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'Fast' and 'slow' speakers - should 'fast' = painful to listen to?

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  • #16
    I also don't understand 'fast' and 'slow'

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    I too have never understood what the terms 'fast' and 'slow' mean when ascribed to certain loudspeakers
    Add me to that list - I have no idea what the terms mean.

    If I deliberately wanted to create a "fast" version of some music, likewise a "slow" version conforming Colloms' use of the terms, what would I have to change to get from "fast" to "slow"?

    What would happen were we to, say, delay everything below 500Hz by 1mS? This would create a small but possibly perceptible lag in the bass compared to the top end. I wonder if it would sound "slow".

    Alan - is this a feasible explanation in a speaker designer's world?

    Comment


    • #17
      A simple (old) combination with TONE controls!

      Originally posted by KT88 View Post
      Once upon a time, I paid quite a bit of attention to the audiophile language, but Harbeth speakers have cured me of that. I just finished listening to Vivaldi on my Monitor 30s, run by a 30 year old NAD 3020's pre-amp section and a DIY 15 watt class A power amp. It was bliss, moving me to tears at times.

      A typical audiophile would laugh at this set up. I'd love to blindfold that audiophile, have him listen to this system and then watch for the shocked reaction upon removal of the blindfold.

      Musical communication transcends the audiophile lexicon.
      You wouldn't get any laughs from me. A few weeks ago, I purchased a very nice 30 year-old NAD 3140 integrated from the local used shop and, after a quick test run on my bench monitors, hooked it up to my Compact 7ES-3s. I think people would be very surprised how lovely such a simple combination can sound. We even hooked up an old AR turntable and the whole thing made for a very enjoyable listening session. The little NAD is only rated at 40WPC, but it seems a lot more gusty than that.

      These old integrated amps are a lot of fun. And I love having TONE CONTROLS and a decent phono stage built right in!

      Comment


      • #18
        Possible explanation - 'fast' = peaked-up? (But fatiguing)

        After reading all the other members comments about my original posting here, it occurred to me that what the exhibitor could really have been referring to, may have been that his metal-coned speakers were peaked-up at certain frequencies around which the fastest transients occur.

        Listening to the speaker could then draw one's attention to these 'fast' transients over other parts of the music that build more slowly, creating the impression of a fast, pacy sound. That I also found the speaker to be fatigueing is perhaps evidence of this peaking.

        Comment


        • #19
          A proper engineering vocabulary explains 'fast'?

          Originally posted by jair44 View Post
          Usually lighter and smaller cones seem to react to changes in rhythm faster or more accurately due to lower mass (and lower damping but that's another issue). A heavier damped cone will respond more slowly to changes in signal than a lesser damped one . . . Cabinet resonances can also make a speaker sound slow, not only slow as such, but ill-timed as well. Ill-timed can sound blurred, and blurred can sound slow. This effect becomes critical at low frequencies because they are comparatively slow in the first place.
          The words above illustrate well the problems I have with mixing the vocabulary of the musician with that of the audio engineer.

          "Lighter cones react . . . faster"

          "A heavier damped cone will respond more slowly to changes in signal than a lesser damped one"

          That seems clear enough to me - it is the language of engineering.

          But "Usually lighter and smaller cones seem to react to changes in rhythm faster or more accurately" leaves me very uncomfortable.

          The rhythm of the music is its pulse or tempo measured by it's metronome mark given in beats per minute. (The Wiki is American.)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo

          I fail to see how the musical tempo and the audio frequency can react in the ways suggested by PRaT when they are at least two orders of magnitude apart - rhythm in beats per minute and frequency in hundreds or thousands of cycles per second.

          The most incompetent audio system is well able to follow the fiercest rubato - that's when the musician capriciously departs from the mechanical pulse of the music for artistic effect.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo_rubato

          I could go on, but will leave it there. Engineers should stick to their own vocabulary.

          Comment


          • #20
            Music is naturally 'slow' at LF?

            Originally posted by Pluto View Post
            What would happen were we to, say, delay everything below 500Hz by 1mS? This would create a small but possibly perceptible lag in the bass compared to the top end. I wonder if it would sound "slow".
            Doesn't this happen naturally with many acoustical instruments? Those that play lower speak more slowly - they are generally less articulate. A tuba and a bassoon cannot be played as fast at a piccolo or a violin; but composers know this, and so write bass lines that move quite slowly in comparison to the higher parts. Percussive bass beats the problem to a degree - tympani, plucked bass strings, the low left hand in the piano; and the pedal organ illustrates the issue supremely - the pedal line of an organ piece will often be no more that bar after bar of supporting chords with no "tune" at all. A 16ft or 32ft organ pipe does not begin to make it contribution in a hurry.

            If a loudspeaker is less articulate at lower frequencies that should not (within limits) be a problem, for the music down there is by nature - slow.

            I was once in a cathedral organ loft turning pages for a very talented organist. At the end of the piece he said "That was difficult. I had to advance the time on the solo stop." To explain: The cathedral organ had pipes both sides of the choir(stalls) and a "Nave Organ" on top of a "four poster bed" at the back of the church. This had many powerful pipes (stops) which could be used to put a rocket up the backs of the congregation when they wouldn't get a move in in the hymns. On this occasion the organist wanted to use a particular rank of pipes (stop) in the nave organ to play the solo tune with a supporting accompaniment from the pipes in the choir(stalls). He played the tune with his right hand on one manual (keyboard) and the accompaniment on another manual with his left hand, and on the pedals with his feet. Now the solo stop was many metres away at the back of the church, so for the music was to sound right in the choir(stalls) he had to advance the timing in his right hand by some tiny amount to give the sound waves time to arrive from the back of the church. Incredible skill.

            I have sung in concerts in York Minster with the organ behind the choir and a big orchestra in front. Getting everything to hang together with such a large distance between the violins and the organ must have been very difficult for the conductor, the leader of the orchestra and the organist.

            But I don't anything like these issues in the "timing" of PRaT. I remain bemused.

            Comment


            • #21
              'Fast' and transients

              Technically, 'fast' to me means the abilty for the component (be it an player, amp, speaker) to convey fast transient from its inputs to its outputs without any loss.

              This should also show up in the frequency domain - ie there should be no loss of higher order frequency components.

              Comment


              • #22
                Colloms should not be taken literally

                I don't profess to know exactly what Martin Colloms meant, but whatever it was, the terms "slow" and "fast" are clearly not to be taken in the literal sense: if a piece of music is, say, 3:15 long, then it will be the same length on a "pacey" or "non-pacey" hi fi, with "slow" or "fast" speakers, and so on.

                As I understood the article, it meant to say that inasmuch as rhythm, pace and so forth are properties of music (certain types of music in particular), those musical qualities are communicated more clearly on some audio equipment than on others, not because said equipment is "faster" or "slower" per se, but because it allows certain musical attributes to be perceived more clearly.

                I certainly have had the subjective experience at some live concerts of "understanding" the musical language being spoken at a much different and perhaps higher level than I would have through a piece of hi fi gear, no matter how good. Likewise, some hi fi gear seems to get the musical message across much more clearly than other gear: to me, such attributes as rhythym, timing and so forth are not so much the message as part of the syntax that allows the message to be understood. All I can say is that when that communication occurs, individual attributes of the sound lose their individual significance and something else seems to be conveyed at a deeper level.

                Sorry if that's obscure or vague. Perhaps an analogy might be listening to something deliver a spoken message: in a language I understand well (English, say), the quality of the speaker's voice and the clarity of his/her diction would not likely be something that would affect my comprehension very much, as the message would come through clearly regardless; but in a foreign tongue that I speak and understand imperfectly, the clarity and volume of the voice, the quality of the diction, etc. would assume a far higher level of importance, and likely would have a large impact on whether I was able to comprehend the underlying message.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Electrostatics = light diaphragm = quick start/stop but laid-back sound?

                  It is a confusing term indeed.

                  To me, the only actual 'fast' attribute of a speaker would be it's impulse-response characteristic. Electrostatics by nature are extremely quick to move or stop, as is the Radial cone.

                  Amusingly, one of the quickest (impulse-wise) loudspeakers is one which many see (hear) as 'dark' or even 'dull': the very unique QUAD ESL63...

                  Amongst the fastest moving and stopping drive-units of all time are those found in speakers which are regarded as having a laid-back and relaxed presentation.

                  In fact, being quick, phase-accurate and low in resonant-signature should (if the design is an honest, balanced one) not result in a fatiguing sound but in a non-intrusive, close acoustic analogue of the offered signal.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Try dancing to a 'slow' system - two left feet

                    I tend to agree with Dave.

                    Its hard to explain PRaT and personally I find many aspects of PRaT are best felt.

                    My test for PRaT is the ability to dance to a piece of music. It doesnt have to be rock or pop and applies to classicals and even jazz.

                    Ever tried dancing to a "slow" set up with poor PRaT? You either end up with 2 left feet or its just hard to flow with the music. When a system has PRaT you catch the flow of the music the second you stand up to dance.

                    Personally I find some speakers in the Harbeth range have better PRaT ( I can see it coming). Some equipment with my 40.1 just lacks PRaT and the music isnt involving. Sorry!..... but I still believe equipment has to be matched to deliver the PRaT i find so essential in music. Otherwise its just sound.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      High-falutin gobbledygook (yet again)

                      Well, after all this obfuscation with words like 'slow', 'fast', 'rhythm and pace' we have the bones of a real, logical, comprehensible engineering observation. Yet again, what is nothing more than a basic physical concept which a child could understand given suitable real-world non-audio examples, has been spun-up into high-falutin gobbledygook and then into audio folklore. Why does the industry have to treat the consumer as a dimwit? Anyone who attended high school should be capable of comprehending what's really under the smokescreen of guru-ism.

                      Reported a few posts back ...

                      What does 'fast' mean?

                      Speed in a loudspeaker is related directly to damping factor applied not only to the cone but the cabinet itself (and maybe even the crossover). Usually lighter and smaller cones seem to react to changes in rhythm faster or more accurately due to lower mass (and lower damping but that's another issue). A heavier damped cone will respond more slowly to changes in signal than a lesser damped one. Most guitar amps stick to lightweight paper cones for this reason. So why bother with damping? Well if you don't bother then you run the risk of all kinds of distortion and frequency anomalies appearing.

                      Cabinet resonances can also make a speaker sound slow, not only slow as such, but ill-timed as well. Ill-timed can sound blurred, and blurred can sound slow. This effect becomes critical at low frequencies because they are comparatively slow in the first place.

                      How many car speakers have you heard that had poor 'timing'? Not many I bet, and the same goes for ghetto blasters and such. Furthermore I can't recall any headphones sounding slow in the same way as the comparatively ponderous loudspeaker can. In these cases the cone material is light .... Cabinet resonances also explain why boxless speakers will always sound more responsive to the signal, but once again this comes at a cost. Cabinet resonances become more obvious in relation to the amount of bass the speaker is asked to reproduce. The Harbeth thin-wall cabinet is still the best way of dealing with this ...
                      So there you have it in a nutshell.

                      Forget non-specific ambiguous copywriters words like 'fast' and 'slow', 'rhythm and pace'. Substitute the engineering words high damping, low damping, optimal damping, over damping, under damping, inadequate damping and we can move the discussion forward in a way that we can all extract real understanding and application to our own listening experience.

                      Agree?
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Running slow?

                        But you are referring to live music and not that reproduced by a Hi-Fi system.

                        If you listen to a lot of equipment, as I and some others do as a profession, you will note that some equipment/systems appear to be running 'slow'. I can't explain it any more than that but I have demonstrated it to customers and manufactures on many occasions. Once heard, never forgotten.

                        I am not talking about the reproduction of transients, where a small, light cone will have an advantage or systems with a rising and bright response, which exaggerates information.

                        Harbeth speakers are natural - not slow or fast - just normal but not all speakers are like this. I am now thinking of two very popular, small floor-stander speakers I used to stock. On demonstration, both sounded as if the CD player or TT was running slightly slow but connecting a Naim speaker we had at the same price point and the tempo picked up. Sometimes I would point this out but generally, customers would notice it themselves. All three had a similar, balanced presentation, not exaggerating any particular frequencies.

                        I can't explain it but it does exist and Martin Colloms has made a good stab at it in the article posted previously.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Lexicon

                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          I too have never understood what the terms 'fast' and 'slow' mean when ascribed to certain loudspeakers...

                          ...A standardised lexicon is surely essential to knowledge?
                          Hi to all,

                          We've already covered this before. I invite you to this thread: Repository of adjectives to describe "sound".

                          Sébastien

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Careless talk .... costs!

                            Yoy mean here

                            http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...uot-sound-quot

                            and presumably

                            http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index1.html

                            Which defines "fast"

                            fast Giving an impression of extremely rapid reaction time, which allows a reproducing system to "keep up with" the signal fed to it. (A "fast woofer" would seem to be an oxymoron, but this usage refers to a woofer tuning that does not boom, make the music sound "slow," obscure musical phrasing, or lead to "one-note bass.") Similar to "taut," but referring to the entire audio-frequency range instead of just the bass.
                            That definition I can follow, Dave's description of "the tempo picking up", I cannot.

                            I would bet my life savings that changing the speaker will not change the tempo, which has a precise meaning in musical vocabulary and in science. The metronomic speed (beats per minute) will not be changed by changing the speaker. Changing from one turntable or analogue tapedeck to another, would, if the motors were not running precisely - and, of course the pitch would change too!

                            "Careless talk costs lives"!

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              'Slow sound' and bass volume etc?

                              I can understand what Dave is trying to say and I personally encounter plenty of hifi setups that play a same track of music with different speed but all end the music in correct timing (read from cdp display). Also as what kathylim mentioned a slow speed setup just can not make me dance.

                              Just recently i moved my shl5+lfd le3+cd17mk3 from a room to a hall and connect the setup with computer power cords. All other interconnects are same. After some musics and till now after many albums I listened for long time, it is obvious speed of the music is more correct or faster than it was in the room and the music is more engaging make me taping my feet more than ever. My wife did told me the music is better, happier and easy to follow compared to half beat slower sound in the room.

                              Another case happened in the hall just last week when I changed my le3 amp to my previous amp marantz pm17mk2ki. Me and my wife listen to Zee Avi latest album "ghosybird" (we were listening to this album few evenings continuously and love it) and both of us felt the speed of the music is slow. That let us did not enjoy and failed to follow the music as before. My wife is not an audiophile but she said the music seem slow before i want to say it.

                              By all this, I think fast or slow is affected by or within certain frequency range. Which range? Well, I do not know. But it seem to me different people feel this speed differently. For example some people feel P3ESR and C7ES3 sound faster and more lively while SHL5 is lazy and slow. To me, I nvr feel that way, i feel SHL5 play with same speed but in more relax, easy presentation.

                              Now i actually thinking if the speed is affected by bass volume? It seem to me most big speakers give people slower sound compared to smaller speaker.
                              "Bath with Music"

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                SHL5 and C7ES3 audition

                                Originally posted by keithwwk View Post
                                ... For example some people feel P3ESR and C7ES3 sound faster and more lively while SHL5 is lazy and slow. To me, I nvr feel that way, i feel SHL5 play with same speed but in more relax, easy presentation...
                                Two years ago, I had the chance to audition both SHL5 and C7ES3 at the same listening session at my dealer store. In my opinion, the sounds were pretty similar. I haven't found the SHL5 "lazy and slow". The difference I noted at that time was that SHL5's supertweeter gives a better presentation of cymbals sound.

                                About the SHL5, I share the idea that they are "relax and easy". I mean that my old Audio Physic Virgo III speakers had a really "forward" presentation, espacially on voice. That surprises me a lot when I received my SHL5 at home. In the beginning, I tought that it was more difficult to hear voices, but soon I realised that the presentation was different and I heard detail I never heard before. Fortunately, never in an analytical way.

                                Sébastien

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