Auditioning Speakers Over-rated?

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anand

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Friends,

Every forum and magazine that I see about purchasing speakers always close with this mantra "Audition all the shortlisted speakers and buy the one you like best".
However, after many auditions I am really questioning this advice.

There are so MANY variables involved in an audition at a store that it is simply impossible to compare 2 different speakers.
For example:
a) The amplifier used at the store - every store has a different amp
b) The settings and volume on the amp
c) The positioning of the speakers
d) The acoustics of the room
e) The quality of the sound source (CD player, DVD player)
f) The time lag between auditions (how good are we really in remembering the quality of a sound as we shuffle between stores?)
g) The music/movie played
h) The amount of "break-in" already done on the speakers

With so many different variables, any opinion we form about the speakers could easily be wrong.
Even in the same store, they may try to promote one set of speakers over another purely on commercial reasons (clearing old stock, selling speakers that give them higher profit margins, etc).

My conclusion after all this is:
a) Rely on standard un-biased reviews offered by audio professionals who have compared and contrasted the speakers in their standard setup (not at the store)
b) Take your own CDs for auditions at stores
c) Try to audition multiple speaker sets at the same store using the same amp and players and settings (ask Salesman to simply switch the speakers and not change anything else)
d) Try to do all the auditions on the same day or same hour if possible
e) Carefully compare the technical specs

What do you guys think?
 

psychotropic

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Hey anand,

I think you have a point but the way you have expressed it is a bit misdirected. I don't think there is any question that auditioning the speakers is essential. Everyone has their personal preferences that cannot be boiled down to just a few technical specifications ....for example.... I can't say that any speaker that can handle up to 100 watts at 8 ohms, has a ferrofluid suspension tweeter and a kevlar woofer, with a braced MDF cabinet, and a crossover at X hz, sensitivity of 89 db and and capable of a frequency range of X hz to X hz I will like...because how a speakers sounds is more than a sum of its parts. And how much you like a speaker is more even, than how the speaker sounds.....it depends on your individual tastes in music, your personal preference for sound and so on. Therefore it is always best to audition a speaker before you buy it, and auditioning speakers cannot be said to be over-rated.....but yes....it is DIFFICULT......for all of the reasons that you mention.....it can be difficult to carry out a proper audition, and following the tips that you have set out will make the auditioning process simpler.

Of course there are times (like for me when there were no Audioengine dealeres in Chennai) that you need to buy blindly. But do that only if it is that difficult to get an audition. In such a case of course, you have no choice but to buy blind, and you are forced to depend on reviews. But to say that auditioning is over-rated....i would not agree.

Friends,

Every forum and magazine that I see about purchasing speakers always close with this mantra "Audition all the shortlisted speakers and buy the one you like best".
However, after many auditions I am really questioning this advice.

There are so MANY variables involved in an audition at a store that it is simply impossible to compare 2 different speakers.
For example:
a) The amplifier used at the store - every store has a different amp
b) The settings and volume on the amp
c) The positioning of the speakers
d) The acoustics of the room
e) The quality of the sound source (CD player, DVD player)
f) The time lag between auditions (how good are we really in remembering the quality of a sound as we shuffle between stores?)
g) The music/movie played
h) The amount of "break-in" already done on the speakers

With so many different variables, any opinion we form about the speakers could easily be wrong.
Even in the same store, they may try to promote one set of speakers over another purely on commercial reasons (clearing old stock, selling speakers that give them higher profit margins, etc).

My conclusion after all this is:
a) Rely on standard un-biased reviews offered by audio professionals who have compared and contrasted the speakers in their standard setup (not at the store)
b) Take your own CDs for auditions at stores
c) Try to audition multiple speaker sets at the same store using the same amp and players and settings (ask Salesman to simply switch the speakers and not change anything else)
d) Try to do all the auditions on the same day or same hour if possible
e) Carefully compare the technical specs

What do you guys think?
 

anuragn

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Aug 24, 2008
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f) The time lag between auditions (how good are we really in remembering the quality of a sound as we shuffle between stores?)

This is exactly the point i'm most concerned, other points are no less important though.
This point alone can make or break a decision, atleast that is what I feel is true for myself. I'm unable to make out any difference between 2 different sets in different points in time. But I know for sure that if I compare 2 systems at my home, listening for much longer periods, different in quality would be apparent. But auditioning at home is not practical. Hence, I feel afraid that I might make a wrong choice and regret later. In such a scenario, I feel safer to rely, but not blindly ("deafly" to be precise :)), on good reviews done by "experts".
Anyway, my first big purchase (either an AVR or Speakers) is still many months (or a year) away.
 

reignofchaos

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Listen with their equipment first and then try out your own electronics. If you like it the first time round, it makes sense to do the second bit. If the showroom doesn't allow that, well its not worth your trouble to bother even to think of buying them.
 

arj

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Friends,

Every forum and magazine that I see about purchasing speakers always close with this mantra "Audition all the shortlisted speakers and buy the one you like best".
However, after many auditions I am really questioning this advice.

There are so MANY variables involved in an audition at a store that it is simply impossible to compare 2 different speakers.
For example:
a) The amplifier used at the store - every store has a different amp
b) The settings and volume on the amp
c) The positioning of the speakers
d) The acoustics of the room
e) The quality of the sound source (CD player, DVD player)
f) The time lag between auditions (how good are we really in remembering the quality of a sound as we shuffle between stores?)
g) The music/movie played
h) The amount of "break-in" already done on the speakers

The point you have made is valid ..but my experience with speakers..the tonallity and the presentation of speakers do not change much although the sound quality does. But assuming that most stores will showcase a good and equivalently ranged amp, you can learn enough of a speaker to see if you like it or not and to add it to a final shortlist.

if you can audition at home nothing like it..but even if you cannot this is a good time toi read about this much more to see if it will fit your amp and room..

the volume and the room factor can be tamed to some extgent by also listening tio the speaker at a distance of 2 M so as to negate room reflections and of course volume can always be adjusted.
the rest is a leap of faith, but you would have done enough due diligence to get you there.


going purely by reviews is like a roll of dice.
 

persiflage

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Feb 21, 2007
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Listen with their equipment first and then try out your own electronics. If you like it the first time round, it makes sense to do the second bit. If the showroom doesn't allow that, well its not worth your trouble to bother even to think of buying them.

This is absolutely the right approach, and especially for speakers. All good dealers should be amenable to home demos..
 

Jith77

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You have a point. . . Auditioning is not without flaws. . . But to buy something just based on reviews is even riskier.
My prefered method is
Step 1
Personally i would first short list based on reviews/ advice. And this should be really short for me. Or i end up confused.
Step 2
Second step would be to audition these few ones. The more at a single roof the better. Eventhough i do check how much detail is produced, i dont buy based on that. I would never able to reproduce that on a minimal budget i have on the amp, cable etc. What matters would be which sound signature makes me to enjoy the music most:)
step 3
the worst one. . . Selecting amp. . . I dont believe in auditionin coz u cant do that expect if the same shop has the best match or you have one already. . .so only reviews and forums for this...
All said and done, i take this route only coz i look at the cheapest entry level available
 

Sujit

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I have decided to buy the Amp, then lug it around and use that to audition the speakers.

Yes that is difficult - but no point in spending money and not being able to live with it!!:p
 

afj

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auditioning speakers does give you an insight into how the speaker sounds irrespective of the set up is different, time lag, positioning etc etc. youre better off auditioning it than not.
 

unleash_me

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The market for hi-end av has certainly matured a lot compared to few years back. Now there are more dealers who are happy to give you a home audition if you come across as a serious buyer. Not sure about other places, but in Blore- one can enjoy such small privileges.

IMO that is the true test if the proposed purchase will be sounding good to you day after day and year after year. Like ROC mentioned, if any dealer is not very comfortable with this idea, then better not waste your time with that looser.

Once you pass the stage of knocking the speaker with your knuckle and act as a "professor in deep thought" days, a lot of auditioning speakers or the associated gears are fine tuned after you spend few years in this hobby. You will start knowing the house sound of brands, what to expect from a certain combo and finally, if you really are the chosen one, will get the "gift" to hear the unheard from exuberantly expensive cables!

Keep trying.
 
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