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Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Hello,

I'm currently in the business of replacing my tiny Dali Zensor 1 setup
with something bigger, and I have trouble choosing among the five
candidates I picked. My use case would be only stero music (mainly
extreme metal and progressive rock with a bit of romantic period
classical and some rare video game OSTs), no TV at all, with a goal
of maximum fidelity.

The problem is that I can't really try them from where I am and most
reviews are just audiofoolery, so I'm here to ask your opinion about
these models and brands.


I attached the roster with the comparison.



      NOTES
   Tannoy XT6F
Most reviews and opinions are good, but I don't know anything about
it.

   Monitor Audio Silver 200
Seems like a well regarded brand, but its speakers are smaller than
the competition, and it's not a 3-way.

   Dali Opticon 6
The main contender, sincer my only experience with speakers is Dali,
and it is a very good one. A bit pricy, though.

   Focal Aria 926
Have heard a lot of good stuff about this model, but also that it's
not very neutral. The three grave/midrange speakers encourage me to
think that this isn't baseless.

   Yamaha NS-F 700
There's almost nothing on the net concerning Yamaha speakers. I know
that they make very good amps (I use an A-S300) and I only included it
because I trust this brand to offer no-nonsense reasonably priced
products with a very good quality.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #1
All I can say is, this is difficult...

You're right, reviews are pretty-much useless unless you really trust the reviewer and manufacturer's specs are pretty-much useless because they all use different measurement methods and they sometimes "fudge" the numbers.    ...In your chart I don't see any +/-dB tolerance in the frequency response.  That's typical.   It would be nice to see a frequency-response graph.

If you can find independent measurements that could be helpful because they are using consistent testing methodology, but I don't know who does that for speakers (I've seen it for headphones).

Quote
but its speakers are smaller thathe competition
There is SOME correlation between cabinet size and woofer size (or total woofer piston area, ) and bass performance.   But, you can't always say the bigger speaker will have better bass.

Quote
and it's not a 3-way.
There are LOTS of ways to make a good speaker (and more ways to make a bad speaker :D ).   So again, we can't always say a 3-way is better than a 2-way.     Large woofers tend to roll-off at a lower frequency than smaller woofers so you might need a midrange, whereas a smaller woofer might extend high enough that you can cross-over directly to the tweeter.    This is one "advantage" to multiple-smaller woofers over a single-large woofer.    They can cover a wider frequency range and still pump-out the bass.   And, there's an advantage to minimizing the number of crossover points.  

The same goes for ported vs sealed designs.  You can't say one is always better than the other.   Manufactures usually tout their design decisions and choice of materials as benefits/advantages when in reality they are usually just design choices & tradeoffs.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #2
In your chart I don't see any +/-dB tolerance in the frequency response.  That's typical.   It would be nice to see a frequency-response graph.
Indeed, I had to scrap manufacturer websites to get them. This makes them pretty equal as far as bass extension goes (except the Yamaha).

┌────────────────────────┬─────────────┬───────────────┬────────────────┬────────────────┬─────────────────┐
│ Brand/Model            │ Tannoy XT6F │ MA Silver 200 │ Dali Opticon 6 │ Focal Aria 926 │ Yamaha NS-F 700 │
├────────────────────────┼─────────────┼───────────────┼────────────────┼────────────────┼─────────────────┤
│ Freq range (Hz-KHz/dB) │ 38-32/±6    │ 38-35/±6      │ 49-32/±3       │ 45-28/±3       │ 45-50/±10       │
└────────────────────────┴─────────────┴───────────────┴────────────────┴────────────────┴─────────────────┘


There is SOME correlation between cabinet size and woofer size (or total woofer piston area, ) and bass performance.   But, you can't always say the bigger speaker will have better bass.
Well, all things equal, I always though that bigger woofer size gave better bass definition (up to a certain point, of course).

There are LOTS of ways to make a good speaker (and more ways to make a bad speaker :D ).   So again, we can't always say a 3-way is better than a 2-way.     Large woofers tend to roll-off at a lower frequency than smaller woofers so you might need a midrange, whereas a smaller woofer might extend high enough that you can cross-over directly to the tweeter.    This is one "advantage" to multiple-smaller woofers over a single-large woofer.    They can cover a wider frequency range and still pump-out the bass.   And, there's an advantage to minimizing the number of crossover points.  
I agree, but intuitively, 3-way matches the grave/midrange/high sound ranges. And intuition is very important in this sea of marketing nonsense; at least when you're not dumber than a rock.
That's also why Yamaha seemed interesting, since the midrange speaker doesn't have the same size as the woofer.


Well, this is the reason I'm asking for personal opinions, too.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #3
What are the characteristics of your listening room? What are your amplifier's power specifications?

Have you considered the option of keeping the Dalis and bringing in 1 or more subwoofers instead of replacing them?

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #4
What are the characteristics of your listening room? What are your amplifier's power specifications?
I haven't moved in yet, but it should be a decently sized (and open) living room. I don't think I'll have problems with the amp as it's 2x60W @8 ohms.
Have you considered the option of keeping the Dalis and bringing in 1 or more subwoofers instead of replacing them?
Not really. I prefer a better overall sound that just extending the bass.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #5
Given that list, I'd suggest adding the PSB Imagine T if available near you.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #6
Not really. I prefer a better overall sound that just extending the bass.

Can you describe what it is that you don't like about the speakers you already have?

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #7
There's nothing I "dislike" very much, the midrange/bass just lacks clarity compared to bigger (and maybe pricier) speakers. My parents have some 40 year old Cabasse speakers, and they're simply better if I omit the muddy highs.
I guess speakers as tiny as the Zensor 1 simply have a limit.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #8
Quote
There's nothing I "dislike" very much, the midrange/bass just lacks clarity compared to bigger (and maybe pricier) speakers.
The main sound quality/character differences between speakers is frequency response.   And without a frequency response curves for each speaker (measured identical conditions) it's impossible to predict which speaker will have more or less mid-bass or other differences.

And, frequency response can be adjusted to some extent with equalization.   It gets "difficult" boosting the bass range because it can take an enormous amounts of power (a 3dB boost is double the power) so you can end-up driving the amplifier or speaker into distortion.      But in the mid & high range you can do a LOT with EQ.

If you don't have a hardware equalizer most software players come with one so it's easy to experiment without spending any money.  

If your problems are more in the bass range a subwoofer should help a lot.   And a subwoofer generally has it's own level-control so that's another adjustment you can tweak for better sound.   But get a good one, not cheap "boomy" one. 

If you want to "get serious" you an get a measurement microphone & free software and measure your speakers and room.   You can't fix all acoustic problems with EQ but it can help.

Measuring your room/speakers will also help to determine if you have problem with the mid-bass, or if you just have a particular preference.

And I think you said you're not in your new space yet, and you might like the way your old speakers sound in the new room!

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #9
Without knowing anything about the speakers you mention except for the specifications you provided, the Tannoys would interest me the most, with their (coaxial?) tweeter/mid driver. But these would interest me more:

Perhaps more complex than you anticipated, but I just thought I'd suggest speakers by the late S. Linkwitz:
http://linkwitzlab.com/
If Mr. Linkwitz's speakers look peculiar, it's because frequency response both on- and off-axis was one of his major concerns.

Though less radical in appearance, the JBL also interests me because it's cabinet is one big waveguide, a dead giveaway that the designers were concerned with more than just on-axis frequency response.
https://www.jbl.com/loudspeakers/STUDIO+590.html




Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #10
Honestly, I don't know about "homebrew" stuff. It could be amazing, but as someone who can't even try big name brands easily, I'll probably pass. Would love to listen to them, though.

About JBL, I excluded the brand because it has changed hands a few time to just become a Samsung subsidiary and they're now mostly known for their trashy portable speakers and bass canon products. I also noticed that their floorstanding speakers advertised absurd power levels for their price.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #11
About JBL, I excluded the brand because it has changed hands a few time to just become a Samsung subsidiary and they're now mostly known for their trashy portable speakers and bass canon products. I also noticed that their floorstanding speakers advertised absurd power levels for their price.

While no one can predict what the future holds for any audio company, it appears to me that science is still happening at Harman Int'l:
https://seanolive.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/seanolive

BTW, the other year I purchased a JBL Charge 3 bluetooth speaker, and for something the size of a jumbo drink can, I have no complaints about the sonics. I measured on-axis response @ 1M at one point and recall it being respectable given what it is and how it gets used.

I've also had the good fortune to calibrate my headphones and IEMs to the Harman target frequency response and the results IMO have been magnificent.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #12
JBL is the brand I would actually pay the most attention to precisely because of their constant research into what makes objectively good sounding speakers (tl;dr - mostly it's flat FR off and on axis and a wide spectrum coverage), quite a lot of it is summarized in the aforementioned blog. I think Olive's and Toole's work do a lot of good in the effort of de-stupidifying the audiophile culture, so to speak.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #13
Well, I tried looking at them better and I'm not impressed. Their catalog is quite tiny, and like all manufacturers, I can't find any FR graph on their website (including the spec sheet). I was looking at their Studio 270, mainly.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #14
look at jbl Studio 580 or 590

really nice sounding speakers.
controlled directivity, very high spl , low distortion, very good frequency response linearity.

i have buy the 590 in 2013, no more sell in france but always sell in usa.



Music is my first love.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #15
You can only trust your ears not reviews...if possible go and audition the speakers, if you are paying $$$$ then the local dealer would let you audition in your own home.

I rate Bowers and Wilkins speakers very highly, I have heard most others.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #16
Obviously. I'll probably end up booking a visit at a store, but I still made this topic to collect some opinions from people who already tested multiple brands.

For example, does anyone have experience with Focal? Since I'm in France, it's a brand I'm interested in but, as I wrote in the OP, I have heard that it's not focused on neutrality.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #17
Often the higher priced the speaker, the more 'non-neutral' it will sound, you are then said to be buying the manufacturers sound which they like to capture customers for life.

 

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #18
That certainly makes sense, but I have trouble believing there's not even one honest brand out there. Maybe I should look at studio gear more?

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #19
Well, I tried looking at them better and I'm not impressed. Their catalog is quite tiny, and like all manufacturers, I can't find any FR graph on their website (including the spec sheet). I was looking at their Studio 270, mainly.

Look more.

https://revelspeakers.com/


and check out this article from Kal Rubinson

https://www.stereophile.com/content/blind-listening-harman-international


NB :" Harman documents Spinorama results not only for their own speakers but also for speakers made by many of their competitors; other companies, such as Bryston, now offer on their websites listening-window and total-sound-power frequency-response data, along with the traditional on-axis response. "

and:

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-speakers/3038828-how-choose-loudspeaker-what-science-shows.html

An AVSF thread where both Kevin Voecks and Floyd Toole contribute...!

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #20
Quote
Maybe I should look at studio gear more?
That's OK but you won't find many floorstanding studio monitors.   As with home speakers the trend is "smaller" (plus a subwoofer).    Also, most modern studio monitors are active so if they have to be "adapted" if you want to use a stereo receiver or home-theater receiver.  And, you usually don't get grill covers or nice-looking wood cabinets.    And, they are usually sold where they sell musical instruments and pro audio equipment so you probably won't find them at an audio/video store.

The JBL (your favorite manufacturer ;) ) LSR series has a great reputation and is VERY affordable.     But the largest of the series (LSR308) has an 8-inch woofer which probably slightly-less piston area than the dual 6-inch models you're looking at.  That, along with the smaller cabinet probably means less bass.    But, the active design does allow them to tweak the frequency response and extend the bass (to an extent).

I have NO personal experience with these monitors but despite the low price I expect they are good enough for pro mixing & mastering as long as they are properly setup with a good quality subwoofer in an acoustically treated studio.   And, they should be adequate for most home listening situations.

And, there are some popular competitors for "similar" 8-inch monitors in the same price range.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #21
I agree with DVDdoug

In the past I would have looked for floorstanders too.
That is true HiFi, a lot of separate boxes connected with a bunch of wires and of course, some big floorstanders.
Indeed the HiFi enthusiast altar.
Somewhere in the 80’s they discovered that you can reduce distortion if you get rid of a passive monitor and use an active instead.
This means each driver is powered by its own amplifier and the crossover is done before the signal enters the poweramp.
Today this is almost standard in the pro-world. The usual suspects are Genelec, Adams, ATC, etc.
Slowly this concept is reaching the home.
The KEF LS50 wireless is a nice example, a very compact active speakers system.
Dynaudio XEO 2 is another example of a domesticated active as the pro-world won’t spend its money on the looks.
Dutch&Dutch 8c is a fine example of a moderns monitor.
You can place it close to a wall en simply use its DSP to compensate for the bass. Has a wave guide for controlled dispersion, etc.
Maybe this page of my website is of use ( or add to your misery as it increases your choices  :)  ) http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/HW/ActiveSpeakers.htm
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #22
Indeed, I'm looking a bit more at monitor speakers, and since my DAC has (only) an RCA output, I can use some speakers as is. But this world is entirely unknown to me and I don't know where to find reviews/measurements. On the plus side, that means I can use the wonderfull thomann.de store to do some shopping.
About design, there are some of these (Focal, Dynaudio or Yamaha, for example) that look very nice too.

Look more.
https://revelspeakers.com/

and check out this article from Kal Rubinson
https://www.stereophile.com/content/blind-listening-harman-international

NB :" Harman documents Spinorama results not only for their own speakers but also for speakers made by many of their competitors; other companies, such as Bryston, now offer on their websites listening-window and total-sound-power frequency-response data, along with the traditional on-axis response. "

and:

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-speakers/3038828-how-choose-loudspeaker-what-science-shows.html

An AVSF thread where both Kevin Voecks and Floyd Toole contribute...!
I was talking about JBL itself, not Harman. That Revel brand does seem interesting, sadly, I can't find it in the stores I'm eyeing at (mainly son-video.com).

I want to add, though, that studies using "average joes" as subjects are mostly useless, and it's easy to see why: prefererence for inflated bass/mids and volume over quality is the norm. Probably because of conditioning by devices like car radio and and "modern" mixing.
I think this remark also concerns the whole "Harman frequency response target" thing.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #23
After looking at the whole thing, the Yamaha HS-8 with a cheap RCA <=> 6.3mm jack cable might well be my next speakers. I really wonder why studio gear isn't looked at more. Are they worse than "HiFi" stuff for non near-field usage? I doubt it, right now.

Re: Floortanding speaker comparison and advice

Reply #24
If I may advise, buy a measurement microphone like the UMIK-1 from MiniDSP. Setup Foobar2000 with the free Mathaudio RoomEQ plugin and measure how your current setup behaves and play a bit with the plugin to optimize the sound. Maybe the only thing you need is a sub (or 2).

I was a bit disappointed by my setup because of a vvery loud bassnote that occurred in many songs until I found out that I had some nasty room modes to take care of.

I now use the RoomEQ plugin and because I have a sub I am considering a MiniDSP 2x4HD or a DDRC24 module to 'fix' the curve permanently on all sources.

PS. I already have done the maximum (wife) allowed acoustic treatments in my living room (large self made absorbers behind the speakers). For optimizing room acoustics you could best get some experience with REW because it's more detailed than RoomEQ, but RoomEQ is very simple to use and a great start.

Sometimes a DSP module can be cheaper than new speakers and yield better results if the room is the main issue.

And please share the measurements with us :)

 
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