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Thread: Digging deeper into speaker specs

  1. #1
    Join Date: Dec 2019

    Location: Los Angeles

    Posts: 9
    I'm Andrew.

    Default Digging deeper into speaker specs

    Hi Folks! Newbie here looking to learn a bit more about what can really be gleaned from certain speaker specs. Up front I will just say that I know you can only get so much from a spec sheet and won't really know until you actually hear the speaker in your own system. That said, there is definitely a use to narrowing the field of potential audition candidates via the specs, yes? We can only test so many speakers (reasonably) for any given purchase and if the specs don't help then I feel like I would more or less be choosing speakers at random to try out.

    A couple examples of two similarly priced speakers:

    Monitor Audio Silver 200
    89 dB, 8 ohm, 38 Hz-35kHz, 1" tweeter, two 5.25" woofers, crossover at 700Hz and 2.9kHz

    Tannoy Revolution XT 6f
    90 dB, 8 ohm, 38 Hz-32kHz, 1" tweeter, two 6" woofers, crossover at 250Hz and 1.8kHz

    Sensitivity and resistance are the easy ones. Assuming the room configuration and equipment are the same: I am more wondering about how much we can take away from the frequency range and woofer sizes to make any general statements about them. In theory, they can both produce the same low end frequency, but I imagine the size of the woofer will play a big role in the character of the bass? I don't know how to evaluate crossover points either, what do they actually mean in terms of what you hear? The Tannoy in this comparison is a slightly larger volume cabinet as well, but bigger doesn't always mean better.

    Basically, how can we leverage the information we get on a spec sheet to make some sort of educated guess as to whether a speaker is worth giving a go or not?

  2. #2
    Join Date: Oct 2012

    Location: The Black Country

    Posts: 5,540
    I'm Alan.


    Trust your ears.
    Plus the room is going to be a considerable factor in the overall sound.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Apr 2011

    Location: cheltenham

    Posts: 666
    I'm matt.


    If you read Stereophile reviews you'll see that manufacturers quoted specs can be wildly different to the actual specs.

    Big drivers done properly sound better to my ears, but with so many variables that affect the sound It's best to listen in your own room.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 44,338
    I'm Geoff.


    Quote Originally Posted by Octopoida42 View Post
    Basically, how can we leverage the information we get on a spec sheet to make some sort of educated guess as to whether a speaker is worth giving a go or not?
    You can't.

    Various manufacturers don't necessarily quote specs the same way in any case. For example, frequency response claims are worthless unless you know within what limits they were measured and at what levels and in what environment.

    As Matt indicates, generally, bigger is better, but that depends on user requirements.
    Official consultant wigmaker to Ant & Dec

  5. #5
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Deleted

    Posts: 6,674
    I'm Deleted.


    Andrew, the specs you quote do mean absolutely nothing. The quoted frequency response needs to state the -3dB point and the impedance needs to have a plot against frequency response. So, in conclusion, you can tell quite a lot from measurements but when they are reduced to such a level of shorthand they cease being of any use.
    Account Deleted

  6. #6
    Join Date: Mar 2017

    Location: Seaford UK

    Posts: 1,531
    I'm Dennis.


    Yes dB down specs are needed for there to be any meaning with F.R.

    Bigger woofers can move more air, and I prefer them, but they go wrong at a lower top end frequency than smaller ones.

    I would not use those specs as any real guide to one being any better than the other.

    I would ask myself;
    Do I like bigger speakers rather than smaller?
    What do I prefer in the number of 'ways', two, two and a half, three, or maybe more. I prefer the presentation of two to greater.
    Which types of tweeter and bass loading do I prefer?
    The Xover is the last opportunity for a design tweek to try to get the best balance, and we really have to rely on the designers doing their work. properly.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Jan 2020

    Location: South Yorkshire

    Posts: 2,683
    I'm Andre.


    You are a consumer, leave any technical BS to the designer should be no worry to where for example the X Over crosses over . All i would really be interested in is the speakers efficiency. Lug holes are the greatest specs of all.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Mar 2017

    Location: Seaford UK

    Posts: 1,531
    I'm Dennis.


    Yes but as a consumer we all have to be very wary and analytical.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Jan 2020

    Location: South Yorkshire

    Posts: 2,683
    I'm Andre.


    We have to be very wary of whats written on a spec sheet too.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Nov 2011

    Location: Seaton, Devon, UK

    Posts: 6,535
    I'm Adrian.


    As others had said speaker specs, especially as quoted in the original post, do not really tell you much, where and how they were measured needs to be known.

    I know only too well from my various mistakes pairing speakers with a room and amplifier is no easy task to get right. On paper two pairs of very similar speakers you would expect to perform very similarly if put in the same room and tried with the same equipment, but in my experience this is far from the truth of it. Box colouration, how each is ported, size and just how good the drivers are will all have big influences.

    My advise is decide what sort of sound you like, detailed/clinical, up front, warm or laid back, decide whether you want floor standers, book shelf or stand mounted, and then go and listen with some of your favourite tracks. Listen to several speaker designs and makes that are suitable for your amplifier, and room size. Remember listening to them in a shop will not be that same as in your home, but you can probably aim to get down to 3 favourites from a sound quality point of view and what you like. Then get them to your home for a decent demo of several hours. Failing to do this and you may be faced with going through ownership of several speakers until you find the right one for you. Unfortunately what I did over many years.

    Some rules of thumb points I have used or learnt over the years.

    1. In a traditional speaker a big bass driver +10" seems to deliver a better bass than speakers with with multiple drivers to do the same, in my experience anyway.

    2. The more drivers you have the greater possibility there is for problems, as the crossover circuit and cabinet needs to be very well designed to ensure a smooth crossover from bass to mid and mid to top end, without enhancing frequencies or causing drop outs.

    3. In general I have found rear ported speakers to be a pain, of any sort, I have only had the luxury of a large lounge (28' by 18') for 3 years in my life and only then could I move some rear ported floor standers far enough out into the room to get rid of bass colouration.

    4. The heavier the cabinet or the more rigid it is can result in less colouration to the sound and more accurate and musical it will tend to be.

    5. I have found metal based and in some cases rigid plastic drivers can sound harsh to my ears, but not in all cases.

    6. Think about speaker and tweeter height in relation to your ears when you get them home, if you are forced to have the tweeters firing a foot above or below your head then you will not get the best results sonically or open soundstage.

    7. Try and get a reasonably efficient speaker for your amp to drive, the less efficient the speaker is then the better the amp will need to be to keep control of the drivers at reasonable volumes, if it can't cope you will get poorer SQ at higher listening levels.

    8. More expensive does not necessarily mean the best sound, if it is big and blingy, even from a reputable manufacturer, this does not mean it will sound great.

    9. Always if at all possible try at home with your system before for buy, or be able to return in a specified time if you are not happy and get your money back.

    10. Also if you have a partner to consider in your choice, ensure that it meets with their aesthetic approval, failure to do so may result in changing speakers again to get approval for the boxes in the room, no matter how great they may sound. (I had to replace a largish pair of horn speakers for this very reason to get some peace)

    I hope this helps in some simple way, I am sure that others will offer lots of other advice, technical or otherwise.
    Listening is the act of aural discrimination and dissemination of sound, and accepting you get it wrong sometimes.

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