Now distortion is good!

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by BrianAe, Aug 18, 2004.

  1. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Our friends at secrets have done it again:

    In reviewing the Paradigm Reference Seismic 12 Subwoofer, Secrets wrote a glowing review before they took measurements. After taking measurements comparing FR and THD between the SVS ultra and the Paradigm they look to cover their buts by saying basically that distortion isn't necessarily bad and that it's all a matter of personal preference. This is a nice follow up to their glowing review of 800 dollar power cables. Its funny how they can be so rigorous with their DVD reviews and be even worse then the audio porn print mags about everything else.

    Here is the link:
    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volum...er-8-2004.html

    Here is the portion of the review:

    Addendum: Here are some additional data taken after this review was published, in response to comments on various forums. One SVS CS-Ultra was compared to one Seismic. Phase settings were the same (00 on the Seismic, while the amp for the SVS does not have a phase setting). The subs were measured in the same position in the room.


    SVS CS-Ultra Seismic
    Max SPL at Combination of 20 Hz, 31.5 Hz, and 50 Hz 108 dB 120 dB
    THD at 20 Hz and 100 dB 18.3% 100%
    THD at 25 Hz and 100 dB 28.3% 52.3%
    THD at 31.5 Hz and 100 dB 9.9% 11.9%
    THD at 40 Hz and 100 dB 7.2% 8%
    THD at 50 Hz and 100 dB 4.2% 3.9%
    THD at 80 Hz and 100 dB 2.1% 1.4%

    Obviously, the SVS has much lower distortion than the Seismic in the 20 Hz to 30 Hz range, but is about the same in the 30 Hz to 50 Hz range. The higher distortion produced with low frequency fundamentals in the Seismic will result in more audibility, since 50 Hz and 75 Hz (the second and third ordered harmonics of 25 Hz) are much more audible than 25 Hz. With bass, THD is not necessarily undesirable, since it results in more audible impact. With input signals in the 20 Hz to 30 Hz range, the SVS will be felt more, while the Seismic will be heard more. It is all a matter of preference.
     
  2. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Now which speaker company do you think writes them a bigger cheque quarterly for advertising and reviews?
     
  3. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    And that's with the first generation (and long out of production) Ultra driver, not the vaunted TV-12. The TV-12 should better those numbers by a decent margin.

    I'd take a single $1,200 TV-12 PC-Ultra over the $1,700 Seismic any day. It would take several Seismics to equal the clean output of one PC-Ultra in the 20-25 Hz region.

    In fact, if you want to really clean-up, just put up DUAL 20-39PC+ (with the highly regarded dB-12 woofer) for $1,700 against a single Seismic.

    I'm not doubting the Seismic is a monster in 30-80 Hz region; but let's face it - clean and loud bass production in the 20-25 Hz region is what separates mediocre subs from great subs. Tom Nousaine said it best - make the sub flat, deep, clean, and loud and the rest pretty much falls into place.

    The notion that distortion is not necessarily undesireable is patently ridiculous. Distortion is by definition something not present in the original source content and is the antithesis of accuracy. I want to hear bass the way it was recorded, not with added distortion harmonics produced by an inferior design.

    While it is true that some people find high THD to be pleasing (it imparts a fuller, heavier-bodied sound), that certainly doesn't make it more accurate, and I suppose there's no accounting for individual preferences. Our upstairs TV once suffered lightning damage, and this caused faces on the screen to take on a most interesting shade of purple. The resident 7 year old found this effect to be quite pleasing....
     
  4. dave alan

    dave alan Second Unit

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    THD and perception. I found this interesting. After downloading the AES papers and following several threads on this subject, well, it's got me thinking.
     
  5. MikeDuke

    MikeDuke Stunt Coordinator

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    I think the problem is that alot of people just want loudness and room that room shaking ability. If the sub can hit over 110db thats all they care about. I have a quick example on distortion or "How I got rid if distortion and started to love real bass".

    My first subwoofer was a def tech powerfield 15. It has a 15 inch woofer and 200 watts. It was loud and could shake the room with no problem. I thought I had good bass. Everyone who heard it thought it sounded great. Movies just rocked. Then I upgraded to a JM labs SW900. This has a 400 watt amp and a 13.18 inch driver. What I learned was what I thought was bass was nothing but distortion. I thought that my Rock dvd was great becasue it shook the room before. Now I know that most of that stuff was distortion. In the Matrix lobby part, before it would just pump out bass with no detail. I thought that the movie was just mixed with too much bass. Now I can hear the music as well as hear each bulit impact. I think the problem is that alot of people never heard what real bass is suposed to sound like.

    There are countless other examples I could give. Once you hear what clean bass can do, nothing else will do. If you find distortion pleasing because it adds to the experience so be it. I will not try and sound off on it. This was just my experience.
     
  6. MikeDuke

    MikeDuke Stunt Coordinator

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    sorry for any typos
     
  7. Robb Roy

    Robb Roy Supporting Actor

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    Ed,

    John Johnson posted on the Spot that they added those distortion numbers. I've asked if they'd clarify in the article whether it is the original Ultra driver, and if it is, would Brian be willing to re-test with an updated driver. We'll see.

    -Robb
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    This could be what they call one of dem musical subs [​IMG]
     
  9. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    There's other things to consider, Robb.

    I am pretty sure Brian's Ultras employ the original driver (and not the TV-12). But just as important (perhaps even more so), are the fact that his Ultras are passive. He mentioned in the review that the drivers bottomed. Not only is the TV-12 more resistant to bottoming (xMax is about 30 mm), but the PC-Ultra BASH amp contains the all important infrasonic filters to help protect the woofer from over-excursion below the tune point. The amp also contains sophisticated limiters to prevent it from being overdriven.

    It's not that a PC-Ultra "can't" be bottomed, but it would be FAR harder to accomplish that feat compared to a first generation passive Ultra being driven by the S1000 and not even a Marchand SVS01 Black Box in the loop.

    I'm not doubting Brian's impressions of the Seismic. It's undoubtedly a monster in the mid bass and I'm sure it has slam galore, and seems totally bullet (or abuse) proof. Those aren't bad traits, really, but high THD in the lowest octaves (as Mike so well stated above) gets old FAST.

    I imagine Brian was really blown away by the Seismic mid-bass and its indestructible nature, and the only nearby subs he had for comparison were the better balanced Ultras so he blurted out what was probably a well intentioned but ultimately ill conceived comparo and the predicabtle result was a backlash at SPOT, and now here at HTF.

    SVS apologists? Hardly. Informed enthusiasts looking for an apples/apples comparison along the lines of Nousaine or Yates or Doc Johnson? Absolutely. The references to SVS should either be completely deleted from the review, or the comparo should be done right.

    Even the THD data posted in the addendum looks to have a problem; look at the 25 Hz data - the 25 Hz THD for the Ultra is higher than at 20 Hz. Impossible with all that is known about the Ultra and subwoofer physics and SVS will back me on this one I'm sure. That 25 Hz THD number is almost assuredly artifically inflated by a room-induced vibration at 50, 75, or 100 Hz.

    Drag em' both (Seismic and PC-Ultra) outside and do 2 meter FR, THD, dynamic compression, impulse reponse, group delay, bandwidth uniformity, and whatever else JJ wants to cook up and let the chips fall where they may. When the smoke clears my money says the PC-Ultra will be left standing.
     
  10. Robb Roy

    Robb Roy Supporting Actor

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    I see Brian changed all references to "Brand Y".

    -Robb
     
  11. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    How sad....this has gone from bad to worse to sublime.

    When I recommended completely deleting references to SVS from the review, I meant the article should either be a stand alone review for the Seismic, or it should be a legitimate and well controlled comparo between the Seismic and a PC-Ultra.

    Now it appears that "Brand Y" has something to hide. Nothing could be further from the truth. SVS has never been afraid of legitimate competition and comparison; the business was built on it.

    Again, either do a REAL shoot-out between the PC-Ultra and the Seismic (something SVS would welcome), or convert the existing Seismic article into a stand alone review.

    Ed
     
  12. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    It may be even worse than sublime. Looking at the article, where Brian states...With bass, THD is not necessarily undesirable, since it results in more audible impact which some consumers prefer. With input signals in the 20 Hz to 30 Hz range, the "Brand Y" will be felt more, while the Seismic will be heard more. It is all a matter of preference. IMO, a disservice is done to the consumer by this statement. Perhaps it might've been more honest to say that in order for the Seismic to not severely color the sound it needs to be played at signficantly lower volumes and should only be considered by people whose needs are more modest and have a smaller room. It should not be recommended for other more demanding situations. 'Course the manufacturer might not like it, but nothing stops them from having the opportunity to respond and then let the consumer sort out the truth.
     
  13. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Chu, I agree with you 100%. Its things like this in the Secret's reviews that make me question not only their reviewers but their editors as well.

    The worst is Jason Serinus who goes on and on about $1000 plus cables and cords of all variety like they make more of a difference then speakers and who in his latest review doesn't like an amp after its been broken in for 40 hours but does after 100 hours. Give me a break.

    I don't think it was responsible for the editors to let him give these reviews without at least a little of verification through simple blind trials by the editorial staff.
     
  14. Bhagi Katbamna

    Bhagi Katbamna Supporting Actor

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    The reason it will be "heard more" is that at 20HZ is that it will be producing a doubling(distortion at 40HZ) tone that is as loud as the tone that it is supposed to be reproducing.
     
  15. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Jason Serinus is nuts. Having Secrets do articles for them is like the New England Journal of Medicine featuring an article on "Casting and Reading Chicken Bones-Is There a Difference Between Penned and Caged Birds?". For an interesting perspective on him, type in his name and do a Google Groups search. He's done a bit of wheeling and dealing selling things there as well as other interesting postings. Makes me wonder anyways, if this person actually has some of the equipment at the time that he purports to do a review and if some of the equipment has been sold after having been reviewed.
     
  16. terence

    terence Supporting Actor

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    The clean up on the review was like puting a band aid on a cut that needs stiches. [​IMG]
     
  17. John E. Johnson

    John E. Johnson Auditioning

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    I don't know what all this ruckus is about. Brian Weatherhead compared a Paradigm Seismic sub to the SVS and preferred the Seismic. That is his prerogative. I had him add more measurements so it could be explained why he prefers the Seismic. The Seismic has more THD with low frequencies so he can hear more with those signals. It isn't a matter of whether distortion is good or bad, it is a matter of preference. He prefers the additional distortion because he can hear it. Lots of consumers want this. Velodyne once marketed a servo-feedback subwoofer driver for cars. They didn't sell many because most people who buy big subs for their cars want all that distortion that they can hear. The Velodyne driver had very little distortion. Manufacturers give consumers what they ask for, what they want to buy. The data in Brian's review clearly show that the SVS performs differently in some areas than the Seismic. The fact that Brian liked the Seismic better seems to have upset some readers who just can't believe anyone would prefer the small Seismic over the SVS. He compared the two because comparing a review product with what a reviewer has on hand is very commonly done in hifi magazines. Our readers have requested that we do more of that (comparing two or more products). As to changing the SVS to "Brand Y", that was my decision. I did it in a previous review of an SVS subwoofer, calling the sub I compared it to as "Brand X", which was a small box sub. My own preferences are deep bass with low distortion, like the SVS. If I were switching to a Paradigm sub, it would have been something like the Servo-15, not a small box sub. But that small box sub has a huge market. Everyone seems to be making them these days.

    JEJ - Editor - Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
     
  18. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    The best analogy I've heard for a long time.
     
  19. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    I think most of us who have posted in this thread don't even own SVS subs. Of course, there is nothing wrong with small subs. However, like Chu said, the review should have said that the Paradigm is better suited for smaller rooms and more moderate volume levels, rather than trying to say that distortion is good.

    Secrets distinguished itself with its DVD benchmarks (for which it deserves credit) and seemed to be on the road to doing the same thing with audio gear like processors. However, with this review and Jason's reviews, it is just like all the other print magazines.
     
  20. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    So you're saying that was the goal of the manufacturer to provide a sub whose purpose was to provide substantial amounts of distortion Mr. Johnson? Then why not just overdrive the SVS?
     

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