What Makes A Speaker Great?
How High-End Audio Products Stand Apart from the Rest
We are currently in the middle of our “Big Speaker” Special Event, which gives our clients in the Boston, MA area a chance to save significant amount of money on store demonstrator models from Bowers & Wilkins, FOCAL, PSB, Revel, & Wilson Audio. These are some of the top names in the speaker business today!
This prompted me to think about “What makes a speaker great?” I decided to ask each of our audio specialists what they listened for in a speaker and what criteria they had for “speaker greatness.” Collectively these four people have over 120 years in the audio business, so each knows a thing or two about high-end speakers!
Mark Ozdoba started off by saying that the speaker system needs to “speak with one voice,” or that the drivers need to integrate seamlessly. This helps the speaker have proper timbre balance across the full range of music. He also stressed the importance of a solid foundation in the bass end of things but without any contamination of the midrange. Ultimately, a great speaker would seem to disappear and leave the artists performing in his or her environment. Above all, the speaker lets the music come through in a way that emotionally involves us and really makes us want to listen.
Lewis Dalven felt strongly that great speakers could create a convincing holographic image of a performance in your listening room. Lewis has found that speakers that can do that all have low coloration and very even response across all of the frequencies, as well as wide dispersion. It must handle a good amount of power to create convincing dynamics and must also interact synergistically with the room in which they are placed.
Dave Kent points out that great speakers are true to the harmonic character and integrity of instruments. Do the instruments sound natural? In fact, would the sound be so convincing that Dave might want to buy the instrument? Regarding bass, Dave wants it to be adequate enough so that the sound is exciting and not sterile. If the speaker establishes a solid foundation and good timbre accuracy, Dave feels that the imaging that is on the recording will come through quite well.
Peter Zagwyn is a proponent of speakers that have good off-axis response and wide dispersion so that the sweet spot is not limited to an ultra small window. He feels that this is key to making the speakers disappear as the source of the sound. He prefers speakers that can still articulate bass notes at low volume and can truly pressurize the room when called upon at higher levels. Even response from the lowest lows to the crispest highs is a must, as is believable reproduction of the human voice.
Finally, we come to Jim Lackey, the owner of Natural Sound. He is the one person at NS who has sold two really majestic speaker systems: the Wilson Audio ALexx speakers and the Wilson Chronosonic XVX system. So, Jim, you’ve set up and heard both of those systems! What make them GREAT (besides the cost!!)?
“Well, the imaging was absolutely the best I’ve ever heard in all three dimensions: height, width, and depth. Both speakers had the ability to mechanically adjust the angles of the midrange and tweeter drivers for optimum focus and phase coherency. The bottom end of both speakers was incredibly tight, detailed, and natural. In the larger of the two speakers, the bass literally went down to subterranean levels while retaining focus and tunefulness. The larger speakers made me feel like I was halfway back in an excellent concert hall and hearing a live performance. By the way, the fit and finish on both speakers is unbelievable—this is speaker design and manufacturing as a work of art.”
OK, music lovers, there you have it—our collective take on great speakers. Feel free to call us or fill out our online contact form here and see if any of our special demonstrator speakers might be a good fit for your next—and possibly last—pair of speakers. And you can tell us what makes a speaker great for you, too!