Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Seattle, Washington
Re: Pairing Amps with Speakers
In my experience as a salesman of high quality audio gear, speaker selection is not all that subjective, at least sound-wise. Appearances, yes. It is true that some prefer different speakers for different music. Some speakers sound better with rock 'n roll than others, but most listeners would pick out the same or similar speakers when listening to that music. Then, switching to jazz, a different set of speakers may be preferable, but, again, most listeners will show similar choices. The same goes for classical music. So, those that prefer rock 'n roll are more likely to pick the speakers that brought out the best in rock 'n roll over those that may have sounded better with jazz and/or classical.
The problem I see there, is that one is literally imposing "instrumentality" on speakers, that is, making them into a type of musical instrument rather than accurate transducers of musical reality. So, some may sound "warm", others "clean", others have "punch".
In my opinion, the best speakers are those which can handle the very low bass to the very high treble of classical instruments with accuracy while being able to provide the dynamism of rock 'n roll and the intimacy of jazz, without significant compromises. In other words, have the quality of components that allow the speakers to provide the realness of all music in an accurate replication. That is a tall order, so it eliminates pretty much all but quite expensive speakers, speakers that can handle the entire audio spectrum well while having quick responses to dynamic demands.
If a speaker soiunds great to one person, but terrible, like "chalk on a chalkboard" to another, something is amiss unless one or other of the individual have problems with their hearing. Screechy, distorted treble, for instance, sounds like screechy, distorted treble unless a person can't hear above about 800 hz. In listening tests, I would tend to assume the listeners do not have serious hearing deficiencies, and if they did, I likely would find out while conducting the tests.
I caution customers who say they prefer a system that sounds good, say, only with jazz, since that is their favorite music.
I suggest that if they do want to buy them, that they listen to them at home carefully, and also try different music with them. If, after a reasonable time, they decide that the speakers doe seem to impose their own sound too much, and may make all music sound too much alike, they can exchange them. Most good audio stores will provide this service, and not leave a customer stuck with their first impressions. I have found that customers who purchase "box" systems wind up not listening to them much due to "listener fatigue", caused by distortion, lack of smoothness, and a general sense of stressed sound.
A good audio store will allow customers to relax and listen, and encourage customers to bring their own disks to audition speakers. Since speakers provide by far the most important contribution to quality of sound, they should be chosen carefully.