Speakers Auditioning..the journey begins..

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mnemonic

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I have been an silent and observant member in the forum for the past couple of months trying to get my concepts clear in the vast world of audio and I must say that it has been quite enlightening. Thanks a ton guys for that.

Now coming to my journey, I am looking at setting up a HT in my new apartment. The HT will be in one half of a rectangular living room which measures roughly 20'x12'. The Music/Movie split will be 60/40. My wife and I listen to a spectrum of genres between the two of us ranging from carnatic/western classical to rock ( coldplay et al) with some dabbling into world music and instrumental. The ubiquitous tamil/hindi movie soundtracks will be thrown in too once in a while. WRT movies, my wife is not a buff at all while I am an omnivorous movie watcher (range) but a little fussy about the finer aspects of movies, particularly the editing/sound mixing pieces.

As a starter I have bought a Panny PV-80H to be the centre piece and have started auditioning receivers and speakers last weekend. With a limited budget of a Lac, I know my choices are limited but still long enough to give my grey cells quite a bit of work.

Here goes my pre-work

Choice of receivers:
- CA Azur 640R ( Will be auditioning this weekend but love the minimalistic brit looks and impressed by the wattage in stereo mode)

- Denon 1909 ( Have heard a great deal from the forum)

- Onkyo 606/705 ( Have auditioned the 505/6? with Klipsch F2/Ref-62 but was not happy with music, upper ranges were too bright and Hariprasad Chaurasia came across as raspy)

- Yamaha 663 ( Havent auditioned but appears that its quite competent)

With the received eating up 40 k minimun, I am left with 60k which either allows me for a good 2.1 setup with a modular build later or go in for an all round 5.1 pack like the diamond 9hcp..

Auditioning results:

The songs I played were from:
- Viva la Vida, Moby, Hariprasad Chaurasia's fusion, Aamir, Alaipayuthey, Delhi6 and Mandalin U Srinivas.

Klipsch F2/Ref-62- Typical of german in the looks department,they were quite competent in the mids and bass departments but the treble kinda wore me out in fifteen minutes. The detail reproduction was right up there in the vocals but a little too sharp. Perhaps it was the Onkyo that did the trick. I have read that the Tractrix horn tweeters of Klipsch can be quite bright, but this was the first time I heard it and I am not sold to these pairs. Retailing at 40k and 60k a pair the Klipschs will allow me a 2.1 combo at the max. I am auditioning them again with a Denon 1909 to see if I like the pairing. Shall post on this soon.

Jamo C406- Auditioned these wonderful speakers at Cinebels at MGF mall paired with a Marantz 5002 receiver and they hit the spot from the first track I played from Alaipaythey and went from strength to strength from there on, I played the same tracks and also tried out Delhi 6 and it was a whopper. Vocals were very natural and the midrange was strong and I heard quite a few notes in Masakkali which I never heard in my car audio too. The bass in these speakers is quite awesome and it goes real low which makes the sub a little redundant. The paper cones do a wonderful job and the soft dome tweeter was just right. At 40K a pair, these concert series speakers are a gem for music and am quite sold to this combo.

The coming weekend, I am heading out to listen to Wharfedales at Bass n Treble and the CA-MS combo at Rhythm corner?? in GK. Following this I would want to listen to Tannoy Mercury F4 based system and finally closing the loop with the audition of B&W/Dali. I know that both brands are way beyond my budget but want to listen once.

I would like inputs from you guys on this and I shall post my reviews as and when I audition. I would request the gurus to pardon any blunders of mine in my choice of terms/understanding as I am a layman still in the world of music.

cheers,
 
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Hey Mnemonic,

I too embark on a similar journey. I gather you are from Delhi, can I join you just to learn? I have no idea of what I am getting into, and it would be useful to have someone more knowledgeable lead the way for me.

Vj
 

marsilians

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Good stuff - As you are embarking on the journey, I say audition the speakers first and then decide on the receiver. A good 2.1 system will sound better than a mediocre 5.1 system and there is no rush to get all the pieces now.

Once you decide on the speakers then you can look into getting a matching AVR/integrated.


I have been an silent and observant member in the forum for the past couple of months trying to get my concepts clear in the vast world of audio and I must say that it has been quite enlightening. Thanks a ton guys for that.

Now coming to my journey, I am looking at setting up a HT in my new apartment. The HT will be in one half of a rectangular living room which measures roughly 20'x12'. The Music/Movie split will be 60/40. My wife and I listen to a spectrum of genres between the two of us ranging from carnatic/western classical to rock ( coldplay et al) with some dabbling into world music and instrumental. The ubiquitous tamil/hindi movie soundtracks will be thrown in too once in a while. WRT movies, my wife is not a buff at all while I am an omnivorous movie watcher (range) but a little fussy about the finer aspects of movies, particularly the editing/sound mixing pieces.

As a starter I have bought a Panny PV-80H to be the centre piece and have started auditioning receivers and speakers last weekend. With a limited budget of a Lac, I know my choices are limited but still long enough to give my grey cells quite a bit of work.

Here goes my pre-work

Choice of receivers:
- CA Azur 640R ( Will be auditioning this weekend but love the minimalistic brit looks and impressed by the wattage in stereo mode)

- Denon 1909 ( Have heard a great deal from the forum)

- Onkyo 606/705 ( Have auditioned the 505/6? with Klipsch F2/Ref-62 but was not happy with music, upper ranges were too bright and Hariprasad Chaurasia came across as raspy)

- Yamaha 663 ( Havent auditioned but appears that its quite competent)

With the received eating up 40 k minimun, I am left with 60k which either allows me for a good 2.1 setup with a modular build later or go in for an all round 5.1 pack like the diamond 9hcp..

Auditioning results:

The songs I played were from:
- Viva la Vida, Moby, Hariprasad Chaurasia's fusion, Aamir, Alaipayuthey, Delhi6 and Mandalin U Srinivas.

Klipsch F2/Ref-62- Typical of german in the looks department,they were quite competent in the mids and bass departments but the treble kinda wore me out in fifteen minutes. The detail reproduction was right up there in the vocals but a little too sharp. Perhaps it was the Onkyo that did the trick. I have read that the Tractrix horn tweeters of Klipsch can be quite bright, but this was the first time I heard it and I am not sold to these pairs. Retailing at 40k and 60k a pair the Klipschs will allow me a 2.1 combo at the max. I am auditioning them again with a Denon 1909 to see if I like the pairing. Shall post on this soon.

Jamo C406- Auditioned these wonderful speakers at Cinebels at MGF mall paired with a Marantz 5002 receiver and they hit the spot from the first track I played from Alaipaythey and went from strength to strength from there on, I played the same tracks and also tried out Delhi 6 and it was a whopper. Vocals were very natural and the midrange was strong and I heard quite a few notes in Masakkali which I never heard in my car audio too. The bass in these speakers is quite awesome and it goes real low which makes the sub a little redundant. The paper cones do a wonderful job and the soft dome tweeter was just right. At 40K a pair, these concert series speakers are a gem for music and am quite sold to this combo.

The coming weekend, I am heading out to listen to Wharfedales at Bass n Treble and the CA-MS combo at Rhythm corner?? in GK. Following this I would want to listen to Tannoy Mercury F4 based system and finally closing the loop with the audition of B&W/Dali. I know that both brands are way beyond my budget but want to listen once.

I would like inputs from you guys on this and I shall post my reviews as and when I audition. I would request the gurus to pardon any blunders of mine in my choice of terms/understanding as I am a layman still in the world of music.

cheers,
 

madbullram

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Good stuff - As you are embarking on the journey, I say audition the speakers first and then decide on the receiver. A good 2.1 system will sound better than a mediocre 5.1 system and there is no rush to get all the pieces now.

Once you decide on the speakers then you can look into getting a matching AVR/integrated.

Mars, that's interesting and the fact you yo say it i trust your judgment. But I always found in my listening exp that it doesn't work (strictly my opinion). For me, when I was hunting Jamo with Onkyo was little bright and wore me out, but the same Jamo with Denon was very nice and all round.

Finally, what i did was i listened to various combination and I listed top based on a scoring seperately for the speakers and receiver. Once I had the top 3 of both, i then mixed those top3 and picked the best combo. This was 4 yrs back but deciding the speaker without hearing them with the amp/receiver you going to pair might not be the best way. Sorry if I am ignorant, just trying to understand why you said so or may I misunderstood what you said...

mnemonic: Like I said, your ears and heart are the expert. The way I did the auditioning was similar to what you did. I carried a note where i would list each song in a coulmn. As I test speakers/receiver I would rate them for each song in the columns.

Then I did my home work and picked 2 combos that I thought were good and then paired them and DEMOed it and picked the Jamo and Denon combo may be 4-5 yrs back.

Btw: I like your song selections :)

I am pasting a post from one of my friend HD who I had interacted during my music search. He had a quite a good advise for music selection. I saved that and I still use it :) Here it goes:

"The key to music to test speakers with is that it first be a very good clean recording, with no distortion and such...but also have a wide variety of musical instruments in it, so that you can easily judge the equipment's reproduction of the music against what you know the real musical instrument sounds like.

One of my favorite songs to listen to a system with is "House at Pooh Corner", by Loggins and Messina from their "Sittin' In" album. It is a very clear recording mix, has mic-amplified acoustic guitar, voice, oboes, etc...all throughout it...a great test song...especially for upper midrange down through lower midbass.

Numerous cuts from Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" album are also good for this...As is the cut "I'd Love to Change the World" which features Alvin Lee on one of the cleanest electric guitar solos ever recorded...from the album "A Space in Time" by Ten Years After.

Santana's "Caravanserai" album has some great cuts to see how the high-end through the lower mid-bass sounds on a system. For checking for quick, tight bass, "Urgent" from the Foreigner 4 album is a good one.

For depth and clarity of female voice, Mariah Carey's "Vision of Love" is one helluva song. If you want to feel kick drums and such, then some of the cuts on Lionel Ritchie's "Can't Slow Down" album are great. Another one of my favorites in the rock venue is Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way", and his mic-amplified slide guitar on the James Gang's "Midnight Man".

Again for female voice, you can pick from a number of Barbra Streisand, or Celine Dion cuts. Taking a number of the above cuts, adding in some well-recorded classical music, and jazz, and maybe a bit of blues...and you should have a pretty good testing session. Be sure to sprinkle in a bunch of piano and organ cuts, horns, and a variety of string bass, and cello, no matter what you do...to cover the whole spectrum.

How a speaker and its components reproduce different types of percussion instruments, ie., bass drums, kettle drums, snare drums, cymbals, etc...is a good indicator of whether the system is an accurate reproducer, so keep that in mind.


Sorry for the long post, you just took down my memory lane :D
 

marsilians

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Hi MBRam,

You raise a very valid point and there is nothing wrong with your approach though bigger constraints. My goal in recommending the speaker search first was so that one is not constrained if they invested in the AVR simply because you end up with the speakers far longer than the AVR, i.e., you upgrade your AVR much before the speakers due to the ever changing technologies.

I have seen many an instance wherein people naturally picked the AVR first and were constrained to get mediocre speakers esp. for HT systems. It was a very unsatisfying experience at the least.

From purely my personal opinion, a bad set of speakers on a decent AVR is a worse combo than a decent set of speakers over a mediocre AVR (there are no bad AVRs but lots of bad speakers).

Also, speakers are hard to decide on and you do not want to bias your thoughts because of the way an AVR sounds and try to fit its signature.
 

madbullram

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Hi MBRam,

From purely my personal opinion, a bad set of speakers on a decent AVR is a worse combo than a decent set of speakers over a mediocre AVR (there are no bad AVRs but lots of bad speakers).

Thats perfect, I missed that part in my reply. But if mnemonic has the time I would advise pair them and hear if you want the best instrument as it not something he would change. But like you said, if the toss is between a speaker and AVR, the speaker should take the priority.
 

mnemonic

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Wonderful inputs-I'm loving it!

I shall try and get these tracks. I wanted to make my demo list more comprehensive and include some percussions as well, possibly some Sivamani, Alicia keys for some bass that goes low. Would be great if I can get more inputs around what other tracks can I possibly use. Also, I wanted to know if I'm missing out on any other FS that cost around 35-40k a pair which is a must listen before making a decision.
 

marsilians

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If you can enjoy the music on your speakers then you will surely enjoy the HT on it as its easier to achieve the latter effects.

For music, western classical or hindustani classical or clear vocals are some of the best to audition with.

My favourite is the Overtures of which 1812 is the best. Many orchestras have played this. The last 2-3 minutes have cannons firing that will put many a sub or floorstanders to shame. Some orchestras have real cannons firing at this time.

Other songs (search the forum for more examples):

Patricia barber
Fourplay
Live in Khajuraho by Hariprasad & Jasraj
Remember Shakti by John McLauglin
Steely Dan Gaucho
Louis Armstrong (any good remaster is a good test)
John Coltrane
Shankar Mahdevan
Jethrotull Crest of a Knave if you want to test the top and mid range

for all the above I mean CDs or lossless formats other media. Absolutely no lossy ones like mp3, etc.

Wonderful inputs-I'm loving it!

I shall try and get these tracks. I wanted to make my demo list more comprehensive and include some percussions as well, possibly some Sivamani, Alicia keys for some bass that goes low. Would be great if I can get more inputs around what other tracks can I possibly use. Also, I wanted to know if I'm missing out on any other FS that cost around 35-40k a pair which is a must listen before making a decision.
 

Hifiplayer

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Hey mnemonic,

I believe you are from Delhi. I am from Delhi too. I have auditioned most of the products that you have mentioned in the past 1yr & now know most of the dealers pretty well. If you want then i can accompany of & might be able to get a good bargain.

Beat of luck with your journey though.
 

mnemonic

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Thanks a ton Hi-Fi,that would be real cool. I shall PM you my contact and we can sync up for the auditioning this weekend, if your time permits.

cheers
 

venkatcr

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I shall try and get these tracks. I wanted to make my demo list more comprehensive and include some percussions as well, possibly some Sivamani, Alicia keys for some bass that goes low.

Though percussion is good, and Sivamani is a master in that game, remember, most percussion instruments never go below 40Hz or so.

Music does not go very low, and if it does it is unnatural. You should expect most music to level off at 35 to 40Hz. If you want anything in music to go below that you have to listen to some numbers that uses pipe organs. Another advantage of Western Classical is their large soundstage.

When you listen to drums, please do not look for enhanced and boomy bass. This is what most demo guys will do. When you listen to bass, look for clarity - can you identify each drum and hear and recognise their independent sound signatures. Can you differentiate a mridangam from a tabla? Can yo0u hear the 'brrrrmmmmm' when Zakhir Hussain pressure slides his palm across the face of the tabla?

Some of the best low frequencies have been recorded in movies. Some of my favourites are:

1. True Lies: Chapter 31 has tremendous low frequencies in the 25-30Hz range generated by the helicopters.

2. The Fifth Element: Chapter 3 has lots of deep bass when the space ship lands and when the alien opens the wall.

3. U571: The depth charges go down to 20Hz and round off in mid bass.

4. Event Horizon: The starting scene has bass deep enough to break glass. This is in 5.1 mode only.

Some musical CDs that do go way down are the following:

1. Pomp & Pipes (Amazon.com: Pomp & Pipes: Dallas Wind Symphony, Paul Riedo, Frederick Fennell: Music). This has sub 20Hz signals on track 4 as well as very tight drum strokes throughout.

2. Bass Outlaws - Illegal Bass (Amazon.com: Illegal Bass: Bass Outlaws: Music) has very loud bass at, again, the sub-20Hz levels.

3. Virgil Fox (Laserlight Recordings) (Amazon.com: Virgil Fox Performs Bach, Franck, Dupre, Widor and other: Jehan Alain, Johann Sebastian Bach, Marcel Dupre, Cesar Franck, Eugene Gigout, Joseph Jongen, Louis Vierne, Charles-Marie Widor, Virgil Fox: Music). Track 4 C.Frank's Piece Heroique has sub 20Hz from 1.30 mins into the track.

Though like Marsilians I also don't like MP3, RealTraps has a demo disc that can be downloaded. Though the contents are strictly for setting up a HT system, some of the tracks can be used for testing. The tracks start from 10Hz and go up to 300Hz. Look at RealTraps - Test Tone CD for more details.

Cheers
 
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mnemonic

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Thanks Venkat, much value the input. This auditioning reminds me of my teaching experience in which I had to prepare for 12 hours to do a case study session of 3 hours. Am enjoying every bit of this. Have a couple of friends who are obsessed about collecting only audio cds, though the genres will be mostly of soft rock/country, Jack Johnson types. I have a good collection of Kadri Gopalnath who is one of my favourites, trying to get some kunnakudi vaidyanathan n co cds too. Reckon I will have this range ready by Friday and hope for the best over the weekend.
 

psychotropic

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get hold of a sheffield labs test disc if you can. Contains 6 brilliantly recorded tracks covering the spectrum from electro-pop to jazz to blues to western classical and rock. And of course a ton of test-tones. Torrents are available.
 

thevortex

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Good luck on the hunt, mnemonic. All inputs given by our esteemed members are spot on. To share my 5 paise, there will be huge temptation to go for a 5.1 or a 7.1 setup but if enough ground work is done and components are selected keeping in mind your personalized tastes, there is nothing to beat a component-based setup (as against a HTiB).

One demo disk I often found invaluable was the Chesky Ultimate demo disk. Torrents are available. But I must add one thing. In the drive to demo exotic songs such as these we must not forget that these are speakers that we have to live with for a long time and therefore it is of paramount importance that you play songs that you personally like and even revere. There is no point really in playing a Western Classical pipe organ based piece if you have not really heard that type of music much. The same way there is no point in playing Sufi music if you dont have an introduction to that genre.

There is no good or bad music. There is just your music. And sometimes some speakers work with specific kinds of music. Also initially during the very first auditions, pretty much anything would sound nice if you have not had exposure to quality sound systems earlier. It is important to let this phase ride over you and you get to a spot where you not overtly awed or easily awed by sound equipment. The best decisions are made then - has been my experience. However music is emotional and there is really no point letting the head rule the heart. If music you loved earlier can tug your heartstrings even more, then that is a good system for you. And never stop looking for something better - all within a given price range. Thats tricky but real important if you are operating within a budget. Oops - ended up being long! Hope this helps. Good luck.
 

madbullram

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Btw, mnemonic, remember one thing, i call this over audiophilling theory. In our quest to get the best we sometimes loose focus on the basic requirement . At least, I did. All this DEMO disk and freq based songs etc are great.

But understand the basic fact, you wont be listening to these songs daily!!! So use these as a measure to make a choice in a touch situation. Your decision should mainly be based on what sounds good with what you would be playing day-to-day not which produces 20hz better etc :)

So back to where we started, first play the original collection you had listed, once that test passes then may be you can use these DEMO ones to pick a winner.

Just sharing how I went wrong :D
 

thevortex

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Btw, mnemonic, remember one thing, i call this over audiophilling theory. In our quest to get the best we sometimes loose focus on the basic requirement . At least, I did. All this DEMO disk and freq based songs etc are great.

But understand the basic fact, you wont be listening to these songs daily!!! So use these as a measure to make a choice in a touch situation. Your decision should mainly be based on what sounds good with what you would be playing day-to-day not which produces 20hz better etc :)

So back to where we started, first play the original collection you had listed, once that test passes then may be you can use these DEMO ones to pick a winner.

Just sharing how I went wrong :D

Well - looks like we both committed the same mistakes:)
 

venkatcr

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though the genres will be mostly of soft rock/country, Jack Johnson types. I have a good collection of Kadri Gopalnath who is one of my favourites, trying to get some kunnakudi vaidyanathan n co cds too. Reckon I will have this range ready by Friday and hope for the best over the weekend.

I think both TheVortex and MadbullRam are spot on. If you choice is soft rock and Indian classical and similar genre, it does not make much sense to look for too much of low frequency capability. A good pair of front floor standers that has a 6.5 or 8 inch woofer and goes down to about 30Hz will more than suffice. Look for good mid range and a high frequency capability that does not screech. Many Indian numbers have the habit of screeching in high frequencies (like Latha, MS Subbalakshmi) and that is something you must look out for. A set of speakers with a little 'warmth' may be better than a brutally honest and transparent speaker.

Which ever speaker you shortlist, do one last auditioning where you look for ear fatigue. Spend a few hours with the speaker listening to various genres of music that you like. If at the end you come out smiling and nodding you head to the rhythm, those are the speakers you want.

Cheers
 

mnemonic

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I really like the what not to do bit! You guys are spot on in the recommendations, low bass is just a nice to have for me and not a must have. As long as the percussions come out unscathed I am good.

The screeching bit is a strict no no as my wife holds a firm opinion that most tam female vocalists screech and I am working real hard to make her think otherwise. Thankfully Vaaranam Aayiram came along recently and has helped my cause. Regret the digress but the comment hit a chord with me :)
 

heliumflight

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Hey mnemonic/ [email protected],

I'm also from Delhi and I began to feel that i need to be satisfied with what I have as didn't notice a stereo culture...Please also include me in the accompany list as I don't wont to burn my fingers in the quest of soul searchin and want to be similing and nodding my head to the rhythm:)

PM me tel so we can get along!
 
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