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HOW TO BUY / PURCHASE / CHOOSE AUDIO STEREO SPEAKERS
FOR A HI-FI, 2-CHANNEL STEREO SYSTEM

 


 

 

(A primer in the works)

While much of the following can apply to the purchase of surround-sound / home theater speaker systems as well as car-mobile audio, that is not the focus of this writing. I am a fan of 2 channel (also applicable to classic “Quad / 4-channel” audio), “Old School”, Stereo / Audio / Hi-Fi systems for listening to music. While I have a 6 channel, Surround Sound home theater system, it generally falls VERY SHORT sonically when trying to listen to stereo audio recordings through it. I have sold and owned many different system combinations as an audio dealer over the past 25 years, from most price levels and have yet to hear a dedicated A/V (home theater) system that is “listenable” simply for stereo audio--sorry.
The following is from a 1978 AR brochure. (I left the grammar mistakes in, but the content rings true for the most part. I have also inserted additional, and in my opinion necessary and sometimes opposing information. Within the article, the sections I have written are highlighted in teal. It is a work in progress and I will be adding to it as time allows. 1/10)


            ”A pair (or pairs) of speakers may be the most difficult choice one has to make in selecting audio components. Price is certainly one of the factors that must guide a buyer. --- I would say put price at the bottom of your list of important points. I’m not implying that it’s necessary to have an “unlimited” price ceiling to purchase speakers. I have heard many speakers on the “lower end” of the price spectrum that were very impressive. I don’t know about you, but many times I’ve gone to acquire an item with a predetermined price in mind, only to have my “eye’s opened” at what a quality version actually costs. I usually see the limitations of my preconceived price point and adjust it accordingly. Quality items or services usually cost more than inadequate, shoddy goods and are generally worth the extra resources. Choosing to purchase something to accomplish a task based solely on it’s lower cost, relative to competing products is usually nothing but “false economy”, and something that usually takes many years of experience and mistakes to bear itself out to the average consumer. Just look at all the folks buying cheap $6, flea market sunglasses and $11, 40-piece tool sets from China. Heck, I’ve bought both as well.” ---
Outside of price and particular points of styling which distinguish one make from another, all speakers look pretty much the same. To make matters more confusing, the differences in design, engineering, and quality control among speakers, even though they can be significant, are either difficult to see or buried inside an enclosure, out of sight. Probably some of THE most important aspects in my opinion, like "THE CROSSOVER". It’s not surprising, then, that speakers have become the component most shrouded in mystery and invested with magical powers. It’s also not surprising that subjective judgment has become more important in choosing speakers than in other components.
            The logic goes something like this;
            “Your ears differ from other people’s ears and so does your listening room. So you, and only you, can choose which speakers are right for your system.”
            While this sounds reasonable, it isn’t much help to the person faced with a difficult decision. It’s also not true. Because there is an objective standard by which speakers can be judged and that is how accurately they reproduce the information they receive from the amplifier.
            Call it fidelity or call it accuracy.


            At AR we simply call it truth.

 
            It’s something that can be measured and controlled. It’s a function of design, care in manufacture, cost and uniform quality control. And it’s something a listener learns to value as he or she lives with a pair of speakers. -- It can also be acquired by listening to a lot of quality audio speakers (not surround sound / home theater speakers)  in the right environment. These environments can usually be found in “REAL” audio shops (very rare anymore) staffed by well versed, “old timers” that know how to guide a person in the knowledge of what to listen for. That is generally not a situation that is going to be found atWorst-Buy”, “Circus City”, “Wally World” or any of the other big box, “whore houses” (no slight meant on that respectable & oldest of professions) staffed by some guy whose primary business objective the previous week was to “biggie size” your order. Most listener's ears (minds) need to be “trained” to correctly listen to speakers, audio systems and media differences, ie; CD’s vs. good quality LP’s. Case in point; If you go to college for a music degree, do you think the professor is simply going to put on some records, let the students listen and then leave the class every day without any commentary on what they are or should be listening for in the selection and how they should be listening to it? --
            Some speakers fall short of ideal accuracy simply because they are designed to sell for a low price. ---- I 'dissed' the "big-box" retailers previously, but the fault lies with the 'buying general public'. We consumers tell the retailers, who in turn tell the manufacturers that we want stuff "cheap", so they respond by making "cheap" stuff. There has to be "give" somewhere and it almost always shows up as lesser quality goods or services. Sorry, I digress and that's another "soap-box" dissertation entirely. ---
Others are designed purposely to color sound. Certain enclosures, for example, are designed purposely to accentuate bass. Their “boominess” tends at first to hide any fuzziness present. Beyond the fact that they color the sound, many people find that continued listening to speakers of this type produces an uncomfortable sensation that, for lack of better name, we’ll call "listening fatigue". For many people, speakers like this just don’t wear well. These are the kinds of speakers which are so often termed “rock” speakers, because of the “boomy” sound they produce. 
            At AR we have always believed that if a  rock group wants to accentuate the base end of the spectrum they’ll do it in the studio in the mixing. The job of our speakers is not to distort the sound which has been so carefully crafted on a record or tape. Rather, it is to reproduce it exactly.
            The old battle of the rock vs. the classical speaker doesn’t make much sense to us, and we think that the makers of other quality speakers would probably agree."

Don’t necessarily “hang” on that last line. There are some speakers that are very worthy of consideration, that do perform better with only specific formats of music.

We’ll add more as time allows.

PS. Great email just came in that I must reprint. Take away what you will from it;

"
We just heard the Pioneer HPM 100 speakers on vacation and can't stand the Bose underwater sound we have at home.  We'd prefer 8.0 condition or better.   Dings on cabinets don't matter, but the insides do. Any chance you will get these in -- and we'd get a shot at buying them?" Thanks, Kate K
. in Oregon.

(Substitute many other speakers for the Pioneer HPM-100's, although they are one of our favorites, but I love the main thrust of the message. My apologies and sympathies to the folks that don't get it.)



 

 

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