Should speaker sensitivity be a major deciding factor ?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by anthony_b, Mar 9, 2002.

  1. anthony_b

    anthony_b Screenwriter

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    Should speaker sensitivity be a major deciding factor ?..Im looking for a pair of surround/bookshelf speakers and when I'm looking through the specs I get turned off with speakers with a sensitivity rating less than 90 db....Should it be a major factor ? (I know that speakers with high sensitivity are good with low powered amps)...I'm using an Onkyo 575x (75w x 5ch).
     
  2. Andrew_Ballew

    Andrew_Ballew Second Unit

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    In my opinion you could benefit greatly from a high sensitivity speaker like Klipsch with your Onkyo receiver. My mains are Definitive Technology BP8's with a 90db sensitivity rating, and they constantly tripped up my old Onkyo 595. The Def Techs are as far as I know usually pretty easy on amps, but to get them at the level I wanted required far too much power from the Onkyo.

    I believe that if I had,say, a speaker with a sensitivity rating of 96db- typcial of speakers like Klipsch, I would not have had any problem with amplification. It would have been much easier to reach the desired SPL without overtaxing the amp.

    Hope this helps

    Andrew Ballew
     
  3. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    I think you should ignore the sensitivity numbers.
    If you start looking at the higher-end, music caliber speakers, they start to become less sensitive. But the accuracy & detail go up! Yes, they take more watts to get them to stand up and sing, but the results are wonderful.
    So I could argue that less sensitivity -> more accuracy/better sound.
    Looking at some of the numbers is like trying to read the ingredents list on .. ice cream and deciding which will taste better. You cant really do it unless you taste each. And even if we both tasted 5 brands of ice cream and ordered them from best-worst, your order and mine would likely be different.
    What I think is more important is: How are you going to use the speakers?
    Inexpensive speakers can do a great job for HT. But may lack in the music department. And even with music, some speakers are warm, mellow for Jazz & Classical, but do a poor job for Rock/Rap.
    This is why it's vital to carry around a typical favorite DVD and CD with you and go do some auditions. The Salespeople actually like you to do this so they dont have to track down their demo disks (which ties them to you). I have spent many a happy hour in a demo room listening to favorite chapters of DVD's.
    The dealer where I eventually bought speakers from noticed my demo disks in hand. He led me into a demo room, showed me how to use the equipment, then left, locking the door behind him so I would not be disturbed.[​IMG] These people knew how to sell speakers.
    Hope this helps.
     
  4. anthony_b

    anthony_b Screenwriter

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    They'll be used as surround speakers: 60% ht / 40% multichanel music
     
  5. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    How much do you want to spend, and what do you have for fronts?

    Oh, and I agree with Bob. Ignore the sensitivity numbers.
     
  6. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Cinematographer

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  7. Rob Warren

    Rob Warren Auditioning

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    I wouldn't ingnore any spec. for the product your buying. The thing is, sensitivity is related to how efficient the speaker works with the amount of power sent to it. Usually it's rated at 1 watt at 1 meter. This means if a sensitivity of 90dB is said then at 1 meter away from the speaker it reads 90dB on an SPL meter with 1 watt of power feeding the speaker. But since your going to be more than 1 meter away then you have to decide how loud you want to be able to go. To make it short, if your speakers are rated at 90 dB or less you will not reach 100dB in the room with 75 watts of power any more than a few feet away. But, do you really need 100dB? It's up to you. I would think 85 to 90dB on an SPL meter is pretty good for watching a movie or listening to quite a bit of music. If you're partying hard on trying to crank it up to rock the house, then you will be disappointed. There is a log equation for this. I can't remember it but my calculations are a rough idea. Not down to the single decibel.

    Here is the idea, for every time you double distance i.e. 1meter to 2 meters then you lose about 6dB of level. But, for every time you double your power to the speakers you only gain 3 dB of level. So simply going from 1 to 2 meters takes 4 times the power. Speaker rated at 90dB sensitivity would give you about 96 dB spl at 4 meters away with 64 watts.

    But that's pretty much close to max on your 75 watts. I like more headroom than that, can't get into that term right now, but in short, I would wonder how great the audio will sound with my amp almost maxed just to achieve the level I need. I would like to be able to run the amp at a lower level and get the spl I need, that's headroom. It sounds "cleaner" when you can do this. Just my .02 cents.
     
  8. anthony_b

    anthony_b Screenwriter

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    My front speakers are very sensitive (96db) Pinnacle classic gold towers. I'm looking to stay under $300 for a pair bookshelf/surround speakers for ht/music and I'm not looking into cracking up my receiver to get decent output from the rear...you know what I mean [​IMG]
     
  9. LarrySkelly

    LarrySkelly Stunt Coordinator

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    Ignore the sensitivity, care only about what your ears hear.

    Besides, I would be concerned about the opposite - speakers that were too efficient.

    There's no free lunch. I could build something that would be more efficient at converting elecrical energy to mechanical energy, but all it would produce would be noise.

    Larry
     
  10. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    All things being equal, higher sensitivity is always a good thing. You can look at it as free power, the difference between an 88db and a 91db speaker is 2x the power (double the power for a 3db increase). The difference in power needs from a lows 80's db to a mid 90's db speakers is staggering.

    Also the statement about higher end speakers and low sensitivity is pretty much a false assumption. Wilson Audio, JM Labs, Dynaudio (high end), etc all have very good sensitivity (in some cases into the 97db area). There are also some that are lower. And we won't go into the whole area of people that like horns and such (some of which sound very good and can get very loud with very low power).

    Obviously go with what sounds best to you and don't worry so much on the sensitivity, but more is almost always a good thing.

    Andrew
     
  11. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Bob McElfresh---Well you can argue that less sensitivity means more accuracy but you'd be wrong. Sensitivity in loudspeakers means expensive drivers; bigger magnets, edgewound voice-coils, tighter gaps calling for more precise machining and build. And it means the extra expense of very large enclosures too, as efficiency goes up so must box size for a given bass extension. Most speaker makers don't want to use expensive drivers and large boxes so they use cheap drivers (and even drivers like ScanSpeak and Focal are cheap compared to those used in good horns) and small boxes and try to call it better, making a virtue of neccesity. Super high-sensitivity horn systems can be made just as flat in frequency response as direct-radiators and they have much lower distortion, much lower power compression, superior diaphragm damping, higher output capabilities and much better dynamics. Listening to a horn system is like driving a Ferrari; hair-trigger acceleration and powerful braking with a top speed over 170 mph. Listening to a low-efficiency direct-radiator is like driving a 6-cylinder 1972 Chevy Nova; poor acceleration and mushy brakes and a top speed of 95mph.
     
  12. Rick Radford

    Rick Radford Supporting Actor

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    Anthony,
    I use Axiom M3Ti for my surrounds. They have a sensitivity rating of 93.
    Look here for one option. $220/pr.
     
  13. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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  14. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    When I made the statement, I was thinking of panel speakers /electrostatics (that tend to want 150-200 wpc behind each) or NHT speakers that are less-efficent.

    I was trying to break the idea the "Better Efficiency = Better Speaker" - this is NOT a good rule. Sorry for the confusion.
     
  15. Andrew_Ballew

    Andrew_Ballew Second Unit

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  16. Manuel Delaflor

    Manuel Delaflor Supporting Actor

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    "Super high-sensitivity horn systems can be made just as flat in frequency response as direct-radiators and they have much lower distortion, much lower power compression, superior diaphragm damping, higher output capabilities and much better dynamics. "

    I can't agree more on this Tom.
     

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