Standmount speakers for people who dislike any brightness?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by back2vinyl, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Many thanks for those kind comments. I'll just add something else I've discovered.

    Just for fun I decided to try measuring the EQ of the sound coming out of my Audeze LCD-4 headphones. So I put the flat of my hand over one of the phones and poked my trusty UMIK-1 condenser microphone between my fingers, pointing at the driver. I then recorded a track of pink noise from a test CD.

    Here is the frequency response I obtained (using Voxengo CurveEQ):

    [​IMG]

    Now, I would the first to admit that my measurement method was a bit hit-and-miss. But most of the chart looks quite convincing, and the most striking thing about it is that there's a simply enormous notch in the frequency response - about 20 dB, using the scale on the right - at about 4 kHz, which is exactly the frequency that's the cause of all my problems! No wonder my ears LOVE these headphones - they could have been made for me.

    I tried applying this EQ curve to playback through my ATC SCM11 speakers and it does indeed fix the vocal distortion I'm hearing but it takes too much other stuff away at the same time so I don't see it as a solution. It does, however, explain why I'm not getting this problem with the Audeze LCD-4 headphones.

    Now, if I can just find a pair of speakers with a notch like that.
     
  2. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Have you tried listening to your speakers way off axis, like facing away from you?
     
  3. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Florida

    after reading this, there indeed seems to be more of a hearing related issue, than a speaker issue.
    IF -9 db at 4.5 khz sounds "right", you will never find a speaker voiced that way.

    Perhaps, EQ is the only reasonable choice.
     
    Helom likes this.
  4. layman

    layman Active Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    If you want a notch like that around 4 kHz you might want to investigate Vienna Acoustics Speakers.

    Vienna Acoustics Mahler (courtesy Stereophile):
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
    jupiterboy likes this.
  5. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Firstly, headphone frequency response is very different to loudspeaker frequency response due to the HRTF. So, I do not recommend trying to EQ the speakers to your measurements, as you do not hear the far from flat response of headphones as far from flat!

    I don't know this particular ATC model, but have a lot of experience with their larger models. My advice to people interested in ATCs is to get the active models! My only experience with ATC passives is the 40 model, driven by Playback Designs DAC and darTZeel amplification. The speakers were by far the cheapest part of the system, but still performed incredibly well.

    Brightness is not a term I would use in relation to ATC, so something is wrong somewhere. It may be worth a call to ATC to see what they suggest, rather than you try a million different amps, and a million different room treatments, speakers placements, etc.

    If you have a local ATC dealer, can you ask to audition the smallest active model to get an idea of ATC's in-house sound?
     
  6. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
  7. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles CA USA
    ...which is not a very rational reason to get rid of them...;)

    I second the idea of the Schiit EQ, or if you can find and afford it the Cello Palette EQ. Not conventional equalizers, the idea is gentle adjustments to overcome poor mastering. DSP can do downward slopes but not sure what can be bought off the shelf.

    Well, but if you are putting them on stands, it still takes up space. Towers will better handle mid-bass volume, and allow a smoother transition to the sub. So think about floorstanders.
     
  8. Seafinch

    Seafinch Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Utah
    I had some of those ATC’s and could never get on with them either. Similar issues with them being too revealing and too true for my tastes. I’ve now got the Harbeth C7’s and couldn’t be happier. Still tons of detail, but I find them much more forgiving.
     
  9. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    Why not buy a nice recording-studio-type parametric EQ where you can dial out that specific frequency? The unit may be expensive but it would be worth it if it allows you to enjoy your music collection. :)
     
  10. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    While excellent, the Cello Audio Palette will be tough to find, and still rather spendy, despite its age. Moreover, since the OP has 4 speakers, he will need two units!
     
  11. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    You're not kidding! I owned the far-less-expensive Cello Palette Preamp, which I bought as a demo unit. Ten years later, I sold it for the same price. Cello gear holds its value very well.
     
  12. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles CA USA
    What is that? A Cello combined with one of their preamps?
     
  13. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Sonus Faber Olympica I will give you what you are after. It will require a SS amp with a bit of power though.
     
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  14. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    Goldenear speakers are all voiced without too much midrange or treble energy and sound similar to older DefTechs because Sandy Weil voiced both. To me they were too polite but may fit your needs.
     
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  15. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Sorry for the silence - been out of town.

    I realise that a headphone frequency response is not directly comparable with a speaker response. But maybe it should be. It's always puzzled me that the headphone response (HRTF) makes allowance for the way in which the sound is perceived by the listener, while the loudspeaker response does not. After all, the loudspeaker sound is also affected by the shape of the ear canal but on top of that is affected by the size and shape of the head and other factors such as the difference in timing between, for example, the moment when a signal leaving the left speaker arrives at the left ear and the right ear.

    I have made an appointment with the dealer to hear these speakers in his shop alongside the Spendor 3/1 so will report back if anything of interest emerges.

    Many thanks for the further suggestions.
     
  16. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    Strange...I had a very different experience with the GE Triton series. Compared to the Revels, Monitor Audios and B&Ws at the same dealer, I felt the GEs were far too strident in the upper midrange.
     
  17. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    The dealer very kindly arranged a side-by-side demo with the SCM11 speakers, same as mine, and the new Spendor 3/1, which is roughly the same size though a lot more expensive. I took in some torture tracks on a USB stick and we played them back through some fancy Bel Canto amp that they had wired up.

    First, the SCM11s. I think their listening room was a little more forgiving than mine but the basic problem was unmistakably still there - my ears were still perceiving a very unpleasant harsh edge on these particular tracks (such as the Taj Mahal and the Talking Heads, sampled up thread). If there was any difference at all, it was tiny and insignificant.

    Second, with the Spendors. It was immediately apparent that these had a much warmer sound than the SCM11s - the difference was quite striking. And yet, they didn't solve my problem. The best way I can describe it is to say that that the unpleasant, harsh edge was still there, just muffled a bit. I felt the Spendors were rolling off the whole of the top end but because all the upper frequencies were reduced in equal measure, the harsh frequencies were still just as prominent relative to the other frequencies.

    My conclusion is that my hearing is over-sensitive to complex sounds at a certain pitch, around 4 kHz. My Audeze LCD-4 headphones have a very prominent notch at this particular frequency and so, by a happy accident, eliminate the problems arising from my over-sensitivity. However, no loudspeakers on the market will ever have such a notch and so I will always have problems listening to recordings with harsh peaks that hit my personal hot spot. There are several possible solutions - only listening to these recordings on my headphones, applying EQ, not listening to these recordings at all or just putting up with it. But I think the main takeaway is that there's nothing wrong with the SCM11s and that just changing speakers won't help.

    Incidentally, in the unlikely event that anyone's interested in my self-diagnosis, I suspect it's a particular form of hyperacusis called recruitment. Here's a link - maybe worth a thread one day:

    Hyperacusis or recruitment
     
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  18. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    If you have the ability to stream music from Bluetooth from your phone or mobile device, there's an app called Neutralizer, made by Javeo. It allows you to adjust EQ with steep valleys at specific freqs. 4 KHz happens to be one of the options. I have it for Android, I'm not sure if it exists for Apple or Windows. If your system doesn't have a Bluetooth receiver, you could possibly use the headphone jack into your preamp.
     
  19. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Not according to published measurements online.
     
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  20. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    May I ask where? I could show you four different LCD-4 charts right now that all consistently show a deep valley at 4 kHz. And here is a fifth - the frequency response chart for my own pair of LCD-4 headphones provided by Audeze, which is much the same as the other four. This is an HTRF adjusted chart so it is not the same shape as the actual chart that I posted up thread but even according to this chart, the frequency response is 15 dB down at 4 kHz. The crude test I did showed a 20 dB dip at 4 kHz so either way, you have a huge dip at 4 kHz.

    If anyone doubts it, all they have to do is listen.

    [​IMG]
     
  21. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    The LCD-4 has a trough in the region you are sensitive to, but it is much broader than your measurements would indicate, as borne out by Audeze's supplied measurement. Here is Tyll Hertsens' review:

    The Technologically Impressive LCD-4 Planar Magnetic Headphone

    He discusses the 'odd' frequency response curve, but you will see he is talking about 4kHz-8kHz with a rising response after that. So, the LCD-4 does not have a deep, narrow notch like your measurement at the top of this page would indicate.

    You also wrote:

    The big difference is how the sound reaches our ears (I'm sure this is obvious). Headphones inject the sound directly, whereas when listening to speakers the sound bounces off your torso, etc. That is why you need a different frequency response for headphones, and there is no agreed standard as to what that frequency response should be!
     
  22. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    I went quiet on this thread because I suddenly went down with appendicitis and had the inevitable op. Afterwards, I had a thought. It couldn’t be just be a frequency issue that was troubling my ears because I never had this problem when listening to live music. So I started reading up on different kinds of distortion and the one that best fits the facts is crossover distortion, which is found in class B and class AB amplifiers. That took me back to the posts by pdxway who recommended Parasound amplifers to overcome my problem and the more I think about it, the more I think he could be right, because Parasound’s designer is very conscious of this problem and deliberately designed it out of Parasound amplifiers by having them operate substantially in class A mode. I found this very interesting interview:

    Interview with John Curl

    Long story short, I think it’s quite likely that crossover distortion is the source of my problem and that what I’m hearing, especially on vocals and strings, is dissonant fifth order harmonics. If so, then as pdxway said, those Parasound amplifers would be the answer to my problem. To test the theory further, I’ve ordered a cheap class A tube amp from an eBay seller:

    Link to eBay listing - product description may take a long time to load

    This should arrive in a few days and I’ll try playing some of my torture tracks through it to see if it makes a difference. I’ll report back with the results.

    I did actually have a class A amp once before – a huge Musical Fidelity AMS35i. The sound was stunning but it was a bit impractical because of the size, the weight and the heat (and I'd need two of them for my 4.1 setup!) I think maybe I’d forgotten how sensitive my hearing is to crossover distortion, or maybe it wasn't as bad with the NAD amps I had afterwards, but I suspect that’s what I’ve come up against with my Anthem MRX 520 receiver (and its rather high distortion figure that someone quoted up-thread).
     
    pdxway likes this.
  23. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    I'm also highly susceptible to listener fatigue. Of the amps I've owned over the last year, the two class-A biased amps were no less fatiguing than my AB amps. For example, my Parasound Halo, powering efficient speakers at low volume (running in class A a majority of the time) was far more fatiguing than my two class AB Yamahas. It was always evident within the few songs. It is strange because despite the fatigue, the Parasound amp has a very smooth presentation.
     
  24. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Oh dear, that' not very encourage! But we'll see.

    In my post above, I forgot to make the very important point that my headphone amp is class A and that could explain why I didn't hear the crossover distortion when listening on my Audeze LCD-4 headphones, only when listening through my main setup.
     
  25. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    It could very well be part of the issue, I'm no expert on the matter, that was just my experience. I do find many AVRs to be bright and fatiguing, though I'm not experienced with Anthem products.

    As for the distortion specs, I think Anthem is simply publishing real-world figures. I think folks put too much emphasis on that spec. Many people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an amp rated at 2% THD vs 0.05%.
     

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