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Buying top end speakers, worth the extra cash?

Progger

Standard Member
I'm looking to buy some decent HiFi speakers and at the moment, despite being a 5 year old design im looking towards the q acoustic concept 20's as they have great reviews and I will get a £400 set for £200 new. However I've been looking for a while and keep getting drawn to high end speakers such as Dali rubicons which, really I can't afford however, how much better can the top end speakers be? I suspect like most things, there is a price point where cost no longer returns the same benefit gains. I'm sure all components are better in the top end speakers but do they warrant the price, especially when room acoustics could kill the additional performance. If I though the rubicons were 10 times better than the concept 20's I would buy them as it would be a purchase I could justify however, they can't be that much better, can they?
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
It is not all about expensive speakers always sounding better, but more about how a speaker performs in the room which will be different for every speaker and every room, that is, providing they are being properly driven. Small speakers in a big room will always struggle regardless of how expensive they are. Big speakers in a small room - same argument. The best addition to a system once you have found a speaker you like is room correction.
 

Progger

Standard Member
It is not all about expensive speakers always sounding better, but more about how a speaker performs in the room which will be different for every speaker and every room, that is, providing they are being properly driven. Small speakers in a big room will always struggle regardless of how expensive they are. Big speakers in a small room - same argument. The best addition to a system once you have found a speaker you like is room correction.
I can't say that I've seen stereo amps with room correction, only av kit?
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
I can't say that I've seen stereo amps with room correction, only av kit?
Yamaha RN803 - it has room correction but a fairly simplistic version
Arcam SR250
Lyngdorf
NAD M10 and C658 streamer

or if your amp has a preout and power in circuit then you can add a Minidsp Dirac box in there or use a pre/power amp and put it in between those. Currently fairly high end systems (except for the Yamaha) but becomming more common place.
 

lindsayt

Active Member
High end is all relative.

Dali Rubicons might seem like high end to you. To me they are low end.

One thing about higher end speakers is that once you get used to them, listening to speakers like Dali Rubicons doesn't half seem like slumming it.

The good news is that if you go DIY / used there's minimal correlation between the price you have to pay and the overall sound quality. You can get speakers that are in a different league to Dali Rubicons for £500.

Room correction is not necessary at all for high end sound. It all depends what house and what room you have and what taste you have when it comes to interior decor.

Also, speakers should last a lifetime. If you listen to your speakers a lot, the cost per hour of something costing £1500 is quite reasonable.

Big recommendation: get yourself to the Hi-fi Wigwam show in March at Kegworth. You'll be able to hear a variety of speakers at a variety of prices. Some of them will be great sounding speakers for less than £1000.
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
I suspect like most things, there is a price point where cost no longer returns the same benefit gains. I'm sure all components are better in the top end speakers but do they warrant the price
There's good and bad at all price points. I've heard £500/pair speakers that I prefer to some £10,000+/pair speakers. I wouldn't assume that all components in expensive speakers are 'better' than those in cheaper speakers either - though that may be the case more often than not.

The phrase 'diminishing returns' is oft used on these forums and it's a reality. Sensible folks who spend, say, £2,000 on a pair of speakers (and choose wisely) understand that their chosen speaker will show relatively modest improvements over, say, the best £1,000/pair speaker. Psychologically speaking, some purchasers often need to self-justify their (great) expenditure which can lead to exaggerated claims for the expensive new gear.

Do they warrant the price? Well, that's up to the individual. Thankfully, I can enjoy my music just as much on budget gear so I don't have to splash vast sums on top-end equipment. Lucky me.
 

Jason72

Active Member
Hi,
I recently 'bit the bullet' on a pair of brand new Dynaudio Special 40's. I have had three pairs of Concept 20's. One pair I passed onto a family friend, and the other two pairs I still have and use daily. They are brilliant speakers.
One important thing you need to be aware of is the need for hi-end amplification to match hi-end speakers. My Concept 20 speakers are matched to Cambridge Audio CX-A60 amplifiers whereas I have a Sony TA-A1ES amplifier for the Dynaudio 40's. The Sony amplifier originally retailed at £2,000 whereas the Cambridge Audio amplifier was under £500. You need to factor that in if looking for hi-end speakers.
Give the Concept 20's a go, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
The first consideration is that speakers are almost invariably the weakest point in any sensible setup (you have to go to a lot of effort to create a pathologically imbalanced system to undermine this).

The second conisderation is that even a fairly modest budget will get you electronics of a quality significantly greater (e.g. much lower THD) than any transducer at any price can or will ever achieve based on objective measurements. Quadrupling the price of amplifcation will likely achieve nothing more than the ability to go a bit louder, whereas spending that cash on better speakers will be readily audible as a qualititative improvement.

It is of course a case of diminishing returns and available budget, so the best advice is to listen, together with your partner, and choose what works best for you.
 

Orobas

Active Member
To buy top end is not a small undertaking and i am not referring to the monetary aspect. True that is one side to the problem, but there are other issues to boot.

For top end, you need certain rooms, certain sizes, certain construction of rooms to take into consideration. You wouldnt put a half million quid krell set up in a council house for instance.. it just wont sound right.

Yes it is true that you should aim towards the best you can buy in all aspects but you need to ensure you have the backbone behind the decision. A lot of standard uk households under the 400 grand mark are just not suited for true high end stuff.

This is why you should always do your research into what music you like, how you like it to sound, learn the acoustics of the hardware through demo, not only in the retailer's demo rooms, but at your home also.. which is the most important of all.. your home is your listening. that will tell you all you need to know about your choices..

visit a high end dealer sure.. take photos of your room with you, dimensions, construction type of walls, floor, ceiling.. is it a detached or terraced property.. how old it is.. all this will enable the dealer to at least guide you to something close (albeit commision wise to their choice) but you will be in the right area at least to be looking in before you commence listening and parting most importantly of all.. with your money. Some dealers will visit your home and take acoustic readings to aid this decision (it will not be free and will cost money) but it will inevitably save you the headache of buying something that does not fit.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
Room correction is not necessary at all for high end sound. It all depends what house and what room you have and what taste you have when it comes to interior decor.
Room correction is normally considered to be an electronic method of correcting for room issues. I think you mean room treatment - the kludgy way of fixing room issues
 

lindsayt

Active Member
Room correction is normally considered to be an electronic method of correcting for room issues. I think you mean room treatment - the kludgy way of fixing room issues
No, I meant room correction. I was responding to your comment at the end of post #2 where you said "The best addition to a system once you have found a speaker you like is room correction."

Of the high end systems (by sound quality) that I've heard, most of them haven't used room correction.

As I said. It all depends. In a well furnished, nicely proportioned room with sensible placement of the speakers, room correction will probably not be a good addition to the system. In a modernist, sparsely furnished and uncarpeted room, room correction probably will be a good addition.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
@lindsayt I don't have a 'modernist room', it is a standard, nicely proportioned sitting room, carpets, curtains etc. and room correction makes a significant difference to the sound from my speakers - Rega RS7s and sub. It integrates the sub and main speakers seamlessly in a way that amps without Room Correction cannot and that is from my experience. If you have not heard room correction done properly then you are just speculating about what it can and cannot do. All rooms regardless of their design influences will exact an effect on the heard sound, they cannot not do that as there is no such thing as a perfect room.

If you want to hear the best then try listening to a Steinway Lyngdorf system with RoomPerfect and that definitely rates high end and some will say not bettered by anything else in their opinion on high end systems. Just because you have heard high end systems that do not have room correction doesn't mean they could not sound better with it and unsurprisingly more and more amps are now including this as standard as new models are launched.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
@Phildick They are the same thing - the correct integration based on the room they are in as the sub and main speakers - unsurprisingly - both interact with the room as well as each.

I do not understand those that criticise the effects a good room correction can have without having ever heard them but rather base their opinion on what they think it might do or not do and always seem to present the idea that the perfect room exists - strange.
 
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Phildick

Active Member
Who me? (edit: I see you have edited your post now) Are you mixing me up with someone else? I haven't tried electronic room correction/integration in my Hifi setup. I did in my now sold AV setup. I have nothing against it.

I understand want you are saying, however you are likely to get much higher gains from it when you have a sub involved as this needs to be integrated with your main speakers (crossover points, gain, phase). Where in a pure 2 channel system its just the speakers and the room.
 
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larkone

Distinguished Member
The sound from the speakers is still affected by the room and therein lies the problem so room correction still has a benefit. How much of a benefit will depend on the speakers and the room
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
The sound from the speakers is still affected by the room and therein lies the problem so room correction still has a benefit. How much of a benefit will depend on the speakers and the room
Or personal taste

I'm currently playing with one of the system that employs a room equalisation system and I've found that I prefer the room eq off. It seems that those imperfections which have been corrected have altered the speakers sound almost eliminating the decay and depth whereas when its switched on, the sound is like one large wall across the front of the room without any depth or decay. It bugged me so much that I placed a test tone CD in to see what product had altered and I found that it alters frequencies between 54Hz -67Hz and 85Hz-95Hz which must be where my speakers/room generate what I deem to interpret as depth and decay. Now I'm not saying I don't enjoy the room equalisation system as it does sound better with some albums bring more detail to the forefront that only added volume opens up, but to my ears, I feel the imperfection of my room/speakers suits my listening preferences overall regardless of whether its right or wrong

P.S. Warning - reading manuals reduces male virility :rotfl: that made me laugh as I'm so guilty
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
I do not understand those that criticise the effects a good room correction can have without having ever heard them...
Hear, hear (no pun intended). There are a few folk on these forums who use 'electronic' room correction and it appears their experiences have been positive. Basic forms of room correction are now creeping into lower end products. I expect this tech will continue to filter down:


 

lindsayt

Active Member
@lindsayt I don't have a 'modernist room', it is a standard, nicely proportioned sitting room, carpets, curtains etc. and room correction makes a significant difference to the sound from my speakers - Rega RS7s and sub. It integrates the sub and main speakers seamlessly in a way that amps without Room Correction cannot and that is from my experience. If you have not heard room correction done properly then you are just speculating about what it can and cannot do. All rooms regardless of their design influences will exact an effect on the heard sound, they cannot not do that as there is no such thing as a perfect room.

If you want to hear the best then try listening to a Steinway Lyngdorf system with RoomPerfect and that definitely rates high end and some will say not bettered by anything else in their opinion on high end systems. Just because you have heard high end systems that do not have room correction doesn't mean they could not sound better with it and unsurprisingly more and more amps are now including this as standard as new models are launched.
Yes I have heard room correction done properly.
And no I am not speculating. I am talking from personal experience.

A prime example of room correction done properly was Terry's from the Pursuit Perfect System Youtube channel. When I visited, there was no doubt that room correction for his system in his room helped a lot when he switched it in compared to switching it out.
However his room was unlike any that I have ever had any of my systems in. The acoustic problems that he had in that room were ones that I have never had. His system at the time that I heard it was good with the room correction, but it wasn't quite high end by sound quality. It just didn't quite have the ability to put the musicians there in the room that a high end system (by sound quality) can.
He has continued to improve his system since I visited. However, if I were in his shoes I'd be looking to change his house and his speakers to see how high his system could be elevated to.

There is no doubt that room correction with my systems in my rooms would have less benefit than it had it Terry's system. Because the bass in his room sounded bad without the room correction. With the room correction it sounded better. But even with the room correction, the bass in his system wasn't as clean, tuneful, textured, toe-tapping and dynamic as what I get from Bozak Symphonies with no room correction in my home. My whole Bozak system cost less (when listening to CD) than what Terry had paid to add room correction to his system.
It would be bonkers for me to add his room correction solution to my Bozak system, because it would double the cost of the system.
My room and house is completely different to Terry's. And that will also play a part in all this. Horses for courses.

Most of the very best systems I've heard by sound quality have had very simple signal paths.
"There is only one thing better than the best component money can buy, and that is no component at all."

Adding room correction adds a load of components to the signal path. You will gain a flatter frequency response. You will lose clarity / focus / transparency and dynamics. How much of each that you gain or lose will all depend.

If you listen to live music, especially acoustic instruments, the music doesn't suddenly become worse because you're listening to it in a room instead of outside or in an anechoic chamber. The acoustics of the concert hall or pub room will have an effect on the sound that we hear. But the ear brain soon compensates for that, and most of the time the acoustics don't detract from the listening experience.

We can all have different tastes on this, but I find a system-room with a non-flat frequency response and a reasonable amount of bass mode effects is perfectly fine to listen to - as long as it's not too bad.

As long as the frequency response is flat enough, other factors like transparancy and dynamics kick in. And those are areas that suffer by adding room correction. Especially when the system is based on a simple signal path.
Some people like to be members of the flat frequency response cult. I prefer to be a member of the dynamics and clarity (and low cost) cult.


My Atmos AV receiver has room correction. It sounds worse for music than my simple budget £300 stereo amplifier.

I've not heard the Lyngdorf Room Perfect gear in a proper bake-off so far. However, someone whose judgement I trust has. And he said it was quite disappointing. The Lyngdorf gear doesn't come cheap.

Having said all that, when I can justify the £1500 cost I intend putting together a 4 way DIY Frankenstein speakers with classic high end drivers from JBL, Altec and EV. And using miniDSP to blend them all together in an active room corrected set-up. And then seeing how that compares to passive, non room corrected form...
 

Ormy

Member
Unless your room is designed from the ground up specifically for audio with thousands spent on room treatment, proper room correction will always be a benefit.

Proper room correction means buying DSP hardware (e.g. miniDSP) and measurement mic (e.g. UMIK-1), then learning how to measure and correct the room properly or hiring a professional to come and do it for you. An important part of this process is first EQing to a flat frequency response, and then applying additional filters to your personal tastes. It is not a trivial task.

The automatic room correction performed by modern AV hardware that I suspect is being discussed here is an approximation of the above, the algorithms that process the response to create filters are a vast sea of compromise in order to cater for every conceivable room issue. They do a bit better in nearly every room but fantastic in none. These algorithms are also quite limited by the raw processing power available in the amp/receiver, which is minuscule compared to any 5 year old laptop.

But the chief deficiency with most automatic room correction systems is the lack of any ability to tweak the 'flat' target curve to the users preference. This is the cause behind many replies here stating they prefer the sound with room correction turned off, not many people actually prefer a 'flat' response, most people prefer a little more bass to give a fuller sound. This is what came to mind as I read @ShanePJ 's comment, if only you could apply a boost to the frequency ranges you mentioned post-correction, I'd bet you'd much prefer the sound with the correction on all the time.

In regards to the original question regarding speakers; if you care none at all for aesthetics and have the space, you can't find better value than the B215XLs I have (see link in my sig). At £300/pair, when aided by a mid-range sub, they sound better, bigger, fuller than any consumer floor-stander you will find for 10x the price. I'd say they beat many (certainly not all, but more than a few) in the £5-10k range that I've heard. But as I say they are only practical if you care not one iota for aesthetics or their large size.
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
...I intend putting together a 4 way DIY Frankenstein speakers with classic high end drivers from JBL, Altec and EV. And using miniDSP to blend them all together in an active room corrected set-up. And then seeing how that compares to passive...
I'll keep an eye out for your Bozaks in the classified ads.
 

Phildick

Active Member
In regards to the original question regarding speakers; if you care none at all for aesthetics and have the space, you can't find better value than the B215XLs I have (see link in my sig). At £300/pair, when aided by a mid-range sub, they sound better, bigger, fuller than any consumer floor-stander you will find for 10x the price. I'd say they beat many (certainly not all, but more than a few) in the £5-10k range that I've heard. But as I say they are only practical if you care not one iota for aesthetics or their large size.
Bigger and fuller I don't doubt it, they are PA speakers after all. Are you talking about movies or music? I could understand that they would be impressive on movies. In a 2 channel hifi setup i just cannot see it.
 

Ormy

Member
In a 2 channel hifi setup i just cannot see it.
I'm talking about movies and music, you'd be surprised. High efficiency (96dB) and a 15" driver that can move lots of air with the tiniest of excursions make for outstanding transient response which brings a realism to music that many consumer speakers around £2-5k can't manage. And those than can manage it tend to trade efficiency for linearity and so you need to spend a good few thousand on amplification to get there. These sound amazing at any volume on my budget 10 year old Denon. But as you say they are PA speakers, to get them sounding right in a small room you most certainly need DSP capability and a half-decent sub.
 
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lindsayt

Active Member
Unless your room is designed from the ground up specifically for audio with thousands spent on room treatment, proper room correction will always be a benefit.

Proper room correction means buying DSP hardware (e.g. miniDSP) and measurement mic (e.g. UMIK-1), then learning how to measure and correct the room properly or hiring a professional to come and do it for you. An important part of this process is first EQing to a flat frequency response, and then applying additional filters to your personal tastes. It is not a trivial task.
Bearing in mind the cost of the Lyngdorf room correction equipment vs the minDSP gear, would you agree with me that it's really difficult to justify the cost of a Lyngdorf system?

What makes you think that you need to spend thousands on room treatment? Instead of using other means to get an acoustically good enough room? What about the drawbacks of using proper room correction? Especially with analog sources?
 

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