Re: Distance from speaker to ear - and perception of quality
I feared that my comments were going to invite more comments and possibly more confusion. I'll try again.
What I'm saying (and said) is that if you really want to judge the quality of speakers, don't listen to them at the other end of a large hall. Similarly, if you really want to hear the micro-tone of a violin don't buy the cheap seat at the back of the concert hall because the micro-tones will be swamped by the characteristics of the room.
Now, if you like or need or want speakers that shout at you (a few people do) their strong personality will dominate throughout the room regardless of how far away you sit. That's like the speakers in a railway station - they have a very strong projected megaphonic sound to try and punch through he ambient noise. Perhaps you like that sound in that environment - but take those PA speakers home, hook them up and listen at a normal domestic hi-fi distance and you'd be horrified how trumpet-like they sounded. In other words, how colored they sounded; they would superimpose their own character onto everything that they played. That's what we mean by coloration: an extra flavour added to all music from starter to desert course.
The room cannot correct for colorations in the speaker, it can (at best) just absorb a little energy here and there across the audio spectrum. The room cannot convert a highly coloured PA speaker into a fine hi-fi speaker; so if you want a clean, clear, natural sound then you must select that type of speaker. How to select such a speaker? The first rule is to listen to suitable candidate speakers in the dealer's demo room as close (or closer) than you would at home because, as I said, this really highlights the differences between speakers. The highly trained ear will pick-out a Stradivarius even from the back row; a trained speaker-critic will pick out the colorations of different speakers from the back of the room.
But remember, it's not the case that speakers necessarily add something - they can equally take something away from the input signal. Again, the room can't replace what the speaker has stripped out any more than it can tame what coloration the speaker has added.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK