When choosing new Speakers, what matters most to you?

When auditioning new speakers have you ever listened to a pair you thought you really liked only to realize you didn’t like them at all after seeing their measurements/specifications? And I’m not talking about speakers that would be too difficult for your electronics to drive but rather, you just didn’t like their waterfall plot, or their frequency response or some other measurement even though subjectively, you loved the way they sounded? Conversely have you ever listened to a pair of speakers you did not care for only to change your mind after seeing their specs?

Assuming speakers can be easily driven by your home electronics, in other words, no compatibility issues related to sensitivity or impedance, what is the single most important thing you look for when finding speakers you’ll enjoy listening to? How do you go about confirming the speakers you buy will be enjoyable to listen to in your home system?

996 posts

price could be a factor.

Good point, let’s say both speakers are in the same ballpark, not a significant difference between the speakers at all, or let’s even say they cost the same. How will you determine which ones sound best in your home?

Size is the single most important thing!

You can't put Magnepan 20.7 in a 10x12x8 room to sound right.

I have small monitors for my small office and big floorstander in my listening room.


If you know the characteristics you’re looking for and you hear a pair of speakers at a dealer that exhibits those characteristics better than others with your music (and any of your electronics you can bring to the audition), you’re probably in good shape unless your room is a disaster — but that’s on you and not the speakers.  Short of auditioning at home that’s the best you can do and will minimize the chance for disappointment, but there are no guarantees — nature of the beast.  

If you go through this rigorous process and find “the” speakers that sound best to you and reject them on measurements alone I feel sorry for you. 

1,628 posts

Size is the single most important thing!

You’re definitely right about that. I see a lot of guys with high dollar systems, where they have way too big a speaker for the size of their room. It’s like the tuner who dials up more horsepower than a chassis can handle. That same chassis with less power can in many instances go around a race track faster.

We listen if we can.

I don’t rely on specs, but weight is important. 

I’ve mentioned my,speakers enough in here. 
if they sound good, that’s all you need.

price, is another factor. 

i just look at the measurements.  all i need to know.  if they arent published no buy.  

Ok, so if price is the same, I try to balance best sound quality with aesthetics and in a tie, the easiest speaker to position and move will win. We all know though that all things will never be equal. Ugly wont cut it in our home, impossible to move or position wont cut it either.


Judging by some of the system photos here on audiogon, its clear that aesthetics arent that importnat to some.

Cabinet,crossover and drivers that is why I own QLN.

Also helped having the ability to demo them in my listening room with my kit.

Have a great day.

I Robot.

Bought a pair of speakers once that sounded great on demo, at least with what they were demoed with. Stupid me. If I had seen the measurements first, I would never have bought them. Got them home and no position, no toe-in, nothing would make them sound right with a wide range of music. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes just something wrong. Found out later that there was significant frequency response/directivity issues.


Learned my lesson. I never bought speakers again without having measurements even if that limited what I could buy. There are just too many things that can be done wrong in a speaker, driver resonance, port resonance, cabinet resonance, frequency response, distortion, distortion over volume, directivity issues, thermal compression, less than ideal cross-over design, etc. When listening to new speakers, there are so so many variables, that is hard enough to say "I like these", let alone pick up on the design flaws that may only become self evident with some music, and then being new speakers you think is is me, is it the room, is it the amp?


Speakers are one area where measurements are really critical. It is not going to tell you if you like it or not for the long time, but it can very much highlight flaws you may not encounter in early listening that you will eventually not be able to live with. At a more fundamental level, directivity plots will help you know how it will work out in your room, the range of toe-in you can use, even whether compared to your existing speakers they may be darker or brighter. Let's not forgot amplifier interaction as well.


When you write it down, you realize that buying speakers without any measurement is a really risky proposition.


One of my favorite brands is Vienna acoustics and they measure below average so nope, i couldn’t give a rats a$$ what they measure like as long as they sound good in my room with my gear.

buying speakers without any measurement is a really risky proposition.


Small planars and ribbons. I made a choice 40+ years ago. I've never changed my preference. 70-80s I really liked Stratherans ribbons. I made 3 set of speakers to fund mine. I picked the drivers up from Brian Cheney at VMPS. 20 24" ribbons.

I haven't found a single speaker manufacture that makes a line of planars or ribbon speakers at a 1/2 way reasonable price. 

I liked the Infinity IRS Betas when they had rear chambers added to the monitor section too. One of the best bang for the buck speakers EVER made. The servo system and added rear chamber made them the right size for any room.

The size of the speaker in the room make very little difference if you design speaker cabinets to reduce resonance, and most of all not collect and deform the drivers face. WIDE baffles collecting distortion from all frequencies including the frequencies the drivers produce themselves is real good place to start.

Phase plugs on cone/voice coil drivers and servo controlled subs.

I don't mix BASS and vibration with my planar/ribbons just for the damage alone. I'm pretty sure most of the Ribbons will last as long as the magnets keep working and planars as long as the lamination holds up. 100+ years Then you can rebuild them..

BTW the Strathearns I built in the 70s were still going strong in 2010 when they were passed on to the son or grandson. They bought spare drivers from Magic Markey.

Bottom line they don't make what I like any more. SO I'll stick with what I got. Nothing better so far. Same wife for 49 years too.. :-)


I will not look at the specs until I have heard the speakers in question.  Many of the specs are stretched a bit so unless John Atkinson has tested them to confirm or deny, the specs don’t mean all that much to me.  I am another believer in a higher sensitivity speaker.  My current are 94db.  Why make the amp have to work so hard?  

I was enchanted by a set of Acoustat 2 + 2 before I knew anything about high end audio. Immediately found out they took massive power I did not have. I spent over thirty years trying to recreate that sound and never really did. But I found I was pursuing a sound that enhanced electronic and small venue music at the expense of all others.


I started regularly attending the symphony and accidentally heard some Sonus Faber speakers… slowly completely pivoted to all tube with Sonus Faber… they sound natural, all music sounds better.


So for me, the sound (which what I was looking for changed over time)… but to fully get the sound all other components must be optimized.

speaker criteria

1. If your married then I'd say the Wife Acceptance Factor is your most important criteria.  

2. the more sensitive the speaker is the less powerful amp you need.  Class D amplifiers generate more power with less heat.  

3.  do you have room enough to keep the speakers set  back from the wall?  Some speakers require that they be set back from the rear wall.    If you have to place the speakers up against the rear wall, I'd recommend you look at the Harbeth brand or the KLH model5.

4. take a look at this video for a general overview.


+1 @imhififan 

Correctly matching speaker size to room size is the only thing that will get you anywhere close to a live venue sound. I personally could care less about measurements, only my ears matter.

I never purchased any piece of equipment by looking at the measurements.  It either sounds good or it doesn't.  BUT you have to know what makes sound, sound good.  For example, I would not use a digital amp on efficient horns. I would use an 845 or 45 tube amp though.



I'm a longtime fan of Quad ESLs. No need to listen to or look at measurements. Just buy them!

# 1 thing for me is I make a serious attempt to buy Built in America with as many USA components as possible. That limits my choices considerably, but that’s how I roll. My dad made it back from the Philippines, but his only brother’s body was never returned from Metz France for two years after the war. Dad raised me with a American first philosophy. And it kind of stuck. In 65 years, I have never bought a non-American owned, non-Union made car. Not a whole lot of people can say that, but it's one thing I can take to the grave and be proud of. At least I tried.

BTW I ended up with all Legacys but considered a few others. My previous system was all Ascend Acoustics, and the one before they closed up shop and sold out, was Miller Kreisel’s..

That’s a very long question but for me, it is a simplified answer. I start my search comparing the specs, but that is not how I prefer to choose my speakers, those are just numbers on a fact sheet. I have listened to the speakers with the better specs only to walk away because the audio did not make me smile, it was rather a oh that’s not what I like. On the other side I chose speakers with the lesser speaks simply because their sound was brilliant or really fun to listen too, more lively than the flatness of the better specs, so now I only refer to specs to ensure compatibility with my receivers amplifier. Sound always first 

1. Price

2. If I've heard them and liked the sound, otherwise if I have a trusted friend who has.

3. Looks (size/dimensions)

4. Reviews

5. Specs

6. My other components and how they mesh

I presently have the JBL L-100 Classic 75th Anniversary Edition. I heard the L-100's, liked them, then with the new look and special edition that was it, then built my system around them.

In 65 years, I have never bought a non-American owned, non-Union made car. Not a whole lot of people can say that, but it’s one thing I can take to the grave and be proud of. At least I tried.


Used to drive a Toyota Camry. It had more American content than any other car manufactured at the time.

When choosing new speakers, what matters the most to me are the specs. I need to be able to anticipate how the speakers will sound in my room. Speaker design is not alchemy nor voodoo. It is a well understood science. Life is short, I have no time to listen to a speaker system whose designer could not bother giving me the specs. Then I listen to the speakers in MY ROOM with my electronics. If it pleases me I buy if not, NEXT. There are a lot of good ones to choose from. 

detailed specs are a great guide but they only go so far for me. i MUST be IN THE ROOM with the speakers, playing MY music ONLY, what i am familiar with. if it sounds musical but doesn’t image well, FAIL. if it images like 3D holography but sounds bad, FAIL. gotta be the whole package, with imaging AND great sound [with a notably luxurious never-flagging EASE] that never fatigues, never is edgy even with harsh-sounding material IOW it doesn’t make edgy-sounding stuff more edgy. the system must make low-level signals clearly audible with no straining to hear. my present system using Thiel cs.5 speakers does this, and before that my maggies did it. the energy 22 pros had it about like my thiels. the snell class A [revised] had it. a speaker i couldn’t afford or even have room for, the magnapan tympani IIIs, they had it in spades. so to answer the OP’s query, it can’t just be one thing. obviously, if the speaker is a 2-ohm power drainer and amp wrecker, it is disqualified no matter how otherwise splendidly it performs as i can’t afford a krell monster amp or its ilk. so there are practical considerations as well.

“Auditioning” some speakers as I write this. (Sort of…)

Ive had a speaker design in mind for a while, ordered the parts, built the enclosure and spent several days tweaking  the crossover and damping. They are at a point now where I need to listen to them for a while to see what is missing and what is bothering me.

No measurements as of yet. There was obviously some math that needed to be done prior to any of this happening based on specs of the driver and the components. Since CV19 happened I’ve built at least 3 dozen pairs of speakers. I’ve been working towards the pair I am currently listening to. 

Not sure I really care how they measure, but I will be doing detailed measurements as I may take them to market. (Which is what the last year and a half has been about - building, listening and trying things)

So, the question is timely for me as I met with my business partner earlier today and discussed what I thought the problem with the the sound presentation was. He didn’t hear anything out of place, and I explained what I thought was off and how I planned to address it.  Then we discussed measurements and what to do if they measured terribly. Am I all of a sudden not going to like them? Does it invalidate what I’ve worked towards, designing and building a speaker that I, and everyone who has listened to them,  really enjoy?

Emotional resonance, tonal presence, contrast, clarity, balance, physicality and impact are what I listen for. Do they present an engaging image of the recording? Not a live performance, but rather the recording.

Much study has gone into these, but in the end it’s about how they sound. I have never bought speakers based on measurements beyond the basics of sensitivity, impedance and size. 

When you buy them what are you going to do with them.  Listen to them.  I therefore suggest you listen to them. Specifications are very unlikely to tell you what they sound like, even if they are an honest and accurate presentation, which many specifications are not.

1. DESIGN. I don't mean that they 'look kool' but rather that they look like they were shaped by an honest sonic objective and that everything...every element defers to that objective. I'm a big fan of Tannoy Legacy and Klipsch Heritage. Timeless design in the broadest sense of the word. Lastly, I need to look at it and it needs to looks interesting.

2. EFFICIENCY + IMPEDANCE. Both together need to be easy. I want more than 91db efficiency and no less than a 4ohm dip. 

3. BIG DRIVERS. I now less prefer small speakers with high excursion and prefer large surfaces producing effortless, velvety bass even at very low volumes.

4. FULL RANGE RESPONSE. I like the simplicity of not having subwoofers. So the LF response needs to reach below 40hz.

5. ADJUSTMENTS FOR HF. I have an 8k notch (loss) in my left ear. My Tannoys allow me to juice the left tweeter a tad to make up for it. This is an amazing feature for someone like me.





I don’t care how it measures if I don’t like the way it sounds. And if I like the way it sounds then why do I care how it measures. It’s not like I have the option to EQ my ears and I doubt they have a flat curve.

The most important spec is price. Why torture or tease yourself with options grossly out of reach? Likewise, you can’t just ignore amplification because if the speakers require different amps then that needs to be in the budget. Reviews and subjective evaluations are much more likely to pique my interest than any measurement can. But they’re also less likely to deter me if I’m already interested. Confirmation bias is human nature. We look for data to support the conclusion that we want.

Bottom line is I’m going to check price and amp compatibility (as relates to price) before anything else, and then look for reviews because I don’t have any experience correlating specs to whether or not a snare hit, cello, or vocal is going to sound right. 

"When auditioning new speakers have you ever listened to a pair you thought you really liked only to realize you didn’t like them at all after seeing their measurements/specifications? "

No! Why on earth would I do that? If they sound good, they sound good, end of story. Sites like ASR look at numbers and not at sounds.

The only thing I don't understand is the type of speaker people listen to. Why on earth would a speaker that sounded great when I was 30, sound worse at 67? That's just it for me, they don't. They still sound great, why keep looking. I know what certain drivers sound like. Even if something is wrong, usually I know how to fix certain kinds of drivers to sound right for me. 

I also know there are cone and voice coil drivers that sound good, but there is always something missing unless I use at least a ring driver/ dome or better yet small push/pull planars or ribbons.. It's the speed that I'm use to and like so much.
I like soft domes in a LS or a single too. A good A/B valve amp don't hurt either. :-)


(a) price, (b) appearance (can I stand to look at it long-term), (c) size (will it fit, reasonably, in the target space), (d) compatibility with existing electronics, at least short-term, (e) can I live with the tweeter long-term, or will it give me ear burn?, (f) does it accomplish my upgrade goals? (g) (probably equally weighed with (a)) sonics

I find that listening to a full range of well recorded human voice (spoken word) is very revealing of colorations and crossover issues. If a speaker passes the test: you can make yourself believe you are listening to a live voice, it’s going to do well on all kinds of music.

For most speakers, I find, you know within 10 seconds you are listening to the kind kind of electronically reproduced voice that you could never confuse with a live person’s.

Also listening to the treble/soprano sections of naturally recorded choral music -- (Faure’s Requiem [Kings College Choir] I use often), or Paul Desmond’s sax on Time Out tracks, is very revealing of upper range crossover smoothness, and colorations.

Good speakers are revealing of less than perfect recordings. Music that can sound lively and sweet on cheaper speakers can sound un-engaging on really good speakers. But then listen to, say, Diana Krall’s "Walflower" and then you hear what you are paying for.

I had pair of ProAc EBS studios for about 30 years. Just sold those and now have an ATC set up. Very happy.

  1. Flat frequency response on axis, and (as much as possible) off axis.
  2. Reproduces the full range of audible frequencies.
  3. Cardioid dispersion pattern to minimize rear and side reflections.
  4. Holographic - speakers should 'dissapear' so with closed eyes you can't pinpoint (by ear) from where the sound is coming.
  5. Aesthetics/placement/approval factor

For me, these should be the philosophical pillars of every speaker maker.

Crystal clean high frequency tweeters. I like domes as they are not as placement finicky. Good linear bass response that you can feel when you add volume. I also am a fan of front ports to enable the speakers to be placed close to the wall. I also like the "live sound" that speakers like JBL provide. Just makes the music seem more real. Good for toe tapping. I like speakers that make me move.

Accuracy.  Do the speakers reproduce EXACTLY what you feed them?


With Magnepan products, the answer is YES.


With other products, the answer is NO.



"Used to drive a Toyota Camry. It had more American content than any other car manufactured at the time."

You must have missed that part about UNION made. That was a two-part requirement of mine for Automobiles, not one. And every dime of that Camerys profit goes back to Japan. I don’t send that country a dime if don’t have to, especially when it not necessary.


Phew, I’m relieved that this is just about buying speakers. Try buying intimate apparel for one’s significant other without knowing measurements.

Women know this fact intuitively, of course.


Is that aimed at me? My wife makes all her own clothes, so that’s not an issue. LOL.. But if I bring her nonunion jap crap as gifts in any form, I’ll be getting a ration of @#**T. After having a husband that was Union President UE Local 718 Lancaster Ohio for 36 years, she knows and remembers who’s paying for our pension, healthcare and most importantly, our lifestyle. So yes, speakers (and anything else) are included. Don’t worry, there are only 10 % of the USA unionized and after were all dead it will be a non-issue. To me, who made it, and what country owns the company that made it is important and at the top of my requirements.

That being said, sometimes there are none available with the above standards, but I always make sure I try ..

@nitrobob I understand Tekton speakers sound very good and well regarded on this forum and, importantly, meet some of your patriotic preferences.

So yes, speakers (and anything else) are included. ...To me, who made it, and what country owns the company that made it is important and at the top of my requirements.

@nitrobob what about Tesla? They offer better pay and benefits than all current UAW contracts, so a better compensation and benefits package for their workers who are not paying union fees (tax) to the UAW who would otherwise provide them less pay and benefits than Tesla does. Or is this about union solidarity over higher benefits and pay for workers? Tesla also has the highest percentage of American sourced parts of any automobile manufacturer in North America.


Ted I know all about Tesla. Just spent some time in one last week as my son has one and visited us during Thanksgiving. But I won’t buy one if unionized shops have something comparable. I’m seriously looking at a new Electric Powered Pickup Truck. The new Ford 150 looks pretty amazing.

And more power to Tesla. That is exactly how you keep unions out! Match or EXCEED union contracts!



I actually demoed the Tekton Double Impacts and liked the Legacys much better. Not slamming the Tektons, they were ok, but there was something about that tweeter array that sounded goofed up to me. Could not really put my finger on it, but it wasn’t for me.

For me it's how they sound at low volume for extended listening sessions.(3-5 hrs) I have little intrest in 'blast volume'. You can't get concert levels in most rooms due to limitations in room shape, height to and depth. Set your speaker outdoors and tell me how they image. They don't. Do you listen at different volumes? Does the image change? Your ears adjust after awhile at low volume rather than getting numb. I adjust my system with a sniffer of DJ 1942 and some comfortable slippers.

Bass/low frequency response, since it is one of the most difficult characteristics to get right in a passive speaker system.

Wide band/Full  Midrange speakers only for me. 

Nothing else, I want fidelity