Speaker question - "engaging" vs. "tiresome" midrange

NOTE: This isn't about speaker brands, but a basic characteristic of speakers.

I don't have NEARLY the experience listening to speakers that many of you do.  So help me out here.  I do love fantastic vocals, and something that attracted me to my current speakers (Devore Nines) right away (and some others I auditioned back in 2012) was the engaging and highly transparent (my language) midrange especially on female vocals (think Nora Jones, Holly Cole).  The vocals really stand out in the sound stage. I heard this too on some Martin Logan electrostatics; very airy midrange.

But 6 years later, I'm finding that a listening session of over 30 minutes leaves me fatigued.  At volume that gets me really engaged, I think that the midrange is what's fatiguing, despite how "musical: it is.

I listened to what reviewers say is a much more "accurate" speaker (Magico A3), and while I immediately found the midrange (female voices) better integrated into the total sound stage, they were not immediately toe-tapping engaging. (But it was in a very dead audio room; tbd in my home.)

Is this a common trade-off??

My theory as I listen to more speakers is that I need to find a balance with the midrange between the 'fatiguing' and 'boring' ends of the spectrum.  Should I be thinking about this in other or additional ways?? Better vocabulary??  TIA!

Original Post

Naim SL2’s are a prime example of your question/subject matter. I loved my pair and they worked very well within the constraints of my room acoustics. 

But feed them badly or site them in a non-acoustically conducive room and they will ‘shout’. 

Source/recording quality is an additional large factor of course - not forgetting good old personal taste. 

Same old, same old. Loudspeakers MUST be home-demmed. 

Good luck. 

John. 

I think the mistake that many of us make when looking for speakers is listening to certain aspects like mid range or vocals or bass but if you listen to hard at one aspect it can mean that the rest either gets overlooked or you can end with a speaker that’s heavy on one particular thing and that can become fatiguing during long listening sessions. 

Music is a blend of many different things and a truly engaging, musical or foot tapping speaker should reproduce that blend evenly. 

I experienced listening fatigue recently listening to a speaker with a ribbon tweeter on some tracks the detail was incredible as was the space around instruments but it was so clear that on some music and after a while it became analytical and sharp and uncomfortable to listen to.  These speakers probably sounded fantastic with the right amp but would have made your ears bleed after too long with my amps.

 

Hi Bart, my (limited) experience makes me think more in terms of "presentations" (meaning: amp+speaker combos) that are "atmospheric" versus "grabbing you / demanding your attention". My speakers are more of the latter type and can be unforgiving to screechy (mostly digital) recordings but I still wouldn't go for a very polished type of presentation.

hungryhalibut posted:

Maybe it’s the ND555 running in, or the change from SN2 to 252/250. There have been a lot of changes chez Bart: virtually everything but the speakers and Hicap. 

Everything but speakers. Hi Cap went and SC DR came with the 252

Id been noticing this even more with the SN2. It’s actually diminished with 252/250 but not entirely. 

Attention to detail is necessary with the level of kit you have now, down to stack and plug order (I find source first power amp last gives better musical coherence, though resolution is less obvious), cable dressing (not easy to keep SL off the floor without looping it which loses the coherence again), Fraim adjustment (if you have it), even the infamous shelf ring test is worth a try.

hungryhalibut posted:

Of course, silly me. The Fraim is constant though!! Choosing speakers is a complete nightmare: you almost need a home demo for a year. 

Yeah Im worried about making a decision even on a home demo of 3 days, that I'll regret later. It starts out as fun . . . 

Bart. Regarding your original dichotomy of the post..    I'm no expert but what you could be hearing concerning the differences between your nines and the A3.  

Most of the "cutting edge" are now using tweeters that have a much wider bandwidth, reaching super tweeter highs and down in the midrange. Where other tweeters would fall off and need careful use of crossover and mid/bass to get a flat change over in that all ever sensitive area of hearing - are now able to push that down to frequencies that are less noticeable.

In practice if these tweeters are going to be any good, they will push the costs up, and Who's to say that ultimately their any better - as it will still depend on the designer spending time tuning it in successfully.

After so long listening to tweeters that crossover at a certain point your ears have become accustomed, but still maybe your brain gets tired and fatigued after a while filling in that dip of response between.

Put on some well recorded acoustic guitar. What do you hear ?   Are you picking out more of the strings and fret playing ? More the tone of the body ? More as a whole instrument ? More as a whole instrument and being played by another body standing or sitting in a room with boundaries ?    Acoustic guitars can be very loud, someone playing one in my living room with spirit could be tiring after a while.

Hi Bart,

Not sure if you've heard them, but the Ovator S400 had to me an overly prominent and (in my room) tiresome midrange despite great clarity. Still, they were extremely engaging due to superbly tight bass. By contrast, the Devore Super 8 had a superbly engaging midrange but their bottom end, while tight, was relatively austere. Both had great PRaT. I've found overall tonal balance (top-to-bottom) of the speaker in the room very important to sustained satisfaction.

Another factor to consider, and one I'm experiencing, is dramatic age-related changes in hearing. I've lost much of my high frequency hearing and it's more prominent in my left ear. I've abandoned the speakers that worked perfectly well for me six years ago and moved on to new ones that better fit my room and current hearing abilities. Good as my current speakers play now, my aging ears might require a change in the future. 

None of this should be a mystery. Aging has simultaneous progressions and regressions. No way I could listen to the same system at the same volume I had when I was 20-years-old.

 

Bart,

I've had very similar experience to you. I had some speakers that I loved for female vocals and acoustic guitar, great texture on plucked strings  - very expressive and a little forward in the upper mid range and treble. They worked well in our living room although were a bit bass light on some material. Then we rebuilt our house and ended up with a large living room with lots of windows, hard wood floor, etc. The system became fatiguing and pretty unlistenable with, say, searing rock electric guitar. Needed a speaker change to alter the balance. The current speakers are much more balanced and go very deep but have a slightly rolled off treble. They work well (significantly better) across a wide range of music but on about 5% of what I listen to (very sparse solo female acoustic stuff) I do slightly miss the old speakers.

Engineering - like life - is a compromise! 

The best midrange I have ever heard came from a ATC’s 3 inch dome driver, the SM75-150. It is used in their SCM 40and upwards, was in some Of the pro-level PMCs, and has been used by some other manufacturers over the years. I managed to get a pair before they were withdrawn from open sale two or three years ago, and I was astounded when. First hooked them up - it was as if I’d just brought an opera singer into my room, right in frompn pr of the speakers. Many hours of messing with triamping since, the beauty hasn’t diminished - simply stunningly real, and no hint of fatigue (to me).

That said, midrange of course is not only down to the speakers, also being dependent on the clarity and neutrality or otherwise of the electronics...

JedT posted:

Bart,

I've had very similar experience to you. I had some speakers that I loved for female vocals and acoustic guitar, great texture on plucked strings  - very expressive and a little forward in the upper mid range and treble. They worked well in our living room although were a bit bass light on some material. Then we rebuilt our house and ended up with a large living room with lots of windows, hard wood floor, etc. The system became fatiguing and pretty unlistenable with, say, searing rock electric guitar. Needed a speaker change to alter the balance. The current speakers are much more balanced and go very deep but have a slightly rolled off treble. They work well (significantly better) across a wide range of music but on about 5% of what I listen to (very sparse solo female acoustic stuff) I do slightly miss the old speakers.

Engineering - like life - is a compromise! 

This sounds really parallel to my situation.  The unforgiving room in my case is probably the worst offender - worse than the speakers, or electronics, or interconnects, yadda yadda yadda.  If the Magico A3's work in my room, it'll get interesting as they too are more balanced and do go DEEP.

MangoMonkey posted:

Also - dealers often overdampen their rooms. So what might be boring at the dealers might be great at home.

This is so true. In fact, it is the imperfections in a room that give the "live music" feel. The trick is to have enough to get this feeling but not so much that it sounds like you are an ant between a giant pair of headphones. 

Overcorrecting a room kills the whole in-the-room magic.

johnG posted:

I cured the tiresome midrange in my room with some Vicoustic DC2 diffuser panels. Highly effective but unfortunately incompatible with all known interior decorator schemes.

This is closer to my view - yes, a room can be over-damped making it completely ‘dead’ and so unnatural as a room, but I haven’t seen (heard!) evidence of them taking it that far, rather they provide decent damping to minimise adverse room effects such as early reflections. Many images of rooms on the my system thread show rooms that to me appear to be over reflective.

The best sound I have ever heard from a hifi system was outdoors, removing the effect of a  room entirely...

I’ve played around quite a bit with absorption panels in my 11’x13’ room.  Best result for me has been a live wall/dead wall approach. I use panels behind my head and at first side wall  reflection points. I also have bass traps in the corners behind my speakers.

I think it works well (or perhaps I’ve simply become acclimated to the sound), but I have always wondered if adding diffuser panels to my live wall between the speakers would be beneficial. 

Hook posted:

I’ve played around quite a bit with absorption panels in my 11’x13’ room.  Best result for me has been a live wall/dead wall approach. I use panels behind my head and at first side wall  reflection points. I also have bass traps in the corners behind my speakers.

I think it works well (or perhaps I’ve simply become acclimated to the sound), but I have always wondered if adding diffuser panels to my live wall between the speakers would be beneficial. 

Thanks Hook - which bass traps? Of all the 'devices' these might have more WAF here than anything else, other than a rug, which suffers low DAF (dog acceptance factor).

MangoMonkey posted:

Also - dealers often overdampen their rooms. So what might be boring at the dealers might be great at home.

Im hoping to get the A3's in my home this weekend, as my visit to hear the Kudos had to be rescheduled into the future.

johnG posted:

I cured the tiresome midrange in my room with some Vicoustic DC2 diffuser panels. Highly effective but unfortunately incompatible with all known interior decorator schemes.

Some manufactureres - GIK is one, offer ‘art’ panels: printed with your choice of artwork, which could be anything from copies Old Masters to your own photos.

Innocent Bystander posted:
johnG posted:

I cured the tiresome midrange in my room with some Vicoustic DC2 diffuser panels. Highly effective but unfortunately incompatible with all known interior decorator schemes.

Some manufactureres - GIK is one, offer ‘art’ panels: printed with your choice of artwork, which could be anything from copies Old Masters to your own photos.

Yes but how effective are the flat panels as diffusers compared with the CD2 with all the wells and bits sticking out.

Diffusers vs absorbers - need to read up on them and their different effects, amd assess which most likely best suits yout situaltiom. However, I believe some panels are available with diffusers covered by a membrane, which can be an artistic membrane, sonthe choice need not preclude one or other. (However that would need verifying with GIK or whoever).

Folkman posted:

The diffusers v absorbers question can really only be answered on a personal level by trial.

When I treated my room with GIK panels I ended up with 20 absorbing panels only .  I tried diffusion but did not like the results.

Yes proceed with caution - I have the opposite experience where absorption had minimal effect and the diffusers are beneficial. I think you do need the Vicoustic DC2 or equivalent type diffusers, the flat panels described as diffusers is somewhat optomistic. There is a good article available online at Hi-Fi+ by Chris Martens describing his experience in treating a listening space with the DC2s and worth reading.

Bart posted:
Hook posted:

I’ve played around quite a bit with absorption panels in my 11’x13’ room.  Best result for me has been a live wall/dead wall approach. I use panels behind my head and at first side wall  reflection points. I also have bass traps in the corners behind my speakers.

I think it works well (or perhaps I’ve simply become acclimated to the sound), but I have always wondered if adding diffuser panels to my live wall between the speakers would be beneficial. 

Thanks Hook - which bass traps? Of all the 'devices' these might have more WAF here than anything else, other than a rug, which suffers low DAF (dog acceptance factor).

Nothing fancy, just basic GIK Tri-Traps. They are wedge-shaped and fit into the room corners. Probably low odds, but if you spec’ed a fabric that goes well with (or matches) your wall colors, then maybe they’ll disappear enough to pass the WAF test? 

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