Speakers least sensitive to the room

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Dear fellow FMs,

It is an undeniable fact that a room affects the acoustics especially from a stereo system. The size of the room, its shape, wall-finishing, furniture, furnishing, flooring - almost everything impacts the sound we hear from our system. Consequently, we try to address the same through speaker placement, room treatment, bass traps, isolators, DSP and what not!

But for someone who doesn’t want to implement any of the above solutions, the choice of the speakers becomes more critical. You’d then want to get speakers that are (relatively) less sensitive to the room condition - ones that can perform close to their potential in any room with minimal or no room treatment/sound processing.

Can we list the attributes/technologies in a speaker that reduces their sensitivity to room? For example, will a sealed speaker be less sensitive to room than a ported one? If yes, then this is one such attribute. What other attributes/technologies should one look for in a speaker that could allow one to get away by placing with any room with minimum loss in sound quality? Can we list them all?

Also can we list specific models of speakers which fall in this category? For example a LS50 or P3ESR? To keep it focused, let’s list speakers within the Rs 30k-3L price range.

Hopefully this will be useful to current and future FMs who are either limited in implementing or averse to room treatment and signal processing. Please contribute through your knowledge and experience.
 
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arj

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Dear fellow FMs,

It is an undeniable fact that a room affects the acoustics especially from a stereo system. The size of the room, its shape, wall-finishing, furniture, furnishing, flooring - almost everything impacts the sound we hear from our system. Consequently, we try to address the same through speaker placement, room treatment, bass traps, isolators, DSP and what not!

But for someone who doesn’t want to implement any of the above solutions, the choice of the speakers becomes more critical. You’d then want to get speakers that are (relatively) less sensitive to the room condition - ones that can perform close to their potential in any room with minimal or no room treatment/sound processing.

Can we list the attributes/technologies in a speaker that reduces their sensitivity to room? For example, will a sealed speaker be less sensitive to room than a ported one? If yes, then this is one such attribute. What other attributes/technologies should one look for in a speaker that could allow one to get away by placing with any room with minimum loss in sound quality? Can we list them all?

Also can we list specific models of speakers which fall in this category? For example a LS50 or P3ESR? To keep it focused, let’s list speakers within the Rs 30k-3L price range.

Hopefully this will be useful to current and future FMs who are either limited in implementing or averse to room treatment and signal processing. Please contribute through your knowledge and experience.
As you have also mentioned, the sensitivity to room is more to do with the acoustics rather than the speaker itself and since acoustics is more complicated with increasing nuances and details, the more resolving the speaker ( assuming source/amp are up to it) the more precise the requirement it be setup well. Using the same lens, the more forgiving the speaker, the easier it is to place.

Coherence across the drivers is also a factor, but thats more around speaker design hence bringing that into placement would complicate it eg a Horn Speaker is that much more difficult to place since its not just about the walls but distance from the listener as well, but for this purpose lets assume that the sound is a coherent source

Hence for easy placement I would get any speaker which is "Forgiving" and a regular box speaker . Some Planars are also relatively easier to place but with an expectation of a rear wall. the kind of crossover, topology , cabinet structure should not really matter .

Some speakers like Gradient have an option to "Configure" the tweeter setup to be setup in any room, but they go well over the range you have mentioned !

So my view is more resolving the speaker, the more difficult it is to place !
 
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D

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Room eq is your friend. So either get that or active speakers that include it.
Thanks. As mentioned, But I am seeking inputs on speakers themselves, without having to resort to anything else, including room eq.
As you have also mentioned, the sensitivity to room is more to do with the acoustics rather than the speaker itself and since acoustics is more complicated with increasing nuances and details, the more resolving the speaker ( assuming source/am are up to it) the more precise the requirement it be setup well. Using the same lens, the more forgiving the speaker, the easier it is to place.

Coherence across the drivers is also a factor, but thats more around speaker design hence bringing that into placement would complicate it eg a Horn Speaker is that much more difficult to place since its not just about the walls but distance from the listener as well, but for this purpose lets assume that the sound is a coherent source

Hence for easy placement I would get any speaker which is "Forgiving" and a regular box speaker . Some Planars are also relatively easier to place but with an expectation of a rear wall. the kind of crossover, topology , cabinet structure should not really matter .

Some speakers like Gradient have an option to "Configure" the tweeter setup to be setup in any room, but they go well over the range you have mentioned !

So my view is more resolving the speaker, the more difficult it is to place !
Thanks Arjun. So,
Attribute: Forgiving speakers
Technology: Configurable tweeter setup (costly)
Technology: Planars (partly)
 

dazoy

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Interesting! In this age we can (re)create the sound we like. There are a few options - Buchardt, KEF etc. I somehow feel that pretty soon, we wont need sound treating the rooms, with room-eq, and sound signature DSP's powered by new cheap ram and cpu's. Model guitar amps are a similar analogy, there are guitar amps that sound as good as the older amps they are trying to replicate. Most guitarists cant make the difference out between a model amp and a real one!
 
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Interesting! In this age we can (re)create the sound we like. There are a few options - Buchardt, KEF etc. I somehow feel that pretty soon, we wont need sound treating the rooms, with room-eq, and sound signature DSP's powered by new cheap ram and cpu's. Model guitar amps are a similar analogy, there are guitar amps that sound as good as the older amps they are trying to replicate. Most guitarists cant make the difference out between a model amp and a real one!
Thanks Dazoy. So,
Brands/models: Buchardt, KEF

I’d like to reiterate that in this thread I am not seeking any adjustments (including room-eq, DSPs) that are external to the speaker. Strictly looking for speakers that are themselves least sensitive to the room and the attributes/technologies that make them so.
 
D

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If speakers can be drawn away from the rear wall...Open Baffles are easier to manage

Ofcourse headphones and IEMs
Thanks Kannan... sounds similar to the proposition-condition of a planar (see Arjun’s message above).

Technology: Open-baffle (conditional)
 
D

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In general, speakers with good off-axis response allow one to get away with doing nothing for the side walls.
Thanks LFL. Any brands that make such speakers? I remember Amphion speakers claiming wide and even dispersion and low placement sensitivity as a result. Also, what exactly in the design/construction of a speaker causes/leads to a better off-axis response? Do waveguides play a role? Or concentric drivers?
 

drkrack

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It is never the Speaker alone, its the amp that drives it and the source or other electronics that matches well. For the sake simplification, let's assume that amp speaker synergy is good and a decent source is being used. (if not, you have many tricks on the electronics to adjust any speaker to any room by playing a Mix and match like Room Eq, DSP, Digital Room Correction & cables Being few of them )

1. If You Have a Larger room and you have a total independence to adjust Speaker Positioning and Listener's Sitting, You'll essentially eliminate room from the equation. For eg above 25 x 25ft Room, and you sit in the bang middle with nearly 8 feet away from any wall ?
2. Audionote Speakers, designed in a way that they should be placed in Corners, well that's not strictly Room independent but takes care of most of the Room related issues we regularly Face.
3. Dipoles, in my experience They're relatively Room Independent
4. Speakers designed to work In Wall or on Wall are Relatively Room independent
 

prem

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Let’s look at 4 scenarios. I am not taking into account echoes, etc because these can be managed with normal room furniture, cushions, floor carpet.

Scenario 1

You have enough space from side wall as well as front wall. All speakers will work in such a space.

Scenario 2

You are tight on side wall space but have enough space to pull speakers out from front wall. Here speakers with controlled dispersion will work. Any speaker with a wave guide, cardoid dispersion or CD horns. Planars and dipoles also fall into this category.

Scenario 3

You are tight on front wall space but have side wall space. Here it’s best to use sealed bookshelf speakers which cut off around 60-65 hz and add a sub

Scenario 4

You are tight on both front wall and side wall. Here corner speakers like Audio Note or Klipsch horns will work.
 
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D

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It is never the Speaker alone, its the amp that drives it and the source or other electronics that matches well. For the sake simplification, let's assume that amp speaker synergy is good and a decent source is being used. (if not, you have many tricks on the electronics to adjust any speaker to any room by playing a Mix and match like Room Eq, DSP, Digital Room Correction & cables Being few of them )

1. If You Have a Larger room and you have a total independence to adjust Speaker Positioning and Listener's Sitting, You'll essentially eliminate room from the equation. For eg above 25 x 25ft Room, and you sit in the bang middle with nearly 8 feet away from any wall ?
2. Audionote Speakers, designed in a way that they should be placed in Corners, well that's not strictly Room independent but takes care of most of the Room related issues we regularly Face.
3. Dipoles, in my experience They're relatively Room Independent
4. Speakers designed to work In Wall or on Wall are Relatively Room independent
Thanks @drkrack. Interesting alternatives.


Let’s look at 4 scenarios. I am not taking into account echoes, etc because these can be managed with normal room furniture, cushions, floor carpet.

Scenario 1

You have enough space from side wall as well as front wall. All speakers will work in such a space.

Scenario 2

You are tight on side wall space but have enough space to pull speakers out from front wall. Here speakers with controlled dispersion will work. Any speaker with a wave guide, cardoid dispersion or CD horns. Planars and dipoles also fall into this category.

Scenario 3

You are tight on front wall space but have side wall space. Here it’s best to use sealed bookshelf speakers which cut off around 60-65 hz and add a sub

Scenario 4

You are tight on both front wall and side wall. Here corner speakers like Audio Note or Klipsch horns will work.
Spoken like a master, Prem. Those scenarios give a lot of clarity.
 

square_wave

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Let’s look at 4 scenarios. I am not taking into account echoes, etc because these can be managed with normal room furniture, cushions, floor carpet.

Scenario 1

You have enough space from side wall as well as front wall. All speakers will work in such a space.

Scenario 2

You are tight on side wall space but have enough space to pull speakers out from front wall. Here speakers with controlled dispersion will work. Any speaker with a wave guide, cardoid dispersion or CD horns. Planars and dipoles also fall into this category.

Scenario 3

You are tight on front wall space but have side wall space. Here it’s best to use sealed bookshelf speakers which cut off around 60-65 hz and add a sub

Scenario 4

You are tight on both front wall and side wall. Here corner speakers like Audio Note or Klipsch horns will work.
Prem pretty much nailed it. This is very useful practical advice.

Also Omni directional speakers are known to give very good results in typical home environments.

I like DSP only in the lower frequencies which is omni directional anyways. High end parametric equalizers made by companies like Manley labs are much better for preserving tone and timbre while meddling with the highs and mids in music.
 

jai1611

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Let’s look at 4 scenarios. I am not taking into account echoes, etc because these can be managed with normal room furniture, cushions, floor carpet.

Scenario 1

You have enough space from side wall as well as front wall. All speakers will work in such a space.

Scenario 2

You are tight on side wall space but have enough space to pull speakers out from front wall. Here speakers with controlled dispersion will work. Any speaker with a wave guide, cardoid dispersion or CD horns. Planars and dipoles also fall into this category.

Scenario 3

You are tight on front wall space but have side wall space. Here it’s best to use sealed bookshelf speakers which cut off around 60-65 hz and add a sub

Scenario 4

You are tight on both front wall and side wall. Here corner speakers like Audio Note or Klipsch horns will work.
This pretty much captures the best approaches without resorting to extreme measures.

The only additional scenario I would add is moving closer to the speakers. This takes away the most egregious room effects. Not all speakers integrate well at a short distance. You'll mostly end up with two way bookshelf speakers without overblown bass or an elevated top end.
 

prem

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While on choice of speakers and it’s interaction with the room, it’s also important to understand direct sound and reverberant sound. Direct sound is normally from the speakers. Room contributes to the reverberant sound. In our normal lives we are used to a combination of both, direct and reverberant sound. Normally heavy room treatment and digital processing reduces the reverberant sound and gives you more of the direct sound. Reducing reverberant sound improves clarity but our brain might process it as a more analytical sound since we are used to a certain amount of reverberation sound in our daily lives. Mastering studios will like to kill all reverberant sound since they want to improve clarity while mastering.

Speakers like Harbeth normally use thin speaker cabinets to increase reverberance. Which is why a lot of people like it. Audio Kinesis design speakers to give you a reverberant field.

This balance of direct and reverberant sound will be different for different people. Understanding this balance is important for long term enjoyment. You can get this balance through your choice of speakers or through the room.

This may be a bit OT here but thought I would add this to bring a little different perspective.
 
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Hiten

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In general, speakers with good off-axis response allow one to get away with doing nothing for the side walls.
On the contrary I guess more off axis reponse means more room effects (probably on how loud one listens to though). In situations like recording studios, where typically (not always) space is limited narrow dispersion is prefered. But most people dont like studio monitors in their homes. They say "chhee chhee" these have digital amplifiers. (I like all types of amps Tubes, SS, Digital, Full range, multi drivers, coaxials speakers. But I love Powerfull amps driving multi driver speakers ) Though there are also enthusiasts who are ok with narrow dispersion. Sitting moderately close to speakers and low volumes according to them takes out room equations significantly with added advantage of stereo imaging which most music albums are recorded any way (ie. stereo). In modern times though some albums which come in multi channel format too. Achilles heel is reproducing technically perfect very low frequencies in rooms.
Regards

addition : Sorry cross posted with prems post. Good points on natural reverberent sound. He is hughly experienced in both studios and home hifi. Which is precious.
Regards
 

liverpool_for_life

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On the contrary I guess more off axis reponse means more room effects (probably on how loud one listens to though).

Not really. As long as the off-axis response is uniform (which is what I meant by good), you should still be okay. With one caveat: You value spaciousness/envelopment more than you do super-precise imaging. Of course, the sounds we hear in daily life are spacious, so the former is more "natural" (for lack of a better term).
 
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