willing to pay. Picking them up, myself, in 4 weeks. Can "everybody" do that? No. But when I call the guy and say "Is "Bob" there?"..."How do you know Bob and that he works here?"...

 

"You poached him from X 6 months ago."...



#6 of 22 OFFLINE   gene c

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Posted September 25 2013 - 08:25 PM

Just browse through the PartsExpress catalog to get an idea of the markup on speakers. The tweeters on a $1200/pr of Swan Diva 6.1's were $17 each a few years ago (about $30 today). And that's retail, not their cost.

 

Some great deals can be found. The Primus 363's for $234/pr is one of them (they were $199 a couple of years ago). But used is the best value, My Polk LSi25's, 7's and LSiC were $1030 total. $4800 retail but $2000-$2500 is more acurate. A few scratches here and there but who cares?

 

I read somewhere that MB Quart didn't just make their own drivers but they designed the machines they made them on.


Edited by gene c, September 25 2013 - 08:28 PM.

"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#7 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 25 2013 - 08:39 PM

The cabinets on speakers can get ridiculous. I mentioned in another thread that I got Totem to do a set of 9 speakers(3 actual different speakers...not counting the center) in 9* different custom colors.

 

The "normal" price on the speakers should have been $14,500. Totem charged the customer $20k. (and they required 50% up front)

 

I called 4 different companies knowing I was going to have to add 25% to the normal cost...and forget about trying to "get a deal". Totem was the first to bite. Salk was too late on the reply. I thought they ignored the query. They just didn't respond till they had an actual cost.

 

*The paint used was 9 different Volkswagen paint colors. The wife drove a Jetta with all the body panels a different color...on purpose. He got his theater...she chose the decor...



#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Type A

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Posted September 26 2013 - 05:46 AM

Owning the Primus line was a lesson hard learned for me.  Yes they are one of the best values in their price range, and reviews were great,  but after actual ownership I found that their tweeters were so fatiguing that after an hour or two of listening I was ready to turn them off and do something else.  Since then my speaker choices have been much more mindful of tweeter technology and going used, if thats what the budget demanded, to get the right mix of performance.   In a budget speaker like the Primus the cabinet plays a large role also.  The finish quality on the outside, and the cabinet treatment on the inside,  all show signs of their budget lineage.  Excellent SPL, accurate and detailed but not something I can listen to loud for long periods of time, which is how I roll.  The cost savings employed inside the cabinet does have an impact on the speakers performance, this can be corrected but I doubt most owners will bother. 
 
 
As for the bookshelf verses tower debate, in my opinion,  its all about the mid bass.
 
 
First, the true benefits of towers only starts from mid bass on down.   Mid bass is, in my opinion, more critical for music applications than it is for theater applications.  However consider how important mid bass is for music...mid bass is where the heart and soul of the music lies, its the beat baby.  The bulk of your percussion comes from the mid bass, namely the kick drum and bass guitar.   However theres a large caveat to using a tower for mid bass.  In order to realize this benefit of better mid bass your mids and highs will be coming along for the ride, theyll be at ear bleeding levels to achieve that satisfying mid bass youre seeking from your towers.  Generally speaking the only way to truely benefit from a tower is to turn it up and then, yes, greater SPL and lower reach will be realized verses a book shelf speaker.
 
Heres something else to consider.  A heavy and relatively flexible driver is better for them lower frequencies, the bass, but that driver's efficiency starts to wane the higher the frequency you ask of it.  So will a sub do mid bass?  Yes, yes it will,  but it wont do it as well as a tower that has lighter and more rigid drivers that are efficient for mid bass production. 
 
These two aspects,  plus the benefits of near field mid bass production verses far field in a tower and a lower intermodulation distortion, is likely why Hsu recommended against towers/sub and probably recommended something more like bookshelf speakers and his mid bass module/sub for superior performance verses a tower speaker/sub combo. 


JVC DLA-RS60U3D & DaLite High Power 106"
Paradigm Studio V.5 20 (5) & ADP590 (2)  
Hsu VTF-2 MK3 (2) & MBM-12 MK2 (2)

Yamaha RX-A3010 & Emotiva XPA5
Oppo BDP93 & Darbee DVP 5000

*My Home Theater Photo Journal*

#9 of 22 OFFLINE   gene c

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Posted September 26 2013 - 06:23 PM

Ty, have you heard the Beta series yet? I bet you would like them much better. Not nearly as bright and and a little deeper bass. The cabinets are still not a strong point but are larger and the Cherry models are quite attractive.

Another advantage for towers is room to add a mid-range driver. Some think they improve vocals. I prefer towers for two channel music with and without a sub but using bookshelves in a system used mostly for movies/tv does free up funds for a better center channel and/or subwoofer.

I've been enjoying a pair of Dynaudio Audience 50's and they're a big step up from the Beta 20's. The soundstage is precise and accurate and they seem to have more "impact" without losing any fineese. Gee, I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about. In any event, a better speaker is just...better.
"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#10 of 22 OFFLINE   Raptor382

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Posted September 27 2013 - 08:30 PM

thanks for the replies.  i know that tower vs bookshelf is largely preferrential, but the conclusion i'm drawing, at least from what you are saying Ty, is that, a tower will generally be a better option over a bookshelf, i.e. a tower will do everything that a bookshelf will do, and generally, because of the added drivers and cabinet space, will do it better.

 

however, the question ive been wondering is, would buying a higher grade of bookshelf generally be a better idea than a mid to low end tower?  if price was a factor and you wanted the best sound you could get for the money you have to spend, do you opt for a better quality bookshelf, or a mid/low end tower?

 

i know that i'll only really know what "I" like by listening to them, but, most places only carry the "main" brands (klipsch, paradigm, martin logan, B&W, JBL, Infinity, Polk etc..), you wont find any BIC, HTD, Axiom etc.. around here to listen to.

 

Here's basically what I am looking at.  When at Frys, I picked up the Primus speakers, then I bought the PC351 center and the P163 bookshelves for surrounds from other sources.  However, while at Frys, I was listening to the Polk Tsx330's (i think they were), they had them on sale for $199 each.  They sounded great.  Comparing them to the Primus, I thought they sounded better.  They appeared to have a cleaner sound, a more detailed sound.  I wonder if that is how they perform overall, or was it just a music thing, would they sound just as good in a movie?

 

Up from that, the Tsx440s offer the same speaker, with an additional driver.  So, that may be something to look at as well.  The addition of a driver will allow the speaker to play louder, as well as have a larger frequency response?  This is why i was asking if a 3 driver speaker offered much more than a 2 driver speaker for the cost.

 

So, if you take the TSX330's or 440's, or another comparable speaker compared to say Polk Rti 6 bookshelves, or Polks Lsi7 bookshelves, or Klipsch RB-61 II, or Klipsch RB-51 II.

 

also, i know frys lists their primus speakers on sale for $107 each, but their normal price is $329.  which price more accurately reflects the quality of that speaker?  also, what would be considered a direct competitor to the Primus 363?  From another brand, which speakers would be the equivalent?

 

thanks



#11 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 27 2013 - 08:58 PM

The tsx330 and Primus are direct competitors.

I have a feeling Infinity is about to be killed off. Harman is spending all their time on Revel. If this is the end, the Primus were a pissy send off.

Other bargain basement...

Mordaunt Short Carnival
BIC DV
Pioneer Andrew Jones.
Sony Ss(about to be killed? Replaced?)
KEF C (a series created by KEF for the American "who cares about quality anymore" market)


#12 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 27 2013 - 09:09 PM

By the way...quality? Fasten your seatbelt and hide your wallet...

KEF Q
Polk LSi
Zu Audio
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#13 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted September 28 2013 - 05:24 AM

I had a chance to tour the Egglestonworks factory and audition the 2nd most expensive speakers they make (only $55,000 each). The cabinet build was exceptional. Non parallel surfaces to reduce reflections, bracing out the wazoo and a multi step finish that resulted in something on par with a Porsche. The crossover components had tolerances tighter than I can afford (under 1%) and they were hand assembled by a guy with years of experience. Woofers were custom, mids were an OEM Morel but with a cast frame and the tweeters were custom Dynaudio that only one other customer used.

The demo used electronics that cost more than my house. They were amazing. But my wife whispered to me "Those sound better than your speakers but not that much better." Some of the published designs on the web are amazing. A few hundred dollars can sound like a retail speaker costing a few thousand.

#14 of 22 OFFLINE   Type A

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Posted September 28 2013 - 07:13 AM

The high grade bookshelf verses the mid grade tower brings a couple of questions.  

 

First, how important are the highs to you?  How much will these be used for music?  For example I listen to a lot of classic rock;  Ozzy, AC/DC, Van Halen, Judas Priest, ZZ Top, Ratt, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, ect ect ect.  Now this kind of music is notorious for over-cooked highs and the Vifa tweeters in my former AV123 Rocket speakers did better than my current Paradigm Studio 20 speakers with the highs.  So you have to ask yourself, how much and what kind of music would I be using these speakers for?  Despite the Paradigms being an upgrade over my former Rockets, in every other way, the high performance was not one of them upgrades.  Bottom line, going with a book shelf may allow for a better tweeter and better high performance.

 

Also ask yourself, how loud do you listen?  A tower will give better performance if you listen to your stuff loud and at moderate listening levels the benefits of a tower diminish quickly. 


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Hsu VTF-2 MK3 (2) & MBM-12 MK2 (2)

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Oppo BDP93 & Darbee DVP 5000

*My Home Theater Photo Journal*

#15 of 22 OFFLINE   gene c

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Posted September 28 2013 - 08:21 AM

Primus P363's...$329 - way too much...$107 - great deal...$175 - fair?  I would put the build quality of the Primus above the Polk Monitors/Tsx but I'm just another knucklehead on the internet. SQ in a different thing. That's up to you. There are DIY modifications on the internet that apparently improve the SQ on the 363's.

 

Towers vs books...3-way vs 2-way...too many variables and personnal preferences involved. I'd take the 2-way Beta 20 bookshelves over the 3-way Beta 40 towers. I've had both. But, the 3-way Beta 360 center sounded  better then the 2-way Beta 250 to me.  

 

Another thing to think about. $500/pr bookshelf speakers will also have $500 center and more expensive surrounds. Plus stands for the bookshelves) A $500 tower will have a $250 center and less expensive surrounds. A lot to consider. But, as Ty said, the bookshelves will have better drivers/tweeters. If you use a sub all the time (I don't) and listen at moderate levels then it's hard to argue against a good set of bookshelves. But, most of us seem to have towers so...


"Everyday room": Panasonic 58" Plasma, Dish HD DVR, Pioneer Elite vsx-23, BDP-23 BR, dv58avi universal dvd player, Paradigm Studio 20 V1, CC-450, Dayton HSU-10 subwoofer.

"Movie/Music room": Toshiba 65" DLP, Dish HD receiver, Marantz 7005, CC-4003, BD-7006, Polk LSI25's-LSi7's-LSiC, 2 original Dayton 10" "Mighty-Mites" subwoofers. (subject to change without notice).
 
Also have  MB Quart Vera VS05 +.....too much to list. Help me.
 
 

 


#16 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 28 2013 - 08:24 AM

It also depends on how often your are going to listen in pure 2.0.

 

If you find a speaker you like in pure 2.0...the other 3 are simple.



#17 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 28 2013 - 08:27 AM

Primus P363's...$329 - way too much...$107 - great deal...$175 - fair?  I would put the build quality of the Primus above the Polk Monitors/Tsx but I'm just another knucklehead on the internet. SQ in a different thing. That's up to you. There are DIY modifications on the internet that apparently improve the SQ on the 363's.

 

Towers vs books...3-way vs 2-way...too many variables and personnal preferences involved. I'd take the 2-way Beta 20 bookshelves over the 3-way Beta 40 towers. I've had both. But, the 3-way Beta 360 center sounded  better then the 2-way Beta 250 to me.  

 

Another thing to think about. $500/pr bookshelf speakers will also have $500 center and more expensive surrounds. Plus stands for the bookshelves) A $500 tower will have a $250 center and less expensive surrounds. A lot to consider. But, as Ty said, the bookshelves will have better drivers/tweeters. If you use a sub all the time (I don't) and listen at moderate levels then it's hard to argue against a good set of bookshelves. But, most of us seem to have towers so...

 

After that, you have diminishing returns. The example I will link comes with a 4-way external crossover. Yep, you read that right. External.

 

Each pair of speakers needs 4 amps(or 8 monoblocks).

 

http://www.bowers-wi...s/Overview.html

 

I'm sure some knucklehead out there has 5 of them(maybe even 7) in his/her theatre.



#18 of 22 OFFLINE   Raptor382

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Posted September 28 2013 - 01:04 PM

Ty, as far as how loud I listen, really, not loud at all.  I live in a small 1 bedroom apartment, and while i've already talked to the guy above me and asked him to let me know if my sound bothers him (to which he said that he is laid back and cool with it etc..), I rarely get much above the -25dB mark on my AVR, and in the evenings, im usually running the adaptive drc to keep things toned down a bit.

 

as far as music, i generally listen to it in 7ch stereo or on a PLII music decoder.  The yamaha has the pure direct option, which is, I assume, what you mean by the pure 2.0?  i've never used it, but I may have to give it a try.  I'm assuming it plays the music in it's original format, without any filters or such? 

 

gene, i use my sub all the time.  so maybe, in my situation, books would be more adventageous?  i just wonder about the fullness of sound.  being that most books use a single driver and tweeter, and most towers use 2-3+ drivers, that the fullness and quality would be reduced.  also, by using books with single drivers, this means that the sub ends up having to work harder, correct?  don't most bookshelves have a higher low frequency response?  meaning the sub will have to fill in?  in a previous topic, i asked about the mid bass and what it was for and the impression i got is that, by passing the mid bass frequencies off to another sub, it allowed both the mid bass and low bass sub to sound better because neither was having to deal with all of those frequencies.  If you opt for books over towers, do you not run into this issue? 

 

granted..i ususally cross over at 80Hz, and most books can play down to that, so really, the whole previous paragraph may be unnecessary lol.

 

anyway, i'll probably take a drive back up to houston to check out if Modia has something on display and also look at frys.  For those that I cant audition (HTD, KEF, Axiom, BIC and others), how does one go about buying these sight unseen?  I mean, i know 'how' they do it, i guess the question is, it seems like a risk, buying a speaker online that you've never heard before, and have no way to listen to it before you buy.  Just hope that the company has a good return policy?



#19 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted September 28 2013 - 01:11 PM

You buy them and return them. A lot of ID companies have "zero risk". Some make you pay a 10-15% restock. Some make you pay a restock and return shipping.

 

Almost everything bought from Amazon(as in from Amazon...not a "storefront on Amazon") that has "free shipping over $25"...if you return it...you just print a label and drop it off at UPS.

 

Some ID companies(Salk and I think Ohm Walsh) have a "zero return policy" on some of their merchandise. Typically that would be if you chose some finish they don't do returns on(Salk says that on some of their speakers..."this finish is not returnable").

 

They do have a "we'll make it right, for you...and trade something else if we have to". But if all is said and done, you just don't like them...for some reason. Sell them yourself. Salk actually has a portion of their "what to buy" as customer owned merchandise they are selling.

 

Now if you try a "really good brand" like Salk, Zu or Ohm Walsh...and you just don't like them, pop them on Craigslist for 80% of what you paid. Somebody will beat your door down. (by the way, search Ebay, Audiogon and Craigslist for any of those three brands. Doubt you come up with much).



#20 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

schan1269

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Posted September 28 2013 - 01:27 PM

Take this Salk here...

 

http://www.salksound...wow1 - home.htm

 

If you didn't like them, I'd be shocked.

 

You'd be able to sell them to somebody else for around $900.

 

Sure, you'd lose $300. But this is a hobby. You've probably spent more than that on something even dumber than trying out a pair of speakers for 6 months.






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