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Advice for Beginners....


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  • 2 years later...
On 11/3/2018 at 2:04 PM, PrestonTom said:

If you guys would listen to Chris, you can save yourselves a good amount of money.


Although Toole does not give all the details, he found that listeners (mostly and without going to extreme examples) preferred speakers that had 1) low frequency extension and had a 2) controlled directivity (on-axis and off-axis frequency were comparable). You should also note that Roy also emphasizes the benefits of controlled directivity.


I would suggest doing a Google search on Toole and finding some of his longer youtube videos (especially the presentation at McGill University). He will lay out the overall issues. Keep in mind there are some subtle points that need to be carefully thought about and understood.


Before some of you start bashing Toole, I will say that he was a respected auditory scientist (I know, I used to be in the field). 


Good luck, -Tom

The listening vs measurements debate is so oversimplified.  As some people here have stated, we should discuss which measurements give us more valuable info than others.  Nobody argues wether volume is a credible measurement, or pitch, or excessive room reflections.

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2 hours ago, PrestonTom said:

VDS, Have you read Toole's book. Some of it is subtle and needs to studied.

What did you think of his overall approach and conclusions?


It is a worthwhile reference but the "what and why" is not easily summarized. 


Good luck,


I just ordered it.  I’m just a big believer in the scientific method. But, as someone said, “machines only measure what they are designed to measure”. Interpreting the data is our job, turning data into valuable information.

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48 minutes ago, VDS said:

I just ordered it.  I’m just a big believer in the scientific method. But, as someone said, “machines only measure what they are designed to measure”. Interpreting the data is our job, turning data into valuable information.


There is an obscure area of (auditory) science referred to as psychoacoustics or auditory psychophysics. The endeavor attempts to manipulate changes in the physical stimulus (things that can be physically measured - eg amplitude spectrum, dispersion etc) and to measure the corresponding psychological consequence (percept  - eg, was it "louder", "better", could you detect the change, etc).


In this case, Toole surveyed a number of existing speakers for their physically measured properties (physics) and looked at the corresponding psychological response (in this case .... on a 1 to 10 scale "how good does the speaker sound"). This later measure (psychological) is not trivial to measure, since there are number of ways to do it "wrong". However, Toole knows what he is doing so I am not troubled by the techniques that he used. The outcome was that he was able to weight various physical measures, (amplitude response, dispersion, etc) and do a decent prediction (via correlation) on how well (numerically) the listeners would rate speakers regarding sound quality. Notice, this is an empirical approach with little theorizing on "why" the various factors are weighted high or low. Not much "interpretation" going on .....


So have a look at Toole, he is pretty good at simplifying things for a general audience. 

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30 minutes ago, PrestonTom said:

 have a look at Toole, he is pretty good at simplifying things for a general audience. 

I’m looking forward to reading it.  I’m interested to learn how to use measurements, mine, Toole’s or anybody’s, to improve my listening experience.

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  • 3 months later...
On 11/3/2018 at 1:02 PM, Chris A said:

I think that there is merit to the basic argument.  The basic idea, I believe, is that a lot of people focus on the least effective means to increase their sound quality.  I think this is because there is no "mental map" of what's the most important factors and what's the least important.  This is a common problem, and one that I've dealt with effectively in my career as an engineer, manager, etc.


I'm not sure that we'll ever get consensus on the exact weighting, but at least some idea of the important factors to keep in the mind's eye might help those that do not have a good overall picture would help.  Below you'll see a strawman hierarchy of those factors to help those that might be over-focused on less important factors, in approximate importance order (which of course is debatable)...but the overall picture is still important.


I can say that I've seen far too much spending and emphasis on electronics to the obvious detriment of loudspeaker, room, and source music quality factors.  Maybe something like the hierarchy below might help those that have trouble understanding the relative importance of all the big-hitter factors in one chart.





This is just the question I've been grappling with and trying to get educated about.  Thanks very much for your thoughts and the diagram.  One hears so many different opinions on so many different aspects of setting up a system that your head starts to spin.  I'm old enough to know that just paying big money for things doesn't necessarily, or even perhaps typically,  make for "better" sound.   Have a pair of stock Belles that I know can sound more to my liking - not sure how I know that, but I do - and am trying to lay out a path to improve the system and give the Belles the best supporting cast that I can afford on a tight budget.  My biggest complaint is and has always been the "horniness" of the sound (sorry, I just couldn't resist once it popped into my head).   I love the clarity - once heard Frank Sinatra ALMOST go off key! - but want to soften the edges, improve the soundstage and avoid fatigue.  This forum, despite or because of, the multitude of opinions is a great, great resource for folks in my position on this little journey.   Thanks to all for the continuing education.

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