Some thoughts on ASR and the reviews


I’ve briefly taken a look at some online reviews for budget Tekton speakers from ASR and Youtube. Both are based on Klippel quasi-anechoic measurements to achieve "in-room" simulations.

As an amateur speaker designer, and lover of graphs and data I have some thoughts. I mostly hope this helps the entire A’gon community get a little more perspective into how a speaker builder would think about the data.

Of course, I’ve only skimmed the data I’ve seen, I’m no expert, and have no eyes or ears on actual Tekton speakers. Please take this as purely an academic exercise based on limited and incomplete knowledge.

1. Speaker pricing.

One ASR review spends an amazing amount of time and effort analyzing the ~$800 US Tekton M-Lore. That price compares very favorably with a full Seas A26 kit from Madisound, around $1,700. I mean, not sure these inexpensive speakers deserve quite the nit-picking done here.

2. Measuring mid-woofers is hard.

The standard practice for analyzing speakers is called "quasi-anechoic." That is, we pretend to do so in a room free of reflections or boundaries. You do this with very close measurements (within 1/2") of the components, blended together. There are a couple of ways this can be incomplete though.

a - Midwoofers measure much worse this way than in a truly anechoic room. The 7" Scanspeak Revelators are good examples of this. The close mic response is deceptively bad but the 1m in-room measurements smooth out a lot of problems. If you took the close-mic measurements (as seen in the spec sheet) as correct you’d make the wrong crossover.

b - Baffle step - As popularized and researched by the late, great Jeff Bagby, the effects of the baffle on the output need to be included in any whole speaker/room simulation, which of course also means the speaker should have this built in when it is not a near-wall speaker. I don’t know enough about the Klippel simulation, but if this is not included you’ll get a bass-lite expereinced compared to real life. The effects of baffle compensation is to have more bass, but an overall lower sensitivity rating.

For both of those reasons, an actual in-room measurement is critical to assessing actual speaker behavior. We may not all have the same room, but this is a great way to see the actual mid-woofer response as well as the effects of any baffle step compensation.

Looking at the quasi anechoic measurements done by ASR and Erin it _seems_ that these speakers are not compensated, which may be OK if close-wall placement is expected.

In either event, you really want to see the actual in-room response, not just the simulated response before passing judgement. If I had to critique based strictly on the measurements and simulations, I’d 100% wonder if a better design wouldn’t be to trade sensitivity for more bass, and the in-room response would tell me that.

3. Crossover point and dispersion

One of the most important choices a speaker designer has is picking the -3 or -6 dB point for the high and low pass filters. A lot of things have to be balanced and traded off, including cost of crossover parts.

Both of the reviews, above, seem to imply a crossover point that is too high for a smooth transition from the woofer to the tweeters. No speaker can avoid rolling off the treble as you go off-axis, but the best at this do so very evenly. This gives the best off-axis performance and offers up great imaging and wide sweet spots. You’d think this was a budget speaker problem, but it is not. Look at reviews for B&W’s D series speakers, and many Focal models as examples of expensive, well received speakers that don’t excel at this.

Speakers which DO typically excel here include Revel and Magico. This is by no means a story that you should buy Revel because B&W sucks, at all. Buy what you like. I’m just pointing out that this limited dispersion problem is not at all unique to Tekton. And in fact many other Tekton speakers don’t suffer this particular set of challenges.

In the case of the M-Lore, the tweeter has really amazingly good dynamic range. If I was the designer I’d definitely want to ask if I could lower the crossover 1 kHz, which would give up a little power handling but improve the off-axis response.  One big reason not to is crossover costs.  I may have to add more parts to flatten the tweeter response well enough to extend it's useful range.  In other words, a higher crossover point may hide tweeter deficiencies.  Again, Tekton is NOT alone if they did this calculus.

I’ve probably made a lot of omissions here, but I hope this helps readers think about speaker performance and costs in a more complete manner. The listening tests always matter more than the measurements, so finding reviewers with trustworthy ears is really more important than taste-makers who let the tools, which may not be properly used, judge the experience.

erik_squires

Measurements are a starting point not the be all end all. 

That's right.  You need to then apply understanding of those measurements, the engineering behind the design and science of hearing.  With all of those factors combined, you can build a high confidence idea of how good a piece of audio gear is vs other choices.

If everything measured the same assuming we could measure everything (cannot) we would just have one speaker to choose from. 

Once you bring in electro-mechanical components like speakers, then what you theorize is impossible.  Heck, a pair of speakers from same company and model will likely measure differently.  So no sense in talking about speakers measuring the same.

In controlled listening tests though, we can get speakers that tie statistically based on listener preference.  In those situations, you can then apply other buying factors such as price, looks, support, etc.  

Above is what we do at ASR.  We narrow down the near-infinite choices down to good number of speakers which you can then select from, knowing with high confidence that you are not buying a dud.

 The china brand dacs they love so much might measure amazing on a 200 buck dac but are they sure don't sound as good subjectively.

Putting aside the fact that those China DACs are part of whole category that includes such companies as Schiit and JDS Labs in US, your claim there is without evidence.  Come back in a controlled test to show that what you say is true and then we stand up and take notice.  Until then, I can put two identical DACs behind a screen and get every one of you to say they sound different.  So forgive us if we don't put much value behind such claims.

Fact is that the best designs in DACs today come from these mass market companies.  They have a closed loop design process where they measure and optimize for transparency.  And since DACs can be highly optimized from manufacturing point of view, you get superb, transparent sound for as low as $80.

That's not to say there is no room for much more expensive DACs.  Some of us, and that includes me, appreciate other things than sound such as looks, features (VU meters, EQ), etc.  The Chinese companies are almost getting there on this front as well, while still charging reasonable prices.  Here is a recent example, the Eversolo DMP-A6:

 

For $850, you not only get an excellent DAC but a full blown streamer running Android as well.

Would love to see more high-end DAC companies produce high performance DACs that also look luxurious.

“That's right.  You need to then apply understanding of those measurements, the engineering behind the design and science of hearing.  With all of those factors combined, you can build a high confidence idea of how good a piece of audio gear is vs other choices.”

 

says who? You? How far can you travel off the perfect measurement path Amir? 
 

“That's not to say there is no room for much more expensive DACs.  Some of us, and that includes me, appreciate other things than sound such as looks, features (VU meters, EQ), etc.  “

 

So the only difference between a $200 topping and a 2k dac with meters is meters? .. well not many dacs have meters so there’s that. Why the F would they have a meter? lol 

 

 

 

You cannot win an argument discussing gear measurements with Amir. 😊

All the ideology behind his papal decree on his own measurements value cannot be erased no more than any other reviewers using his own measurements as the truth can be dismissed by discursive arguments ...

 

 

What is a sound as perceived by human hearing? what is a sound quality musically and in acoustics ?

Does these complex set of interelated  qualities can be predicted by few set of gear measures? No.

The subjectivist and the objectivist focus TOGETHER  on the gear piece... One with his ears the other with his tools...

We must focus on the system/room/ears... Then no piece of gear described by a small set of measure can say anything about the S.Q.experience perceived by one ears/brain in a specific room with specific pieces of gear.

😊

Period.

Proves my point exactly. Your mind is so consumed by what you see in measurements and graphs, you’ve actually convinced yourself you are hearing all sorts of terrible distortion. 

No, I am just going by the assumption that you are hearing a different sound with tube amps than transistor.  That coloration is therefore added to every piece of music, making it different than what the artist intended.  Taking a position that this is required to enjoy music, shows completely lack of understanding of how music moves all of us.

There’s even a well known case that you actually had a Mark Levinson 360S DAC for 21 years until January of 2020 and only after you measured it and found out that it was worse than the MEIZU dongle did you decide to say goodbye to it. 

Not at all.  My reason for replacing the the ML DAC was due to the fact that it was limited to 96 kHz sampling.  And no DSD support.  I had purchased a ton of high-res music which I had to resample in Roon to listen to them.  So with much sadness I replaced that workhorse which had served me so well for so long.  Here is my review of Mark Levinson No 360S DAC stating some of this:

 

"Conclusions
No, you would not run out and buy the Mark Levinson No 360S today. Were there cheap choices then that were good? We will never know without a time machine to go back and measure as we do today. I can say that nothing is broken in it. It produces performance above 16 bits resolution without any glaring mistakes or issues as we commonly see in R2R DAC products today.

FYI now that I pulled it out of my system, I will be putting a Matrix Audio DAC in its place. Thank you my old friend for two decades of service. You were expensive to marry to but good mate to have had."

I still have that DAC by the way.  Don't have the heart to sell it.  Since above writing, I have switched to a Topping DAC.  While it is extremely performance and has the functionality I need, it is a tiny device and doesn't bring the pride of ownership that the ML had.

You ignore what you can’t even answer yourself about what I said using a single speaker with my jazz. 

I don't care what genre you listen to.  A single speaker is far easier to analyze than two of them interacting in a different room than what you have, with different music to boot.  

Jazz music by the way, makes for poor speaker test music.  This is the research on that:

As you see, it ranks #8 and #9.  

Amir,

Where is your proof that an $80 DAC.....or any DAC for that matter, is transparent?  Where are the listening tests that PROVE what you say?  You are lying.....plain and simple.  You have no idea what transparency is since you do not listen.  Just an ego game......spinning out of control.....the same story....over and over......Meanwhile those that listen, know you are just full of hot air.  Your hot air ballon will not make you happy.  You have to embrace truth to feel happiness.....I wish you happiness......embrace the truth.  

There are tons of reviews on the Eversolo.....and UNIVERSALLY, they say the DAC is the sonic weak point.  However, even the streamer is not state of the art......not even close.  But for you midfi guys, it is great.  The guru of the midfi non believers......what a great title.  You will never convince anyone here that you have any REAL knowledge.  You just have graphs....and BS.  Of course, there is nothing we can say to break up your ego dance/self trance.......and it takes two egos to dance.   Are we having fun, yet?  However, two pure souls can dance a divine cha cha cha......quite exquisite.

Again, go outside and play.  Be in the now.  Sing a happy song......that goes for all of us.....including me.  This thread has gone on far too long.  Let us play another game.  I will not play here any more.  Enough is enough......this drama is boring....same old thing....over and over......the listeners versus the measurers.