What speakers can b considered as world reference?

As audiophiles, we know that only live concerts can be considered as the true point of reference. We strive to get our systems to sound like the real thing and acoustical instruments are probably the best examples. But with the advancement of technology we are seeing better tranducers from familiar names and not so familiar. What could be considered as reference speakers today.
First, to answer your primary question, I'll vote for the DeVore Fidelity Silverback speakers. John DeVore does know what live music is, being a musician himself and having a parent who is a concert pianist. The house he grew up in always have live music around.

Regarding your other comments. I actually do not think most audiophiles are using live music as a reference (even if they think they are). I say that because I am also exposed to live music at a minimum of once a week; usually twice or more. My system is just a backup source to live music. I do not hear very many audiophile systems regardless of the money invested that sound even close to live music to my ears.

I hear systems that are based on things like...Aggressive, Ambiance, Analog, Articulate, Attack, Bounce, Bass-Tightness, Bloom, Bright, Clinical, Coherent, Cold, Dark, Decay, Deep, Detail, Diffraction, Dynamics, Etched, Fast, Hard, Image, Impact, Liquid, Laid-Back, Muddy, Neutral, Off-axis, Pace, Phase, Pin-Point, Sharp, Soft, Soundstaging, Smooth, Speed, Tight, Transparency, Voicing, Warm.....YADA YADA YADA

No "live" in any glossaries I know of including Stereophiles.
Speakers that are perhaps most Live-like are the type used as studio main monitors to impress clients (musicians). These systems generally have a large sweetspot and have huge dynamic range with low distortion and are listened to from a far field position; a band can hear themselves immediately after recording before mixing/compressing all the live music for consumer consumption in the mix/mastering process. They are usually way to big to fit in a home. Generally these systems are often custom installed in walls in specially designed control rooms by acoustic experts (speaker design and crossovers may be uniquely tailored to each setup). These systems are not necessarily used for mixing or monitoring, as this is often done on smaller speakers with narrow dispersion in a near field position. Their main purpose is to impress musicians with a live-like sound, often at live music levels (very loud). If the artist is impressed they will be happy their A&R man booked the right studio. If they are really impressed then the artist may buy similar speakers and install them at home. Most consumers are not familiar enough with live sound to select speakers that would qualify as reference and most cannot dedicate a room to only this purpose. Top studios get constant use with many people and those with a good reputation are well known in the right circles and booked up well in advance. An underperforming or badly setup studio will usually get a make-over until they get it right or go out of business although some depend on their exotic getaway location more than the gear (bands love to party & holiday too). A tough world where customers are often the judge but many of the top studios have it => Reference Live sound and there are many good pro designs to choose from.
it seems that eliciting opinions as to the best speaker, amp, preamp or cd player is an eternal quest.

based upon my exposure to thousands of stereo system, i would say that panel speakers, and specifically electrostatic designs come closest to recreating the timbre and harmonics of instruments.

my all time favorite is the quad 57.

recently, there was a thread on this subject.
Apogee Grand, Genesis 1.1, The very big Acapella, Wilson WAMM, Nola Grand Exotica, Apogee Fullrange and some others. Basically the systems that dont tend to favour a certain type of music.
In my experience, the fantastic control room in Focus Recording Copenhagen, is a world reference. The custom monitoring designed by Ole Lund Christensen simply makes a mockery of every high end setup I have ever heard, including those costing three hundred thousand dollars for a stereo system.
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The physics of conventional enclosures shapes and sealed or bass-reflex speakers are inherently flawed. Power response varies too much with frequency for natural response. While well-braced 3/4"+ MDF or void-free plywood contain the back-wave of a driver it comes right through a thin driver cone. Ported bass/sub-bass enclosures also suffer from stored energy.

While conventional designs can compare well to each other they can't stand up to a live performance.

Implementation problems also cripple most speakers. Passive cross-overs mean the speaker can be no more sensitive than their dome tweeter so dynamic range is limited. Acoustically large enclosures in the tweeters' pass-band make diffraction a problem which is exacerbated by 90 degree enclosure edges.

The common theme below is uniform polar response, control of driver back waves, control of diffraction, and high dynamic range through active cross-overs (a 40W tweeter amp and 60W mid-bass amp on a 2-way equal a 200W amp with a passive XO) and/or high sensitivity (compression driver + waveguide, multiple woofers with mutual loading and half-space operation, etc.)

Getting away from that, you can use the actively quad-amplified = Orion++. Apart from the frequency range where the mid-range magnet and basket structure cause a more cardioid response it should be an acoustically small dipole through the fundamental frequency range of voice and instruments, with reduced side-wall + ceiling reflections (close to the perception threshold for image shift with a couple feet to the sidewalls) and 4.8dB (3X) better directivity than a conventional speaker providing clarity farther into the room. The driver back-wave is used to provide uniform polar response, and with proper placement (4' off theback-wall) back-wave reflections are delayed enough that they don't get confused with the direct sound. Woofer sensitivity approaches 100dB/2.83V. Wonderful natural sound and the most natural bass I've heard from any speaker in any room (mine was 13x19x8 which is a bit small).

I haven't heard them but the actively quad-amplified B&W snail-shaped nautilus should be very interesting. The baffles are acoustically small so it sould approximate a monopole at all frequencies. Damped transmission lines absorb the driver back-waves so they can't be re-reflected through the drivers. Tubular (including conical and curved)enclosures can be as stiff as 4" concrete.

The actively bi-amplified Linkwitz Pluto also uses acoustically small baffles on the ends of damped transmission lines (Only 1% of the midrange backwave reflections reach the driver cone) for very good results. Finishing my Pluto+ woofers to fill in the bottom end and applying the high-frequency shelving high-pass should produce world-class speakers. The omni-directional radiation pattern gives up clarity and imaging precision to the Orions at the same listening distance although they can be listened to at a much wider angle (closer distance) without loosing the phantom center so this is a placement issue. Imaging depth is less. Driver quality may be responsible for the last bit of the Orions' resolution which is absent in Pluto, but what do you expect for a $700 parts cost? Surprisingly close to the Orions but missing the last 1.5 octaves and some output capability; Pluto+ should fix that.

I haven't heard them but the Gedlee Magnum cum Laude should be very interesting. Uniform directivity is provided by a wave guide on the high end. Earl Geddes has a patented solution to horn diffraction problems. Uniform polar response is maintained as the horn transitions to the 15" bass driver due to the drivers' beaming. The large radius curves on the enclosure edges limit diffraction amplitude, and wide baffles push it out in the time domain.

If any one in the Seattle area has a set of those speakers I haven't listened to, I'd love to compare with the Plutos and Orions (currently in my workshop and not setup but that could be fixed).
Acoustically large enclosures in the tweeters' pass-band make diffraction a problem which is exacerbated by 90 degree enclosure edges.

Agreed. This is such an obvious and well documented drawback of any speaker that it is amazing that so little is ever done about it by audiophiles, as it is simple to correct. In prestigious studios the main monitors are usually built in walls and this setup completely corrects for the above issues and others to boot!
What the @#&& is a "world reference?

Does this mean the best in the world? If so, impossible to answer because who could possibly hear and evaluate all the contenders.

Or maybe it means any speaker on that list of contenders. But who could possibly decide that? Most "professional" reviewers may only hear a half dozen speakers per year in an environment and set up where they may be qualified to form solid opinions.

Sorry Pedrillo, don't mean to sound like I'm picking on you but I hear references made to "world class this, or world class that". This has become a pet peeve of mine because it is so meaningless. Our modern society has made products from most everywhere in the world available which means most consumer goods are considered on a world wide scale. So why not simply ask, "What speaker(s) do you consider to be a reference or benchmark?" and leave it at that?
the best (read biggest) of the duntechs or dunlavys are very, very revealing. In this way, you may or may not consider them musically satisfying ike say, a quad 57, but there tell you a lot about what is going on in the music. The midrange detail allows you to hear things like subtle speaker cone distortion on the attack of a bass guitar note.

Some speakers are hi-fi largely in the higher freq. If you can get the same midrange detail , which is where a lot of the music lives, you get a good reference for what is in the track.

of course, whatever you like wil work too quite often.
A bit aside from the question, but I don't really like this common audiophile thing where averyone compares speakers to the "live sound". If you want a speaker to sound like it did live, go get a 15" JBL PA speaker and maybe an overcranked Hartke subwoofer. Turn it up louder than you are ever comfortable listening to it, add croud noise and a high noise floor and that's what it will sound like live. (except for classical and intimate jazz of course, where there is no PA system) I myself would rather have a high end system where I can hear things recorded in a much more controlled environment such as a recording studio that you would never hear live. (pages turning, chairs creaking, musicians breathing ect) Now, I do however like studio recordings that were made when all the musicians were playing at the same time, preserving the musicians interactions, and dynamics. Audio quality though live, is normally too loud, lots of excessive reverberation, overpronounced bass and not that hifi. Just my 2 cents. Am I crazy, or do I just not follow the mainstream?

As far as world references, I would have to say all the big dogs with $20K and up speakers. They all will tell you that they make a world class speaker. Most of them will tell you that theirs is the best. The thing is,it's all about opinion. And... In my opinion I'd have to say Sonus Fabers Flagship, Focals Flagship, B+W's flagship, Martin Logans $125K monstrosity, Revels Salon 2, Wilsons Alexandria, and the list goes on. All different, but all reference level stuff. The right answer is what sounds the best to you.
>A bit aside from the question, but I don't really like this common audiophile thing where averyone compares speakers to the "live sound". If you want a speaker to sound like it did live, go get a 15" JBL PA speaker

I've never been to a concert where an orchestra or choir used any sort of amplification. I've also heard unamplified small jazz ensembles and soloists playing classical guitar, sax, piano, hammer dulcimer, harp, violin, viola, cello, accordion, etc.

That's live sound.

Enjoyed reading your post.

If I might comment on one thing - Earl Geddes' speaker was called the "Summa" (as in "summa cum laude"), so you were very close there. Earl is no longer building the Summa, but has sold the rights to a Thailand-based company called Audio Intelligence (Ai), for whom Earl is the principal designer. From what I understand, two similar-configured smaller models as well as a subwoofer or two complete their lineup. At this point they are marketing to Asian prosound customers, and have not yet set up distribution in the US.

Getting back to Pedrillo's original question, I'd have to nominate the Wilson WAMM as a world reference speaker. I don't even know if they still build it, but in my mind it's still pretty much the standard for comparison among ultra high-end loudspeakers.

I agree with Audiobroke, and with Drew's response. There is lots of "live" music which sounds terrible because of the intermediate amplification/reproduction (like most rock concerts and outdoor concerts without a "wave guide" bowl behind the musicians). Drew noted that most concerts of orchestra and choir , jazz ensembles, or soloists do not use electronic amplification. However, seats at the orchestra differ, as do nights when they play, and sometimes there are the people next to you who whisper (or in jazz clubs, smoke, laugh, etc). That said, there are lots of great jazz albums which were "recorded live" and sound good despite the clinking of glasses and silverware, the voices, chairs scraping on the floor, etc.

For me, the reference is what makes my favorite music sound the way I want it to sound. It does not have to be "perfectly" reproduced with the smoothest frequency response curve, it does not have to have the etchiest detail, and I do not need the feeling of sitting in the very back row at Hollywood Bowl when I am listening to Peter Wispelwey on solo cello. Instead, my reference is getting goosebumps and smiles the umpteenth time I've listened to a piece, and having confidence that it won't change next time.
Since MBL seems to depart from most other designs as far as being omni, what are people's opinions of MBL's?

Interesting discussion about backwave. I believe that is one of the major design paramaters of the ceramic/kevlar wrapped cabinet in my Cerious Technologies speakers. I know at least in the reference model ceramics are lossy enough to absorbe the backwith with no internal damping poly, foam, felt, etc.
Since MBL seems to depart from most other designs as far as being omni, what are people's opinions of MBL's?

I think Omni or dipoles are similar. They will load the room more evenly and you can achieve a natural sound with cheaper drivers in a dipole....but too much reverberation can be bad and if you place these close to a rear wall then it may ruin the imaging or even risk sounding claustrophobic or cluttered. Like panels these designs should be brought well out into a room and will work best in a large room. Dipoles work great in movie theatres....especially for surrounds.
In response to Drew

>I've never been to a concert where an orchestra or choir used any sort of amplification. I've also heard unamplified small jazz ensembles and soloists playing classical guitar, sax, piano, hammer dulcimer, harp, violin, viola, cello, accordion, etc.

Thats why I said in my previous post"(except for classical and intimate jazz of course, where there is no PA system)" If those are the types of music you listen to then "live" is just the musicians and their instruments. My post was entirely refering to most concerts that people go to. I think I've been to maybe one concert in my life that didn't have a PA system, and that was the Cleveland Orchestra. ALmost everybody else uses amplification. (in Cleveland) These are the likes of Coldplay, Rush, U2, Phill Collins, Sarah Mclaclahn, Norah Jones, Police, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Enya, AC/DC, Metallica, Joe Satriani and the list goes on forever. I will say, we don't get many intimate artsy jazz clubs or the like around here, (though I wish we did) but for most music there is a PA in a large scale venue with about 35,000 people there. I have even seen the singing angels around christmas time also, and guess what? Sound reinforcement. Even small bars/clubs have sound reinforcement like 99% of the time. Otherwise the drummer and guitarist will drown out the singer. They have to have it.

So I think we are sort of saying the same thing, but from different paradigms. I would agree that "live" sound if defined as intimate jazz or orchestra with out the aid of a PA can sound really good, especially if you are sitting in the "sweet" spot. In that case I could see that you might want to try to arrange an audio system that you could close your eyes and feel like you are there. My original post was geared for the majority of live concerts that are not that acoustically superior, are played in big echoey venues at incredible volumes. Lots of noise, the bass hits you like a minute after the treble, and depending where you are sitting, you could be getting all left channel or all right channel. THis was why I was confused as to why so many people want to replicate "live" sound. I think it sounds like a good theory in their minds, but when it comes down to it... it isn't.

Lets face it, when you go see Rush (or any other large venue players) live, and you close your eyes, there is no way to tell where the musicians are in the acoustic space, there is very little soundstaging, and imaging. They are also not necesarily at their best that night, and they make mistakes! I heard Eric Johnson live, and he was having some trouble hearing himself, and it sounded way off. But his CD sounds fabulous. This kind of live I would never want to duplicate. That was my point.

In response to the more recent MBL discussion, I think they are amazing. I've heard them and they are amazing. Spooky.
Shindo Latour field coil. But I would not demean these by calling them "world" reference. They are Universal Reference, IMHO.
Bose?? I just threw up a little in my mouth. :) It's funny as a hifi salesman, I get people of all sorts comming in to listen. One moment sticks out in my mind. We had a $15,000 pair of class A uberspeakers on display for demo hooked up with reference level electronics, and a customer came in with his girlfriend and listened to them. Without flinching he got up and said with a proud and slightly arrogant flair, "I'm more of a Bose kind of guy". I think it was to look good in front of his girlfriend thinking that he had the inside track on what true hifi was all about, and that he was more of a connesueir of fine high end products. We laughed for quite some time after he left.

It is amazing to me how good of a job Bose has done on advertising. They could tell people the sky was actually red, and I think a large percentage of people would believe it! The 901's were the only O.K. speaker that Bose made. In their time they were decent I suppose (not now), but most peoples ideas of Bose are the acoustimass 2" paper woofered little cubes that they now sell like double cheesburgers from McDonalds. It all comes from how much have you been exposed to, and how far have you really gotten into it. People come in all the time and ask for Bose, but it is only because they don't know any better. They've been baraged with commercials so much telling them that Bose is the best, that they just end up believing them. It's our job to educate them.

P.S. I have spoke with a Bose engineer at an audio convention. He said his major design constraint when engineering the Bose cubes was how to get decent sound pressure for a $4 manufacturing cost. $4!!! How did you think they got that huge advertising budget?
He said his major design constraint when engineering the Bose cubes was how to get decent sound pressure for a $4 manufacturing cost. $4!!! How did you think they got that huge advertising budget?

I believe it. Sadly, even on high end speakers the engineering budget is miniscule. Wood work and veneer is most of the cost. Most of the really high costs go into a better looking piece of furniture, you know, aesthetics, industrial design, rather than acoustics. Although you would never know this from the advertizing spin.
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>And get real, the Wave Radio is much more accurate than those $4.00 cubes and your hoity toity high end garbage speakers.

Ahhh lol. That's a good one. The $500 alarm clock Bose makes sounds good compared to $20 Kmart alarm clocks, I will give you that. It's even passable as backround music sometimes. It's designed as a self stated "lifestyle product" with the main design consideration is for it to be small and profitable, with a better than average sound for something of it's size. Although everything else at it's size is much, much cheaper. By the way, I had a pair of Bose 901's several years back, and my grandma has two wave radios which I've listened to exstensively, so I know from experience, not just conjecture. I would say they were probably better than anything radio shack sells. Descent for the average consumers use. But this is a HiFi audio forum asking about world reference speakers. Here most listeners go to great lengths of tunning their systems to get the perfect sound. Many of us have dedicated rooms with acoustical treatments, floating walls, non-parallel surfaces, vibration isolation, power filtration with dedicated lines, ect. "Hoity toity high end garbage speakers" you say? This forum is about people with a passion for their high end systems, who dedicate a large portion of their expendable income on them. We search out components that have just the right balance with others in a system that achieve a total synergy together. I myself listen for as I call it "the glow", when a system of the utmost fidelity reaches a point of excellence, detail, balance and synergy, that the sound has a special glow to it. And yes, sometimes it can get expensive. Have you checked out any of the users systems yet? I think you may have found your way into the wrong forum.

However...It's fine that you obviously love your Bose products.(or work for Bose) Then just enjoy them. I'm not trying to be rude, but most people that think Bose is the best, just haven't been exposed to what true hifi is yet. It's not your fault or anything, I would just suggest going out one day, with an open mind and an unassuming atittude, bring a few of your favorite CD's and go listen to a "better" system at a specialty hifi shop. You may be suprised. Be carefull though, if the bug bites you there is no turning back.