Auditioning advice

TB Rich

Active Member
Hi,

Not sure if this is a stupid question or not, but I've got an audition of various speakers booked which are at different price points, now beyond just listening and taking a gut instinct as to what seems best - is there anything a bit more objective I should be doing?
When I read reviews of speakers online people talk about timing, transients, leading edges etc etc - I'll be honest I haven't a clue what half of it actually means! I've started to compile a short list of tracks with different qualities (vocals, bass etc), is it likely to be an obvious change going between speakers or does it take experience (which I don't have) to pick out subtleties?

I'll admit to being a novice and haven't auditioned anything since 20 years when I bought my last speakers - that was between 2 and one sounded like a towel was over it there was such an obvious difference. However as all of the ones I've selected I expect will be good speakers, I'm not expecting that sort of thing again to be so easy and obvious. Clearly spending as little is preferable although if I hear a difference I'll get the more expensive ones.

I'm listening to Monitor Audio Silver 300, KEF R5, B&W 703 S2 & B&W 702 S2.
I was interested in Dali Option 6 and Rubicon 5 too, although that means another dealer and they don't have the B&W which along with the MA's are the ones I'm most interested in hearing.

Cheers
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Forget all the jargon about this, that and the other, go for the ones that put the biggest smile on your face.

Take some music with you that you are very familiar with. I always take Joni Mitchell's wonderful Blue album. If the speakers can control her somewhat shrill notes in the high register without distortion or clipping then to me that's always a good sign. Likewise take another piece of music that has good bass lines.

I've not changed speakers for a long time but headphone auditions and amp auditions have always sprung a surprise on me and I walked out with an amp that I thought I'd never buy. It simply had me grinning from ear to ear. Still grinning.

FWIW I have the old KEF R300s and a Rega Elicit-R amp. Very high grin factor.
 

Costello

Active Member
Exactly as gibbsy says. Go with an open mind, take your favourite music, shut your eyes and trust your ears. When you stop listening at the hifi and start listening to the music, you’re not far off. These are all excellent speakers and a considerable purchase. You might want to ask for a trial at home, too. The speakers have to work in your listening environment, not a bespoke listening room. Have fun!
 

SickSquirrel

Active Member
Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy is a good one to use for bass, listen out for cone rattle. Also at the beginning of the song on a good system you should hear thunder!

Make sure they use the same amp and source as you have at home, really at those prices you should push for a home demo, they never sound the same when you get them home...

As Gibbsy says go for the ones that sound best to you!
 
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Orobas

Active Member
Try and take your sources with you .. or choose a venue with the same.. when you do your listen and compare.. listen to the speakers as a pair.. then listen to them wired against each other.. ie.. speaker firm 1 on the left.. speaker firm 2 on the right to get a direct compare.. also let the showroom know your room size...
 

Ugg10

Well-known Member
I would make sure that each set up is at the same volume. If possible get them to play pink noise and use a phone app to set the volume to the same level before listening to music. If you can A,B using source or speaker switches then again make sure they are the same volume again.

It is surprising how a couple of dB difference, when removed reduces the differences.
 

Paul7777x

Well-known Member
I would make sure that each set up is at the same volume. If possible get them to play pink noise and use a phone app to set the volume to the same level before listening to music. If you can A,B using source or speaker switches then again make sure they are the same volume again.

It is surprising how a couple of dB difference, when removed reduces the differences.
Mighty important...

Even a dB can influence a preference.
 

Ugg10

Well-known Member
Mighty important...

Even a dB can influence a preference.
Old salesman trick, play the system with the most commission a little louder than the others :devil:
 

Paul7777x

Well-known Member
Old salesman trick, play the system with the most commission a little louder than the others :devil:
True sir. And odious.

A home demo is the only real way to be sure, but it’s certainly worthwhile to keep the salesman honest in the shop.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
Thanks all for the advice, I'd especially forgotten about the levels so I'll pay attention to that. I'm not sure how I'll fare trying to level it between sets, I'll see if it's possible but don't know how practical it will be. I'm taking my amp (an Audiolab 8300A) to check it'll be strong enough to drive them all, so the plan was to use the volume up and down and see how each pair fares at quiet and loud reproduction. I'll hopefully be able to average it out that way and settle each pair on where they are comfortable.

For the source they have a streamer with Tidal so I can play any of the final music I decide on. I'm not sure how long a typical audition lasts, I'm sort of hoping a couple will fall by the way side somewhat quickly. I'm still deciding on the final music selection, I'd guess 6-8 tracks should cover they styles I need, however for bass I think it'll be both of these which you can physically feel on my current speakers.
-Billie Eilish Xanny
-London Grammar Hey Now
I'll check out the Massive Attack track mentioned as I'm not familiar with any of their stuff.

I use a Node 2i at home and they stock Bluesound so maybe they'll be able to accommodate that, but I've never found much difference between DAC's and streamers when I've tried. Partly why I've lined up a fairly diverse budget of speakers - assuming they are all good then can I even hear it as the price goes up?!

The room size is fairly similar, it's not as long but is wider. I listen in a 5.5m x 3.5m room which has a speaker distance from listening at about 4.5m. Probably 0.5m in from the boundary walls for both speaker and sofa. Theirs looked a pretty close match to that apart from width, it's maybe 5x5 their room.

I suppose the other question is how well will my amp match them, I'd rather not need to add the 8300XP due to space on the unit, but I guess it's always an option down the line. I've read often that speakers should be a 2:1 on the amp cost, which is why I was thinking a budget of 2k on speakers, however the £600 trade-in on the 702s2 this month means if they offer something I can hear above everything else it's feasible. However the MA300 represent something of a bargain in this company so they'll all need to knock the socks of them to justify it.

Should be an interesting day for sure, so do you think I should ask for a home demo of my favourite on the day? I hadn't thought about that.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
I'll ask then, certainly if you don't ask you don't get! I guess there is the fact that these are all rear ported and my current speakers are front ported (not many are nowadays it seems), and I don't have scope to go beyond 0.5m out from the wall - so it'd be a more than reasonable idea to check they play nicely in my room.
I'm somewhat of a bass head so I think the boundary reinforcement will be fine and possibly needed. My current speakers go to 35hz at -3dB which is substantially lower than the specs of all these new ones - which if you look at mine with 1 x 6.5" mid/bass and the 702's with 3 x 6.5" bass only, it does perplex me how the spec sheet on them is 11hz higher for their -3dB figure. Surely they have to hit harder and lower no?!
My current speakers are Tannoy M3's, ~21 years old and an entry level pair at the time. They've been fantastic though, maybe the bass is overly strong (not that I mind) and treble shouty if you push them, but the midrange and vocals on them is so good and that's what I pick up on when judging for quality I think. It's only now the fact they don't suit the room aesthetically and a tweeter has just picked up a slight buzz at certain frequencies that I am now admitting it's time for new ones :)
 

chipboy

Standard Member
Relax, enjoy, forget the reviews and analysis and go with what you like the sound of, and as long as you don't go ott with the amount of speakers to listen to, don't feel obliged to buy, I left one demo because the salesman expected me to buy straight after, ended up buying it from another demo place, remember, you have to live with it. Also make sure the source and amp is similar to what you have or would like to have.

I would suggest you try the Dali speakers, I heard them briefly with the Cambridge audio Edge system and was impressed but that was a £6-7K system.

Also suggest you try Proacs, I can't tell timing, transients etc but I like the sound they make.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
That's the thing, there's so many to try it's hard to whittle it down! I like the looks of the ProAc DT8, also Spendor A4/A7, and PMC 25.23! They all seem a bit traditional looking though and yeah I know that sound comes first, but I'd like a modern looking box if I'm honest which I think the models I've currently selected all are quite fresh looking (well the MA's if they are white/black and have the grilles on). Whilst the Spendor can at least come in white - you're talking big money for A7's in white as that finish is extra - so at £3.5k it's too much really, I can't justify it and I'd probably feel guilty every time I upped the volume!

I'm sort of keeping half an eye on the centre options too, B&W and MA are trumps there as they both have a smaller option in their range that will fit my cabinet. Maybe not as good a match as the bigger centre option each range has, it'll be more than fine for my use which AV is a 2nd thought really.

I'll try and get to a Richer Sounds in the week before hand to look at some Dali's.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
Definitely. You could be spending over a grand with them. Where is your audition?
Forgot to answer the last part, I'm going to a local/ish Audio T in Chandlers Ford. They have them all there already although they going to try and get the 703's in as they sent theirs off recently. They found the 702's markedly better, and for less money the 705's were also better - 703's being the weakest in the range given the price. I think this seems to be the consensus from what I've researched, i.e if you're buying 700's make sure it's either of the tweeter on top models.
I'm hoping the 702's will either knock my socks off and I'll want them without question, or, I hear nothing between any of them and I save a bunch and get the MA's.
 

Orobas

Active Member
Old salesman trick, play the system with the most commission a little louder than the others :devil:
This is one of the reasons I mentioned having an odd speaker listen.. so the 2 speakers connected to the amp are different brands ( obviously same impedance ) to get around that trick and also so you can hear them together
 

TB Rich

Active Member
This is one of the reasons I mentioned having an odd speaker listen.. so the 2 speakers connected to the amp are different brands ( obviously same impedance ) to get around that trick and also so you can hear them together
Perhaps but would the different sensitivities not just create the same, and become an uncorrectable problem. The MA are 90dB as are the 702's, but the KEF are 87dB which is likely quite a difference? (Think the 703's are 88dB).
The Audiolab I don't think has a balance control either so I can't swing it from one side to the other if that was the intention?
Cheers
 

Orobas

Active Member
Correct. Doing the 1+1 is a raw method which I know not many do agree on... but it is an accurate comparison of how 2 different speakers sound at same volume. This is where though you can move the speakers out of stereo focus and point them in different directions to sit / stand in front of each to compare also
 

TB Rich

Active Member
Correct. Doing the 1+1 is a raw method which I know not many do agree on... but it is an accurate comparison of how 2 different speakers sound at same volume
I'd suspect that which is higher sensitivity is already at the upper hand, but maybe I'll try it if I'm struggling at the end!
 

Orobas

Active Member
I'd suspect that which is higher sensitivity is already at the upper hand, but maybe I'll try it if I'm struggling at the end!
Double check my post.. I made an edit for listening sorry
 

gibbsy

Moderator

TB Rich

Active Member

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Thoughts -

Music - Yes pick music you are familiar with, but music you like is not necessarily the best music to audition with. Take POP music for example, this can be overly compressed, and while you might like the artist, the music might not be the best to show off a system due to excessive compression. That compress squashes the detail out of the music.

Remember, you are not here to listen to your favorite songs, you are here to listen to equipment, so pick music that shows off the equipment, which means music with a high dynamic range (little to no compression), crisp clear instruments, good separation between instruments, and similar.

Also choose a range of music, a speaker that is great for slow smooth jazz is not necessarily going to do well with fast and furious Heavy Metal. Though choose music within the range of music you like.

Jargon and Terminology
- First a lot of the description of speakers and equipment is like the description of Wine ...mostly... they just make it up. But there are things to listen for.

- Is the music distinct and clear? Some amps and speakers can blur music together, making it sound smooth, but in doing so, some of the fine sharp-edge detail is lost. Speakers like that can make badly recorded music sound good (or tolerable) but they don't do much for music that is already well recorded.

- Let you mind shift between instruments or frequency ranges rather that taking the music as a whole. Specifically focus on Mid/High for clarity and detail, and balance. Then shift your mental focus to bass. Is the bass clear or has it been mushed into a muddy drone? Focus on Balance, are the Mid/High or the Bass out of proportion to the rest of the music, and to your personal taste?

- Things like Timing, Leading and Trailing Edge, Transient Response frequently refer to the speed of the Bass Driver. A heavy bass driver can kick pretty hard, but equally, due to inertia, it is hard to get started, and it is hard to stop. So, relative to the rest of the sound, it can be microscopically out of time and compromise the fine detail in that portion of the music.

In the Mid/High, though mostly the Mid, that slow to start/slow to stop aspect can rob fine detail from the music. The overall music is there, but very fine-edge detail is gone. Generally, listen for fine-edge clarity. Does a Piano slightly smear or are the key strokes fine, crisp, and detailed? Do cymbal hiss or do the sizzle with fine detail? Are Snare Drum snaps crisp or are they a dull thud?

Things like Transparency and Detail, are just synonyms for clarity. Does a Piano actually sound like a piano? Are instruments crisp with fine detail. Again, if I go on, I'm simply repeating. Look for a life-like crisp but not bright detail in music. Snare Drum snap, sizzling cymbals, inviting natural piano, and so on.

The main thing is to understand that you are not there to listen to music, you are there to listen to equipment. Play the Beatles, hear the Beatles, any system good or bad will do that, but a good system will play them in a more natural life-like manner.

Let me illustrate, there is a reviewer on YouTube - Z Reviews (Zeos Pantera) - who recently reviewed the very efficient and detailed Klipsch Forte-III, in one particular song there is the gentle ringing of a small bell. On any system of any quality you can hear the bell, but on his 1500w/ch system with high efficiency Klipsch, you can hear the bell ring sustain for many seconds. That fine detail is the difference between a good system and an OK system.

Same with piano on a good system, does the striking of a key simply go plunk, or do you hear the actual string being struck, do you hear the sound sustain, does if have the fine inviting detail that gives a piano its characteristic sound?

Don't listen to the music that is too broad and general, but rather listen to the fine details of that same music. Listen specifically to each frequency range. Listen to the balance of those frequencies relative to each other. Listen for the fine detail in the sound - piano, snare drum, cymbals, etc.... And choose music that has those details in it to be heard.

Also, I will add one last point, have realistic expectation relative to your budget. £1,000 speakers can sound very good ...but... they are not £10,000 speakers which can sound spectacular. I have a modest budget, I search for bargains, and for what I paid, my modest £1000 speakers sound great, as much as I need ... considering my substantial lack of funds. But when I win the lottery, I will have no problem springing for speakers approaching £10,000/pr. In the meantime, my £1000/pr speakers for which I paid <£500/pr are as much as I need, and do sound very good.

Again, perhaps only marginally helpful, but one hope this is worth something.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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TB Rich

Active Member
Thanks there are a lot of useful tips there for things to listen out for during the music.

Budget/speakers have been selected so as to understand principally how quality might scale with price. Maybe a typical addition would pitch several speakers of similar value, but I'm happy each is a good and representative example of their respective price points. Decision will be based on the perceived value of spending more, so if 702s walk it, so be it, but if the MAs are comfortably "good enough" for my taste and hearing, then great.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Personally I would not listen to any more than three sets of speakers, or amps, in any session. Any more and it becomes hard to respond to differences. There again I may just be an old fart.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
Personally I would not listen to any more than three sets of speakers, or amps, in any session. Any more and it becomes hard to respond to differences. There again I may just be an old fart.
Yep I do agree, although, I saw the R5's (and they do look very nice) on my way out so thought it wouldn't hurt to add to the list! I guess I could break it up into a couple of separate sessions, see how it goes.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Yep I do agree, although, I saw the R5's (and they do look very nice) on my way out so thought it wouldn't hurt to add to the list! I guess I could break it up into a couple of separate sessions, see how it goes.
The R5s would be high on my list. The old R500s were one of the best floorstanders in their price range. Even with those others on your list I would still pitch the old R500s against them and it's a shame that they cannot be auditioned alongside the others as they are now a serious steal from Peter Tysons.
 

TB Rich

Active Member
The R5s would be high on my list. The old R500s were one of the best floorstanders in their price range. Even with those others on your list I would still pitch the old R500s against them and it's a shame that they cannot be auditioned alongside the others as they are now a serious steal from Peter Tysons.
I remember when I bought my Tannoy M3's I really wanted the KEF Q35's, but they were too much (I saved up my paper round money to buy speakers! haha). So maybe I'll end up with some now after all these years! They certainly look striking in black so have the lounge appeal down, I'd sort of decided on wanting a white speaker but I think but for some reason in white they look odd - I think it's the feet maybe. The buck starts and stops with how they sound so we'll see.

Being critical they are probably a touch tall as I have the diagonal slope of my stairs above, so it means pulling them in a few inches vs where my current ones are, however I'd guess the UniQ dispersion means they probably won't want any toe, and then also being slim the 2 things combined should mean they can fit in without any compromise to width. Currently I think I have about 2-2.5m between the fronts.
Then there's also the fact they don't have a suitable centre for me, so it's either bang a T101C there or do without one. And I was concerned about the bass output (I think we spoke about the R500's on another thread of mine actually about this), but this is why I'd like to hear them to know if that is the case or not. If they are spot on/better than the others for 99% of what I listen to which doesn't need sub 40hz really then I'll be happy, and I am for sure going to get a miniDSP to blend my sub in anyway. Whilst I'll not need to use it most of the time, occasionally it is nice to engage hooligan mode with the right tracks - but that would stand true which ever I end up with :D

Cheers
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
I'll check out the Massive Attack track mentioned as I'm not familiar with any of their stuff.
If you are listening to Unfinished Sympathy, the bass should have what is known as a double dip (this is two bass note with one preceding the next). I would suspect that most of these speakers on your list will highlight this, however if they do not, it could be the amps at fault more than the speakers as some amps just don't have that level of control. Karmacoma is also another great track for bass from Massive Attack.

However if you really wish to see how a speaker/amp combination work together, then "James Blake's Album James Blake has many tracks on it that will test any competent system, Limit To Your Love" & "To Care (Like You)", are some good tracks, but the album is full of difficult tracks as it has many different stop start frequencies, vocals which can hurt and bass, Read below for the bass.

To tell you a true story from my last place of work. Myself, an old subwoofer rep and another member of staff were playing with a very large 2.1 system (about £25k). I cranked up volume which was playing "Limit To You Love" and that member of staff uttered a few words I'll never forget. They were "Nope, Nope, Stop it" - as he ran to the loo holding his stomach :rolleyes: So, if you do use this track, don't put a whooping big Sub on the backend as it could cause some unwanted effects
 

Danieru

Novice Member
Listen to a single speaker. It will be easier to notice the flaws.

Listen to music with a dense full spectrum like orquesrtal or some pop/rock. Tracy Chapman's "Fast car" is a good one.

Edit: sorry I said mono but I meant single speaker (obviously in mono).
 
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