the Interceptor's general AUDIO thread

smib

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I did see those while looking, but didn't look into them and don't worry I totally ignor any kind of "____ Certified" PR crap. Looking around a bit I'm finding that those are quite expensive unless you go used or refurbished, which I would like to avoid. I will keep these at the top of the list, but is there something a bit less expensive that will also be good? I find myself becoming attached to those Logitechs, so much in fact that I might even get them for myself. Any thoughts on those?


EDIT: I'm not sure how reliably cnet is for reviews, and wouldn't be surprised if they answer is 'not at all', but they did consider the Logitechs as being the best 2.1 speakers for the cost, preferring them to the Klipsch set. Also, thank you for the help so far.
 
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the Interceptor

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I take it you're referring to the Logitech Z-2300. I came across this one, too, but I would actually rate it lower than the Klipsch set. Problem is that a lot of listeners do have low to none experience of what's good and what's not and will compare their newly-bought system only to their previous speakers. Since the Logitech is a typical upgrade-system and has a loudness-like tonal balance (impressive for the first few minutes, terrible for the rest of your life), people are impressed. The few guys that actually can listen rate this average at best, yet, these people often are disregarded as idiots.

Read the description of the set and the reviews of the readers. The best part emphasizes on a "great bass" and "clear highs", but hardly anyone mentions mids in a positive waY. That's the problem of the set. The Klipsch will be much better at this, with a significantly better tonal balance, more dynamic sound and likely more "stable" at higher volumes. If you're interested, I can also explain why all sets similar to the Logitech will have no midrange.
 
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smib

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Ahh, see this is why I came to you. I get the impression that he's not as discerning and knowledgeable as he would like others to think, partially because the headphones he really wanted last year were Bose earbuds. For the hundred dollars my girlfriend spent on them I'm quite sure he could have gotten much better. I'm gonna have to really start looking for a good price on the Klipsch set, and in the meantime I would definitely like to know why the others will have a poor midrange.

EDIT: Aaannd I'm an idiot. The Klipsch site sells them for $150, which is actually the cheapest you can get them for new as far as I can see. Certainly on the high end, but I think she'll be willing to pay it.
 
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the Interceptor

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I get the impression that he's not as discerning and knowledgeable as he would like others to think, partially because the headphones he really wanted last year were Bose earbuds. For the hundred dollars my girlfriend spent on them I'm quite sure he could have gotten much better.
He could, but the Bose earbuds are not bad.

in the meantime I would definitely like to know why the others will have a poor midrange.
Okay, here's the deal. You will be my test subject to see whether I can explain this to someone with little knowledge of audio physics (no offense to be taken :)). So anyway...

Sounds consist of pressure variances of air. Our ear picks up these variances, the brain transforms them into sounds. So in order to generate sounds artificially, you need devices that move air - speakers. Since the average human can hear frequencies from 20 Hertz to almost 20 Kilohertz, you want your speaker to cover those bases in order to be good. However...

Despite Bose trying to prove nature wrong, speakers obviously have to follow the laws of physics. That means that in order to fulfil the above-set requirement, there's some work to do. The thing is: speakers are very inefficient when it comes to changing the electrical power from the amp to audible sounds. One of the reasons for that is that there's no direct coupling between the diaphragms of a speaker and the air in front of it. When the diaphragm moves, only a fraction of the air in front of actually gets compressed. The rest of the air just moves aside, and therefore has no part in reproducing sounds. That means that in order to move air, you need some diaphragm area - the more area you have, the better the coupling is, the easier it is to generate sounds. Following me so far?

Okay, so lets come back to covering 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The speakers that actually cover this are only a handful worldwide. In order to keep speakers a reasonable size, you need to make compromises. The biggest cut that's made is the low frequencies. To reach 20 Hz, you need to make a lot of effort, so saying 50 Hz is plenty makes your task much easier. 50 Hz is about the deepest Bass conventional music offers anyway, so you will be fine with that. That means that you can shrink your diaphragms and your speakers significantly.

Another idea is tricking the human sense of orientation. That sense lets us know where a sound came from. However, the efficiency of it decreases with lower frequencies (= bass). That means that in order to make a nice stereo sound, you need two speakers for the mids and highs, but only one for the bass, since you can't hear where the bass comes from anyway. In real life it's not that simple, but that's the general idea.

So to keep speakers small, you put up two tiny satellite speakers which cover the middle and high frequencies (where you don't need to move that much air and therefore can use smaller diaphragms) and one subwoofer for the bass department. The classical cut frequency between the sub and the sats lies around 100 Hz. If you go below, the satellites will have to grow in order to keep up their work down there, if you go above, the subwoofer will start playing midrange and give away its position. That however hasn't stopped companies from trying to shrink the satellites further and further. Classic case in point: Bose. Their famous cubes have shrunk more and more over time which makes them crap, but through clever marketing and the general female hatred of large speakers, they have been and still are very successful. <_<

But let's come back to the no-midrange problem. Now, with shrinking satellites, diaphragms and the volume of the cabinets (which also plays a role in reproducing sounds) decreased in size. That however means that the lower the frequency, the more problems the speaker will have to produce sounds efficiently. So what you end up with is a tiny subwoofer-satellite-system with an alright subwoofer that covers 50-100 Hz and satellites which cover 200-20 kHz. They simply have become too small to cope with frequencies down to 100 Hz, therefore, there will be an audible hole between 100 and 200 Hz, which obviously is not good.
Then, there's the problem of tonal balance. A small speaker will not only be quite inefficient overall, it will also have an uneven efficiency over the frequency range. Following the laws of physics, efficiency rises with upping the frequency, due to the improving coupling with air and increasing directionality (I'll explain that on another occasion). That means that a small satellite will always pronounce the upper mids and highs, or - seen the other way around - neglect the low mids and the upper bass.

That means that the sound of this setup will be quite impressive, since the strong bass and the pronounced highs give you a very spectacular experience. However, the mids are a very important part, where our ear is very sensitive to failures of the speakers. This means that after you're done with being impressed of the speaker system, you will start to miss the midrange.

Now, Klipsch has a long tradition in making speakers, and also, they do not produce crap. Other companies will throw pretty much anything at the market, since they know the average buyer will get their products anyway. Therefore, the Klipsch set got some thought by a few guys that knew what they were doing, so the sound of the satellites has a good tonal balance, and they reach deep enough to make a good team with the subwoofer. You can do it, but the average manufacturer simply doesn't, because it's cheaper and easier not to. As cruel as it is, it's as simple as that.

So if you're neither bored to death, nor you fell asleep by now, you have learned something about speakers. Any questions? :?
 
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Interceptor, bravo on both the explanation of the physics and the recommendation of the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1s. I had a pair of them for a number of years, and though I've moved on to using a regular Pre/Amp/Pair-of-stanalone-speakers setup for the last couple of years, those Klipsch are the only computer speakers I will recommend. I wouldn't be wary of the refurbs on the Klipsch website either, I got a pair of those and they worked perfectly for two years (until a cross-country move and a fall ended their life prematurely).
 

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Excellent explanation, and even though I actually do have a decent understanding of the physics of sound(but don't worry no offense taken), you filled in a few holes I'd had. Thank you tons for the help.
 

smib

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I actually have another question, though there isn't much need to get into since I probably won't actually go ahead with it for a while. I'm considering getting surround sound for the TV and want to know if there is such thing as a wireless set that isn't expensive or sucky. I really doubt it but I figured I might as well ask. Then again maybe using a quality set of 2.1s like these Klipsch will be good enough, they'd certainly be an improvement over the $25 Logitechs I'm using now.
 

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I'm considering getting surround sound for the TV and want to know if there is such thing as a wireless set that isn't expensive or sucky.
This one I can answer much shorter: no, there isn't. :)

But your idea is right, since even a set of good stereo speakers will improve the sound experience of a TV by quite a margin.
 

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As far as I understand, 5.x systems require serious investment and processing power*, is this correct?

* - to beat an equally-priced stereo system at anything
 

the Interceptor

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Well, if the source material is true surround, a 5.x setup will obviously beat a stereo system in terms of surround effects. Other than that, a stereo setup for the same money will highly likely be better in every way.
 

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Alright then, as soon as I can afford it I'll likely be buying a refurb set of the Klipsch Promedia 2.1s.
 

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As far as I understand, 5.x systems require serious investment and processing power*, is this correct?

* - to beat an equally-priced stereo system at anything
If you want the 5.1 system to have a hifi quality, yes. Very costly, very complicated and quite impossible to achieve for someone who isn't a hifi enthusiast.

Firstly you mustn't have a wife or girlfriend, who objects to re-arranging all your furniture. If you have one, you are screwed from the beginning. Find another hobby or buy the cheapest stuff you can find, because it won't make a difference if you spend more money or not.

But lets assume you can set up the speakers like you want or even plan your room layout according to the needs of a multi-channel system, you will still have to make adjustments with the room acoustics, that go beyond your capabilities. Because when you put 6 loudspeakers into a room in 6 different places, you will inevitably end up with those speakers producing frequency overlays and mutual extinctions. In other words: You'll have a total mess.

It is quite easy to demonstrate: Put a noise on your main speakers and listen to them separately. Even though they are exactly identical, the noise on the left speaker will sound very different from the noise on the right speaker. Imagine that with 5 full range speakers and you'll get an idea of the problem.

The bitch of it is, that you won't notice that mess right away. You might be satisfied at first but after a while you'll notice something is not right -- in most cases you will find that you do not have a homogeneous sound field, which is vital to a good home cinema experience. That nagging feeling grows into an annoyance and many folks give up then or learn to somehow shield themselves mentally from it.

But if you want to correct the problem properly, you can forget about trial and error with a 5.1 or even a 7.1 system -- you can try an eternity without a satisfying result.

What you need, is either an expert on room acoustics with professional equipment -- or a good measuring system within your AV receiver, that contains a microphone, a parametric equalizer and an intelligent software with the capability to equal out room influences, frequency problems and runtime differences between the speakers down to the sub bass level.

Such systems only do exist within the more expensive AV receivers. The "Audyssey" system for example, which comes with Denon AV receivers, is outstanding (it is even able to harmonize several subwoofers in a room) -- but it comes with a price: My Denon AVR-3808A cost 1700 Euros.

Pause for effect.

That's more than most are willing to spend on their whole system. And even with that kind of intelligent automatic adjustment you still will probably have to tweak some aspects manually to your liking afterwards.

Most people, however, do not bother with all of that. So most hifi and home cinema systems sound like crap, no matter how much money they spent for them.
 

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Is anybody here using M-Audio AV40 speakers?

I'm looking around at getting a set of small bookshelf speakers at the moment without blowing a fortune, and it seems the M-Audio and Audioengines may well fit the bill.

However, I did hear about quality issues with the AV40...
 

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What you need, is either an expert on room acoustics with professional equipment -- or a good measuring system within your AV receiver, that contains a microphone, a parametric equalizer and an intelligent software with the capability to equal out room influences, frequency problems and runtime differences between the speakers down to the sub bass level.

Such systems only do exist within the more expensive AV receivers. The "Audyssey" system for example, which comes with Denon AV receivers, is outstanding (it is even able to harmonize several subwoofers in a room) -- but it comes with a price: My Denon AVR-3808A cost 1700 Euros.
Onkyo offers some less expensive units with the Audyssey system, mine had it and the difference it made was quite noticeable. Took a good 15 minutes and I had the microphone on a tripod to put it in the right position in 3 different spots (as per instructions). My speakers aren't arranged in the proper configuration due to an enormous corner desk blocking the ideal position for one of the rear surrounds, but it auto compensated for it and hearing the difference is as easy as first listening in the spot it's calibrated for and then moving 6 feet away to hear where the system isn't calibrated to.

Definitely worth it to find a unit with the system I say. I'll be happy with my Onkyo unit until I can upgrade to Luxman units sometime later in life, in fact I'd be using my parents old Luxman system right now if it supported modern interfaces (Though, I am using the Lux turntable since it's still superior to any modern units available for less than $500 or more).
 
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That however hasn't stopped companies from trying to shrink the satellites further and further. Classic case in point: Bose. Their famous cubes have shrunk more and more over time which makes them crap, but through clever marketing and the general female hatred of large speakers, they have been and still are very successful.
It's not only that the construction itself is faulty.

Bose also uses the cheapest materials available: Paper, plastic and particle board - all of them not having exactly the best acoustical qualities. Their cubes contain small broadband cones made of paper, which are incapable of reproducing high tones right.

The result is that all Bose cubes have a lisp, the highs are smeared into one terrible hissing noise, while the lower mid range basically doesn't exist and their "bass modules" (they know very well why they don't call them sub woofers) have the acoustic qualities of a shoe box.

Of course there are other manufacturers who make equally crappy stuff but they sell their sets for 200 Euros and not 2000 Euros! No co-incidence that Bose is the most profitable audio manufacturer in the world.

Bose also has a very strict policy with their dealers: Bose products are not allowed to be demonstrated together with other brands, preventing customers from making a direct comparison. That's why you mostly see Bose products in a separate recess or corner at the dealer.

But let's come back to the no-midrange problem. Now, with shrinking satellites, diaphragms and the volume of the cabinets (which also plays a role in reproducing sounds) decreased in size. That however means that the lower the frequency, the more problems the speaker will have to produce sounds efficiently. So what you end up with is a tiny subwoofer-satellite-system with an alright subwoofer that covers 50-100 Hz and satellites which cover 200-20 kHz. They simply have become too small to cope with frequencies down to 100 Hz, therefore, there will be an audible hole between 100 and 200 Hz, which obviously is not good.
I'd even go as far as saying that every speaker smaller than 13 cm cannot even reproduce from 800 Hz downwards right.

For my own main speakers I use horns for the highs, 17 cm speakers for the upper mid range from 3000 to 800 Hz, 38 cm dipols for the lower mids from 800 to 100 Hz and two external 48 cm woofers in closed cabinets for the bass -- all of them with short displacement. The whole thing is a fully active 4-way system with an integrated feed forward filter in the active crossover, which rises the bass volume for frequencies from 40 Hz downwards to compensate for the falling ability of the closed subs to reproduce ultra-low frequencies right.

In addition I also use 2 more bass reflex subwoofers to give the whole thing a bit more grunt and kick in the sub bass for home cinema purpose. All in all the amps have a power draw of about 4000 Watts to drive the system :)

For that you get a linear frequency response from about 25 Hz to 20 KHz.

Onkyo offers some less expensive units with the Audyssey system, mine had it and the difference it made was quite noticeable. Took a good 15 minutes and I had the microphone on a tripod to put it in the right position in 3 different spots (as per instructions).
There are differences in how the manufacturers use the Audyssey software or rather which version they use. Denon currently uses the latest upgrade, containing the MultEQ XT function. It measures up to 8 (!) positions in the room and automatically determines, if a speaker is full range or a satellite or a sub woofer. It also automatically determines the optimal crossover frequency between the sub woofer(s) and all other speakers, checks the polarity of all speakers and adjusts the frequency response for the full frequency range, signal runtimes and volume separately for each speaker from 20 Hz to 20 KHz and for up to 3 connected sub woofers! The MultiEQ XT system uses not a parametric equalizer but a much more sophisticated filter with a much higher resolution. The whole measuring process takes up to about 45 minutes, with the final calculation needing about 5 minutes alone.

You can then also use the result of the measurement for the 2-channel stereo mode, which is really quite nice. I'm currently torn between listening music without tampering the signal via my high end stereo pre-amp or via the Denon AV receiver with room and frequency correction. I tend to prefer the Denon now, because a) it enables you to use the sub woofer(s) effectively for listening to music and b) it is a more relaxing listening experience.

But in spite of all that, I still had to set the surround speakers 2 dB lower, than the Audyssey system determined, and I have to adjust the volume of the sub woofer depending on what movie I watch. Some movies need more bass, some have so much, that you have to turn the sub woofer down or your whole furniture becomes a passive membrane :lol:

In the end, your ears are the final judge and you ought to trust them more, than a computer.

I'll be happy with my Onkyo unit until I can upgrade to Luxman units sometime later in life, in fact I'd be using my parents old Luxman system right now if it supported modern interfaces (Though, I am using the Lux turntable since it's still superior to any modern units available for less than $500 or more).
I have never been a fan of Luxman amps. I know they were a favourite in hifi magazines and many hifi fans swear by them but for my taste they always sounded too soft and didn't have the performance stability to really fire a demanding speaker setup. The fact that in Germany Luxman amps were sold together with Quadral speakers (which needed lots and lots of power to remotely sound good), didn't help either.

On the other hand I am not really up to date with the current hifi scene. I stopped caring, when I found my optimal setup at the end of the 1990's. Since then I also haven't read any magazines anymore ;)


P.S.: To further illustrate the problem with room influences and how severe it is, here are the results of the Audyssey frequency corrections for the main, center and surround speakers in my room. The curves show the necessary adjustments in decibel from 20 Hz to 20 KHz in order to produce a linear result at the main listening spot.





As you can see, there are corrections in certain frequencies of up to +10 dB and -20 dB. One will never be able to eliminate warps of that magnitude with Helmholtz resonators or other means of passive room acoustics adjustments. Also fiddling with frequency crossovers or the speakers themselves will never produce more than random results. The only way to fight room influences, is actively with electronic filters of high quality.

By the way: My room has rather good acoustics with the measurements of 4 x 6 x 2.5 meters.

So the bottom line is: Whatever a hifi purist may tell you about how neutral his speakers are or how much he will not interfere with the "purity" of his precious music signal -- don't believe a word he says, because it's complete and utter rubbish.
 
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There are differences in how the manufacturers use the Audyssey software or rather which version they use. Denon currently uses the latest upgrade, containing the MultEQ XT function. It measures up to 8 (!) positions in the room and automatically determines, if a speaker is full range or a satellite or a sub woofer. It also automatically determines the optimal crossover frequency between the sub woofer(s) and all other speakers, checks the polarity of all speakers and adjusts the frequency response for the full frequency range, signal runtimes and volume separately for each speaker from 20 Hz to 20 KHz and for up to 3 connected sub woofers! The MultiEQ XT system uses not a parametric equalizer but a much more sophisticated filter with a much higher resolution. The whole measuring process takes up to about 45 minutes, with the final calculation needing about 5 minutes alone.

You can then also use the result of the measurement for the 2-channel stereo mode, which is really quite nice. I'm currently torn between listening music without tampering the signal via my high end stereo pre-amp or via the Denon AV receiver with room and frequency correction. I tend to prefer the Denon now, because a) it enables you to use the sub woofer(s) effectively for listening to music and b) it is a more relaxing listening experience.

But in spite of all that, I still had to set the surround speakers 2 dB lower, than the Audyssey system determined, and I have to adjust the volume of the sub woofer depending on what movie I watch. Some movies need more bass, some have so much, that you have to turn the sub woofer down or your whole furniture becomes a passive membrane :lol:

In the end, your ears are the final judge and you ought to trust them more, than a computer.



I have never been a fan of Luxman amps. I know they were a favourite in hifi magazines and many hifi fans swear by them but for my taste they always sounded too soft and didn't have the performance stability to really fire a demanding speaker setup. The fact that in Germany Luxman amps were sold together with Quadral speakers (which needed lots and lots of power to remotely sound good), didn't help either.

On the other hand I am not really up to date with the current hifi scene. I stopped caring, when I found my optimal setup at the end of the 1990's. Since then I also haven't read any magazines anymore ;)
Yeah, I can see why why you'd prefer Denon's implementation of it. I have my setup in my bedroom (about 14' square), so it works more then fine for that. The final calculation on mine took a while as well, and I suspect one of the main differences between the Denon process and the Onkyo one is that the Onkyo hides many of the finer adjustments from me, where yours lets you fiddle with them.

As far as the Luxmans go, you have to be careful. If you get the pieces made under Alpine in the late 80's through the early 2000's chances are you've got run of the mill equipment. You have to get pieces from either before that or after that, when Luxman wasn't forced by Alpine to make budget friendly stuff that was sold at big box stores. The components from before then and the new 80th anniversary editions are the ones held in high regards by audiophiles. There are reports of people getting two or three times the rated power output of their Lux units with no distortion or trouble at all, just the exceptional build quality allows for that extra performance. Off the top of my head, the R-117 receiver is easily capable of 250+ watts per channel, unfortunately the receiver we have is only an R-115 :lol:

Anyway, yes if you got one of the junky Alpine specials rebadged as a Luxman that could easily leave a sour taste with you. The good stuff is worth the hunt, though at this point it's either going to need some cleaning after 30-40 years or will cost an arm and a leg for a reconditioned ready to go unit.
 

the Interceptor

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Is anybody here using M-Audio AV40 speakers?

I'm looking around at getting a set of small bookshelf speakers at the moment without blowing a fortune, and it seems the M-Audio and Audioengines may well fit the bill.

However, I did hear about quality issues with the AV40...
Are you aware that the M-Audios are active speakers (as in having inbuilt amplifiers)?

Also, what kind of things will you do with the speakers, and what's your budget?
 

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No, since this is my first foray into speakers. Until this point all my audio purchases have been to do with Headphones.
 

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Well then, tell us a little about what you plan to do with these speakers: preferred volume levels, music styles, size of room, the existing stereo equipment, and so on.
 

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Ok, here goes.

I'm basically looking for something to replace my current craptastic Bose Companion 2 computer speakers which I got before my audiophile days.

I plan on listening to music with them. My music tastes vary a lot, but mainly Jazz (think Diana Krall and Melody Gardot) and rock (Pink Floyd, Rage against the machine, etc), and I guess my preferred sound signature is that of my Ultrasone Pro 900 - Rich bass and very smooth, rounded treble with a wide soundstage but slightly cold overall so that I don't tire from long listening. Thanks to uber-sensitive ears (e.g. I can't stand the sound of plates clashing) I listen at very low volumes.

My big problem is size since my computer desk is not big, so something Bose companion 2 sized would be good. My source will be the pre-amp on my tweaked Tianyun Zero DAC, which is connected to my PC via a USB to Optical converter.

My room is not very big, but due to the way things are configured echo will be quiet an issue. Cost is the other big restraint, preferably $200 all up.

I've been scouring head-fi for a while now, but haven't really turned up something solid.
 
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