Musings from Vince and Me (Dave)


Below is simply an exchange I had with Vince and I thought I would post in case others have any thoughts. (Posts run chronologically - more or less - from bottom to top, and are continued.)

Subj: Re: eCoustics Response - Why speakers blow?
Date: 1/25/2003 3:48:43 AM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet

Dear Doctor Harris,
Please feel free to write anytime. I am happy to help in any way I can.
When I was younger, I sought the advice of many people and their help led me from radio shack to McIntosh and the world of fine audio, and now I feel I should return their energy to the "karma pool". So I'm thrilled to help you and any others with questions.
When you write with questions, please send me a note, because I don't regularly check the e-coustics site.
If you have a mailing list of peers who are also interested in audio, feel free to let them have my e-mail address.

Vincent Young

On 1/19/03 11:10 AM, "" wrote:

Good Day,

I wanted to say that I enjoyed your response where you explained why speakers can blow more easily when powered by an underpowered amp. You know, I have read a number of articles over the years in Stereo Review and other publications, but they never explained it clearly for the novice to understand - so, thank you for the clear explanation.

I was wondering if I can keep your name in my address list as I am in the process of upgrading my system (well, I am always in the process, I suppose) and I have been trying to find someone fairly knowledgable to bounce ideas off of, and who can answer some basic questions. Many times, when you post on these public BB's, you get idiotic responses, or responses from people that seem to have some sort of an agenda.

David F. Harris, Psy.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology
HACC - Lancaster
York College of PA

Dear Vince,

Thanks for you offer of advice, it is much appreciated. I simply would like someone to bounce ideas off of, before I go out and waste money on a new purchase or make some other "wrong turns" in an attempt to put together a nice system.

I have made a few wrong turns over the years, but all in all, I have done fairly well. When I wanted to move to home theatre, I bought a bunch of Bose cubes (like many people, I'm affraid) and used them for a few months with a middle-of-the-road JVC pro-logic receiver - this was about 7 years ago.

I had heard a number of people talk about more mid-fi speakers and I purchased a set of PSB Century 800's sight unseen from one of those family catalogue places in New York from the back of a magazine. I know that's not the way to buy equipment, but I guess I got lucky on that one as I paid a competitive price, and I have been happy with the PSB's for about 7 years now. In fact, I went with their C200 for the center, and their Ambient II's for surrounds. I'm using an Accoustic Research H12SO subwoofer and NHT SuperZero's for effect channels (do they actually do anything, I wonder?).

I sold three of the five Bose cubes - keeping the other two for my bedroom where I moved my old JVC unit. I know Bose gets knocked a lot - and I realize they are overprice, but, you know, I still think they are amazing little units if you're an average buyer and have limited space and have no interest in huge speakers.

In any event, I found a Yamaha Integrated Amp DSP1092A for $500 on about 6 years ago. It's hard to find information on this thing - I think it was actually meant for sale in Europe or Asia. Combined with my PSB's it actually makes a pretty awesome sounding home theatre setup. But, about 95% of my time is really dedicated to stereo listening and, over the years, I have become accustomed to the 800's and I think they might be in need of an upgrade. I am torn between a speaker upgrade and a move to seperates. I was thinking about buying a pair of NAD C270 stereo amps, and using them bridged into the pre-outs of my Yamaha.

After I have adequate power, I would consider a speaker upgrade. I have been reearching them, but there are very few places around here to actually go and audition them. I am considering the PSB Stratus Goldi, the Klipschs RF-7, NHT 3.3,s or Soliloquy 6.2(?). If you know of something in the $1500-$2500 range that might be worth a look, let me know.

I know that some may say that having 400 or 500 watts per channel might be overkill, but I have a very difficult listening area. I have a city loft in which the main room measures 28x32 feet and the ceilings are a bit over 14 feet high - so sound just kind of gets lost in here. In order to listen at moderately loud volumes, the Yamaha must be turned up to about half way, and the sound really sounds "localized", if that makes any sense. You could close your eyes and point to exactly where a speaker is - not much of a "soundstage" if I am using that term correctly.

I would love any feedback and I would love to hear about your system!


In a message dated 1/28/2003 2:18:37 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

Subj: Re: eCoustics Response - Why speakers blow?
Date: 1/28/2003 2:18:37 AM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet

Hi Dave,
Nice to hear from you again.
This will have to be a shorter note than I want, I'm nursing a very sick 13 year old lab tonight. She's been very sick, and between her and her twin sister's fussing, I'm a busy guy.
As for your system choices, it sounds like you have been happy with a lot of the choices you have made, and it also sounds like you have a gameplan in mind. Sometimes, following the plan makes one happier with the outcome than the actual results. I would pile on the "I hate Bose" bandwagon, except that I do appreciate their marketing swagger. If only some other speaker company that built a decent sounding box would have the same amount of chutzpa, then many many many people would have better sound at home. There's only one Bose box I've ever heard and liked, and understood. That was the commercial design model 802, which made a fantastic keyboard monitor, because there was no crossover, and all the same drivers, and the thing did a great job for synths and piano because it didn't change drivers or height or localization across the octaves.
All the rest are over-priced, over-hyped, and way over-rated. They just are not accurate at all, and they have the crummiest of soundstages. Great little boxes though, and I do admire some of the physics and technology Omar has jammed into the units.

In the amps vs. speakers contest, dollar for dollar, you can't go wrong investing in more speaker. On the graphs (if I had any, I'd refer to them here) you'll see different slopes on investment to audio improvement lines for speaks and amps. To get a reasonable increase in amp performance, I believe subjectively to move from a 4 or 5 to an 8 in amp performance(4 points on a linear scale, nearly infinite on a log scale) , one would spend at least 8 times more money for the amp that would accomplish the task. For example, to move from a modest 1000 dollar (Adcom, B&K, PS Audio, NAD -- a much overlooked but very nice performer) 100 watt amp to a truly amazing performer 100 watt amp like a Krell or Levinson, one could easily spend 8000 bucks.

On the other hand to move from a 4 or 5 to a 8 or even 9 in speakers (I think it's relatively easy to get to 9 in speakers, the last step to 10 is the steep end of the slope, and is most likely impossible to reach unless one has a highly customized listening area, even a special-built room) doesn't take a 8-fold increase in expense.
AND, a one or two point gain in speaker quality will be instantly apparent to even the intermediate or new-but-learning listener. That same gain in amplifier would likely go unnoticed by all but the best trained ears.

So, I have come to a point where I always recommend spending money for speakers, unless one already has IRS-Ib's and is powering them with a radshack PA amp.

As for my most common recommendation, and what I have in my home, until I can afford to spend about 10,000 on the left and right front pair, I'm very very very happy, even ecstatic most of the time with my Paradigm Reference Studio 100's. They are the "most" in every category I can name here, and for my room they are great. At less than 2000, they STOMP most everything I have ever compared them with. I have the studio surrounds, the studio center, and the servo 15 sub -- which can make enough thump to knock the wind out of visitors. All of the system, including the very nice servo controller, came in Rosenu real wood veneers, and for less than 5 grand tax included. I looked for a year, and nothing touched it.

As for soundstage, they are amazing. If I could make the bet, I would win it that they would eliminate your "point source" problem. The stage is about a football field wide with these.

I use a Marantz THX 7.1 head end. I like the way it sounds on most stuff, and I can easily switch over to my Lazarus hybrid tube preamp when I just want two-channel music on the fronts. I use B&K amps for all the amplification duties. So the same amp drives the fronts, I just switch the input on the Lazarus from "Marantz" to "Phono" to listen to LP's on the same amp and same speakers. I only miss the remote control at that point, as the Lazarus doesn't go for fancies.

I suspect your rear channel problems are a result of Dolby Pro-Logic's inability to properly handle the decoding of real 5.1 or 6.1 or 7.1 recording information .
When I use my old Onkyo ProLogic unit, my DVD and SACD stuff is all messed up. The rear sounds more like an old effects box adding reverb, not rear information to the sound.
None of that problem on the Marantz 7.1 box, except when clicked to one of the cheesy reverb room effects.

I do like some of the PSB things, but I would really encourage you to check out the Paradigms. You'll either be in Heaven or Hell, they say. You'll love them and take them home, or think I'm nuts. The Klipsch boxes are awful. Unless you are a real head banger rock fan. Then, well, they do rock. Not at all accurate, beamy, brittle, tinny, harsh and edgy, to name but a few reactions. I think it's real close to that awful feeling when you bite on the aluminum gum wrapper. Makes my teeth hurt. Love those LaScalas for club systems. Those make damn good disco and club boxes, but you have to have a heck of a sub system to keep up with them. They are LOUD. Mr. Klipsch knows how to make an efficient box using all that horn blowing technology. Nothing sounds quite like a piano or violin blowing out the end of a plastic rectangular motorola horn/driver tweeter....

More later, please feel free to post this up to the site if you want, I'd like to hear other's comments.

Here's the paradigm link.


Subj: Re: eCoustics Response - Why speakers blow?
Date: 2/1/2003 4:46:01 PM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

And now for even more confusion...
There are few absolutes in audio -
But one is that Tube amps (now) cost a fortune. My old college buddy Maury Korb is the Western Hemisphere collector's collector. He has eeeeeeeverything tube-ish. There's just not an amp at anything more than 10 or 15 watts that works, that can be repaired (obsolete tubes are getting hard to find from little Russian Provinces) that can be had for less than 2-3 grand.
I LOVE old dynacos. I LOVE old McIntoshes, and I would give body parts for a warm glowing pair of Classe anythings in the more than 100 watt range.
But - alas, all too much money for me.
Tubes sound better for Klipsch and all horns, for that matter, because the "warm" tube sound plus the "cold brittle icy grain"of metallic drivers in horns balances out to a non-distinct, vague, unfocused upper range. I'm blown away that you liked the RF-7's. I thought you had wanted to broaden your soundstage and lose the narrow focusing tendency of the horn.
I have to be short here, because of work timing -
So I'll just say that the best bet for someone to make is to always go for the most accurate sound, and in your case, I think you'd be better off with accurate SS amps of some decent power, and accurate speakers of some decent size, and if you want to have some fun, shop around for a 25 watt tube rig and some small electrostatics. THAT will be an amazingly accurate, albeit not very loud or thumpy, setup.

Gotta Run, please let me know what you decide. It's nice to know someone's going through the motions of getting their stuff together!

BTW - just added 6 adcoms (gooooood inside deal) to my AV system. Now passively biamping the whole Paradigm Reference system with the Adcom 5800. One amp per speaker. It's the most awesome thing I've heard (for TV stuff) ever. I'm still not ready to say Paradigm is better than brand X all the time, but dangit, I don't know how to get anywhere near this kind of performance for less than 5 grand in amazing wood cabinetry.

If you check out MacMall - yes the computer place at, you'll find some refurbished Adcoms there. Don't know why. It's just good prices. There's others there.

I like Adcom better than NAD for everything, except that the NAD does soften the high end, that Solid State mimic of the tube sound is easily quantified as slower slew rates (sluggish switching class B) and capacitance at higher frequencies, that smooths - some say smears - the high end.

Feel free to post to the board for me, and for feedback.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, February 01, 2003 3:23 PM
Subject: Re: eCoustics Response - Why speakers blow?

Dear Vince,

Thank you for the great post. Very interesting and informative.

However, you scared me a bit during the last few paragraphs with your evaluation of the Klipsch RF-7's. I spent some time getting to the few places that I can to do some listening. I visited two local small shops where I got to hear the full line of Soliloquy as well as Canton. Both were nice, but they reminded me of the Mirage speakers that I heard a few weeks ago at Tweeters. I thought they both sounded a bit narrow and not nearly as forceful as I might need to actually fill my place with sound (particularly the Soliloquys). On my way home, I went past tweeters to listen to the Mirage's again, and on my way out, I thought I would stop in their other listening room where they had the Klipsch display. The guy put in Sting's latest CD (I listen mostly to vocals) on a Yamaha (I'm using the old Yamaha DSP-1092) through the RF-7's and I was really blown away. I hate to say it, but I really liked them - even better than $3k Cantons. Yes, they are a bit bright, but to me, they were bright in the positive sense as being clear and airy - but only where they needed to be. I played some songs off of a disc I made and keep with me with diferent types of music that I like. I listened to Kid Rock's "Cowboy" and it was clear to me that these things have more than an adequate low end. The drums were tight and low yet still musical rather than.....what's the word I'm looking for......"thumpy?"

I listened to a bit of "Phantom of the Opera" just to confirm this, and there is no way my 800's would have done as well with the pipe organs. I figured that Charlotte Church's "The Water is Wide" would definitely be overly bright since her voice gives me shivers up and down my back anyway. But I could actually hear her breath in between passages which I never heard before....honestly, it gave me chills.

In any event, I think for the price, I am now leaning to these. I have been reading about what people casually refer to as "the known benefits of mixing tube amplification with horns" and I wonder if you could fill me in on what they are speaking about. I have heard people say that amplifiers such as NAD (which is exactly what I was considering) is a good choice as it tends to counter the bright characteristics of the Klipsch. Some carry this further and suggest that going with a tube amplifier would be great with the RF-7's. I am looking on the net and I can't find much by way of opinions, or even stores that carry a diversity of tube amps. The few I do see seem to suggest that a person needs deep pockets for such a maneuver. I am wondering if there are any "entry-level" tubes that I can acquire for less than $1k? And, is it better to go with a puny wattage tube amp, than to stick with my idea of getting adequate SS power through a pair of bridged NAD's (or Rotel's or Parsounds, or whatever.)?

I'm so confused! :)

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