Expensive doesn't always mean better sound

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

  1. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    That is basically correct. Klipsch kind of killed the brand. Just stopped putting anything into it and eventually sold it to Indy Audio, who really was formed to relaunch Acurus and Aragon.

    The fun story behind these amps is that D'Agostino of Krell designed the amps. Some saw them as cheap Krell amps.
     
  2. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Now my general comment on this thread is that I think this brings up an interesting point. We know from both our experiences and hard objective research that $'s doesn't equal sound quality in audio. This has been a problem for a long time. At the same time, we also know that sound quality is tied to cost, that is, the best sound quality requires spending more. So while it's easy to see why it is possible to make a better sounding speaker for $2000 rather than $200, that dollar value alone is no guarantee of good sound.

    Within the Revel line, one that was developed using a rigerous scientific approach to speaker design, spending more gets you more. They actually use their testing system to ensure that a more expensive speaker does not score lower than a cheaper speaker, since that is a real product market problem. Most companies are not so rigerous in their approach.

    I often muse with my audio buddies about the entry level cost into high end sound. At what point have you achieved some kind of sound perfection or near perfection? For example, I've never heard a $200-$500 pair of speakers that provide a soundstage that is as good as it gets, or a tonal balance that is as good as it gets. There are always compromises in that price point. Certainly nothing capable of realistic dynamics. However, once you get into the $1500-$2000 range, what I find are speakers that begin to provide as good as it gets or nearly as good as it gets sound within their performance envelope. They won't produce deep bass or play as loud as better/bigger speakers. The sound stage, tonal balance, overall presentation isn't giving up much to better speakers. It's a sin of omission, as they say.

    What does it cost to get sonic perfection? Unfortunately that is such a pie int he sky concept that I think the answer is that it is unachiavable and that the more the spend the more you get. Nobody makes a $5000 perfect speaker. For example, when it comes to image size, presentation, and scale, I find that bigger speakers are necessary to achieve that. Often really big speakers. Those are really expensive. Most people can't afford them or give up the space to own them.

    As for this particular V-R approach, I haven't heard their new speakers in a way that I can comment on. I've only heard their top of the line cost no object speakers at AXPONA. They sounded good, but they also have nothing in common with what your friend owns and little in common with what he probably borrowed (unless he is looking at a high 6 figure upgrade). What I heard certainly did certain things really well, but I couldn't say if they are a speaker that pushes the envelope of state of the art sound.
     
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  3. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    Grayson, I do believe that all speakers need some break in. The differences are in the speakers themselves and many manufacturers actually will provide the end user with some guidelines.
    Now that most sellers provide a 30 or 60 day home trial, we can kind of say that if it is not broken in by then, it may never be.
     
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  4. ddude003

    ddude003 Senior Member

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    I run my Martin Logan powered sub directly out of my PreAmp feeding it both Left and Right channels like this bypassing LFE... Many manufactures suggest this approach...

    My ESLs needed approximately 72 hours of break-in at 90 dB manufacture's recommendation... Base sounded fuller because cones and mids to highs opened up a bit. Guessing run-in of the crossover...
     
    #29 ddude003, Feb 7, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
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  5. Todd Anderson

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    I read this, Matt, and all I can think of is Wedding Crashers ;)
     
  6. Todd Anderson

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    Interesting commentary. I'm sure we're all "all over the map" when it comes to what we consider amazing versus good... what expensive really is... what constitutes budget... etc. I can say this for certain: I've heard 2-channel systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars and my ears scream, telling me the sound is awful. And I'm quite certain that the folks that are willing to buy those speakers would hear my own personal setup and tell me it stinks. I'm also certain that my idea of "budget" isn't the same as what a 2-channel fan would say is budget.

    For me, I'm definitely a home theater enthusiast (not an audiophile). At least, that's what I consider myself. My drive for a system is completely different than the drive that pushes folks that really value 2-channel playback.

    You say that sound quality is tied to cost (which I would say isn't a bad premise). But, as @Grayson Dere has pointed out, his buddy brought more expensive speakers into his room and didn't love them. So, the quality/cost marriage isn't sure shot. Perhaps a general rule of thumb, but not always true.
     
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  7. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    I still use a Halfler 220 factory made back in the good ole days. It still seems to work very well.

    Whoops, maybe off topic. :gulp:
     
  8. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    Thank you for your valuable insight, again, Matthew. This definitely gives me some things to think about when deciding on a budget for speaker upgrades and what to generally expect in terms of performance...I guess I won't be finding any $500 speakers that sound as big and realistic as JBL Synthesis Everest speakers : P
     
  9. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    Haflers are are legendary in their own right, from what I've gathered over my years in this hobby : )
     
  10. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    It's also very interesting and good that REVEL uses a system to make sure more $$$$ speakers don't actually end up being a downgrade in audio quality.
     
  11. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    'The fun story behind these amps is that D'Agostino of Krell designed the amps. Some saw them as cheap Krell amps.'

    Wow! Now that I did not know! : )
     
  12. Mark C Flick

    Mark C Flick Moderator
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    Aragon and Acurus cheap Krell... I have no problem with that. I contend that they are great budget amps no matter how they are characterized.
     
  13. ddude003

    ddude003 Senior Member

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    At the Price of Entry for Dan's new RELENTLESS MonoBlock Amplifiers ($250,000.00) I would have expected Emitter-coupled logic (ECL) implemented in gallium arsenide (GaAs) with Solid Gold heat sinks... Or watch for a new generation of GaN FET based class D amps... 8^)
     
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  14. Grayson Dere

    Grayson Dere Moderator
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    This..plus dinner at a 3-star Michelin restaurant : )

    In all seriousness, his designs are very aesthetically attractive. I would say they are functional works of art.
     
    #39 Grayson Dere, Feb 9, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
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  15. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    I do realize a great amount of R&D goes into his works, not to mention premium parts, but it does seem that he is not developing all new products from the ground up on each incarnation. Do you think his numbers are driven more by small demand ?
     
  16. ddude003

    ddude003 Senior Member

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    "The Relentless, D'Agostino explained the goal for the amp was to build a perfectly balanced design, one where the positive and negative electrical sides of the circuit were identical. To accomplish this end he needed to design completely original input technology and output power stages with no global negative feedback -- everything about the design broke new ground." This took him two years... This level of cutting edge art/tech is difficult to determine pricing... Look at the Pagani Huayra or a Cray Supercomputer... These are all no holds barred, extreme designs and implementations created by genius level artisans... The cost of the infrastructure to support this level of craft is very high... I believe it is more the cost of time and trouble to make and the high cost of quality control that makes these devices difficult to produce and hence are rare items in the market place... Demand drives cost in these cases...
     
  17. Tony V.

    Tony V. Moderator
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    Obveiously people do buy them but my question is does it sound any better? "Is the juice worth the squeeze"?
     
  18. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    To those who can afford them.
    I have heard his recent works of art but was not familiar with all of the other components to make a judgement. I will say even the volume dial in n one of his preamps was stunningly well designed and had a tactile feel I had not previously experienced.
     
  19. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    I actually have a buddy who operates a high end shop here that has considered dropping Dans new line because of reliability problems. If you do some web searching it seems maybe some of his new products has some quality issues. Which I find shocking given how much they cost and how they are built.

    I’ve seen bench tests on his newest designs and saw no evidence they were state of the art products from that stand point. I believe I heard his amp and preamp in a system with Wilson’s audio speakers at AXPONA. It was a terrible demo setup so I won’t comment on sound. I’m sure they are fine but that asking price is nuts.
     
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  20. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    That is where I saw and listened to his equipment, at Axpona and that is why I cant really comment on anything but what I touched.
     
  21. ddude003

    ddude003 Senior Member

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    For an Amp that that can put out 6,000 W RMS at 2Ω the Relentless seems pretty clean... And every new and bleeding edge design has some teething problems... The floor and the suites at the shows just really suck for demoing systems...

    This thread reminds me of Oscar Wilde is credited with the quote “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”...
     
  22. Jack

    Jack Moderator
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    I agree that the shows are not the way to make judgments, although that seems to be the opposite of what should be going on. One exception is MBL, they always sound very good and have well played rooms.

    I believe if you are going to show your stuff so to speak, one should use the best recordings or at the very least should be able to play recordings brought in by visitors, within reason of course. I remember a med to high end company not accepting any visitor music and in fact were using 320mps MP3's for a demo. I don't know but that seems counter intuitive. If I were to spend the big bucks for rooms, moving etc, I feel this would be my once chance for wooing customers and/or reviewers like the kind gentlemen of AV NIRVANA.
     
  23. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    I had never attended AXPONA until last year. A few events in New York City and some regional events, but nothing the scale of AXPONA.

    Here are my observations of what is often wrong in those rooms, for me:
    • Speakers too big for the room
    • Room too big for the speakers
    • Suboptimal setup designed to look good rather than sound good
    • Noisy and crowded rooms
    • Unfamiliar music
    • Hotel rooms have problematic acoustics, very rigid walls

    In the case of the D’Agostino amp demo, the room was fairly large and they were doing a demo of sorts. It was very staged. Music was unfamiliar and the space was very popular. We were let in and out in groups.

    I actually had a private demo of MBL with Michael Fremer. When I came in they were setting up for him and he let me join in the fun. I had tried earlier but was kicked out because of him! So I think he felt bad and let me join this round. Audiophiles...such divas.
     
  24. Matthew J Poes

    Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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    Oscar Wilde may have had a more cynical view if he knew anything about the audiophile industry.

    https://www.stereophile.com/content/dan-dagostino-momentum-monoblock-power-amplifier-measurements
    I was troubled by a number of technical problems with these products. The reliability issues was just one more reason to not be impressed.

    The signal to noise ratio is relatively poor and plenty of the problems are in the audible bandwidth. Namely, the amps pick up hum from the power supply. I haven’t had one on one time with these amps to hear how audible this is, but having owned plenty and destined some amplifiers myself, I find this objectionable and fixable. When the amplifier picks up hum at 60hz it’s from the power transformer. It’s almost always a mixture of proximity and wiring and it’s almost always fixable. When expensive products hum, I don’t see a good excuse for that. 120hz hum is caused by the power supply itself not being quite clean enough. This is often what we hear as hum, and this too is fixable in expensive amps. This was one of the main points of contention in my own designs and I could minimize it with a more stiff power supply using a CRC or CLC design.

    The distortion is relatively benign in these amps but it’s also not state of the art distortion performance. It’s average at best.

    It has switching distortion! That is odd for a D’Agostino design and suggests these are utilitarian Class B amps. Why? Zero switching distortion is very objectionable and is audible at tiny levels. Compared to harmonic or IM distortion, this kind of distortion is a major sound quality concern but is fixed with simple bias voltage.

    I can list off a dozen audiophile amps of similar price with tricky superior measured performance. For my money, I’d rather those. And quite honestly there are quite a few megawatt amps in the pro industry that would perform better.
     
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  25. Tony V.

    Tony V. Moderator
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    Matthew, your candid remarks are always appreciated here and I agree with you that there are so many amps out there that will preform as good as those uber $$ boutique brands. I guess it really comes down to prestige and the "look at how much they cost so they must be better" syndrome
     

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