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Speakers vs amps and cd players

For a long time I've always thought that a good speaker could show limitations in amps and source components that a poor speaker would otherwise mask.

But I'm not sure of this line reasoning. Is it true that speakers distort sound more than a poor amp does? Would the sound not then be masked by the speakers own distortons?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #1
Is it true that speakers distort sound more than a poor amp does?


Depends on your definition of "poor", but most modern amps produce orders of magnitude less distortion than speakers when not clipping.

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Would the sound not then be masked by the speakers own distortons?


Yes.


Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #2
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...limitations in amps
With solid state electronics, an amplifier shouldn't have any audible defects.  (Maybe you'll hear some background noise.)
 
With modern electronics it's cheap & easy to build an amp with flat frequency response and very low distortion.  I've NEVER heard ANY distortion from an amp that wasn't defective or being overdriven.    Of course, you do have to pay more if you want a higher-power amplifier.  (You can buy high-quality power amplifiers for less than one dollar per-watt.)

BEWARE of what you may read on "audiophile" websites!    You may read that one amplifier sounds more "open" or "less veiled" than another, or some other NONSENSE that seems to have a meaning, but really means nothing, or means different things to different people.  They always use terminology that has no scientific or engineering meaning.  They never mention the important "specs" (noise, frequency response, distortion) that are understood and measurable.  In proper scientific-blind listening tests, all halfway decent amps will sound identical. 


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...and source components
The only "components" to worry about would be "old technology" analog turntables or cassette tape players, etc.    You are more likely to have a poor quality recording, such as a "home recording" made from the microphones built-into a laptop or iPhone, or again a cassette or vinyl recording, or a weak radio signal, etc.

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...that a poor speaker would otherwise mask.
Sometime yes.  For example, a cheap "full range" speaker without a tweeter will tend to filter-out high frequency noise such as tape hiss.  (You can do the same thing by turning down the treble control.)  A small speaker with poor bass response will tend to filter-out AC power-line hum.  (You can do the same thing by turning down the bass.)

A poor quality speaker will generally not filter-out MP3 compression artifacts.  In fact, some people say that cheap headphones sometimes make MP3 artifacts easier to hear.    A good quality MP3 can sound amazing with good speakers in a good room (with an amplifier powerful enough to get good volume).  With a lower-bitrate MP3, you'd probably still prefer a good speaker. 

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Is it true that speakers distort sound more than a poor amp does?
Speakers are the weakest link and the most important component.  If you go to an audio/video store and compare amplifiers, you shouldn't hear any difference (as long as they are properly level-matched* and as long as the amps are not over-driven into distortion).    If you compare speakers, every speaker will sound different.    Room acoustics also make a big difference, although a cheap speaker in a good room will rarely sound as good as a good speaker in a poor room.




* It's pretty-much impossible to do level-matched listening tests in a store, and the louder setup will generally "sound better", so it's easy to get fooled.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #3
If the supposed problems with an amp or source component don't correspond with the distortion components of the speaker (or whatever), how are they going to be masked?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #4
If the supposed problems with an amp or source component don't correspond with the distortion components of the speaker (or whatever), how are they going to be masked?


Basically what I am saying is that speakers with better resolution will reproduce the not so good sounding artifacts of a poor source where a speaker with poor resolution will not. Do you agree or disagree?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #5
If the supposed problems with an amp or source component don't correspond with the distortion components of the speaker (or whatever), how are they going to be masked?


Basically what I am saying is that speakers with better resolution will reproduce the not so good sounding artifacts of a poor source where a speaker with poor resolution will not. Do you agree or disagree?


There is no simple answer to the question.  For very poor speakers, a lot will be masked by their distortion.  For a very bad amp (or one that is clipping), it will be obvious that the amp isn't working right. 

You have to consider the specifics of your application.  What are you trying to do?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #6
If the supposed problems with an amp or source component don't correspond with the distortion components of the speaker (or whatever), how are they going to be masked?


Basically what I am saying is that speakers with better resolution will reproduce the not so good sounding artifacts of a poor source where a speaker with poor resolution will not. Do you agree or disagree?


There is no simple answer to the question.  For very poor speakers, a lot will be masked by their distortion.  For a very bad amp (or one that is clipping), it will be obvious that the amp isn't working right. 

You have to consider the specifics of your application.  What are you trying to do?


Trying to reproduce the musc so that the amp and source are not holding it back. I think a speaker of high resolution can potentally highlight flaws in the chain that a poor speaker with poor resolution might miss or gloss over, but then I'm asking for your input here.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #7
Trying to reproduce the musc so that the amp and source are not holding it back.


So basically, you are considering moderate to high quality equipment that is being used correctly and within specification?

In that case, no, there will be essentially no masking of one component by another.  Either an amp will be good enough or it won't be.

I think a speaker of high resolution can potentally highlight flaws in the chain that a poor speaker with poor resolution might miss or gloss over, but then I'm asking for your input here.


You have to be more specific.  There is no universally valid answer that applies to all equipment.  It depends on what you are testing.  But for the kind of equipment people on this website would consider acceptable to use, you generally won't have to worry about this.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #8
Trying to reproduce the musc so that the amp and source are not holding it back.


So basically, you are considering moderate to high quality equipment that is being used correctly and within specification?

In that case, no, there will be essentially no masking of one component by another.  Either an amp will be good enough or it won't be.

I think a speaker of high resolution can potentally highlight flaws in the chain that a poor speaker with poor resolution might miss or gloss over, but then I'm asking for your input here.


You have to be more specific.  There is no universally valid answer that applies to all equipment.  It depends on what you are testing.  But for the kind of equipment people on this website would consider acceptable to use, you generally won't have to worry about this.


Be more specific how?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #9
Be more specific how?


What sort of equipment are considering, how will you be using it, and what is it you want to know about it, etc. 

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #10
For a long time I've always thought that a good speaker could show limitations in amps and source components that a poor speaker would otherwise mask.


You get to be wrong! ;-)

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But I'm not sure of this line reasoning. Is it true that speakers distort sound more than a poor amp does? Would the sound not then be masked by the speakers own distortons?


Right and right.

Here's the frequency response of a highly regarded loudspeaker

http://www.soundstagemagazine.com/measurem...m_studio100_v3/



Here are some distortion measurements at a fairly low listening level:



Show me an amp that measures that bad!

Show me an amp that measures only 10 times  better!

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #11
For a long time I've always thought that a good speaker could show limitations in amps and source components that a poor speaker would otherwise mask.


You get to be wrong! ;-)

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But I'm not sure of this line reasoning. Is it true that speakers distort sound more than a poor amp does? Would the sound not then be masked by the speakers own distortons?


Right and right.

Here's the frequency response of a highly regarded loudspeaker

http://www.soundstagemagazine.com/measurem...m_studio100_v3/



Here are some distortion measurements at a fairly low listening level:



Show me an amp that measures that bad!

Show me an amp that measures only 10 times  better!


In percentage terms, how much distortion does a good speaker produce compared to a poor amplifier?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #12
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Right and right.

Here's the frequency response of a highly regarded loudspeaker


Why is that speaker considered to be highly regarded? According to whom? And I see it is like almost 10 years old.

What about a high-end speaker?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #13
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Here's the frequency response of a highly regarded loudspeaker


Why is that speaker considered to be highly regarded?


This is one of those questions that if I have to answer it, anybody who asks it probably can't grasp the answer. 

I guess that there are people who never heard of Paradigm or think their stuff is all abjectly mid-fi. Fine!

I think that you are fighting a honest attempt at a solution. I tried! Good technical tests of speakers are like hen's teeth, so they don't exist for the vast majority of speakers.  Opinions are like butt-holes, everybody has at least one.

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According to whom? And I see it is like almost 10 years old.


The audiophile myth embedded in that statement seems to be that everything that is any good at all came out last month.  The rate of real technological development in speakers is relatively slow.

The Paradigm Studio 100 is still a current model, and as a rule the differences between submodels of loudspeakers are small, often even just cosmetic.

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What about a high-end speaker?


Please give me a generally agreed upon formal definition of High End Loudspeaker and then post a link to a comparably detailed technical review.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #14
According to whom? And I see it is like almost 10 years old.


The audiophile myth embedded in that statement seems to be that everything that is any good at all came out last month.  The rate of real technological development in speakers is relatively slow.
If you read hi-fi magazines, this years model is often night-and-day amazingly better than last years model. The best just keeps getting better.

If you add together all the claimed improvements, you'd believe that the best from 20 years ago would sound like an Edison cylinder phonograph. Yet amazingly, most comparable components from 20 years ago sound pretty much like the ones available today. In some categories you can go back much further before you find any real audible inferiority.

Those hi-fi magazines couldn't be exaggerating the improvements to please their advertisers and reduce the desirability of used equipment, could they? It couldn't all just be some cynical psychological ploy designed to trick people into spending money chasing non-existent improvements, could it?



Cheers,
David.


Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #16
Those hi-fi magazines couldn't be exaggerating the improvements to please their advertisers and reduce the desirability of used equipment, could they? It couldn't all just be some cynical psychological ploy designed to trick people into spending money chasing non-existent improvements, could it?


Indeed, it's not like hi-fi manufacturers have to come up with reasons to make us buy their latest models each year, obviously they always sound super amazing

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #17
[quote author=Arnold B. Krueger link=msg=0 date=]This is one of those questions that if I have to answer it, anybody who asks it probably can't grasp the answer.


I guess that there are people who never heard of Paradigm or think their stuff is all abjectly mid-fi. Fine![/quote]

What are you talking about???

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I think that you are fighting a honest attempt at a solution. I tried! Good technical tests of speakers are like hen's teeth, so they don't exist for the vast majority of speakers.


You sent me a measurement. That was all you did. I asked you why Paradigm is so well regarded and you never gave me an answer. So????

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Please give me a generally agreed upon formal definition of High End Loudspeaker and then post a link to a comparably detailed technical review.


Why are you asking me to define this? Don't high-end speakers exist in audio? Are you trying to say that all speakers the same?

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #18
Don't high-end speakers exist in audio?


What does "high-end" mean? That they are outrageously expensive? That some journalist has been paid to write that they are great?


Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #19
The original question may be inherently assuming that an audio system should comprise a single massive amp driving a single multi-way speaker and passive crossover (x2 for stereo), but there are logical reasons why this is not the best solution. Those upstart companies that build active speakers with DSP filtering can give distortion measurements at the drivers that are comparable with amps, but they're measurably better in every other way, too.

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By 35Hz it was thundering well at a high 99dB, while at the lower and more normal 86dB level distortion was fine, better than 1%. Up at 85Hz, 96dB sound level came in at an excellent 0.1% of second, 0.15% of third harmonic distortion. For 500Hz, 96dB we had 0.2 % second, 0.07% third. Distortion in loudspeakers can vary significantly with frequency, thus at a rather loud 96dB at 1kHz it gave 0.2% second, 0.5% of third, reducing quickly at lower powers; 96dB at 5kHz was fine, with 0.4% second, and 0.1% of third.

http://www.meridian-audio.info/public/meri...1%5B3099%5D.pdf

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #20
[quote author=Arnold B. Krueger link=msg=0 date=]This is one of those questions that if I have to answer it, anybody who asks it probably can't grasp the answer

I guess that there are people who never heard of Paradigm or think their stuff is all abjectly mid-fi. Fine!


What are you talking about???
[/quote]


Like I said the first time, if you don't know what I was talking about the first time, answering your question won't help you.

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I think that you are fighting a honest attempt at a solution. I tried! Good technical tests of speakers are like hen's teeth, so they don't exist for the vast majority of speakers.


You sent me a measurement. That was all you did.


I've asked you to send me a measurement and you failed to do so. I guess that sending a measurement isn't as small of a thing that you seem to want to make it out to be.

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I asked you why Paradigm is so well regarded and you never gave me an answer. So????


I gave you an answer, you just didn't like it. Besides that is a marketing question, not a technical question.

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Please give me a generally agreed upon formal definition of High End Loudspeaker and then post a link to a comparably detailed technical review.


Why are you asking me to define this?


Because you seem to think that you know far better than I.

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Don't high-end speakers exist in audio?


You mean you brought up the issue about something that you don't know even exists? That's a riddle, not a question.

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Are you trying to say that all speakers the same?


I'm not so arrogant or condescending as to suggest that someone else would be so stupid or imperceptive as to believe that.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #21
[quote author=Arnold B. Krueger link=msg=0 date=]This is one of those questions that if I have to answer it, anybody who asks it probably can't grasp the answer

I guess that there are people who never heard of Paradigm or think their stuff is all abjectly mid-fi. Fine!


What are you talking about???



Like I said the first time, if you don't know what I was talking about the first time, answering your question won't help you.[/quote]

So this is basically a riddle of your own making.

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I asked you why Paradigm is so well regarded and you never gave me an answer. So????

I gave you an answer, you just didn't like it. Besides that is a marketing question, not a technical question.


Asking why THAT SPECIFIC speaker is so well regarded, is what I wanted you to explain and you failed to explain it. Maybe you like cat and mouse games but I don't.

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Because you seem to think that you know far better than I.


Seem to? Where is all this speculation coming from? I don't think I know more than you. You are clearly taking things too personally.

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Don't high-end speakers exist in audio?

You mean you brought up the issue about something that you don't know even exists? That's a riddle, not a question.


I wonder if you have problems having conversations with real-life human beings.

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Are you trying to say that all speakers the same?

I'm not so arrogant or condescending as to suggest that someone else would be so stupid or imperceptive as to believe that.


So apparently there are no high-end speakers. Apparently the term high-end needs to be defined because a small group of people have been living under a rock. What speakers and system do you have? You seem like you have all the answers judging by your arrogant tone.

Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #22
Why are you asking me to define this? Don't high-end speakers exist in audio? Are you trying to say that all speakers the same?
No, he's clearly asking you to post a link to measurements of what you consider to be a "high end speaker".

FWIW Stereophile publish rather good frequency measurements and waterfall plots on-line, but don't seem to publish useful distortion measurements for speakers.

Cheers,
David.


Speakers vs amps and cd players

Reply #23
Why are you asking me to define this? Don't high-end speakers exist in audio? Are you trying to say that all speakers the same?
No, he's clearly asking you to post a link to measurements of what you consider to be a "high end speaker".

Thank you!

Since you were able to understand that, his insulting claim that I have problems having conversations with real-life human beings is in as much tatters as any of the rest of his claims.

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FWIW Stereophile publish rather good frequency measurements and waterfall plots on-line, but don't seem to publish useful distortion measurements for speakers.


True and a pity, suggesting that Atkinson sees no value to any measurements of nonlinear distortion due to speakers. IOW he thinks that they all sound the same in this regard.

The measurements at the site I referenced suggest otherwise.


 
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