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Small Speaker Kool-Aid

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by soundhound, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    By request, I'm porting over a thread I started from the S&V forum. I wish there was a way to capture the entire thread and bring it here, but hopefully we can start a discussion again on the subject of small verses large speakers, and specifically, how important is a sense of scale in Hi-Fi reproduction?

    Not surprisingly, I feel that just like accurate frequency response and the ability to project a good soundstage, the ability to recreate an appropriately-sized sense of the scale of the original performers and venue is vital if we are to have real high fidelity reproduction.

    Today's small speakers exist because of home theater. It was realized early on by manufacturers that there way no way that the then-new concept of home theater would take hold if users were required to have 5 "regular" sized speakers (i.e. the "norm" of the stereo period which was 12" woofers in a much larger cabinet) in their living rooms. Wives in particular would freak out. Home theater would be a non-starter. DOA.

    However, they cannot reproduce a realistic sense of scale, no matter how well engineered they may be.

    I've always believed that the goal of Hi-Fi was literal - the exact reproduction in all aspects of a performer in the listener's room, and this includes the apparent size of the performers to match what they would actually be. In other words, a sense of scale.

    So my question is, just what are your expectations of what High Fidelity can accomplish, and which of those aspects are really necessary to you?
  2. Towen7

    Towen7 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    My definition of high fidelity is pretty much the same as yours. Where we differ is the second part of the question; What aspects are necessary to me?.

    I listen to music for the enjoyment that it brings me and I can accept that the sound in my room is not 100% accurate... so long as it meets a certain, indefinable level of performance. The best I can define the level of performance that is necessary to me is the point where the deficiencies don't bother me (instruments sound "right", voices are clear, I can clearly follow individual instruments within the arrangement).

    "Scale" is one thing that I know my system lacks when compared to a true high-end system. I know that but I lack the funds to achieve that in a Home Theater environment. In the not too distant future I hope to have a 2 channel music system that can provide that scale. If music were a bigger part of my life than I could take the time and give the effort required to identify and correct other deficiencies.
  3. malsackj

    malsackj Well-Known Member

    I feel that the small speaker is a little weak in producing the Scale or impact that one expects from certain aspects. I have the JBL 2500 bookselves in 5.1 and feel these and the 2600's have this weak feal in the 60 to 200 base range. This is were I feel Flint added the base bins to help with his speaker projects, to provide more umph and scale.

    I have the wife issue of the smaller speakers like others around the area. I will be keeping my 5.25 or 6.5 base bookselves.
  4. Razz

    Razz Well-Known Member

    The biggest display of "Scale" I've ever heard was listening to SH system. It's truly amazing. I've never heard anything like it. The Scale was something I had never experienced before, SO LARGE!!! I remember saying that it felt as is the singer was 40 feet tall. After more listening I realized that it wasn't overly large, it was just that I was not used to hearing such outstanding sense of scale.

    Since then I've always put "Scale" as an importance when judging high end speakers and it highly influenced my choice in buying my current speakers.
  5. Botch

    Botch I.Y.A.A.Y.A.S! Superstar

    I'm with Towen's description.
    However, I struggle with this thought: the end result of speakers is to vibrate your eardrums. Can a larger speaker cause your eardrums to vibrate differently than smaller speakers? And if so, shouldn't this be measurable?
    I don't have the answer to this, just wondering out loud...
  6. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    The is something in human physiology where we can sense how "large" something is by the way the sound impinges on our ears (not just ear drums, but the pinna which defines the head related transfer function, or how we sense things like direction - including height - and size), and it doesn't have much to do with bass response. We can sense how large the "radiating surface" is of a source.

    Perhaps an audiologist could find a way to measure it, but I'm not aware of any way myself to measure it. But I can certainly tell between a "big" speaker and a "small" speaker in any listening situation. I have on occasion turned off the LF section of my Altec A-7s, leaving just the HF horn playing; even with frequencies below 500Hz chopped off, I can still tell the relative size of the sound source; its not a 5" speaker, but a very large horn.
  7. DIYer

    DIYer Well-Known Member Famous

    It may have to do with dispersion area, angle and pattern of speaker drivers.
    I've seen measurements of those properties.
  8. Botch

    Botch I.Y.A.A.Y.A.S! Superstar

    <...looks forlornly at all the 5.5" drivers in his new, expensive Monitor Audio Silvers...>

  9. Deacon

    Deacon Humble Servant

    Isn't this aspect of hearing also very dependant on distance from the sound source, boundary interaction, ambient noise, etc?

    I ask because if so then couldn't you create an atmosphere where the soundstage for a small speaker would be inperceivable to that produced by a large speaker?
  10. Botch

    Botch I.Y.A.A.Y.A.S! Superstar

    Good point, and I'm also thinking about in-ears, headphones, and headphones with larger transducers. My head hurts.
  11. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    We can sense the size of a room by the reverberation patterns, and this mechanism is probably no different than our ability to tell the relative size of an object by our ears.

    I've done some binaural headphone tests where I could also tell the relative size of objects; there's one catch though - the input to the microphones were surrounded by pinna on a dummy head, so the sound field was "pre encoded" for head related transfer function. When the dummy head was replaced by two mics spaced at the same distance as ears, the ability to tell relative size vanished.

    I think it all boils down to our ability to tell the "size" of a sound wavefront. Its probably related to our ears ability to sense where the boundries are on the wavefront; we can sense its outer edges, and therefore its size.
  12. Botch

    Botch I.Y.A.A.Y.A.S! Superstar

    That is fascinating! :handgestures-thumbup:
  13. Vinyl

    Vinyl Active Member

    Size does matter if you’ve been told otherwise she’s lying.

    For me Scale and Soundstage are important when reproducing large symphonies – in my experience on the subject of Scale and symphonies: In order to achieve the full Scale experience I’ve come to the conclusion that a larger listening space will enhance the illusion with the listening chair approximately 3’ further back than the norm - allowing the room’s ambiance to add to the scale of the symphony - I have large dipole panels - lower frequencies are augmented by a single sub - the illusion can be pretty realistic.
  14. Razz

    Razz Well-Known Member

    I had dipole/bipole surrounds by Paradigm (ADP Reference Models) and used them once to listen to stereo, I know they are not designed for that but I did find a bigger Scale to them but didn't like the decrease in clarity/separation.
  15. 2chnfornow

    2chnfornow Active Member

    How does the sense of scale idea apply to smaller listening rooms that cannot accommodate large speakers of any type?
  16. PaulyT

    PaulyT Behind the Curtain Staff Member Administrator Moderator Superstar

    Yes, I was wondering about planar speakers in this context - if a large wavefront is ideal, then why are planars not the norm for high fidelity? And I'm not trying to stand in judgement here, as my experience with planars is exactly zero; and I know many DO consider them the best for fidelity. It's just not a 100% consensus...
  17. nelmr

    nelmr Active Member

    This is an interesting concept as I'm considering replacing my Athena AS-F2's (dual 8" woofers, box size 9.5 x 41.5 x 15.5) with the smaller Dynaudio Countor S 1.4 (6.7" woofer, box size 7.4 x 15.9 x 14.2"). I realize overall the Dynaudio's will sound much better, but would the sense of scale change?
  18. TitaniumTroy

    TitaniumTroy Well-Known Member

    For PaulyT: TitaniumTroy wrote:
    So where do large planer type speakers, rate in the sense of scale? A given would be that they would be in a room with acoustics suited for them, compared to other speakers?

    I've never heard a planer speaker, not matter how large, produce enough impact in the frequencies below 300Hz I think are needed to produce this huge sense of scale we are discussing. They do really well with dynamics, though, in the midrange.
    The most impressive planer speaker I've ever heard was a set of large ES speakers hand-built by an EE masters student at NMSU. Each transducer was 7ft tall and 4ft wide, and he mounted them in the wall between his living room and his study so one side of the drivers fed into one room and the other side fed into the other - in other words, a true infinite baffle. That speaker was stunning down to about 150Hz at any practical SPL. Below 100Hz, it was okay at low levels. I was always very impressed with that setup, though it did require some serious EQ to get a reasonably flat response.

    Or at least that is Flint's version. Here is a link to the original thread, oh by the way I was the one who requested SoundHound repost the thread http://forums.soundandvisionmag.com/sho ... r-Kool-Aid
    Around page 13 some young pup called PaulyT shows up and asks some questions :text-imnewhere: What a Noob that guy was :?
  19. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    For awhile many years ago before I built my current room, I had my Altec A-7-500s in a bedroom that was about 12" square. I also had some smaller speakers in the same room. The A-7-500s definitely sounded like the larger speaker, in fact it sounded like the entire wall behind them was radiating sound. Not so with the small speakers.
  20. soundhound

    soundhound Well-Known Member

    Planar speakers will launch a larger (and coherent) wavefront, in-line with their larger size compared to the smaller speaker. They will also because of that project a better sense of scale than a smaller speaker. They probably aren't more popular because, like other large speakers, they have to be big to be efficient enough to overcome their relatively limited piston motion (i.e. output per area of panel). Smaller speakers have without doubt won the battle of the living room because of wife issues, which gets back to the original point of this thread that smaller speakers didn't become more popular because they were "better", rather large speakers lost the battle of the living room for aesthetics reasons.

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