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Friday, 17 May 2019


Curious what you think of KEF Q300s.


I'm not really a hifi guy, but I do like my music, and gave these a good hard listen before I bought them. There was no low-end to speak of, so I supplemented with a cheap subwoofer.

My first quality speakers were $1400 Vandersteen 2ce’s (with anchor stands). Over the years I migrated to a $17,000 pair of Wilson Watt Puppies. After a few years, I missed the sound of the Vandersteens and regretted selling them. So I sold the Wilson’s instead and bought a later iteration of the Vandersteen 2 series. I used the residual proceeds to buy vinyl, a better cartridge and some photo gear. I guess the Vandy’s are my apex speakers.

BTW, I can relate to the concept of needing rooms for my hobbies, including music listening and photography. After building 4 darkrooms in 4 different houses after relocations, I was thrilled to avoid a fifth one when I transitioned to all-digital in 2008. But I have the best ‘listening room’ ever, and now have a bigger office for computers, printer, etc, as well as a photo workroom for matting, framing, supplies and storage. Trade offs for not being married.

In high school our band room had a pair of Klipsch La Scalas hanging from the ceiling. I remember listening to Maynard Ferguson at unusually high volumes with the band director (a trumpet player) during first period jazz band. Good times. The small town I grew up in had an obscene amount of performing arts funding from a local multi-national appliance company. The facilities doubled as an annual meeting space for the executives. I imagine most of the old cool tube amps and band instruments have found their way out of the building in one form or another since that company pulled up stakes and decimated the town.

I was at one time a sales rep for Dali along with several other hifi brands including Dynaudio. My favourites from the entire Dali range where the AXS1000's which were the smallest, cheapest speaker they made. It did nearly everything the others did but for a tiny price and without pretence.

I currently still use my Dyn Audience 42's which are close to twenty years old and they still impress me every time I listen.

For a while I chased nice audio equipment. Bear in mind this was back during the transition from records to CD's. One day, as I was looking and listening to some really nice equipment in a high end audio store, it occurred to me that I simply couldn't hear the difference (if in fact there actually WAS a difference) between the moderately expensive equipment I had, and the what the salesperson was trying to sell me. That made it easy to say no to spending a lot of money.

I see the same thing with photographs produced by different cameras, or edited by different software. Or rather, often I don't see. Perhaps the problem is looking at the internet version as opposed to a big print, or the 'real' photo as viewed on a good monitor through the right software. I can see the difference between my Lightroom version and what gets exported for use in blog or social media. Except that hardly anyone else sees that 'good' version. So maybe I really don't need that expensive medium format camera. Or even the FF one I own now...

You mentioned a bell curve a couple posts ago, but I prefer to think of an S shaped curve. Quality is vertical, price is horizontal. For any product, spending the least amount of money gets you poor quality. Spend a little more and quality goes up. Spend a bit more and the quality goes up dramatically, but then mostly levels off. From there, no matter how much more money you spend, the quality only improves slightly. (It matters not at the high end if the gold finish is hand polished once or twenty times, no human can tell the difference.) I try to buy stuff at the near the top of the quality curve where it starts to level off, but before the price gets stupid.

These may be my next compact speakers, amplification and active crossovers already built-in:


Not keen on the state of high end home hifi which seems like yesterday's technology at exorbitant prices. Here's what the late S. Linkwitz (of Linkwitz-Riley fame) had to say about passive crossovers as used in most of today's high-end home speakers:

"The only excuse for passive crossovers is their low cost. Their behavior changes with the signal level dependent dynamics of the drivers. They block the power amplifier from taking maximum control over the voice coil motion. They are a waste of time, if accuracy of reproduction is the goal."

Full article is here:

And then the guy next door cranks up his leaf blower.

‘a Doc Severinsen suit ...” ... wonder how many of your readers will get that? Well, we are an old bunch, so maybe many.

Mike said, "They look so tidy and minimalist and basic and simple and clean and pretty, don't they?"

At Mike's recommendation, I bought a pair of Audioengine 5+ speakers which look almost exactly the same as the DALIs, except possibly even more "tidy, minimalist and basic and simple and clean and pretty." They cost half as much as the DALIs. And they sound pretty good.

Your first post about Apex products caught my attention because I actually drive a Toyota RAV4 and find that it serves all of my needs admirably well. Secondly, because I have long considered Canon to be the Toyota of camera manufacturers with the 5DIV being their RAV4 equivalent.

I'm not insisting that I am correct in this assessment - only that I came up with it entirely on my own some while back.

I also use the Panasonic GH5 which I put in the same class although for somewhat different purposes.

I share your approval of moderation as discussed in the earlier post. For classical Greece, moderation was an ideal (Moderation in all things). No one has ever accused their cultural achievements of being mediocre.

My own Goldilocks set-up is not so different. Axiom M50 speakers kind of like the Oberon 7's (but made in lowly Canada). A relatively low-powered amp, the Marantz 6005 (45-60 watts). A fully automatic Denon turntable from the late eighties that works well, with a decent Denon cartridge. A pro-ject watchamacalit thing set to the needs of the stylus (turntable amp?). And a Bluesound Node streaming device that delivers large files from my computer, or small ones from Spotify. The only change I've made over the past couple years is playing with the angle of the speakers. They sound best from one particular chair, if I want to just listen.

[Oh, Canada is not lowly when it comes to speakers! PSB, Paradigm, Reference 3A, Gershman, Energy, Focus, Mirage, Totem...the list is long. --Mike]

And just like that, he's back. Good post tying in to the Apex idea. This is why in the mid 80s I gave in and now have all Van Alstine components. They have Apex written all over them.

Dali Loudspeakers are pretty nice; overall the Danish make loudspeaker designs that match my personal sensibilities better than any other country, worldwide.

When it come to Rogers LS3/5a "clones", though, IMHO, the hot setup is the Harbeth P3ESR; Alan Shaw is a brilliant loudspeaker designer.

But I personally prefer Dynaudio to Dali; one of the very few companies that makes all their speakers, including cabinets, components and drivers completely in-house. Many other well-reknown loudspeaker companies, including Eggleston Works, Vienna Acoustics, and Wilson, etc. have used Dynaudio drivers. Their Esotar 2 (and now 3) tweeter is regarded by many as the finest soft-dome tweeter made by anyone. The other advantage with Dynaudio is that they have a full in-house service center in the USA in Bensonville, IL, and, if need be, you get a replacement for any driver they've ever made, either as a spare part, or, if it is no longer available as a spare part, Dynaudio will actually make it for you in their factory in Skänderborg.

With respect to your comments about smaller speakers (mini-monitors) not being able to put out bass, my guess is you've never heard a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C1s standmounts driven by a 40-watt Octave tube integrated amp. The bass performance of this loudspeaker will really surprise you; IIRC, the C1 is -3db at ~35-36 Hz. John Atkinson tested it at Stereophile and said its measured performance was "beyond reproach". Its quite possible a Dyn C1 could over-pressurize a room of the dimensions you listed. And, its not power thats important for bass output or the ability to reproduce full-scale "dynamic slam", its the ability to very quickly swing large amounts of current that is the key factor. Even superior smaller-power tube amps can do this really well (like the Octave mentioned above).

Following the high-end market really closely as I do, based on reviews from good writers I trust, right now the hot setup for standmounts presently are the Dynaudio Special 40, for $2500, available in a stunning Red Birch finish with a bespoke special edition Esotar 40 tweeter, and two standmounts from ELAC, either the $500 UniFi S5 with a coaxial mid/tweter or the powered $2000/pr ELAC Navis, both designed by arguably the best loudspeaker designer in the world, Andrew Jones (who is a genius, IMHO).

Just doing some math, a system based on your selections, the Dali Oberons at $800, the Benchmark amp at $3000 and the Technics TT, with say an Ortofon 2M Black, comes in at $5549 (not including a phono stage or preamp).

Here's some optional setups I would put together instead:
1) Dynaudio Special 40 in Red Birch $2500, Schiit Vidar 100 WPC amp (200WPC for a 4 ohm speaker like the S40) at $699, Rega Planar 6 TT with Rega Exact MM cartridge; $1995, and a Schiit Mani phono stage at $129. Total price: $5323. And, you could add a Schiit Saga tube preamp for $349.

2) ELAC Navis (BASH) powered Standmounts ($2000/pr; no need for an amp), Schiit Freya tube preamp, $699, Rega Planar 6 TT with Exact MM cartridge; $1995, Schiit Mani Phono stage, $129, *and* a REL T5i sub for $599. All in for $5422.

3) ELAC UniFi S5, $499, Schiit Vidar 100 WPC amp, $699, Schiit Freya Tube Preamp, $699, Rega Planar 3 TT with Rega Exact MM cartridge; $1495, and a Schiit Mani phono stage at $129, AND a REL T5i sub, all in for $4166.

With respect to the Technic 'table; respectfully, either Rega will blow the doors off the Technics, sonically-speaking. The Technics doesn't have a platter bearing or tonearm that can match the engineering specification of the Regas; the Planar 6 in particular, is fully competitive with TTs costing $5000-$7000.

Of the systems I've mentioned above, IMHO, based on Andrew Jones' comments in an interview, the system with the powered ELAC Navis standmounts would be very hard to beat at its price point.

Regarding rooms and speaker setups: I'd defer to Ronald Hoffman at Dynaudio as described in this video. These guys know speakers: https://youtu.be/8b1W7QgqhR8

Ain't high-end audio fun?

[Misunderstanding: I just listed those components in the footnote as ones that looked interesting to me. Not suggesting they have anything to do with each other or would make a system. Re Regas: I don't like 'em. I've owned two, and the second one I did my best to hot rod with aftermarket upgrades and platter mats and power supplies. Still didn't like it. Something about Regas just doesn't do it for me. But that's just me & my ears. --Mike]

Suggest you watch a few episodes of Bosch on Amazon Prime. His setup is sweet but he listens in a glass room with a gorgeous view of LA. It's nice to look at and his taste in jazz is excellent but, well a glass room?

Ohmygosh, you cover a broad spectrum!

I have never had to replace or repair any trans, manual or automatic, but I have had to replace clutches ... more than once. Further, at the current state of automotive technology, I'd say that absolute volume works in favor of the automatic. Perhaps the manual trans is approaching "hand crafted?" And btw, I've run several standard run-of-the-mill automatic sedans up over the 200K mark. I'd have to opine that the automatic is pretty well refined by now.

I screwed hooks into the backs of my bookshelf speakers, and hung 'em on the wall, with a chunk of foamy plastic stuff along the bottom, to isolate them from the wall acting like a sympathetic resonator. No bass? Simple. A good powered subwoofer.

Emerald ash borer: speak to your local nursery folks, or an arborist. You can get a systemic insecticide injected into the trees, to save them from infestation. Around here, the red lantern fly, which first was spotted in Berks County, PA, has now spread into Montgomery (where I live) and Bucks counties. They're going to change how our forests look. If you have alianthus growing anywhere near you, get rid of it all. They are a primary "nurse" tree, while the lantern fly will later feed on just about anything. Dead tree in a couple of seasons ... they suck the life blood out of them.

One of my theology professors once remarked that when considering something like the shroud of Turin: Had it ever touched the face of Christ? It made no difference to Christianity either way, so we could choose to adopt what she called a "hermeneutic of trust", or a "hermeneutic of suspicion". Now when it comes to audio, I am definitely a "hermeneutic of suspicion" type of person. (And I speak as an electronic engineer who studied tube and transistor circuit design at university.)

I agree that different speakers sound different, but past say $1000, the differences don't have any effect on how much I enjoy the music. Placement of speakers has a more significant effect, but most of us have live-in partners (used to be called a 'wife' long ago) who don't generally allow the sort of room arrangement you describe. As for amps and CD players, nope, they all sound essentially the same. (Don't get me started on cables!) My strategy for buying audio is therefor to get midrange NAD electronics with B&W bookshelf speakers, and then enjoy the music. That is MY apex audio.

The emerald ash borer destroyed the ash tree in my front yard, and all the other ash trees in town (in Ontario), so I feel your pain. The town management said they had come from China, but now I learn from you that they may have come from upstate New York!! I used to do a lot of wood turning, and frequently removed unwanted trees to feed my hobby. Ash is a good wood for turning, so you may want to see if there are any wood turners in the area who could have the ash for taking it away.

Yes, automatic transmissions are an expensive point of failure, but less so on the Toyota Corolla that you use as an example than on cars by other manufacturers. As you are the person who introduced me to Scotty Kilmer videos I think you know exactly what I mean. Rev up your engines!

I remember forming a strong emotional bond with a pair of Altec Voice Of The Theater loudspeakers that I was the custodian once upon a time. I had some no name 60 watt receiver that anything above 2 would get the cops to show up. Actually it came in useful when friends would play a thunder storm recording to clear out the local tennis courts. Anyway, friends who had stuff like DQ10s would say “Sure they may sound great but they’re not actually good speakers you know” all I remember is that Brian Eno records and a friend’s Flamenco dance recordings (remember when recording random stuff with a nagra was a thing?) never sounded better.

“Doc Severinsen suit” boy is that ever a shibboleth!

Mike, you do stimulate memories! In 1969 I bought a set of Wharfedale 60s from a friend who was moving and used them for 34 years, along with an AR Turntable I bought at the same time. Finally sold them to a used stereo store in Somerville, MA when we moved to California. They did weight 60 pounds because they were filled with sand. Still sounded great to me - perhaps they aged just like my hearing...

It doesn't help that with audio, we all apparently hear differently, and then even have different preferences as to what we listen for which can vary from song to song, genre to genre, etc. So "value" is really entirely subjective, and let's not even get into the room acoustics. Or rather, let's let Jim tell us about those: http://getbettersound.com/index.php

I've heard multi-mega-buck systems and I've heard my car stereo. I'll take the mega-millions any day, but I'm only going to pay for some of that because one can get 90% of that sound for 10-25% of that price. Fortunately there are lots of great components that meet my wallet where I am!

Two enthusiastic votes (left and right channels) for PSB speakers–affordable and "musical."

I enjoy discussions about hifi. I used to be an audiophile until I was cured.

This happened when I met hifi design engineer Phil Marshall. Phil worked for Dolby Labs amongst other companies but for many years he designed NAD's amplifier range including the power edge models(1990s?).

I met him for the first time after he replied to some questions I asked about articles on his website explaining the importance of the room environment to the audio experience. I ended up working with him as a volunteer for a while, just a naive pair of ears, helping him with listening tests and learning from him.

Phil now runs a tiny bespoke loudspeaker company called Marshall Choong Audio. He moved to speaker design because that product still had a lot of room for improvement and a skilled and creative engineer had scope to advance the art.

Phil taught me a fundamental truth about music reproduction understood by engineers but not so much by customers. The most important component in hifi isn't the amp, speakers, source, cables or even your own ears, but The Listening Room.

Speakers sound different in different rooms - something that a lot of people know. But perhaps what many people don't realise is that the difference a room makes totally dominates any other factor. Nothing you do in your choice of components makes any difference if you have an unsuitable room. The magazines would love you to try and fix the problem by buying ever more expensive components but if the room is the issue, it won't help.

The key factor is room resonances. A typical room has reflections and standing waves that create massive response boosts at certain frequencies. Phil showed me how to measure room response. A typical small living room in a typical modest UK family home (say a brick built 3 bedroom 1930s semi detached home) has room dimensions that create resonances at around the 50Hz region that can sometimes be greater than +50dB above a flat response. This is a ridiculous problem. Almost all speakers will have bass overhang and undamped resonance that make getting a smooth, accurate sound very difficult. There are few ways to effectively counter this problem (set up your music listening space in a cow field?).

I started this by saying I used to be an audiophile, by which I meant that I used to believe that the trick to getting beautiful sound was to buy the right sound system but I no longer believe that. Experimentation and testing has shown me that most competent equipment sounds very little different in a professional test listening room where the room issues have been dealt with. Most of the difference that people ascribe in finicky, partisan terms to choice of equipment is mostly nothing to do with the gear but down to interactions with the room environment.

Trying to match gear to your room by trial and error and product swapping is an expensive fool's errand. Of course audio magazines don't tell you this when they are blathering on about the "silky" qualities of the treble in their favourite amp or CD player or whatever.

The audio world of the professional engineers who actually design the products we buy looks very different from the marketing picture presented to customers. It's an eye (ear?) opener if you have the chance to get on the inside looking out.

I lost contact with Phil, a decade ago and I notice his website on room correction is gone (I have a backup copy so I can still consult it) but there are a couple of short papers still on the Marshall Choong site including an intriguing one on a 4 sub woofer resonance cancelling solution that looks spectacularly expensive:


An alternative to bespoke listening rooms and elaborate resonance cancelling solutions for people with limited resources, is digital room correction. It can be a reasonable compromise if you are prepared to do the careful measurements. The room correction technique I use is a free plugin to the Foobar2000 media player called Mathaudio Room EQ. You can read about it here


I guess I am left of the peak of the curve and heading further left. I acquired two mid-sized AR speakers in college and grad school with a Garrard standard turntable and some tape gear. I carried a steadily increasing collection of LP and then CD music of all descriptions with me from apartment to house to house, always single-occupancy and surrounded by green spaces. And I could fill the house with music.

Then something changed. First Vinyl, then CDs went away. Kids grew. Houses no longer single-occupancy but one of four units in what is very spacious for this town. And everyone in the house has headset or earbuds in place to provide their very own audio stimulation. The last I saw of the biggish ARs they were making music in a lab where six grad students could somehow agree on the mix and that was years ago. Now I go through a new set of studio headgear every 4-5 years when the foam starts to crumble. Wired to date, but I am contemplating giving in to Bluetooth.

Luckily I don’t have to worry about any of this stuff.

1. I haven’t got the money for any of it.

2. Where I’m living these days I wouldn’t be able to turn it up enough to appreciate it without upsetting the neighbours. ( That hasn’t always been the case - I used to have a twelve piece drumkit & PA system in my living room ).

3. In terms of audio quality the first three Velvet Underground albums will sound like crap whatever you play them on.

I can’t help thinking that a lot of mainstream pop / rock was actually produced to sound good on cheapo sound systems ( AM car radio, teenage bedroom stereos etc ).

Years ago I was a Community Worker for the Mentally Ill. One of the clients I visited was a lady in her fifties. She lived in a squalid downstairs flat with her brother who also had issues. One day when we were siting in their almost derelict living room the brother put a single on the super cheap stereo ( plastic with tiny speakers ) he sat next to all day. It was a sixties soul track, Wilson Pickett I think. It sounded wonderful.

With other stuff I can hear some difference. I ‘upgraded’ from a bottom of the range CD player to one costing about £150 and it opened up the sound on Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’. I could hear bits I hadn’t noticed before.

( I have a half baked theory that this ‘opening up’ of the sound is why I’m sometimes not keen on listening to older recordings ( Buddy Holly for instance ) on modern systems: It seems to spread the soundscape out too much, there’s too much space between the instruments - it gives me a mental impression of the band members standing 50 feet apart from each other while they’re playing. To my ears these recordings are better suited to the compressed sound of a cranked up car radio ).

A classical composer lives around the corner from us. As a boy he was head chorister at one of Englands major cathedrals & taught at Oxford for several years. Lately he’s been having his work recorded in Russia. Obviously a very musical guy. I once mentioned sound systems to him. He said that he had no interest in hi fi. If his amplifier or turntable broke he’d go to a second hand shop & pick up the first one he saw as a replacement.

Enjoyed your ‘Apex Products’ post. Sanity. I don’t know why it was an Open Mike off topic post. It seemed completely relevant to the way many people pursue photography.

PS I used to follow & sometimes post on the forum section of another photography website. I’d stop following a thread if the phrase ‘high end audio’ was used.

PPS Sorry to hear about your emerald ash borer issues, but you have to admit that is a very cool looking beetle.

I would suggest you have a friend who knows wood take a look at your ash when it comes down. It used to be a prized wood for veneer and furniture. You might get some or all of your money back.

For me, its my Klipsch RF-5 floor standers. Very similar to the Oberon7 in that they have dual 8” woofers mated with the Klipsch Tractrix Horn, in a beautiful cherry wood veneered cabinet.
Spent a lot of time “renting” speakers from Audio Consultants (Local HiFi retailer) and these Klipsch held their own against the B&W 805 bookshelf speakers, with better bass response, although the 805s get the nod for having a hair more transparency, but at over twice the price.
If I do ever go bookshelf in the future, a good used pair of the B&W 805s would be my choice....budget willing. Thats the thing about Audio, there’s a point where you must spend magnitudes more for incremental improvements.

I notice that my three daughters (not to mention my wife) all have remarkably good hearing (much better than mine, especially these days), and listen to lots of music, have never had the remotest interest in audio systems, or speaker placement. Likewise, there are one or two gifted musicians in our extended family, who also seem completely uninterested in audio beyond the very basics. They must all be listening for the music and not hearing (the obvious to them) shortcomings of the media. There seems to be only a peripheral connection between audio hardware and music enjoyment. Just like the peripheral connection between camera/lens hardware and the enjoyment of photographs.

Mike, have you experienced Manger loudspeakers (with flat membranes) or heard of them?

The first time I switched mine on was with a radio voice on, and I instinctively turned around believing someone had entered my room!

When I looked for really good (and affordable) loudspeakers thirtyfive years ago they were marketed mainly by wide linearity of frequency response, but I soon found that a (total) absence of distortion was what really counted - as you say, the room changes the sound, but our brain soon compensates just as it does with colours in different light.
They were all two- or three-way systems and none made human voices sound really natural and only some too expensive ones with integrated amplifiers for each element reproduced piano music with the impact sound intact.
( Probably the frequency filtering is cleaner nowadays?)

Enter the Manger loudspeakers!

I bought and installed a pair of elements.
Pianos sounded as they should, and so did all voices. The difference between a very good LP and a good direct-to-disc one was very audible, my test was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor and even the deepest chords were clear and distinct. Manger sold systems with a ribbon tweeter added, but i never felt a need for that.

The elements have a flat membrane with a central magnet so the sound spreads on it like wavelets from a pebble dropped into water. They have a much wider frequency range than cones, so a single-element speaker is feasible.
I got a fairly resonance free system by mounting the elements low in triangular baffles in two corners of the room a bit under the ceiling.
( If I had owned my place I would have made two holes in the wall.to the next room for them.)

...different rooms make speakers sound different...

True, but I started out by eliminating one of the speaker/room interactions so as to minimize how different. The pair of Allison CD-9s I bought nearly 35 years ago, driven by an Adcom GFA-555 purchased at the same time, are still going strong. We've moved once since then and, although room size/shape is different here than in the previous place, sound quality is remarkably similar to what it was there.

Roy Allison's use of butyl rubber woofer surrounds (a lesson he learned from rotting foam on the AR woofers at his previous employer) was rewarded by my speakers being just as tight and rattle free today as they were when new. I probably should replace the Adcom's power supply caps on principle, but can't hear any low end degradation, so have just let them ride. My annual physical exam was last week. The audiological test result caused a remark about how acute my hearing is, so it's unlikely I'm missing any amp or speaker problems.

In my opinion, the single biggest sound quality factor home music listeners face is source material. In the bedroom, we have a Grace Mondo Internet radio. Last year, on the jazz streaming service I support, a track was played that jumped out immediately as technically noteworthy. This through MP3 depredations and the built in three inch woofer plus one inch tweeter. I subsequently purchased the CD and still marvel at its dynamic presence. Almost as good as the Mercury Living Presence recordings I discussed with Bob Fine so long ago at RCA Studio A in New York. :-)

[What, you're not even going to tell us what it is?? --Mike]

Lloyd-Curtis Corner Horn Speakers
The ultimate high performance audio experience.
from Eugene, Oregon

Gotta love semantics. Merriam-Webster defines apex as pointy-end, not ideal. Yes, my milage does vary—a whole lot 8-)

In the early 1970s I worked for a Hollywood sound mixer, who owned Klipch speakers. I'm most definitely am not an audiophile, but they sure sounded good to me.

The high-end stuff, the vinyl and the CDs are long gone (when in doubt, throw it out). I'm using good-enough Sennheiser wireless ear-buds and headphones for iTunes, Netflix and Radio Paradise. It makes no difference the room, they always sound great (to me).

Wharfedale loudspeakers... I remember Wharfedale Denton speakers. When I was a student in the early 70s, so many of my friends had simple systems with those speakers. They sounded great! - by our standards, at least. As long as you could crank Led Zeppelin 2 up to a suitable volume (all my male friends had that album), or listen to Tapestry quietly (all the girls had that album), it was good enough.

And I even know where Linton is. It’s in Wharfedale (duh...) in the Yorkshire Dales national park, and it’s a tiny village (pop. 176) close to the slightly larger village of Grassington. I used to walk in that area, again in the early 70s. Beautiful landscape.

Interesting that the thread hasn’t gone toward lamenting the fact that most people listen to music from a smartphone on earbuds .....like the iPhone replacing cameras...

Apropos of your dissertation on the normal (Gaussian) distribution, in Uneasy Street, Rachel Sherman writes of the need of the affluent to be normal:

“They want to be in the middle, not in a distributional sense but rather in the affective sense of having the habits and desires of the middle class. As long as the wealthy can distance themselves from images of ‘bad’ rich people, their entitlement is acceptable. In fact, it is almost as if they are not rich.”

Further, apropos of your speakers and cars analogies, have you heard the one about how speaker designers drive Toyotas, but cable “designers” drive Ferraris?

You are 100% right about the mysterious cluster of OCD among audiophiles. What else explains the obsession over cables or, worse, power cords? I am an EE by education, but am hard pressed to know where to even begin if you ask me to design a good sounding cable or better power cord. LOL.

Speakers, otoh, as you know, are an entirely different matter. They are the most critical component by a long shot, but their quality and character vary widely. It's tough to design a good sounding speaker. No wonder speaker designers drive Toyotas. In my experience, the best speakers are dipole planar electrostatics (e.g. Quad ESL, KLH-9) or ribbons (e.g. Genesis, Magnaplanar) They sing. Their sound is spacious, wide and tall, layered, alive with “air”. Note: “air” is the most expensive quality (artifact?) in audiodom. However, because of their low and uneven input impedence, they are difficult to drive and demand the best, high-powered, preferably tube, amps, which are expensive. I am privileged to have a pair of Arnie Nudell's Genesis 200s, which is one notch below the Genesis One, long the reference speaker of Harry Pearson at his Sea Cliff redoubt. They are sublime.

I disagree with your take on Ferraris. Rolls are crappy cars. However, Ferraris, like Genesis speakers, embody pedigree informed by genius and earned from decades of passion and sweat. For a company which produces a few thousand cars a year and thus not endowed with a big R&D budget, Ferrari takes the risk to pioneer and bring many racing-bred technologies to road cars. Yes, some Ferraris are bought as bling. But that's not Ferrari's fault. Over the year, they've tried hard to shoo away such buyers – unlike, notably, Leica with their ridiculous editions.

Most statistical distributions are not normal, but multi-modal (multi-humped). So, who's to say what, or who is normal or "apex", and what, or who, is not?

I was cured of a desire for nicer speakers when I took the Tidal test with my $100 retail Sennheiser over-ear headphones. Twice, I got 4/5 wrong. These were A/B tests, so that is worse than random guessing.

Also, my wife plays music into the room using the speakers on her phone. When I get her to turn it down so the speakers aren't overly taxed, it is not a disaster. But she can't take the trouble to connect to a bluetooth soundbar. That was about $40 retail, and sounds pretty ok, I guess.

With how often people stuck with the OEM Apple earpods over the last few decades, I am going to make a wild guess and say $100 headphones are well to the right of apex. $800 for a pair of speakers. Oof, I'd sooner spend that on snap-in shoes and stretchy clothing for riding bikes.

I started in audiophilia in the 70's when I fell under the spell of a wonderful man named Simon (French accent) at Audio Consultants in Evanston. With his guidance I had a Crown amp and preamp, (among the first really low distortion transistor amps-they came with performance curves made on one's own actual device) Crown 10 1/2 inch tape recorder, and the lovely Dahlquist DQ10's. When off, (i was on call every third night,) I listened to music, classical music. Great times. I read about, but never purchased $100/foot pure silver speaker wire and all the silliness of "Sterophile" and "The Absolute Sound." I eventually moved west and ended up with different electronics but still a lust for speakers. Here I met another wonderful man at Corner Audio in Portland and with his guidance fell under the electrostatic spell of the Martin Logan CLS, with a proprietary sub woofer. Corner Audio is gone as is most of my hearing but I still love my CLS's. There's nothing quite like the sound of a string quartet on an electrostatic speaker with a sub for the cello. Since they are bipolar radiators, room adjustment is critical. I wish I could hear like I could 30 years ago but I still love listening.

[I knew Simon Zreczny. Or at least I had several nice long conversations with him, which is probably true of thousands of others of his customers too. --Mike]

Great discussions on an interesting topic, not unlike photography.

Thanks Mike.

I’m enjoying my Audioengine HD3/S8 sub setup for near-field...though I bypass the HD3 DAC with a Schiit Fulla 2 headphone amp/DAC now. I dunno, I love the little things like how when you go into audio settings you are greeted with “I’m Fulla Schiit...”

Doc Severinsen?
They say intense colors can excite the brain, but where did you have that one stored?

My long tail finally reach me. Around 2003 (? Behind paywall not sure) Micheal of luminous landscape start to use and review digital back. It was kodak pro 16 MB. Like to have one but even by 2009 it is $100k for a p25 (the article seems stilll accessible.) .... after waiting for 16 years finally place an order for a multi shot hasselblad old back yesterday. I am not sure it work. I do hope so. And I am not sure it will last. It may not be. But maintenance cost .... well at least it is now around $2k to get a whole old one and that would cost a car part in the article. Long tail is different play.

It is cheaper than the successor to z7 which I would upgrade to as nikon is my go to gear for current equipment. But for old time sake.

My last wish is to have the astro equipment of Micheal. Not sure I like Pentax 400 he used. But the stand and controller he chose is good. I save the article somewhere so I can get that equipment (but that cannot be 2nd Hand but current model) when I settle down in my new living place.

Btw, sad to see the whole Lula change hand. But then I did not even know as only visit the site a couple of days ago to find out. Only 3 sites I visited then. This, Thom and his mainly. But not visiting ...

Do not know how long the tail is.

High end loudspeakers are now mostly priced at levels that only Silicon valley and IPO multi-millionaires can afford.

Even so, my dream loudspeakers are the Spendor SP100R2.

Fortunately, a used pair of the SP100Rs, twenty years old is still affordably priced, if you can find ones in good condition in the used market, and sounds the same.

Magnepan. Wish they met the SAF (spousal approval factor) but I did enjoy them when I was single.

Room / speaker interactions are, indeed, one of the most important issues in good sound. The best single reference I know on the subject is “Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms” by Dr. Floyd Toole. Toole avoids the math, but otherwise gives a complete discussion of how rooms effect speakers and vice versa. A little pricey, but well worth cost.

Toole's former employer, Harmon International, has published a program that lets you determine just how sensitive your ears really are -- can hear 0.1 dB boost in the midrange. A genuinely eye-opening test for a self-proclaied audiophile: https://harmanhowtolisten.blogspot.com

[What, you're not even going to tell us what it is?? --Mike]

Music is like religion. No matter the sound quality, although I respond very positively to the tunes and playing on it, others (including you, Mike) will probably react the way Dick Phillips did when I sent him a copy of the CD recently: "Pleasant piano bar background music from decades ago." :-)

Nonetheless, since you asked, it's this one:


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