How do you select suitable speakers?

byakuya83

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I know from reading the magazine and forums that the most obvious answer will be to audition them.

However, how do you get an idea (based on data) what speakers might be a good match for a particular system?

For example, the Denon D-M38DAB. What information on the system side and speaker side is relevant?

Things like frequency, watts and ohms are listed but I don't know what any of this means.

Thanks in advance for any assistance!
 
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Anonymous

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The speakers sensitivity tells you a lot. 87dB/watt and above are pretty easy to drive, below can require more power, less choice of amplifiers, are likely to sound more compressed and less realistic. It's not a firm rule but pretty sound nevertheless.

Watts is a meaningless figure unless you are into pro-audio. As is ohms. The frequency roll off at the bass is important, you want to find the -3dB point for bass. For a guide the bottom note of a bass guitar is about 44Hz IIRC, and -3dB is half the sound level.

Also with a midrange - try tapping the cone - that's the signature sound it will have. Try tapping the bass too - not so useful but it should have a nice solid sound. Materials vary from kevlar (focal etc), polyproylene (nice but dull), scattered carbon fibre (excellent - Usher and some others) and paper - still one of the best, especially for midrange. The Japanese make some wooden cones that sound fab for wooden instruments too - violins etc.

Listen for screechiness, boxiness and flabby or non existent bass - remember rooms affect bass a lot though. If a speaker sounds too harsh and screechy connect up a tube amplifier - some speakers are too revealing of amps.

Also remember the laws of physics - 8" and upward for any real bass. Also look at the specs - if a manufacturer quotes distortion figures (Tannoy,JBL IIRC) that's a very good sign!

Oh, and never buy speakers that have been modified by self appointed sound gurus, as they have a nasty habit of throwing out the crossover design and subjecting the tweeter to a too shallow filter (often a single capacitor!) that causes it to sound awful at higher levels, because they are too ignorant to know better. The only tweeter you should connect with a single cap is a piezo one, which doesn't need it anyway.
 
Pretty much all of those. Collate as much info as you can, along with room size/acoustics, budget...

I chose my MAs from this mag, phoning the manufactuer. Also, you can obtain advice from the retailer; most reputable outlets will point you in the right direction so that with other research you will narrow it down to a short-list. Then it's down to audition, and perhaps, home dem. As for the Denon D-M38 I'd be looking at speakers no more (brand new price) than £250.00
 

byakuya83

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Many thanks for the information. I don't understand it all as yet but will do some more research. I was previously considering a one-box music player but have gone off that idea so speakers have become a consideration for me.

I was also considering the Marantz MCR603 or Arcam Solo Mini, both are slightly more expensive and I'm not sure it's worth paying extra. With the Marantz the additional features (network capability) are not something I would use. The Arcam Solo Mini doesn't take a digital signal from an iPod through USB, which is a bit of a letdown.

The speakers I was looking to purchase:

http://www.whathifi.com/review/arcaydis-dm1

Perhaps a bit too much for the Denon? Maybe the increased cost of the Marantz and Arcam is worthwhile because I imagine they produce a better sound than the Denon.
 
Nice though the Arcaydis are meant to be you will probably have a long wait to get hold of a new pair. You do get a chance of a home demo though. I would suggest something like the Dali Zensors that are more readily available from dealers.
 

byakuya83

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Dali Zensor 1 recently beat Boston Acoustics A-25 in the stereo speaker test. Dali has sensitivity of 87dB/W/m and Boston has sensitivity of 89dB/W/m. Based on what Globs said above, they should be suitable.

However, I'm afraid the comment regarding bass is a bit lost on me. Whether it's important or not but most of the time I'll be listening to music at low to medium levels.

These also look a viable option and a previous version received 5 stars in WHF.

http://www.richersounds.com/product/bookshelf-speakers/cambridge-audio/sl30/camb-sl30-gls-blk
 
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Anonymous

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byakuya83 said:
The speakers I was looking to purchase: http://www.whathifi.com/review/arcaydis-dm1 Perhaps a bit too much for the Denon?

I'd buy Usher 520s over those any day, although I'm sure they are fine (and cost less!).

I'm old fashioned - both those and the Ushers are sensitive and easy enough to drive for the Denon, no speaker is 'too good' for an amplifier TBH, although many are far better with better amps, and of course some require lots of power to drive them.

To put it into perspective speaker distortion is several percent, way above that of an amplifier - so money for speakers is never wasted. Which is another reason why ruining an amplifier design by squashing down the distortion with feedback is pointless !
 
byakuya83 said:
Dali Zensor 1 recently beat Boston Acoustics A-25 in the stereo speaker test. Dali has sensitivity of 87dB/W/m and Boston has sensitivity of 89dB/W/m. Based on what Globs said above, they should be suitable. However, I'm afraid the comment regarding bass is a bit lost on me. Whether it's important or not but most of the time I'll be listening to music at low to medium levels. These also look a viable option and a previous version received 5 stars in WHF. http://www.richersounds.com/product/bookshelf-speakers/cambridge-audio/sl30/camb-sl30-gls-blk[/quote]

This may sound like a cop-out, but despite reviews/specs and forum recommendations, you really need to dem two or three different brands: Regardless of what we suggest, it may not be to your taste. Hi-fi is horribly subjective and nor is it an exact science.
 

matthewpiano

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The Marantz M-CR603 is vastly superior to the Denon D-M38DAB in every sense so I would say it is well worth the extra. Try to demo it with the Monitor Audio BX2 speakers or the Dali Lektor 2s - both superb affordable boxes with different sounds to each other.
 
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Anonymous

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Without meaning to repeat what you and others have already said, the only way to buy speakers is to try some out. I was recently in the position where i was lucky enough to have a fair bit of cash to spend on some new speakers. I discussed with my trusted dealer who had a pair of ATC SCM40's which i was really keen on.

I arranged three seperate listening sessions with my dealer and listened to at least 5 different speakers, both floor standers and stand mounts. Some were in my budget and some were out of my budget.

Whilst also being good fun these sessions allowed me to listen to speakers i'd never even thought of and in the end i bought a pair of ART Emotion Monitors, which are to my ears the most amazing pair of speakers i have ever heard. I'd never even heard of the brand until i auditioned them.

So my advice would be to 1) find a dealer you trust (not so easy), and 2) forget stats and brands and just listen to as many speakers as you can. I personally think that speakers are the most "personal" part of the system and you'll know when you fint he right ones.
 
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Anonymous

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Without meaning to repeat what you and others have already said, the only way to buy speakers is to try some out. I was recently in the position where i was lucky enough to have a fair bit of cash to spend on some new speakers. I discussed with my trusted dealer who had a pair of ATC SCM40's which i was really keen on.

I arranged three seperate listening sessions with my dealer and listened to at least 5 different speakers, both floor standers and stand mounts. Some were in my budget and some were out of my budget.

Whilst also being good fun these sessions allowed me to listen to speakers i'd never even thought of and in the end i bought a pair of ART Emotion Monitors, which are to my ears the most amazing pair of speakers i have ever heard. I'd never even heard of the brand until i auditioned them.

So my advice would be to 1) find a dealer you trust (not so easy), and 2) forget stats and brands and just listen to as many speakers as you can. I personally think that speakers are the most "personal" part of the system and you'll know when you fint he right ones.
 

lindsayt

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I use specifications as a guide to help me select suitable speakers.

Frequency response curves can be useful - where they're available. Sadly there are far too many speakers where they aren't. I'm not interested in speakers with a response that starts falling off at 100hz as I listen to a lot of rock and pop music and I prefer to hear those 44hz bass guitar notes. Also I'm not interested in speakers with a cartoon type bump on the head shaped part of the frequency response, which is most often found in the bass region - as the expression "one note bass" springs to mind.

Efficiency specifications. Every coned and domed speaker that I've heard with an efficiency of 84 or 85 dbs/2.83v/1m have sounded dead and undynamic. When listening to speakers like these, if I were to draw a volume graph in my head the shape would be like the roofline of a large factory. A series of flattened inverted "V"'s. When listening to more dynamic speakers the graph is much spikier and would resemble the shape of a heart-beat monitor, or a series of spears buried in the ground, pointy end up. Having heard too many undynamic low efficiency speakers, I've given up on them and now seek out high efficiency speakers - generally the more efficient the more dynamic.

Maximum Power handling. My preference for efficient speaker means that power handling is a non-issue.

Impedance. I'd be wary of using speakers with impedance that drops below 2 ohms as I don't think they would be good match for my amps which might not be too happy delivering that amount of current. Speakers like this are rare. I have a slight preference for speakers that stay above 5 or 6 ohms as these are more likely to work well with my SET amp. My solid state amp isn't too fussy about impedance.

Then there's speaker type. Single driver speakers, 2 ways, 3 ways, 4 ways, electrostatics all tend to have particular strengths and weaknesses. Sealed box, bass reflex, transmission line, dipoles, horns likewise. Small, medium, large.

The most recent pair of speakers that I bought were because of a single anecdote that I read on the Internet. This led to me doing some more Internet research on them which revealed that they have first class technical specifications and a first class reputation. I bought them without auditioning them. But then I never audition any hi-fi components before I buy them as I'm not into mainstream products.
 

lindsayt

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And one other specification that I use when selecting coned and domed speakers is the size of the bass units. Every speaker that I've heard with bass drivers smaller than 12" has had unsatisfying bass. So I would only consider speakers with 12" or larger bass drivers. Or possibly some sort of line array of smaller drivers with equalisation.
 

CnoEvil

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lindsayt said:
And one other specification that I use when selecting coned and domed speakers is the size of the bass units. Every speaker that I've heard with bass drivers smaller than 12" has had unsatisfying bass. So I would only consider speakers with 12" or larger bass drivers. Or possibly some sort of line array of smaller drivers with equalisation.

Have you heard Kef Ref 207/2 or Focal Maestro Utopia? Unsatisfying bass is not something that strikes you. They are very expensive, but shows it can be done.
 

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