The Best Loudspeaker

hearing the recording

Reading the online audio forums you frequently see questions asking about the best speakers for rock & roll, or the best for classical, or the best for you name the category, style, genre. It’s an obvious question. Different musical styles definitely have different characteristics and place different demands on the loudspeaker. And each of us has experienced listening to speakers that sound pretty good playing this, and not so much playing that. Sounds logical.

There are also various schools of speaker design. One that stands out is the “mimic a musical instrument” school. We’re playing music, therefore it follows that a speaker should act like a musical instrument. Sounds logical.

Who’s to refute logic?

No one. In this case, there is nothing to refute, because there is no logic behind the “best loudspeaker for fill-in-the-blank” school, or the “mimic a musical instrument” school. In both cases a conclusion was drawn from faulty assumptions, not faulty logic. Asking the wrong questions guarantees the wrong answers.

Back up for a moment.

Q. What is a loudspeaker supposed to do?
A. Convert the electrical waveform from the amp into the corresponding acoustic waveform for our ears.

There’s nothing musical about that. It’s not trying to create music. It’s not even trying to recreate music. The goal is to transduce the electrical signal into sound waves without adding or subtracting anything. A speaker that mimics a musical instrument will be adding its own resonant sound to the signal—wrong. A speaker that sounds good for R&R, but not classical is incapable of clear transduction of the signal. Its distortions are “good” for R&R, but disastrous on classical. A speaker that sounds good reproducing small acoustic ensemble, but not brassy big band or large chorus, is one that gets overloaded by more complex signals. While its distortions are not objectionable with simpler music, maybe even pleasant, they get amplified with the size of the ensemble and become unpleasant. A speaker that’s good for “blank,” is only, barely good ‘nough for anything.

The fact is, a loudspeaker doing its job will sound equally good on all types of music. It will not add its own sound, like a musical instrument, or be limited by the demands of various styles, as in getting bogged down with complexity. It will not reinterpret or alter the EQ. It will transduce accurately the signal provided. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing musical about it.

Read parts one and two of the Hearing series — [The Color of Sound] & [Pro Gear]

Watch a revealing documentary about the pop music business in the ’60s and ’70s. Tells how many of the big stars of the day only sang the vocals. Leaks a few recording studios trade secrets for getting a BIG sound out of a small ensemble. Makes public why “live” concerts never sounded as good as the recording, and why getting that concert sound at home is not only impossible, it’s nothing desirable to emulate : [The Wrecking Crew].

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