Can speakers be too resolving?

June 7, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

13 comments on “Can speakers be too resolving?”

  1. After some major upgrades to my system, I found that a number of my recordings became difficult to listen to unless I turned the volume down a bit. Kevin Welch, of Musica Pristina, says that a disappointingly high number of recordings are not done very well and this, combined with Paul’s commentary demonstrates the ‘downside’ of a highly resolving system. However, the upside is that the good recordings can be breath taking. Netted out, I’ll take the highly resolving system!

    As a side note, I listen to a wide variety of genres, but in general, I find jazz to include the best recordings.

    1. Your second sentence is bang on the money Jack.
      Most of the music that I love to listen to was recorded
      in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s & ’90s. & this means that I don’t
      want my current home-audio system to be any more
      resolving than it already is.

    2. I’m with you on that score Jack. I was going to comment as such but you beat me too it! πŸ˜‰

      I’ve owned what I consider very resolving speakers in the guise of the B&W 800 Diamonds for about 10 years and prior to that, 801s for a few years. Some criticize the 800s for being too harsh in the highs. For some recordings I would agree but when you listen to the better-produced recordings, as you comment, the result is breathtaking. I’m happy to tolerate the poor-sounding ones (which aren’t altogether unlistenable) in exchange for the magic of a highly-resolving system playing the better-quality recordings. πŸ˜‰

  2. The one track the writer mentioned, Easy on me, yeah when she hits that high note, its piercing. That’s her voice hitting that high note and loud. She just hits that note. Its not a bad recording, just the note.

    Play “I drink Wine” track and you will see how good it sounds.

    1. Talk about piercing & loud (& extended)…track:8 – ‘Angel Eyes’
      sung by Cheryl Bentyne on Rob Wasserman’s ‘Duets’ (1988) album.
      How to test out a microphone!

  3. Even before watching the video I knew what my response would be. Resolving may end with the speakers but it doesn’t start there. It starts with the source and runs through the dac amps and cables. In other words it’s the whole system that needs to be resolving before you get highly resolving or, if you prefer to describe it as such, too resolving. The question then becomes a more fundamental one. Do you like the sound of your system?

    1. I’ll say this about both speakers and stereo systems.
      Because of the kind of work that I do in my spare time, very resolving speakers will do me a hole world of good.
      I have three sets of monitors.
      I have the Klipsch R-41PM monitors on my computer that are hooked up to it via a USB cable that came with them.
      But in my bed room, I have a quod of Avantone Pro CLA-10 studio monitors, and a pare of powered JBL LSR-310S subwoofers hooked up to a vintage Fisher 800 stereo receiver.
      That, is the most resolving system I have in the hole house.
      That is, until I’m able to do way better then that.
      But when I remaster older recordings, the Klipsch R-41PM monitors kind of lets me down when I try to listen closely to what’s going on in the background of any recording that I’m playing back threw them.
      The Avantone Pro JBL combos, gets me closer to what I’m trying to hear.
      But I feel, not close enough.
      So, is waiting until I have enough money saved up to do a very serious upgrade.
      I have my sights sat on the Aspen FR 30 speakers.
      I’d like to both see and hear what they’ll do for me in my little recording studio.

  4. How many music lovers out there highly enjoy their poor resolving car stereo systems being played at the highest sound pressure levels? πŸ™‚ Could it be that many or even most tracks are mixed using active loudspeakers in a near-field set-up sounding great in the mixing studio being acoustically optimized while it is most doubtful that you will get the same quality at home using passive speakers with complex crossovers producing strange phase errors, speakers positioned for far-field listening in a listening room with poor room acoustics?

  5. I took a wee bit of a gamble by putting a system together with everything in the chain either Neutral or “Highly Resolving”.

    After discovering my Integrated was underpowered to run my KEFs properly, I upgraded it as well with, in this case, with another Neutral-sounding Integrated.

    I have it all (properly) setup in a room with minimal treatment (throw rug in front of the Speakers) and some Aurelex absorbing foam fairly high in the room on the vertical wall. The room has several hard surfaces and the Right-Channel is completely open to the room beside. I would consider it a “bright” room.

    The Source is a home-built PC with SoTM components running through a high-quality DAC, Upscaler, an Integrated Amp and finally through the KEFs.

    Although I had some songs that were borderline “Etchy” or “Glary” an upgrade of all the components has made a major difference in the sound of those songs; to the point that I no longer consider them unpleasant to listen to.

    Digital Glare is a horrible thing to hear although admittedly I don’t listen to much/any of the modern music.

    The “Glare” in a few songs wasn’t easy to get rid of or even reduced enough to enjoy those particular songs but it apparently can be done even with Highly Resolving Equipment, LOTS of persistence and tweaks.

    Low distortion Speakers and the PC components went a LONG way towards achieving my goal of producing a smooth “analog sound” and away from a “Digital Sound”. It leans a bit towards warm but is still highly detailed and “Airy” (as in not congested).

    At least, that’s what I’ve (fortunately) accomplished…

    Your results may vary. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi paul
    First I truly appreciate your goal in creating such a resolving speaker and supporting the need in producing recordings of DSD that demand this type of speaker build.
    I would also comment that the vandersteens new xtremes7 combined with their Hp7 amps are nothing short of stunning in there ability in producing some of the most resolving music I have heard to date. Keep up your great work !!!

  7. Paul,

    In reference to resolution, your “transcend” comments at 5:55 to 6:30 is where I’m at right now! My “just-so recordings”, although with many technical recording faults, now sound musical and enjoyable!

    Octave Record recordings (and several other great recording label pressings) typically hit Sonic Grand Slams!!! πŸ™‚

  8. I got a chuckle from Paul’s comment on the KEF LS50’s. I also think that they are good for background listening, but for me there are many cheaper speakers that fulfil that role just as well.

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