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Crossovers vs. Equalizers

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Dave also has yet to post any listening impressions. So while all these different configurations and their curves are interesting to look at, we still don't know how the end result is going to sound when actual music is played through it.

I think that will depend almost entirely on what is played through them. As properly functioning amplifiers and CD players sound pretty much alike, the variable is the program material. My experience is that the variations in the way recordings are made is equal in variety and degree to the variations in speaker performance. Room acoustics and speaker placement are also a major variable factor.

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I wouldn't necessarily expect them to be. But this thread isn't about what happens to the sound when the response is shaped with an equalizer, it's about what happens to the sound when the crossover is modded.

Unless the crossover frequency was changed such that the woofer and tweeter didn't contribute the same relative energy in the crossover range as they do now, wouldn't equivalent FR changes made by an equializer to those made by changing the crossover network result in the same electrical waveform reaching each driver? Does it matter if the signal is shaped at the lower preamp level rather than at the higher power amplifier output level?

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Unless the crossover frequency was changed such that the woofer and tweeter didn't contribute the same relative energy in the crossover range as they do now, wouldn't equivalent FR chantes made by an equializer to those made by changing the crossover network result in the same electrical waveform reaching each driver? Does it matter if the signal is shaped at the lower preamp level rather than at the higher power amplifier output level?

Not to me, but there seems to be a rather large contingent of audio equipment owners and tweakers who think nothing of radically modding crossovers and other speaker design parameters but won't use tone controls, much less equalizers.

I'm curious to see what the listening impressions are because every time I hear someone post that a speaker is flawed because it has a rise or suckout at some frequency or another the thought occurs to me that somewhere the designer is reading the post and grumbline, "I know it's got that, I designed it that way on purpose..."

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Not to me, but there seems to be a rather large contingent of audio equipment owners and tweakers who think nothing of radically modding crossovers and other speaker design parameters but won't use tone controls, much less equalizers.

I'm curious to see what the listening impressions are because every time I hear someone post that a speaker is flawed because it has a rise or suckout at some frequency or another the thought occurs to me that somewhere the designer is reading the post and grumbline, "I know it's got that, I designed it that way on purpose..."

"Not to me, but there seems to be a rather large contingent of audio equipment owners and tweakers who think nothing of radically modding crossovers and other speaker design parameters but won't use tone controls, much less equalizers"

That's the snow job the manufacturers sell them. Electrical engineers know that equalizers do exactly the same thing...only they do it better.

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Unless the crossover frequency was changed such that the woofer and tweeter didn't contribute the same relative energy in the crossover range as they do now, wouldn't equivalent FR changes made by an equializer to those made by changing the crossover network result in the same electrical waveform reaching each driver? Does it matter if the signal is shaped at the lower preamp level rather than at the higher power amplifier output level?

Context, context.

You want to turn this into a debate regarding active vs. passive, perhaps you should take that directly to The Kitchen.... :)

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Some people prefer response-curve anomalies, and equalizing a good speaker to be superbly flat (flatter than even what that good speaker would be without EQ) might not suit their taste. Frankly, it makes no sense to EQ a speaker that has serious problems, since the balance between the direct and reverberant fields might be compromised. Get good speakers and then EQ a tad in order to fine tune to near perfection.

The only major tweaks I have done to a few speakers built by competent designers is to change the tweeter high-pass rolloff from first order to second order, mainly to protect the tweeter (often a discontinued item that would be hard to replace if it were burned out) from excessive midrange energy. Doing this introduces additional phase shift to the tweeter response, and can also introduce a dip at or near the crossover point, due to the tweeter no longer responding far enough down in frequency to dovetail properly with the midrange driver, or woofer in a two-way system.

A number of years ago Roy Allison upgraded several of his Model 6, 7, 8, and 9 models to the CD series versions. The upgrades included adding a shunt capacitor to the tweeter high-pass networks and in some cases changing the midrange or woofer low-pass networks to have the involved drivers respond a bit higher up in frequency to flatten the new dip that would exist if that were not done. The net result was improved power handling for the tweeters and with no audible performance compromises according to Roy.

In many cases the suckout artifacts that people hear are the result of poor room acoustics or poor speaker (or even listener) placement. I would imagine that speaker designers break out in hives every time they think of things like that undermining the performance of their products.

Howard Ferstler

"Some people prefer response-curve anomalies, and equalizing a good speaker to be superbly flat (flatter than even what that good speaker would be without EQ) might not suit their taste. "

If flatter response results in less accurate reproduction, then there is something wrong with the measurement or the theory that rationalizes it. The current theory is deeply flawed omitting many variables. One very important one is that a high fidelity system includes both the recording and playback parts of the chain. When the recording end of it changes, unless the playback end also changes in a complmentary way the result will be inaccuracy no matter how "flat" the playback segment of it is by itself.

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I think that will depend almost entirely on what is played through them. As properly functioning amplifiers and CD players sound pretty much alike, the variable is the program material. My experience is that the variations in the way recordings are made is equal in variety and degree to the variations in speaker performance. Room acoustics and speaker placement are also a major variable factor.

Yes, and no. Recording can vary greatly in perspective and broad balance effects, tipped up or down bass or treble, etc. but the resonances and narrow band colorations that a lot of speakers suffer from are a very different effect than the typical variations of recordings.

I certainly wouldn't agree that speaker differences are nullified because recordings aren't consistant.

David

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If flatter response results in less accurate reproduction, then there is something wrong with the measurement or the theory that rationalizes it. The current theory is deeply flawed omitting many variables. One very important one is that a high fidelity system includes both the recording and playback parts of the chain. When the recording end of it changes, unless the playback end also changes in a complmentary way the result will be inaccuracy no matter how "flat" the playback segment of it is by itself.

Yes, that would seem obvious to me, and it was my initial reaction the very first time I saw a "high end" audio preamp with no tone controls. It was evident to me that when the folks who prefer this sort of system refer to "high fidelity," they mean "fidelity" to the record, tape or other source that constitutes the "original" their systems are reproducing, and not the live performance that was initially picked up by the recording mikes. I suppose that sort of reasoning makes sense if recordings are all you listen to and you never go to a live concert.

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Unless the crossover frequency was changed such that the woofer and tweeter didn't contribute the same relative energy in the crossover range as they do now, wouldn't equivalent FR changes made by an equializer to those made by changing the crossover network result in the same electrical waveform reaching each driver? Does it matter if the signal is shaped at the lower preamp level rather than at the higher power amplifier output level?

I'd generally agree with this. Passive EQ in the speaker and active external EQ should give the same effect if the end response curve is the same. Of course the response of a speaker is a 3 dimensional problem and only the crossover can impact the on and off axis response trends (as you noted).

I have designed a couple of speakers where the passive network melded the drivers together but did no EQ. Active EQ was added within a dedicated power amplifier. Using that approach I was able to retain nearly 6dB more midrange sensitivity. Passive EQ can waste a lot of power.

Of course the AR4x experiement is about improving a classic system as a standalone piece. Sure, we could use an equalizer to make it as flat as you please. It might give the same end result, but doing internal network mods is a fun excercise and should result in a modernized speaker.

David

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I'd generally agree with this. Passive EQ in the speaker and active external EQ should give the same effect if the end response curve is the same. Of course the response of a speaker is a 3 dimensional problem and only the crossover can impact the on and off axis response trends (as you noted).

I have designed a couple of speakers where the passive network melded the drivers together but did no EQ. Active EQ was added within a dedicated power amplifier. Using that approach I was able to retain nearly 6dB more midrange sensitivity. Passive EQ can waste a lot of power.

Of course the AR4x experiement is about improving a classic system as a standalone piece. Sure, we could use an equalizer to make it as flat as you please. It might give the same end result, but doing internal network mods is a fun excercise and should result in a modernized speaker.

David

The arrival of the high performance, high reliability, low cost graphic equalizer on the audio market in the 1970s put one of the most effective and powerful tools to control the sound of an audio system in consumer hands. Far too much power for most. The requirement for a well experienced ear, lots of patience, and an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of this device is in my experience well beyond most audiophiles. They play with it for a short time, expect easy instant results, usually wind up creating far more distortion than they'd previously had, and then give up dismissing the device as the work of the devil, absolutely useless in the same way amateur amplifier designers dismiss the tool of negative feedback they don't have the skill to exploit. Yet I have never seen a professional sound sytem installation in these last 25 years without at least one graphic. I buy them up used on e-bay all the time. Every sound system in my house will eventually have at least one, often several. Over time, you can develop the skill to be able to get good results from various recordings in only a matter of a few days...sometimes.

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Some people prefer response-curve anomalies, and equalizing a good speaker to be superbly flat (flatter than even what that good speaker would be without EQ) might not suit their taste. Frankly, it makes no sense to EQ a speaker that has serious problems, since the balance between the direct and reverberant fields might be compromised. Get good speakers and then EQ a tad in order to fine tune to near perfection.

The only major tweaks I have done to a few speakers built by competent designers is to change the tweeter high-pass rolloff from first order to second order, mainly to protect the tweeter (often a discontinued item that would be hard to replace if it were burned out) from excessive midrange energy. Doing this introduces additional phase shift to the tweeter response, and can also introduce a dip at or near the crossover point, due to the tweeter no longer responding far enough down in frequency to dovetail properly with the midrange driver, or woofer in a two-way system.

A number of years ago Roy Allison upgraded several of his Model 6, 7, 8, and 9 models to the CD series versions. The upgrades included adding a shunt capacitor to the tweeter high-pass networks and in some cases changing the midrange or woofer low-pass networks to have the involved drivers respond a bit higher up in frequency to flatten the new dip that would exist if that were not done. The net result was improved power handling for the tweeters and with no audible performance compromises according to Roy.

In many cases the suckout artifacts that people hear are the result of poor room acoustics or poor speaker (or even listener) placement. I would imagine that speaker designers break out in hives every time they think of things like that undermining the performance of their products.

Howard Ferstler

I have been listening to two Naxos recordings of Mendelssohn Piano works Volumes 1 and 2. Both were recorded by the same pianist Benjamin Frith, in the same place St. Martin's Church in East Woodhay (presumably England) by the same engineer Gary Cole. Presumably the same piano and recording equipment were used. The problem, volume 1 was recorded on March 7 and 8 of 1994. Volume 2 was recorded on february 20 1994 and February 21 of 1995. There is a difference. You can hear it starting with cut four of volume 2. It has the same sound as all of volume 1. Presumably a change was made. This resulted in a relative thickening of the tone of keys in the two octaves below middle C requiring a 4 db cut at 140 hz to compensate for it. In all other respects so far the tone seems identical. I theorize this may be to locating the microphones slightly closer to the piano increasing proximity effect. I'm not sure though it may be due to other factors related to microphone positioning or ???? This points out the difficulty of using so called flat frequency response of equipment as a predictor if you are a really critical listener. Who would hear such things? Well people who listen to musical instruments themselves as well as the performance and the music. I'll bet the tone adjuster who appeared on the documentary "Note by Note" about Steinway Pianos would hear it instantly. So would someone seriously shopping for one.

I've got quite a number of similar examples where I hear differences. Funny though, I can hear differences in pianos and recordings of pianos, same for other instruments but I can't seem to hear differences in wires.

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This entire “Equalizer vs. Crossover” discussion touches upon a larger issue, one that gets to the very core of audiophiliosis.

Most ardent audiophiles take pride in putting together a system that “sounds great” by their definition of ‘great,’ and their so-called ‘skill’ in the process of selecting specific components is the very measure by which they (and others) evaluate their ‘ability’ to create a high-performance system.

Joe Playback isn’t necessarily a professional audio engineer (as a matter of fact, he probably isn’t), but he’s read all the white papers, he’s subscribed to all the magazines, he belongs to all the enthusiast meeting groups, he is a leading participant in all the on-line chat groups, he goes to all the audio shows (even the ‘trade-only’ shows like CES and CEDIA because he manages to get an “Industry Affiliate” or “Press” badge), he’s corresponded with all the manufacturers (and may even be on a first-name basis with some of the design engineers at these companies through his persistent—or even overbearing—questioning of their design process and product decision-making), and he’s certainly the go-to Opinion Leader among his group of friends regarding all manner of things electronic (“Ask Joe; he’ll tell you what you should do.”)

We all know a Joe Playback.

Heck, we may even BE Joe Playback.

Here’s where the psychology of equipment becomes important, and how it influences Joe Playback’s opinion and thus his purchasing decisions.

Equipment—speakers in particular—must sound “right” and “good” to Joe Playback on their own, as self-contained units, as the come out of the box. The speakers he chooses—after much investigation, research, auditioning, comparing, correspondence, etc.—become a reflection of HIS skill and discernment, and his sophisticated ear. That the speakers he has chosen with his refined, way-above-normal ability to distinguish the great from the merely good do not require any additional “outside” tweaking or adjustment is “proof” to himself and others of his unquestioned “ability.”

If Joe Playback’s speakers—the ones he chose, with his sophisticated, educated ear, with his way-above-normal hearing, with his way-above-normal understanding of audio—if his speakers then need additional outside equalization, well then, that’s a failure. An admission of defeat. A loss in the ‘contest.’ Same thing with using tone controls.

“MY speakers don’t need any tone controls. I know what I’m doing. I chose these speakers with my oh-so-perfect hearing and my oh-so-perfect understanding of how they’d integrate into my room. I know what I’m doing. That’s why my speakers don’t need any additional outside electronic ‘help’ to correct any ‘deficiencies.’ They have no deficiencies, because I chose them not to have any.”

That’s Joe P’s mindset. That’s why Joe P doesn’t like equalizers. An internal speaker crossover that equalizes the speaker’s response? Fine. Because Joe P ‘chose’ that. An outboard equalizer? Never. That’s an admission of defeat.

The relative merits and disadvantages of both are irrelevant in Joe Playback’s mind. The CHOOSING of the ‘perfect’ components (and thus being able to tell others of his perfect choice) is what matters to Joe.

That’s the psychology of Joe Playback’s high end audio world. (A world that is rapidly disappearing, as we’ve said, but that’s an entirely different discussion.)

Middle-of-the-line Jim has no such hang-ups. If it sounds better to him with the bass turned up to 2:00 o’clock, he turns it up, enjoys the sound, and never gives it a second thought.

Steve F.

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Middle-of-the-line Jim has no such hang-ups. If it sounds better to him with the bass turned up to 2:00 o’clock, he turns it up, enjoys the sound, and never gives it a second thought..

My thinking on speaker sound and tone settings is that if I have to turn the bass or treble controls off their neutral settings for my default listening I've reduced my ability to adjust those controls further in whatever direction I've turned them for recordings that need it, so I prefer to own speakers that sound good to me at neutral for the majority of my sources. Don't know where that puts me on the Joe-Jim scale.

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My thinking on speaker sound and tone settings is that if I have to turn the bass or treble controls off their neutral settings for my default listening I've reduced my ability to adjust those controls further in whatever direction I've turned them for recordings that need it, so I prefer to own speakers that sound good to me at neutral for the majority of my sources. Don't know where that puts me on the Joe-Jim scale.

Joe only considers his speaker's performance with 'good' recordings. ('Good' according to Joe.)

With recordings widely recognized as 'bad,' ('bad' according to Joe), his speakers--and thus his choice of speakers and thus his ego and pride--are off the hook, so to speak. Tone controls/outside EQ then become acceptable, even desirable with bad recordings. His speakers 'deserve' to be fed with a good-sounding signal. Anything less is unworthy, and 'bad' program material is clearly not his fault or any reflection on his speakers' performance.

Wanting speakers that do not need bass and treble controls "off their neutral setting"--for whatever reason, no matter how defensible or rational or logical--puts you nearer the Joe side of things.

Which is perfectly fine, of course. There is something of the Joe Playback mentality in all of us, and that mentality is part-and-parcel to what is fun and satisfying about this hobby.

"Assembling a great-sounding system," according to our own very personal definitions of 'great,' is the fun part. Picking a speaker that immediately needs 'correction,' 'help,' or 'compensation' from some outside entity is a bad reflection on our 'ability,' unless the outside help is designed to do something that our chosen speakers were clearly not designed to do, which relieves our speakers--and our egos--from accountability.

The Allison Electronic Subwoofer is a good example. The Allison 2 or AR-5 were not designed to be flat to 20 Hz, so it's not their fault (or ours) for going only to 45 Hz. The AES adds to their performance; it doesn't correct a design 'deficiency.'

Steve F. (or Joe P.)

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Joe only considers his speaker's performance with 'good' recordings. ('Good' according to Joe.)

With recordings widely recognized as 'bad,' ('bad' according to Joe), his speakers--and thus his choice of speakers and thus his ego and pride--are off the hook, so to speak. Tone controls/outside EQ then become acceptable, even desirable with bad recordings. His speakers 'deserve' to be fed with a good-sounding signal. Anything less is unworthy, and 'bad' program material is clearly not his fault or any reflection on his speakers' performance.

Wanting speakers that do not need bass and treble controls "off their neutral setting"--for whatever reason, no matter how defensible or rational or logical--puts you nearer the Joe side of things.

I figured that. Although I don't really think of every recording that I want to tweak the tone controls for as "bad." Mostly, I just like the idea that there's mechanical detents on the front panel controls that makes it easier to reset them to my defaults after I've changed them.

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I think there are some important distinctions to make here, distinctions of frequency range.

When I got to Snell I was told "We like to keep the high end of our speakers a little soft. A lot of recordings tend to be harsh and we like the balance to be a little forgiving of that." Fair enough. At the frequency extremes its hard to argue in absolutes. What is the right bass balance? It begs the question of where will you place the speaker? How close to a boundary? A little treble tilt will suit some recordings that are a little distant or tame others that are a little aggressive. There is enough variation in recording to want a little compensation, or to at least give uncertainty as to "what is right". But in the midrange I think things are more absolute. Narrow band bumps and dips of fairly minor amount will lead to "vowel sound colourations" that, once identified, will always be heard as an abberations, an undesired "personality" to the speaker. We have a high acuity to the sound of a human voice, even voices of people that we have never met, or to the sound of instruments that we are familiar with. Speakers succeed or fail in the task of replicating voices and instruments to degrees that, I feel, are absolute in that trained listeners can repeatedly and independently single out the same abberations.

It is the task of the speaker designer to get the octave to octave balance as right as possible. You can't say: "This is a great speaker, it just needs an equalizer to fix the midrange." Even if it sounds superb with a little outside help from EQ, the product being sold isn't really right if it doesn't stand on its own without EQ. That is the assumption that the reviewer or potential buyer should make: that the sound of the product is as the designer intended.

Likewise, a speaker that only sounds right with a particular pairing of other gear, or only suits a few recordings that themselves stray from the norm, isn't as good a speaker as it can be.

A lot of speaker design is like dabbling with an equalizer. Passive networks can control nearly every octave and the good designer has the skill to adjust the variables to get the best balanced sound possible.

David

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I think there are some important distinctions to make here, distinctions of frequency range.

When I got to Snell I was told "We like to keep the high end of our speakers a little soft. A lot of recordings tend to be harsh and we like the balance to be a little forgiving of that." Fair enough. At the frequency extremes its hard to argue in absolutes. What is the right bass balance? It begs the question of where will you place the speaker? How close to a boundary? A little treble tilt will suit some recordings that are a little distant or tame others that are a little aggressive. There is enough variation in recording to want a little compensation, or to at least give uncertainty as to "what is right". But in the midrange I think things are more absolute. Narrow band bumps and dips of fairly minor amount will lead to "vowel sound colourations" that, once identified, will always be heard as an abberations, an undesired "personality" to the speaker. We have a high acuity to the sound of a human voice, even voices of people that we have never met, or to the sound of instruments that we are familiar with. Speakers succeed or fail in the task of replicating voices and instruments to degrees that, I feel, are absolute in that trained listeners can repeatedly and independently single out the same abberations.

It is the task of the speaker designer to get the octave to octave balance as right as possible. You can't say: "This is a great speaker, it just needs an equalizer to fix the midrange." Even if it sounds superb with a little outside help from EQ, the product being sold isn't really right if it doesn't stand on its own without EQ. That is the assumption that the reviewer or potential buyer should make: that the sound of the product is as the designer intended.

Likewise, a speaker that only sounds right with a particular pairing of other gear, or only suits a few recordings that themselves stray from the norm, isn't as good a speaker as it can be.

A lot of speaker design is like dabbling with an equalizer. Passive networks can control nearly every octave and the good designer has the skill to adjust the variables to get the best balanced sound possible.

David

How lucky we are that the audiophile mentality and the market that caters to it didn't have a hand in the design of analog tape recorders, magentic phonograph cartridges and long playing records, FM radio, and analog color television. Without equalization those technologies wouldn't have worked. And as for Dolby A, wow, that couldn't exist either. It seems about the only technology widely used for sound reproduction that doesn't require equalization is the one audiophiles like least, CDs and other digital media. Those don't suffer the physical limitations of analog technologies.

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How lucky we are that the audiophile mentality and the market that caters to it didn't have a hand in the design of analog tape recorders, magentic phonograph cartridges and long playing records, FM radio, and analog color television. Without equalization those technologies wouldn't have worked. And as for Dolby A, wow, that couldn't exist either. It seems about the only technology widely used for sound reproduction that doesn't require equalization is the one audiophiles like least, CDs and other digital media. Those don't suffer the physical limitations of analog technologies.

I don't know from "audiophile mentality," but I don't mind at all that EQ takes place in the audio chain, I just don't want to have to be constantly doing it myself. I think I've mentioned this before, but if someone came out with a system in which sources contained data that playback equipment could read and use to self-adjust using mikes hidden in the listening area to produce a fully calibrated record/play chain, I'd be reaching for my wallet.

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I don't know from "audiophile mentality," but I don't mind at all that EQ takes place in the audio chain, I just don't want to have to be constantly doing it myself. I think I've mentioned this before, but if someone came out with a system in which sources contained data that playback equipment could read and use to self-adjust using mikes hidden in the listening area to produce a fully calibrated record/play chain, I'd be reaching for my wallet.

Unfortunately genek, at the current state of the art, all you have to go by is your ears and your memory of what real musical instruments sound like. It's like the early days of color TV before they had VIR. The joke about NTSC was that it stood for "Never The Same Color."

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I don't know from "audiophile mentality," but I don't mind at all that EQ takes place in the audio chain, I just don't want to have to be constantly doing it myself.

This is the essence of the Joe Playback argument. EQ is fine, as long as it's part of the system/product/material AS PURCHASED, but it's not fine with the audiophile mentality if their high-end speakers need after-the-fact EQ to make up for some deficiency inherent in their design.

RIAA, tape recording, color TV, everything SM mentioned is fine with the Joe P mentality, because it comes BEFORE his big-buck speakers in the playback chain, and JP didn't have any part in deciding on the workings of the playback system for commercial recordings.

He's just choosing the speakers--the final link--and he wants his choice to be ego-satisfying: no EQ there. EQ earlier in the recording/production chain is fine, but not for his speakers.

That's the mindset that drives most of the high-end purchasers, and it drives most of the high-end speaker mfgrs as well. You never see an ad for a high-end speaker that says, "And if you turn up your bass control to 2:00 o'clock, our speakers really come alive!"

No EQ is needed for high-end spkrs--that's the 'message.'

Steve F.

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No EQ is needed for high-end spkrs--that's the 'message.'

Steve F.

But isn't that the right message?

I have no qualms about using some EQ to touch the sound of a system, but should a manufacturer force a customer to EQ to get good sound?

Isn't that like selling a car that's good in every way except it comes with crappy tires. "Handles great once you change the tires" Some may realize that the car is a great value, excels in every other area and approaches perfection when one shortcoming is corrected. Others would, rightly, view it as imperfect as delivered and not see why they should get drug into the design process.

David

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No EQ is needed for high-end spkrs--that's the 'message.'

When I described my dream of a self-calibrating audio system, I was hoping it'd be cheap enough to not be considered "high-end"...

And it really seems to me that this line of reasoning is backwards. If I knew that every recording I was ever going to get in the future was going to be perfect, it wouldn't bother me at all if I had to turn the bass or treble controls all the way up or down to get the default sound I wanted, because I'd never need to turn them up or down any further. But with recordings varying all over the place, I don't want my default tone setting to be too far in either direction, because I don't want to run out of boost or cut if I get a recording that needs more.

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Isn't that like selling a car that's good in every way except it comes with crappy tires. "Handles great once you change the tires"

Bad analogy, Dave. Just about every car I've ever owned has needed better tires to handle great...apparently, new cars sold in the US come fitted with tires that are engineered to provide smooth, quiet rides rather than great handling.

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Bad analogy, Dave. Just about every car I've ever owned has needed better tires to handle great...apparently, new cars sold in the US come fitted with tires that are engineered to provide smooth, quiet rides rather than great handling.

...or high mileage. The last 2 Japanese cars I bought got 60,000 miles on the first set, maybe 30k on subsequent sets, but with better ride and handling. You see my point, a product that is right in every way but has a single serious flaw might be viewed by some as an opportunity. Most would just see it as a flawed product.

David

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This is the essence of the Joe Playback argument. EQ is fine, as long as it's part of the system/product/material AS PURCHASED, but it's not fine with the audiophile mentality if their high-end speakers need after-the-fact EQ to make up for some deficiency inherent in their design.

RIAA, tape recording, color TV, everything SM mentioned is fine with the Joe P mentality, because it comes BEFORE his big-buck speakers in the playback chain, and JP didn't have any part in deciding on the workings of the playback system for commercial recordings.

He's just choosing the speakers--the final link--and he wants his choice to be ego-satisfying: no EQ there. EQ earlier in the recording/production chain is fine, but not for his speakers.

That's the mindset that drives most of the high-end purchasers, and it drives most of the high-end speaker mfgrs as well. You never see an ad for a high-end speaker that says, "And if you turn up your bass control to 2:00 o'clock, our speakers really come alive!"

No EQ is needed for high-end spkrs--that's the 'message.'

Steve F.

Is Joe Playback related to Joe Sixpack? Are they of the species Geekus Audiophilious?

As I understand their mentality, it's not that they would have to use an equalizer, it that it would be in the signal chain at all. For example, when is a preamplifier not a preamplifier? When it is a passive preamplifier that doesn't amplify or preamplify anything which is desirable even if you are paying $1800 for a small metal box with a couple of switches, a few jacks, and a volume control. When is negative feedback bad? When it is correctly applied and reduces distortion? When it is inexpertly used and increases distortion? When it is mentioned at all? Don't tell audiophiles that between the microphone and the output of their phono preamp the signal they have gotten has undergone at least six stages of equalization and if it was processed with Dolby A fourteen even if the mixdown balance engineer didn't do any creative knob twiddling. That might give them convulsions.

As I see it, their basic error is that they believe that the current paradigm of what a sound system is usually viewed as is perfect and if you perfect every element within it such as wires, vacuum tubes, turntable mats, you will wind up with perfect results. This has created a market which dwindles as the price of its products escalates. I guess it comes down to packaging and marketing. That leaves people who take serious interest in this to go off in their own direction or give up altogether. I don't see myself every buying an expensive loudspeaker. Not when I could reverse engineer most of them I see for a fraction of the cost if there was actually one that came along that I liked.

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