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loudspeakers - please explain this ?

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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i have owned a number of stand mount loudspeakers with the most expensive models being the audio physic step 25 plus.

a feature of these speakers was (driven by a musical fidelity m6i integrated amplifier) that it did not matter if played at low, medium or high volume levels the sound balance stayed exactly the same. as the volume was increased the sound produced got louder in all areas hence there was no sweet spot as such regarding the volume level.

these were the only loudspeakers i have ever owned that had this quality.
was this due to the crossover circuit inside them ?
 

12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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I would think that's highly unlikely - it may be that the materials in the drivers behave differently - that they don't have the same apparent sensitivity at different volume levels.

It's not anything I ever noticed with the MAs or with the Spendors, so it seems to be a flaw of sorts in speaker design. Either that or it's a human ears thing - at lower levels I believe the ear is less sensitive to the extremes of the frequency range - hence the 'loudness' button popular in the 1980s.
 

abacus

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2008
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This may help to understand how the ear works at different volumes https://homerecordingpro.com/fletcher-munson-curve/ and why the sound appears to sound different at different volumes. (This is also one of the tricks used by cable manufactures to substantiate their claim even though they know it is not correct)

In addition to the above, speakers have varying efficiency with the more efficient being easier to drive, which has the knock on effect in that they usually sound better at lower volumes whereas more inefficient speakers need more power before they sound great at the same volume.

NOTE: Speaker design is a compromise (Hence they sound so different) and so how it operates will be determined by what the designer was going for.

Bill
 

plus 1

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thanks for the (detailed) replies.

with the same amplifier i also used the kef ls50's and bowers and wilkins 685 s2 speakers and both these models had a specific sweet spot as regards to the volume needed for best results.

the kefs and b&w's were bad at low volume and horrible at high volume (b&w's especially) but at medium volume they were at their best.

the audio physic models though, as stated, remained consistent regardless of the volume (?).

it was by far their best quality.
 
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SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
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I have been chewing on this for a couple of days because I think that sounding good at a low volume is one of the most underrated aspects of a great speaker.

Sounding good at loud volumes has to do with size and sensitivity. That one is easy. KEF and B&W make stylish speakers with narrow baffles, with low-ish sensitivity so that they have adequate bass (remember, size, sensitivity, and bass are trade-offs - you can't have all three). They are designed to sound great at normal volumes but playing them too loud moves the cones too much, smearing the midrange (note the the biggest volume floorstanders from these companies can be played plenty loud). This much is all well-understood by most buyers.

The Audio Physics have a sandwich cone driver that operates pistonicly up to certain limits, You can't beat the laws of physics, but you can extend the operating range of a driver at the cost of a steeper dropoff (in other words, the B&Ws may start sounding crap gradually, while the AP25+'s can go further, but once they start sounding crap, at even higher volumes, it goes to ear-shredding in a big hurry).

On the other hand, it can be harder to pinpoint the recipe for sounding good at a low volume. Really good drivers help for sure. High sensitivity, again, seems to help, but it may just be that the more dynamic presentation is easier to follow at low volume. I don't think the crossover makes that much difference here - good crossover components tend to improve graininess and "life-like" sound qualities - not really the issue here.

One way to make music seem to sound better at low volumes is equalization. By cutting the midrange (the old Loudness knob), you can still hear the music while greatly lowering total sound output. According to John Atkinson, there is a huge suckout, or phase cancellation, in the lower treble of the AP25+ that causes a dip. Unless these speakers are mounted on very low stands, they are effectively loudness-equalized, to an extent, which could help them sound subjectively better at low AND high volumes.

It's an interesting question...
 
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plus 1

Well-known member
Dec 5, 2019
509
56
470
I have been chewing on this for a couple of days because I think that sounding good at a low volume is one of the most underrated aspects of a great speaker.

Sounding good at loud volumes has to do with size and sensitivity. That one is easy. KEF and B&W make stylish speakers with narrow baffles, with low-ish sensitivity so that they have adequate bass (remember, size, sensitivity, and bass are trade-offs - you can't have all three). They are designed to sound great at normal volumes but playing them too loud moves the cones too much, smearing the midrange (note the the biggest volume floorstanders from these companies can be played plenty loud). This much is all well-understood by most buyers.

The Audio Physics have a sandwich cone driver that operates pistonicly up to certain limits, You can't beat the laws of physics, but you can extend the operating range of a driver at the cost of a steeper dropoff (in other words, the B&Ws may start sounding crap gradually, while the AP25+'s can go further, but once they start sounding crap, at even higher volumes, it goes to ear-shredding in a big hurry).

On the other hand, it can be harder to pinpoint the recipe for sounding good at a low volume. Really good drivers help for sure. High sensitivity, again, seems to help, but it may just be that the more dynamic presentation is easier to follow at low volume. I don't think the crossover makes that much difference here - good crossover components tend to improve graininess and "life-like" sound qualities - not really the issue here.

One way to make music seem to sound better at low volumes is equalization. By cutting the midrange (the old Loudness knob), you can still hear the music while greatly lowering total sound output. According to John Atkinson, there is a huge suckout, or phase cancellation, in the lower treble of the AP25+ that causes a dip. Unless these speakers are mounted on very low stands, they are effectively loudness-equalized, to an extent, which could help them sound subjectively better at low AND high volumes.

It's an interesting question...
thanks for the detailed reply - fully understood and appreciated.
 

izools

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2013
11
0
18,520
What about room geometry and physics? Listening position and speaker placement?

This is a massive field and requires a lot of trial and error but different speaker designs require different placement - Remember the key three designs:

Infinite Baffle - non-ported design
Ported - bass port, usually tuned to have a resonance at a specific frequency
Transmission line - ported design by way of a transmission line

These designs all have a profound effect of the characteristics of the speaker and their drivers. The location and resonant frequency of the bass port will also affect the ideal room size and speaker placement.

Toe-in can affect the sound stage and clarity at various frequencies.

Your listening room design also has a definite effect. Have you matched the size of your amp, speakers, and room correctly? Are there hotspots for reflections or absorption in the room? Are these symmetrical left and right?

Perhaps your room and sources are tuned to sound optimal at a given volume level and the speakers are just a passenger in this?

There's so much to consider and so much to experiment with. I'd like to deliver some Gandalf like wisdom here but I'm yet to experience and experiment enough to be an expert in this area.

I suppose you'd have to place the speakers in an anechoic chamber and record / graph their frequency response at various volume levels to truly understand if the response curve does change at different levels, or if it's just a human interpretation.
 
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TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
202
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18,820
Study all the frequency response curves of the speakers What Hifi have tested and you can easily tell what sort of balance you will get. They are a Tech magazine after all. Oh no, wait a minute, they only talk nonsense about timing and what they sound like with a few CDs. Not a technical magazine at all. They also review... wait for it..... mains leads!!!!
 
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