How much pepper do you like in your chili recipe? Do you like just enough to give it taste? Or do you want it burn a bit?
That brings me to the topic of speakers, and audio gear in general. A speaker, for this discussion, will be the result of the “chef” or designer who created it. Just as we have different tastes in food, designers have different tastes in sound.
Let’s analyze what to listen for. I’ve listed these in the order of what’s most important to ME.
Size of Image
I like a speaker with a large, convincing image. A larger speaker doesn’t always cast a larger stage, but, it’s not a bad place to start. Some speakers only produce a large image at a high octane volume. That would be most minis. Others purvey a conspicuously realistic image at a relatively modest volume.
Magnepans throw a lifelike image at any volume.
I enjoy a speaker that produces fast transients. I want to be able to discern the technique of a great pianist or guitar player. I want the singer in the room with me, as opposed to being overly mellow and distant.
Speakers with ribbons are especially fast and clear= Maggies, GoldenEars & Quads.
It’s a hoot to virtually pinpoint a singer standing between your speakers. Some speakers do it well when they are placed perfectly, but not well it they’re too far apart. Space and ambience can abound with great speakers.
GoldenEar leads the league in imaging, even if placement is less than ideal.
Maggies do a great job if you play with the placement.
Some speakers have more pepper in their recipe- yielding a somewhat brighter sound. That would be Maggie & Quad.
Other speakers have less pepper and are softer on top. This would be Bryston, GoldenEar and Elac.
How much bass is enough before being too much? If you want the ultimate level of definition you might like Maggies or Quads. If you want more weight in your music, you’ll choose Bryston or GoldenEar.
Being a piano fan first and foremost, I won’t accept mud in my sound. I want my bass solid, but leaner than thick. If you want thicker than lean, you can dial up the sub on a GoldenEar, or think Elac.
Bryston is very solid and neutral- you’ll want some horses under the hood.
For a speaker to be incredibly dynamic, it’s got to be able to BRING IT when asked.
Nobody surpasses Bryston for dynamic contrast. The horn competitors become very “shouty” or megaphone-like- when you turn them up. Bryston never bites or gets harsh.
It’s imperative that a speaker with big dynamics is tough as nails. Bryston fits that category too. Speakers with esoteric dome finishes are OUT OF THE RUNNING here.
Diamonds in particular are fragile- and mucho expensive to replace. The guys who make them are up front with you about this! You’re facing $1500+ if you toast a diamond tweeter.