Expensive doesn't always mean better sound

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Grayson Dere, Jan 6, 2019.

  1. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    Recently, I had a rather interesting experience with a friend trying to find his next speaker upgrade.

    I've always assumed more expensive speakers from the same manufacturer should sound better than their lower priced offerings. This is not the case as I would soon find out.

    I also found out that when thinking of purchasing speakers it's best to first demo the speakers in your own home along side the ones you are trying to replace or at least in a showroom with similar speakers you are trying to replace before committing to a purchase. The point here is to have your original speakers as a point of reference so you can be sure the new speakers you're thinking of getting are really an upgrade and not actually a downgrade.

    Let me explain.

    I have a friend that recently invited me over to his home to help him decide if he should keep or replace his aging Von Schweikert tower speakers. He likes the brand so after speaking with a dealer about the latest offerings he decided to try a pair out on loan in his own home. The new ones are about 3x the cost of the older ones and he was enthusiastically told they would literally blow away his original speakers...extended highs, deeper bottom end, more musical timing, etc...

    So the day came when I would visit his home and he had set up the speakers ready for our listening session. Both of the speakers, old and new, were set up in a side by side fashion so we could A/B compare the sound qualities. We were absolutely surprised to find that the new speakers for some reason had a very veiled and chesty sound compared to the older Von Schweikerts. Yes, the bass was definitely deeper, but it seemed that that bass somehow bled into the midrange sound in a bad way. Female vocals sounded very heavy and not natural at all. He double checked all the wiring in the system to make sure everything was wired right and found nothing was amiss. My friend's older speakers definitely sounded like it should be the more expensive speaker.

    We played about a dozen tracks over and over with the A/B comparisons. It was so apparent that the new speakers sounded bloated compared to his original speakers so we stopped listening and my friend was happy to know he would be saving a lot of cash. The speakers would go back to the dealer a day later.

    I always thought more expensive speakers would definitely mean better sound quality but I think until you actually listen to them with a familiar reference it's kind of a shot in the dark as to what you'll be ending up with.
     
  2. Tony V.

    Tony V. Moderator
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    Often high end speakers need time to break in and correct placement becomes more and more crucial. Also driving them with the correct amplification is important (not meaning nessisaraly exspencive amps but an amp that has enough headroom to drive them correctly)
    I will also add that the return on investment with high end speakers gets less and less as the cost goes up.
     
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  3. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    Yes, you are absolutely correct, Tony. It is very possible the amplifier in play wasn't matched well to the new speakers we demo'd. Does break-in have a very dramatic effect usually on speaker performance? In my own experience I'll notice subtle changes in openness (less congested sounding)...but perhaps this also depends on speaker models? I'd like to know more of your own encounters with equipment break-in periods/improvements.

    Thanks.
     
  4. Tony V.

    Tony V. Moderator
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    In my exsperience break in is usually most noticeable in the minds and tightness of the bass. But the biggest change is how the speakers are placed and the room it's self as to how the acoustics effect the sound.
    I don't really believe in break in of equipment particularly processors and amps. If it's a tube bassed system then yes those will change even as they warm up or cool down
     
  5. Kerry Armes

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    Woofers can sometimes need a bit of time to loosen up the suspension parts. When new, it can change the T/S parameters enough that the box model isn't completely accurate anymore. Running some 20 Hz sine waves to really get the driver moving to xmax for a few minutes can be one way to speed up this process. When I build speakers, I manually stretch the suspension by hand in both directions as far as they will go a few times, which will typically do the same thing even faster with less likelihood of damage.
     
  6. Tony V.

    Tony V. Moderator
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    I caution using sign waves for a sustained amount of time as it really heats up the coil on a driver, but yes thats one way to break in a speaker.
     
  7. Kerry Armes

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    That's part of the reason I don't do it and would only recommend a few minutes of it max. I know some people who claim they leave their woofers on with sine waves to driver the woofer to it's full Xmax overnight and haven't reported any problems but I wouldn't recommend that :O
     

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