Stark differences

Prev Next

Stark differences

Since we are all on the same page when it comes to wanting the accurate and enjoyable reproduction of music in our homes, it's always startling to me how different stereo systems can sound.

Visiting different rooms at a HiFi show is demonstrative of what I am referring to. Most rooms sound good and, happily, like music. But then, one wanders into a room where the sound is so different as to make one's fingers start scratching their head.

I've heard this foreign sound presentation from a myriad of speaker types from horns to dynamics: cupped, closed in, with the tonal balance askew.

This wouldn't stand out to me as a "thing" if it wasn't for the fact this happens at shows where manufacturers and dealers represent themselves as experts.

If the sound of live unamplified music is our reference, how could some be so far askew?

I'll never forget walking into one room at an industry show in Vegas. The manufacturer was selling his brand of speakers. The place was empty but I ventured in anyway—attracted by the odd look of the speaker which had a big woofer and a tiny tweeter—both vertically separated in the cabinet by a few feet. This seemed odd to me as I couldn't imagine how this setup would couple in the midrange.

On offer was a simple classical piece of piano and voice. It might have been Mozart. The lone man in the room seemed happy to see me and beckoned me to sit in the sweet spot. The voice came across as shrill while the piano had nearly no midrange: mostly bottom end and a smattering of top end. Clearly, the midrange of the system—from perhaps 500Hz up to 2 or 3 kHz—was missing (as one might expect with this design choice). Like a 3-way speaker whose midrange was missing.

"What do you think?"

I really hoped he wouldn't have asked. "Seems a bit empty in the midrange. Highs are great and there's good bottom end."


"That's what you're hoping for?"

He shook his head yes.

"Everyone's system sounds the same. I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I've never been much on midrange and love the top and bottom ends of the speaker. Like most people."

That brand wasn't at next year's show and I have never seen them again.

He did stand out from the crowd.

Back to blog
Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

Never miss a post


Related Posts

1 of 2