To Neutral Speaker, or Not to Neutral Speaker...

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Cyclone Ranger, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    Am in the hunt for some new speakers before year-end.

    Talked to my dealer about it (a very nice guy who's so booked up I can't get an appt for several weeks.... high-end audio knows no covid recession, I guess). He strongly suggested I go with neutral speakers, such as ATC or Linn.

    His reasoning was that most of the speakers on the market simply present different 'voices', which are artifacts of distortion or resonances (either intended or not), and the best speakers are simply those that greatly minimize or eliminate those.

    So basically, take your 'pleasing house sound' and forget about it, mate. :p

    Sure, I see the logic... there's already so many sound-characteristic variables upstream that juggling yet another set with the speakers is just chaos. BUT, what if there's some speaker out there, 'romantic' or no, a bit inaccurate or no, that you hear and simply fall in love with? Do ya still kick it to the curb? And is 'neutral' just code for 'unforgiving' and maybe not all that musical?

    What say ye... how should one think about this? And to confirm, are ATCs and Linns really so neutral that most everything else is 'voiced' or colored by comparison?

    (he carries 'voiced' speakers too, btw... can't fight what some customers want)

    ps He does care about speaker positioning and set-up a great deal, and I'd assume amp-matching as well. Which fits the philosophy... what's the good of having a neutral speaker if your room or amp makes it not neutral at all?
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
  2. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    Go for what your ears, mind and heart enjoy the most and forget about accurate which I believe is subjective. An “accurate” speaker, which I will assume means flat, paired with components that are also “accurate” might end up sounding boring to you. Don’t forget the room influence and people don’t all hear and interpret what they hear the same. Most important is to listen to any potential component purchase in your system or one as close to yours and within your room or one close to yours as possible to determine how it will sound. If you like more detail, bass, midrange in your system then that is the direction to go. First know what about the musical experience gives you the most enjoyment.
  3. BackScratcher

    BackScratcher Forum Resident

    It's kinda like discussion of solid state vs. tube amplifiers. Solid state typically sounds more neutral, but tube-induced coloration can sound quite pleasing. The choice depends on your objective.

    Regarding speakers, I haven't heard Linns, but the ATCs I have heard (SCM19) were among the most neutral sounding speakers that I've ever heard. If you're seeking speakers with pleasing coloration, the Sonus Faber lineup would be worth checking out.
    AmericanHIFI and Cyclone Ranger like this.
  4. CTA

    CTA Well-Known Member

    My philosophy is that one should aim to build the most neutral chain possible and if some tailoring is needed, then it should happen at the source. I have ATC floorstanders, a reference level studio amplifier, a Graham Slee Accession MC phono amp, these are to my ears perfectly neutral, and an Accuphase preamp, which I would consider almost perfectly neutral. To me the biggest advantage of such a neutral and transparent chain is that I can swap carts and readily appreciate and enjoy the sound signature of the new cart (this is on a 1200G, which is also a neutral sounding piece). Some say that the more neutral you go the more boring it should get. This is however not my experience. I enjoy an honest, dynamic presentation, and if well set-up, it will sound as the artist(s) intended it to. Having said that I understand and respect that some people prefer certain deviations from the neutral sound and certain kinds of distortions, that is perfectly fine. Have a listen and find out! I for one can recommend ATCs wholeheartedly.
    russk, Dubmart, Mad shadows and 2 others like this.
  5. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Following I might have a speaker upgrade/change on my list too.
    RemyM and Cyclone Ranger like this.
  6. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Good advice here. Contrary to what some will claim, there are many paths to audio nirvana. Many listeners narrow their choices through online research before they even attempt a demo. A better route is to visit a few dealers first and better yet, request in-home demos. This is especially useful when picking out speakers since the room/speaker interaction should be considered as one synergistic component in the chain.
    russk, sotosound, macster and 5 others like this.
  7. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Also remember that what one listener might consider “color” or “distortion,” another might consider neutral, which is somewhat dependent on the point of reference.

    One way I judge speakers is by how close they come to producing human voices in the manner that I hear them live in my room. In my case, Spendors do this better than Revels or Monitor Audios even though the latter are probably more accurate on paper. This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed speakers that fall into the “accurate” camp. In some rooms they can sound great but they tend not to in my room.

    The aforementioned Sonus Faber brand sounds neutral to my ears but obviously that won’t apply to everyone.
    russk, hi_watt, wgriel and 5 others like this.
  8. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Speakers may measure as "neutral" in an acoustically-treated chamber, but wouldn't other factors (furnishings, placement, room size) ultimately influence their frequency accuracy in real-life situations?

    In others, use whatever sounds best in your space.
    black sheriff, G B Kuipers and Tim 2 like this.
  9. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    And to YOUR ears.
    Agitater, Blair G., jek57 and 5 others like this.
  10. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    What are you thinking of?
  11. Scott222C

    Scott222C Loner, Rebel & Family Man

    Those "neutral" speakers are probably the ones that give him the best "sales margin" .......

    I'd rather go for those JBLs and have a ton of fun .....
    Clay B, russk, Bananajack and 12 others like this.
  12. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    I'll send you a PM, as I don't want to derail this thread.
    RemyM likes this.
  13. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    Because my Spendor BC1's aren't fun?
    jonwoody and Cyclone Ranger like this.
  14. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    How so ?
  15. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    I love them. Was being sarcastic to @Scott222C's reply.

    He said: Those "neutral" speakers are probably the ones that give him the best "sales margin" .......

    Cyclone Ranger and Tim 2 like this.
  16. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    I'm just going to counter with this - if he truly believes those are both neutral, he shouldn't have to suggest two brands. These two brands are harder to directly compare because I don't believe they have direct price point equivalent matches, but I'm still willing to get that if you listed to models from both lines you would feel they have a different sound. So if they are both "neutral," which one is more neutral.

    I think he's likely taking this from a different approach. Maybe profit margins as others have mentioned, but also maybe because those are sounds that he feels are safe without you having to make an appointment. It could also be a longer term play that they do sound great, are neutral, but maybe you want a sound that's a little cool/warmer down the line. Well then it becomes "come check out these amps/cables/sources," and now you're a regular customer that's happy because he keeps improving your sound.

    I think you should hold out until you can listen. Neutral, or his definition of neutral, might be perfect for you. He might have hit the nail on the head the first go around. But you need to decide what you want, and you might need to do some listening to get there. If you don't know what you want, then the neutral suggestion makes more sense, but I still think you should listen. If you based everything off of reading, you'd think everyone wanted a dead neutral sound, and we were all looking for the perfect studio monitors. But what most people are really looking for is a connection with the music. For some people, that's resolution and transparency. For others, it's big dynamic swings and impact. For someone else, it might huge sound staging. Some people heavily prefer metal or diamond tweeter designs. Others horns. Some find the technically rolled off sound of a soft down tweeter to be the most natural sounding. And some people just find truly neutral speakers to be flat out boring. Until you know what your preferences are, it's best to listen. But I will also say it's best to not overthink it. If you're making a big upgrade, chances are you are going to like it no matter what, simply because it provides more of everything compared to your current speakers. But that doesn't mean you'll love it for years to come.

    You also need to remember that synergy between your amp and speaker is very important. You can put too perfectly good component together and have them sound really "meh." So as you're listening, see if you can bring your amp. Or read about your amps voicing and normal pairings to see what might match well. Sometimes the perfect combo will surprise you.
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  17. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    Anyone heard current Linn speakers? They don’t seem to get a lot of mindshare.

    And ATC is a bit ‘stealth’ too, for some reason (even though a lot of famous musicians seem to have them?).

    Not that I don’t appreciate the broader discussion of how to select speakers, that’s important too, probably more so.

    One other sub-topic I’d bring up there is... does ‘neutral’ = ‘natural-sounding’? :confused:

    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
    displayname likes this.
  18. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    What do you mean with stealth? I have heard current Linn speakers. They were amazing. But that was a $100.000 set.
  19. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    aka doesn’t seem to get talked about a lot.

    I mean, think about it... stuff like KEF or Wharfedale or Harbeth gets talked about a lot more here. Gets advertised and reviewed more too (all three factors are probably related).

    Define ‘amazing’. And have you heard any that cost less than a house in the Midwest? :faint:
  20. CTA

    CTA Well-Known Member

    ATC being stealth is certainly true. That is because they basically don't do ads and the kind of marketing that most manufacturers resort to. I kind of like that. They are also not spectacular looking, everything is functional, although the new LE 150ASLTs look - to my eyes - pretty smart.
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  21. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    Haha. Never heard any less.

    Harbeth also bit more expensive then Graham. Maybe you pay for marketing? I think there are a lot of threads out there about the difference between Harbeth/Graham/Spendor/Stirling etc. I've listened to Harbeth and loved it. I own Spendors (and love them), i think all those BBC brands mentioned here are sounding close to each other.
  22. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    My buddy still runs his near 20 year old Linn Tukan's. I always thought "neutral" was a good word for how they sound....and very nice.
    Cyclone Ranger likes this.
  23. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Westfield, IN USA
    Looking at your profile, I would imagine ATC speakers will be a huge sonic change. For that reason, you really need to get a thorough audition.

    Couple points:

    There's no substitute for long-term home auditions which why I prefer to buy used. Buying used is not a problem in my experience, reselling what doesn't workout can be.

    Don't be fooled by price. I have been listening happily to my Sonus Fabers for quite a while. Last week though, I removed them from the stands because my grandson was spending a few days with us; he's seven and his school went into quarantine. I enjoyed the replacement speakers quite a bit. Last night I was going to put the SF back in, but decided to throw my NHT Superzeros on the stands instead. What fun I had listening to them. I think I'll wait a few more days before returning the SF speakers.

    I've owned a few "neutral" speakers over the years. They sound wonderful at first, but wear on me after a while. I'm thinking of the Revel Performa F206 speakers I had for 6 months or so. They seemed to do everything right, sounded very neutral. In the end though, they weren't very engaging; they were making nice sound instead of music. I had to live with them to get that.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
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  24. RemyM

    RemyM Forum Resident

    But aren't Spendor/Harbeth know because they make music and aren't fatiguing? I can listen the whole day to my Spendor BC1's.
  25. Matt I

    Matt I Forum Resident

    Can you bring a pair of the recommended neutral speakers home for a quality demo? If they truly are awesome, you will know once you start listening.
    George P likes this.

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