Is harmonic accuracy and timbre important at all?

Disclaimer: I am not Richard Hardesty in disguise. But I have reached similar ground after many years of listening and equipment swapping and upgrading and would enjoy discourse from a position that is simply not discussed enough here.

I feel a strong need to get on a soap box here, albeit friendly, and I don't mind a rigorous discussion on this topic. My hope is that, increasingly, manufacturers will take notice of this important aspect of music reproduction. I also know that it takes time, talent, money and dedication to accomplish accuracy of timbre in speaker design and that "shamanism" and "snake oil," along with major bux spent on fine cabinetry that may do little to improve the sound, exists everywhere in this industry.

I fully acknowledge that Dunlavy and Meadowlark, a least for now, are gone, and that only Vandersteen and Thiel survive amidst a sea of harmonically inaccurate, and frequently far more expensive, speakers.

Can you help me understand why anyone would want to hear timbre and harmonic content that is anything but as accurate as possible upon transducing the signal fed by the partnering amplifier? It seems to me if you skew the sonic results in any direction away from the goal of timbral accuracy, then you add, or even subtract, any number of poorly understood and potentially chaotic independent and uncontrollable variables to listening enjoyment.

I mean, why would you want to hear only some of the harmonic content of a clarinet or any other instrument that is contained on the recording? Why would you not want the speaker, which we all agree is the critical motor that conveys the musical content at the final stage of music reproduction, to provide you with as much as possible by minimizing harmonic conent loss due to phase errors, intentionally imparted by the speaker designer?

Why anyone would choose a speaker that does this intentionally, by design, and that is the key issue here, is something I simply cannot fathom, unless most simply do not understand what they're missing.

By intentional, I mean inverting the midrange or other drivers in phase in an ill-fated attempt to counter the deleterious effects that inexpensive, high-order crossovers impart upon the harmonic content of timbre. This simply removes harmonic content. None of these manufacurers has ever had the cojones to say that Jim Thiel, Richard Vandersteen or John Dunlavy were wrong about this fundamental design goal. And none of them ever tries to counter the fact that they intentionally manufacture speakers they know, by their own hand, are sonically inaccurate, while all the all the same in many cases charging unsuspecting so-called audiophiles outlandish summs of money.

Also, the use of multiple drivers assigned identical function which has clearly been shown to smear phase and creates lobing, destroying essentially the point source nature of instruments played in space that give spatial, time and phasing so important to timbre rendering.

I truly belive that as we all get better at listening and enjoying all the music there is on recordings, both digital and analog, of both good and bad recording quality, these things become ever more important. If you learn to hear them, they certainly do matter. But to be fair, this also requires spending time with speakers that, by design, demonstrably present as much harmonic phase accuracy that timbre is built upon, at the current level of the state of the art.

Why would anyone want a speaker to alter that signal coming from the amp by removing some harmonics while retaining or even augmenting others?

And just why in heck does JMLab, Wilson, Pipedreams and many others have to charge such large $um$ at the top of their product lines (cabinetry with Ferrari paint jobs?) to not even care to address nor even attempt to achieve this? So, in the end I have to conclude that extremely expensive, inaccurate timbre is preferred by some hobbyists called audiophiles? I find that simply fascinating. Perhaps the process of accurate timbre appreciation is just a matter of time...but in the end, more will find, as I did, that it does matter.
Warrenh, About as long as took the first string of the guitar to be plucked or the first horn to blow! I don't believe you can buy close to live at any price and never will. That's why I think we chase our tails so much.
Actually, it's kind of depressing. What's an old audiophile to do?
Bigtee, I agree with you completely but I am firmly in the "sounds good" camp all around. I think of my system more as a musical instrument than a surgical one.

Steve, how far do you extend your quest for accuracy? To the sources, the electronics and cables? Signal in signal out sort of stuff? Do measurements determine accuracy? If so, which ones, how many and who decides? Doesn't decision involve subjectivity?

Accuracy, however you define it, is but one component of preference; the former maybe not all that applicable to audio given the complexities of the latter.

Which is more accurate, Stadivarius or Guanarius? Maybe which do you prefer is the more appropriate question.
To mangle a phrase: Accuracy is in the ear of the beholder.

I've listened to a lot of "accurate" speakers, including some mentioned above, which were time-aligned for tremendous sound staging or which were detailed to where you could follow every nuance of the musician's fret work, but which missed the whole musical point. The sax doesn't sound like a sax. The piano doesn't sound like a piano. My first criteria for accuracy is that the instruments sound real. I admit this requires timing alignment, flat frequency response, adequate rate of attack, high level of detail, etc. Somehow the whole needs to be more than the sum of the parts. To me, this is the art of speaker design.
Khrys: I'm done. With the two systems I have, one tube, one solid state, I'm happy for the long haul. I like both Thiel and Vandersteen's designs equally, even though they are different, because regardless of the system, I can hear the depth of the music and at least be able to enjoy all that the musicians and producers were trying to convey. That alone let's me forget about the whole equipment thing, just kick back and get into the music without distraction, except to log on here once in a while of course ;-)
I really can't agree that accuracy is "In the ear of the beholder." As mentioned above, accuracy means different things to different people. When dealing with a technical product, you must adhere to some sort of standards defining accuracy. Accurate signal reproduction is the goal. (Maybe you should change the source and not the speaker!) It is a measurable quantity even if all of the measures are not complete due to parameters not fully defined by science at this point.
Your ears are not really what I would call a accurate measurement. If you had a "True" hearing test, you would find that as for frequency, our ears are no more accurate than some of these so called accurate speakers (especially as we age.) It's kind of like designing a bearing based on noise instead of tolerance. Most assume our hearing just rolls off with time but that is not the real case. We have "Response deviations also."
What disturbs me about the whole audio thing is we have speakers coming out that offer "Better accurancy" better this, better that and increase in prices. The so called "High end" is killing itself. If we debate accuracy as we do and then go back and say, "Well it sounds good so we buy it," then what are we really doing. We DON"T need all this debate because everyone will buy what sounds best to them and be done with it. Checking A'gon's listings tell me everyone is not exactly satisfied with their choices. And "Moving up" doesn't cut it because a lot of the equipment being sold is accurate stuff.
I am a firm believer that "Truly measurable accurate speakers" based on current science offer a better chance at sounding good most of the time. You can really look at todays "Full" set of measurements and get an idea to how a speaker will sound. Manufacturers do it all the time! Yea, you can tweak a little by ear to have a flavor but this is "The designers" idea of good sound that may or may not compare with a buyers thoughts.
I also think that frequency response is a starting point. Big deviations here and everything else becomes a moot point.
Crap, this could go on forever.
My bottom line is why do we pay so much for products that sound good which sort of negates the engineering aspect. I mean, where does cost fit in this. It's like designing a better match and charging 3 times for it! It still lights the same fire.