Any tips on how to better _evaluate_ speakers / receivers? Buying my first...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by sasha, Nov 29, 2001.

  1. sasha

    sasha Extra

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    Hi,
    I'm going from store to store, usually one per weeknight, listening to a few CDs I bring (acoustic jazz, trance/techno), trying to pick a semi-entry level system for myself ($4K for a set of 5 speakers + a/v receiver is my top.) I find it really hard (not to mention time-consuming) to actually compare what I hear and stop at something I like most. Why?
    While I can certainly hear the differences in speakers (ah, ok, these sound more precise.. these sound warmer.. these have higher highs.. etc.), I find it nearly impossible to cross-compare (when different speakers are in different stores separated by days, or just driving), and also really hard to "remember" which one I have so far liked the most... I'm not even sure when I like something more than something else, with one exception - more expensive speakers by the same maker usually sound better... [​IMG]
    Anyway, I realize this is highly individual, but I'm looking for any tips (what to listen to/for), or better yet links to articles on this topic, if there are any. Sort of "how to evaluate home audio for dummies." (music performance is much more important than movies.)
    (so far I heard an NAD 761 / KEF Q95.2 combo, Marantz 8200 / Paradigm Monitor 9 combo, and B&W DM603 and CDM 1NT / Rotel combo... any standouts, anything better? I read about Divas, but find it scary to buy something without listening..ironically.)
    Thanks.
    -Sasha
     
  2. DerekF

    DerekF Stunt Coordinator

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    You raise an excellent point!
    I too am going "store to store," often with days in between....but instead of trying to compare each speaker to the last, I'm simply going to ask to borrow the first set of speakers that makes me say "WOW!" (you know the feeling, when you hear such acoustic claritiy and richness that it sends shivers down your spine...) [​IMG]
    If I get them home and, using my own CD player/receiver, in my own acoustical envionment, they still wow me, I plan on going the very next day and buying the set....four stores later, I'm still not wowed...
    ....I'm just hoping "wow" doesn't happen with a set that has a price tag in the stratosphere!
     
  3. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    I think you're doing it right - take music that you like and are familiar with, and spend time listening. Also, if you find something that moves you emotionally, that's what you should hold on to. Don't try to evaluate and rank all the speakers and remember which one sounded better than which one, all of that is left-brain activity which is not what this is about. Especially if music is a priority.
    Other brands I could recommend you look into (assuming $1 - 1.5k for fronts, which is probably fair given your $4k budget):
    Magnepan
    PSB
    Vandersteen (though I'm not sure how well these would work for HT)
    Totem (ask Keith [​IMG])
    NHT
    And these are some brands that I'm reading up on, but these will probably be a little hard to audition:
    Triangle
    JM Reynaud
    Those are off the top of my head, there are certainly many more.
     
  4. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Sasha, Derek,

    First, welcome to the Forum!

    The first thing I would suggest is ditch the techno! How can you determine if a speaker sounds accurate and natural if your test music is um, artificial ? Okay, it might be good to evaluate bass response, but that’s about it.

    Stick with well-recorded acoustic music to judge how natural a speaker sounds (emphasis on “well recorded).” And actually you want different recordings for different frequency ranges. For instance, I use one CD to evaluate bass extension and texture (it’s tough to find a CD where the bass has texture!), one for vocals, and another with very well recorded cymbals to test the high-end. Still another I use for dynamics. The reason for all this is that it is virtually impossible to find a single recording that does everything well.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the demo room compared to your own acoustic space. Smaller = better bass response, larger = less bass response. For instance, if the speakers you’re testing in the dealer’s large demo room sound about right, they will sound bass heavy if you take them home to a tiny two-room apartment. If they sound right in the dealer’s small demo room and you take them to your 3000sq. ft. house and put them in a livingroom that opens to a kitchen, dining room, den, etc. you’re going to be saying “Holy &%*#, where’s the bass!?”

    Hopefully in the course of your listening tests, you can narrow it down to two or three speakers. Derek is right, see if you can take them home and “try before you buy.” If not, make sure there is an unconditional return policy (i.e., not “we’ll take them back, but only if you trade for another one of our speakers”).

    Regards,

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  5. BryanZ

    BryanZ Screenwriter

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    Nice budget! For me the choice becomes fairly simple.
    Outlaw 950 preamp - $900
    Outlaw 750 amp - $1,099
    Adire Audio Rava - $400
    nOrh SM 6.9 video package - $1,500
    I doubt you could do much better than that. You'd have an excellent music system and a steller HT. If you are able to listen to some Dynaudio Contours, then you can get a very good idea of what the nOrhs will sound like, as they both use similar (or the same) drivers.
     
  6. sasha

    sasha Extra

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    Hmm, I'll actually be able to listen to Dynaudio at the same store that carries B&Ws... He's got Audience 52s for $900, and 62s too (his B&W 603s are $1100). I was planning to come back and compare them with the B&Ws.

    Regarding techno, this is very true - I was amazed how I could hear all the artificialness of sound on B&Ws (compared to acoustic jazz) - and this was the first time it bothered me (i.e. not on crappy speakers or in the car, before.) But I don't want to discount it since I will be listening to it as well...

    How does "cheap" outlaw ($500) compare with the omnipresent Marantz that's more than twice the price, or NAD I've heard?..

    Thanks.
     

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