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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

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What the 'professionals' think makes a great speaker ~~~

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  • What the 'professionals' think makes a great speaker ~~~

    Some images of measurements made on loudspeakers that greatly outsell Harbeth and are found in some pro studios. Therefore they must be right! They tell the sound engineer mixing the CD you are willing to buy everything he/she needs to know .....

    Points to note = = generally elevated presence band to punch image forward like picture 3 here. A big peak at 4kHz, where the ear is maximally sensitive. Extremely fatiguing to listen to. Apparently endorsed by professionals.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Compensation for the speakers?

    If the pro studio's use monitor speakers that have peaks in the frequency response, how will that affect the recordings that come out of their studios? One might assume the recordings would have a dip in response where the peaks were when the project was mastered.

    Comment


    • #3
      Four "monitor" speakers

      This is an interesting one. I've looked a bit further into this and for your interest attach a picture of three "pro" monitors (A, B, C) and one "domestic" monitor (D) measured under controlled conditions. D was measured using a different audio test set, but I've made sure the vertical/horizontal scales are directly comparable with the others. (I could possibly have exported D and imported into the later A-B-C measuring system but that needs some time).

      What do you make of these? These were measured three years ago and as far as I know, A and B are current models. A is what I'll call a 'Euromonitor'. B is the manifestation of a particular approach to speaker system design. C .... any thoughts? And D? Which one would be expected to give the 'most natural' sound? And if you were a professional sound engineer, based on these curves alone, which one would you have most confidence in as telling you what is really going on in your mix? And which would be likely to give you most or least listening fatigue?

      As you can see there are, even now 2011 some eighty or so years after recognisable loudspeakers appeared, very big measurable differences between speakers. Let alone sonic differences.

      No competitive brand names will be revealed.

      NOTE: Ignore the exact dB markings on the left scale. dBs can be usefully relative (as well as absolute) measurements, like percentages and speaker designers tend not to need to know what a sensitivity figure is, for example, 85.5dB at some frequency. We need to know by how much it varies across the audio band. So, although the left dB scale axis is exactly comparable, you cannot deduce anything from reading the absolute numbers: we've just laid these four speakers out on the page neatly, not in sensitivity ranking.

      >
      Attached Files
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #4
        Comments ...

        D has the flattest response by a big margin.

        Is the notch at about 180Hz in B down to poor crossover design and the 80 Hz hump in C a booming port?

        A is flat enough in the mid bass till the driver begins to roll off but the treble response looks rocky.

        A and B have a rising response over 10kHz - could they scream a bit?

        Please tell us which of these four designs is active and which passive?

        Comment


        • #5
          Analysis - and a line of attack?

          Originally posted by Labarum View Post
          Please tell us which of these four designs is active and which passive?
          All are passive. C is the largest, probably B the smallest?

          Interesting observation ..... 'A's treble response looks rocky'. With some basic tools and no more than five minutes free time could you investigate that issue on A? Before you reach for the tool kit what would your method of attack be to expose the peakiness?

          BTW; A, B, D are two way models. C is a three way.

          Comment


          • #6
            Mainstream product of choice?

            Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
            All are passive.
            Then we are not talking about mainstream products of choice used by Audio Professionals, where a passive speaker is today the exception.

            In what price bracket is each of the speakers referenced?

            {Moderator's comment: can't say for sure. Two examples are heavily marketed to pro users/very serious audiophiles. Don't think the performance would be any better/worse even if an amp was built into/onto the cabinet.}

            Comment


            • #7
              My choice

              D would clearly be the most accurate (I think); but it looks as though C would be unfatiguing to listen to because of the rolled-off treble.

              I think Don's point above is an interesting one. I would think that a mix made on either A or B, if it sounds right on those speakers, would inevitably sound a bit "dull" on a truly flat loudspeaker, e.g. D.

              Comment


              • #8
                Peaks worse than dips?

                Although it was mentioned only C is a three way, D looks suspiciously like the Monitor 40.1 so that would be my choice.

                Of the others I would say that peaks in response are more disturbing that dips. B would be my choice as the rising response above 10k is largely outside the fundamentals of most music so might be noticible as added sparkle. It does have a few dips in in the midrange but I don't think they would bother me as much as the peaks in the other graphs.

                {Moderators comment: no! D is not M40! Far cheaper\smaller.}

                Comment


                • #9
                  Audio balancing under the microscope?

                  My own tuppence worth...

                  Most small "pro" monitors (and I suspect, many larger ones too ), have the presence and treble region peaked up a little so that the engineer can hear distortions and so on in the mixes "under a magnifying glass." These speakers are NOT for comfortable music listening enjoyment and neither are they designed for "total" and "clinical" full-range neutrality - neither are Harbeths IMHO, but I digress and shall need to address this comment later ;) By the way, many European studios and mastering suites use B&W 800 series speakers, which have more of a presence-recessed balance if anything.

                  I also feel that engineers can get atuned to the character of the monitors they're using, so speakers which measure the way shown above can be got used to and heard "through.".

                  I was very recently chatting by email to a chap who does video production for a living and is a keen music and vintage audio enthusiast. His preferred little monitor is a UK/far eastern active model with built-in preamp and DAC, which measures very well and apparently sounds extremely good. However, he has extensive experience of the smaller modern monitors that are freely available on the pro market at very attractive prices (and also a few "designer" ones as well for a good few thousand quid), and finds that although they're great studio tools, he couldn't relax with them at home and some, active or not, aren't very clear in sound either (there's a rather popular little active "Euro-box" which turns up time after time in pictures, apparently with this characteristic).

                  Back to my possibly controvertial comment above regarding Harbeths, and hopefully to bring this post full circle. These days, after many years of listening to all kinds of speakers, good and bad, all I want to do is to kick back and lose myself in the music I choose to play at home. I DON'T want the speaker to throw it at me "warts and all" and neither do I want a pretty false sense of "space" and "depth" which some carefully tailored domestic speakers do (vinyl has often done this all by itself when compared to the master recording in my experience). I want a realistic balance with great and natural reproduction of acoustic instruments from a speaker perfectly able to "rock it" at reasonable levels on occasion, but with great subtlety at lower levels. I find the various "BBC Legacy" speaker types far more able to do this and, of course, Harbeth do seem to me to be leading the field by a country mile at present (the other UK maker with roots in this thinking does well in the UK dealer-chains with their less expensive models which nod to their past, but don't really follow it IMO and their classic series isn't promoted here at all).

                  I appreciate Harbeth make "pro" based models in their range too, but maybe a "proper" speaker isn't what's wanted in a busy studio where everything has to be done quickly and LOUD!!!!!. I love the 40.1 deeply and had the pleasure of some Monitor 30's a few weeks ago. For me though, the return to the SHL5's brought a sigh of relief, although I fully appreciate the "extra warmth" of the latter may not be ideal in some rooms, but the sound was so much more "comfortable," and wanting me to listen to more and more tracks (I was only there for a day, so much different music to listen to). Having said this, I shortly have some good working LS5/9's coming my way for nowt that spent their lives in a video-editing suite and I eagerly look forward to hearing what the "different" bass alignment will do in my little sitting-room.

                  I suppose that what the jottings above mean, is that I'd like the clarity of a good pro-monitor, but presented in a gentler, saner and more music and ear-friendly way. This is why Alan spends hours and HOURS listening and fine tuning his designs for long term listening enjoyment, rather than the clinical, magnified analysis of the signal fed them. You CAN heve the best of both worlds

                  I hope you all take the sentiments above with the sincerity I wish to convey and that I haven't gone off on a tangent with them. Words can be so difficult to describe feelings I find...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    More questions than answers about monitor sonics?

                    OK - had a quick look, I'll give it a try:

                    A: the dip between 1-4k will make the monitors sound smooth - home theatre boom and sizzle sound - bass and treble is accentuated - but where are the mids ("compressed" sound?). The peak at 4k will give the illusion of detail and be effective as our ears will still hear that high frequency well.

                    B: the dip around 200Hz - hmm... "cleans" up the bass so they're easy to place and make one think that they're getting "tight, defined" bass that's "accurate"? Can't understand a dip, most monitors are small and bass is the first thing to go - If anything I'd expect a bit of a bump up, so they don't sound too thin.

                    C: at first I thought C was a combo of A and B - big dip around 200Hz but instead of a sharp rise at 4kHz, there's a dip - hi end not exaggerated here. 2 interesting things between 200 and 500Hz - not sure what that would sound like. Looks like these speakers go deeper than A and B, these will feel bass heavy (dip at 200Hz and the rise between 50 and 100Hz).

                    D: obviously the flattest response - does this mean they're the best?

                    {Mod comment: Edited all to Hz, by convention.}

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Getting to the heart of response quirks ....

                      Originally posted by cornelius View Post
                      ....(snip) C: at first I thought C was a combo of A and B - big dip around 200Hz but instead of a sharp rise at 4kHz, there's a dip - hi end not exaggerated here. 2 interesting things between 200 and 500Hz - not sure what that would sound like. Looks like these speakers go deeper than A and B, these will feel bass heavy (dip at 200Hz and the rise between 50 and 100Hz).

                      D: obviously the flattest response - does this mean they're the best?
                      A valiant effort to attribute various subjective sonic effects to excesses or shortages of energy in various audio bands. It theory, you're right: we know since 1938 (table attached again from our original thread) that, as you say, even before WW2, a common subjective language was being applied to loudspeaker evaluation. But that's only part of the story. The real devil is what we call coloration and this wretched coloration matter seems to have a dimension to it which is simultaneously intangible and highly significant. That's just the sort of problems engineers shy away from if life and limb are not under threat. I'd like to treat coloration as an entirely separate post because it defines how we judge speakers once we've explained away - as you've started to do - the lumps and bumps in the frequency response. So back to the solely measurable, objective evaluation for now.

                      In post #5 it was asked ...

                      With some basic tools and no more than five minutes free time could you investigate [the peakiness in the treble] that issue on A? Before you reach for the tool kit what would your method of attack be to expose the peakiness?
                      That was a good question because without much effort we can dig around in the speaker system and at least identify how that peak comes about. Since the peak (or indeed any other features of the frequency response) were definitely picked-up by the measuring microphone in the chamber (see picture of Derek accurately positioning the microphone with a large T-square) and they are 100% repeatable, we must be able to determine their real physical source. I'd really like to let you think about this. Remember, just with a few tools and a few minutes, what can we glean about the peak. Or indeed any other curiosity of the measured response. And outside the chamber, two audio measurement systems being compared side by side, fed from the same precision microphone (picture).

                      BTW, let's assume that we just borrowed these speakers and destroying them in the interests of scientific curiosity isn't an option. And certainly not the 'deep probe' investigation you see in the other picture - although that may ultimately be necessary!

                      >
                      Attached Files
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Misbehaviour in a metal cone tweeter?

                        That narrow-band peak hints at a metal cone taking off, as most do around 4 to 6kHz as I remember. To tame this, very steep filters set too low for many tweeters (back then) would be needed and a cone peak would be replaced with a rather stressed tweeter harshness..

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Tweeter problems and peaks?

                          Originally posted by DSRANCE View Post
                          That narrow-band peak hints at a metal cone taking off, as most do around 4 to 6kHz as I remember...
                          Ah ha! Astute answer, but the wrong one! You fell into my trap David!

                          Can't move ahead on this one until someone tackles this one:

                          With some basic tools and no more than five minutes free time could you investigate [the peakiness in the treble] that issue on A? Before you reach for the tool kit what would your method of attack be to expose the peakiness?
                          If you work this through for yourself the result will be very interesting I'm sure and directly relates to your otherwise normally apt comment, but wrong in this case.

                          Clue. You need a screwdriver if you are unlucky.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Screwdriver?

                            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            Ah ha! Astute answer, but the wrong one! You fell into my trap David!
                            Just remembering a long-ago chat and comparison of two crossover points on prototype 7's Alan

                            Screwdriver? Can't be loose drivers/crossover bits can it????? I know that some cheaper tweeters could spit and fizzle more if the fixing screws (not just the mounting ones) weren't reasonably and firmly tight.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Tweeters and fizz?

                              Originally posted by DSRANCE View Post
                              ... Screwdriver? Can't be loose drivers/crossover bits can it????? I know that some cheaper tweeters could spit and fizzle more...
                              Ho ho! You've done it again! You're still in the trap! Tweeter? Bit of lateral thinking please!
                              Alan A. Shaw
                              Designer, owner
                              Harbeth Audio UK

                              Comment

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