Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Today I visited a high end audio shop.  Some of the Brands where Focal, Sonus Farber, Dynaudio, Boulder, Moon and McIntosh!  Going to these shops   are a real treat.  I new I was in for a treat get to demo all the nice stuff  in the shop.  First up was a Boulder SS amps, 300 watts powering Focal Grand Utopia.  These speakers are massive, 450 lbs. each and tall as I am.  I found a pic on the net.  They also had  mono block tube amps, Octave with 8 KT 150 per mono block to power the Grand Utopia. Each tube mono block was 150 watts!

 

I also seen 3 HT rooms.  The first up was a 5.1 room with Mc Intosh 601 amps for each speaker.  Really high powered.  The sub was a Pardigm Sub 2.  Room 2 was an Anthem system with two 15 in. Rel sub and room three had Bower & Wilkins in a 9.2.2 configuration.  Now the review of this boutique gear.

 

I spent less that 20 minutes in the 3 theaters.  The gear in the 1st room was at least $100, 000.  The 2nd and 3rd room were around $50,000.  The Boulder amp and Focal Grand would put you back $200,000 plus.  The gear was breathe taking.  The thick power cords, shinny chassis, over size vacuum tubes, etc.  The visit was disappointing to put it kindly.  I have heard this gear/type of gear before and it must have not been setup correctly.  Usually it is not this bad.  No clarity, lack of power and the likes plagued the three HT.  System synergy just did not seem to be there.  Matching the right amp to the right speaker and application may have been there but, the setup was lacking.  The Focal Grand Utopia and massive Boulder amp did not come anywhere near hearing a $200,000 plus system.

 

One more quick review, Sonus Faber towers around $3,500 for the pair, were awesome.  These things could get loud, great imaging, clarity, the works!  From seeing what you guys have and do, I bet a lot of our forum members have a more impressive 2 channel and HT setup.  I know this for sure after hearing some of our Chicago land guys setups.

 

This made me think, what was wrong?  These room where treated also, which should have made things sound great?  You can spend all the money you want and miss audio nirvana by a long shot.  Critical setup and tweaks where missing.  I think the showroom and setup guys must have previously worked for Best Buy.  This gear should of put on a show and did not even give a hint of high end audio.  The guy had the Anthem HT at -10 and said it was at the limits, BS for $50,000 system.  It could not even get loud.  The Rel subs and Pardigm Sub 2 were great compared to the rest of the HT setup.  They had a large 4k TV that looked great but, they only had to plug it in.  In the end, the only thing I would have purchased is the Sonus Farber 2 ch setup.

 

Image result for focal grande utopiaSonus Faber Venere S Walnut (shown without included grille)ba3050_77.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For even more disappointment and ridiculous prices, you should attend AXPONA in Chicago every year.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim, these guys were at Axpona 3 of the last 4 years.  Maybe I have been listening to horns for to long.  It is just amazing how much you can spend and have a mediocre sound.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a funny coincidence that you had such an experience.  The other day my wife and I stopped in to a super high end dealer which opened about 10 miles from where we live.  The place is breathtaking, with unbelievable acoustics.  Yet, in spite of that, the equipment demos were uninspiring.  When I got home I fired up the near-field system powered by one of my SETs, listened to some of the same music, and there was simply no contest.

 

https://theartofsoundllc.com/

 

Maynard

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess we need to learn how to listen with just our eyes, lol.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm from Arkansas, whereas my oldest surviving brother was essentially raised in Virginia, and Maryland, and settled into Penn afterwards.  Like many people from the areas where he has lived, they ALWAYS talk about things with using the PRICE of it.  "This is a 400,000 dollar home....that is a 80,000 dollar automobile...on and on.  So, I always retort (especially about homes!):  "So, what IS THE HOME??  Is it a three-bedroom, three full bath, three car garage attached, ....etc."...then he takes me on a walk-thru of one of them.  I'm not impressed...I say something like "Well, In Arkansas, depending on WHERE you build something like this (400,000 dollar) home in this part of Penn, it would cost anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 dollars, unless you build it yourself, then it would cost around 65,000 dollars, land and all (and highly likely be much better built with better materials, to include interior touches!).

 

That being "said"...some people are all about HOW MUCH SOMETHING COSTS THEM, and not at all into what kind of quality, performance, etc., they get out of it.

 

Me???  "Keeping up with the Joneses" has NEVER BEEN, nor will it EVER BE part of my lifestyle.  I prefer to get the most "bang for the buck", instead of paying an outrageous amount of money for some kind of "bragging rights"!  And if I know how to create/build it myself, then that is what happens.

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, derrickdj1 said:

...This gear should of put on a show and did not even give a hint of high end audio. ...

 

 

The price tags were the show, not the equipment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Peter P. said:

The price tags were the show, not the equipment.

That is so true.  The listening session was such a disappointment that I almost felt an obligation to tell the owner.  It just goes to show you that the price tag does not weight much on the quality and performance of a setup.  Critical setup is important or the results of the system can be woefully lacking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A truly sad point of this is that the employees must have felt, on some level, that their setups were dialed in.  I'm close to the bottom as far as equipment goes and I would expect to be blown away with that gear in front of me.  So, do you think if you guys had some seat/tuning time that you could create the performance from that gear that you'd expect?  Or, is it simply a case of a dressed up pig?  Maybe you could offer your services for $200/hr, or more.  Better yet, maybe some free gear.  Just a thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, ACV92 said:

Or, is it simply a case of a dressed up pig?

No, it is not just a dressed up pig.  I have hear some this gear before and it was not setup correctly.  A few of the employees were sitting back like they were enjoying the music.  Maybe they were by some miracle.  I would expect the owner to be an audiophile type and  know good sound.  It was not that just one setup was off, most of them were way off.  The room with the Focal Grand Utopia and Boulder amps should have been the star of the shop and not the $3,500 Sonus Farber speaker.

 

They even had a lot of 2 ch system with boutique DAC's the size of many small avr's.  These expenseive DAC's did nothing that I could hear to improve the sound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also visit such shops occasionally.

Have listened to the same equipment in acoustically treated rooms, and more than just occasionally left the place with mixed feelings and disappointment. The detail was there but something was missing, not sure exactly what. I heard more music from DIY speakers made by my friend listening better recordings from youtube. And his speakers are in the living room without any care for room treatment and speaker positioning. Big Sonus Fabers are often just too thin to my ears, may be it is a matter of matching.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Too bad really.  Maybe the speaker companies manufacturers reps should pay visits to some of their customers.  If I was selling a high end such as this I would definitely want my product presented properly.  As for Derrick though, I'm telling you, Derrick's Audio Correction.  Maybe you could show them that the human ear is better than relying on expensive DAC's to 'tell' you what the music is supposed to sound like.  You could make some money and feed the audio habit at the same time.  Sounds like a win/win to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just love going to shows like Axpona ...and I do go every year...then I go home and listen to my working mans system ( chorus II's  and 80's m series Yamaha )

and say ..."Wow I saved a lot of money"    High end is not always better....looks nice.

 

Thanks,

 

George

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Visiting audio shows and shopping around for loudspeakers is fun but you truly are just wasting time as you won't know how its really going to sound until you get the components installed in your personal space.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@derrickdj1 thanks for the great reviews and continuing commentary.  I've never been to a high-end shop so your observations and listening impressions were eye-popping to me.

 

We all know that the room can be a major part of the sound, but you said the room was treated so it is a mystery to me why the equipment didn't sound any better.  I wonder if they used Audyssey Pro to set up the room?  The Audyssey built into my Onk AVR makes my cheap speakers sound pretty good but maybe it doesn't help the higher end stuff?

 

I dunno.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some thoughts on "high end loudspeakers" in terms of what is typically wanted out of them--if their performance is important (plagiarizing a bit from another source in the process):

 

What Do We Want In (High End) Loudspeakers?

 

1) High Efficiency: they need to turn electrical energy into acoustic energy--not heat.

 

Direct radiating woofers must have a large diaphragm area in order to turn electrical energy into acoustic energy efficiently.
 
2) Accuracy: they need to respond as accurately as possible to the electrical signal driving it over the acoustic coverage area of the speaker, not just at a “sweet spot".  

 

The loudspeakers cannot claim accuracy if:

  • they are uncompensated and generating uneven loudness at different frequencies when we're listening within the coverage area, i.e., if they can only have accurate response at a single listening point within the coverage area. 
     
  • they produce audible distortion (harmonic, modulation, impulse, compression, uneven coverage, imaging [phase matching], etc.).  Direct radiating drivers cannot produce acoustic energy without also producing all those types of distortion due to their moving mass effects, non-ideal diaphragm suspensions, and changing magnetic force with higher diaphragm movements.
     
  • they cannot produce the full range of loudness of the music--i.e., "concert volume"--without audibly distorting.  This is especially true for "high end" loudspeakers for the customer expects this capability. PA and cinema loudspeakers have been horn loaded for many years because they do not distort like direct radiating loudspeakers.  Most consumer loudspeaker manufacturers have yet to recognize this customer need, including "high end" manufacturers.

3) Directionality: we want to send sound to ears, not to the walls and ceilings. Intelligibility will be high if they control directionality at all frequencies equally. Loudspeakers that control high frequency directionality but not low frequency donʼt satisfy this condition. Frequency response will vary over the coverage areas and directivity will not be constant.

 

Direct radiating drivers emit constantly changing directionality with frequency, which is a function of the size of their vibrating diaphragms to the wavelengths of sound they are producing. 

 

4) Clean multi-instrument playback: we want loudspeakers that can simultaneously play all the music voices/instruments in the recording without adding audible distortion at higher instrument/vocal frequencies (i.e., sideband distortion peaks--otherwise called FM and AM distortion, or modulation distortion for short) that make the sound opaque and wooly sounding at up to concert volume playback levels.  This is especially true for "high end" loudspeakers. 

 

5) No disruptions in phase, coverage areas, loudness or frequency response throughout crossover interference bands.

 

Chris

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris made some great points.  The Anthem HT could not play loud enough without distorting.  This was apparent at -15 to -10 MV.  The sub woofer sound was not crisp and sharp.  It was a dull thud and not setup correctly.  I am sure that the speakers were not playing  frequencies due to uneven coverage of the spectrum.

 

I know that it was not the amps and speaker as the major culprit.  The rooms were not setup very well.  It just goes to show you can't just throw a system in a room an expect good sound.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, derrickdj1 said:

Chris made some great points.  

I think you both made some great points.

 

@Chris A you made some points about what makes an accurate speaker, and talked about AM and FM distortion.  Do you think it's fair to put that burden entirely on the speakers?  It seems to me it must be a connected synergistic relationship between the electronics (amp, AVR etc) and the speakers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, wvu80 said:

Do you think it's fair to put that burden entirely on the speakers?  It seems to me it must be a connected synergistic relationship between the electronics (amp, AVR etc) and the speakers.

 

Well, you might be somewhat disappointed in my response: all the things that I describe above are really aspects of loudspeaker performance in-room.  If you want to make that performance worse, then add electronics that aren't transparent and linear in their operation.  Trust me, loudspeaker performance dominates. 

 

Loudspeaker frequency response correction and room correction is clearly a function of electronics and software/firmware--or perhaps skill of someone that's done those corrections manually.

 

Getting good quality electronics when dealing with high end loudspeakers exhibiting the characteristics that I describe above isn't as critical in terms of getting outstanding performance--if my experience with Jubs has taught me anything (and yes, I do put their performance at a level of "high end performance"...definitely).  Sure, you can hear subtle differences in upstream electronics, but they're not deal breakers, especially if all of the electronics are competent pieces or better.  Loudspeaker performance I've found dominates in a way that's difficult to believe unless you're there listening.

 

What really is extremely critical however is the recorded music that you play.  Really good loudspeakers reveal things about recordings that even the mixing and mastering guys probably didn't hear during production using their direct radiating studio monitors.  The reason why I'm demastering all my CDs?  ...You got it...

 

That's been my experience thus far. 

 

Chris

 

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Chris A said:

 

Well, you might be somewhat disappointed in my response: all the things that I describe above are really aspects of loudspeaker performance in-room.  If you want to make that performance worse, then add electronics that aren't transparent and linear in their operation.  Trust me, loudspeaker performance dominates. 

 

Loudspeaker frequency response correction and room correction is clearly a function of electronics and software/firmware--or perhaps skill of someone that's done those corrections manually.

 

Getting good quality electronics when dealing with high end loudspeakers exhibiting the characteristics that I describe above isn't as critical in terms of getting outstanding performance--if my experience with Jubs has taught me anything (and yes, I do put their performance at a level of "high end performance"...definitely).  Sure, you can hear subtle differences in upstream electronics, but they're not deal breakers, especially if all of the electronics are competent pieces or better.  Loudspeaker performance I've found dominates in a way that's difficult to believe unless you're there listening.

 

What really is extremely critical however is the recorded music that you play.  Really good loudspeakers reveal things about recordings that even the mixing and mastering guys probably didn't hear during production using their direct radiating studio monitors.  The reason why I'm demastering all my CDs?  ...You got it...

 

That's been my experience thus far. 

 

Chris

 

 

 

 

You are correct on the loudspeaker dominating the equation.  Somewhere in the 80s or 90s all the sudden a lot of magazines started changing the cost equation and allocating less ratio wise to the loudspeakers and more to the electronics.  I think they were trying to come up with the case that the electronics should become the expensive parts as this was the time frame that speakers started to get smaller and more pricey.

 

I would caution though that electronics synergy with the speakers matters much more than alluded to with the normal man in a 2 channel setup in particular, the one that sets up a set of speakers and front end then has to live with it (don't build or have massive horsepower to manipulate the sound and room).  They will have to succumb to the frequency response and the anomalies of the matching speakers to the front ends, thin bass, indistinct bass, forward midrange, and sad highs that the poor synergy of the components generates.  That is why I rarely advocate use of 90% of the receivers unless for convenience, for music listeners.

 

Now if you have a lot of front end electronics with the ability to eq and manage the speakers, then you can get nirvana out of many different electronics provided the noise level is reasonable on high efficiency speakers.  But then the equation is tipped back to spending more on electronics and less on the speakers.  Just some things to keep in mind.

 

Bottom line as you said though, the speaker will be the final voice (90%) of the system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×