Which is better, a fussy speaker or a versatile one?

When rating speakers into the high and ultra-high-end (or ultra expensive?) what do you think makes a speaker better?

Take two speaker models, for about $400,000 a pair, and 800 lbs.  One requires an excellent room, super quiet amps while the other sounds great in a number of different acoustic environments and can be powered by modest amplification, and speaker cables don't seem to matter.

Which is truly the better speaker, and which would you rather live with?


Like comparing a Ferrari 296GTB with a Ferrari Purosangue.  One needs special conditions to perform at its best, while the other performs well in any conditions.  Different target market

Fussy speakers usually have issue with even dispersion, time alignment, or lack smooth frequency response. I have found all well made speakers that do the things listed above well are easy to setup. 

A true audiophile would insist on high price and impracticality.  Actually, many of the custom horn systems I really like are sort of practical speakers.  They all sound great in small rooms and are extremely efficient (100+ db/w, typically 8-16 ohm nominal impedance).  The downside is mainly a large size and somewhat high cost (the best drivers are vintage and not cheap).


I would prefer a more versatile product. One the works well in my current environment and will accommodate  any changes in the chain.  I also prefer smaller listening rooms. 

If you have ever looked at Japanese audio magazines, you will see a lot of crazy looking setups in that large horns are crammed into very small apartments.  But, it makes sense in some respects--horns are very lively and engaging at quite low volume levels and the directivity of horns means that sound is concentrated in the listening area.  That actually minimizes the amount of sound bleeding into other apartments; the Japanese being very polite people try not to annoy their neighbors.

If you have ever looked at Japanese audio magazines, you will see a lot of crazy looking setups in that large horns are crammed into very small apartments.


I've seen some of them, enormous vintage JBL speakers that are 2' narrower than the wall the are put into.

My motto in life is...

"If I liked it I would be disappointed".

I am a true audiophile.



The systems I like are not fussy in that they sound good with a wide range of music and with all sorts of upstream electronics.  However, that is not to say that one cannot hear the difference when components are swapped out.  I have sat through tuning sessions where small changes are made such as changes between internal wiring choices, and with great systems, such changes can be heard.  But, they are not fussy in that changes and improvements can be heard, but nothing sounds bad--just different.

What I like about custom systems is that the sound of the speaker can be changed to suit the customer's preference.  I have observed changes--to internal wiring, choice of drivers, choice of capacitors, amount and type of sound absorbing filler--being employed to get to the sound that the prospective buyer wants.  

To the extent that amp + speakers + room = "a system within a system", compatibility and adaptability are arguably desirable qualities for a loudspeaker. 


the room is always some fraction of the equation , i like 11 bands of analog EQ below 120 hz to address issues…. just my cup of tea.

Autos like Ferrari, Lambor, Bugatti and the rest of Italian junk are designed to ride VERY SHORT distance before they develop MAJOR ISSUES or just stay garaged and climate controlled with owner wiping and polishing it from time to time. These are toys pretty much.

I prefer tools like Dodge Ram 3500 or MB Sprinter an office-van version (currently own after selling Ram 3500 with large camper-trailer). Same point of view on speakers and other components pretty-much.


if I'm buying a $400,00 speaker those issues become irrelevant, as I could spend and do whatever made then sound their best...in my real world, I usually avoid fussy...

Let me see.

Either I have a speaker that will be a pain in the butt to get the sound right or a speaker that is easy to get the sound right?

This will require further analysis. I will get back to you in January.

The versatile product typically gets boring because the performance is not quite up to the ability of the fussy (assuming the fussy can be better under x circumstance). 

This is where the audiophile tests both speakers, and may lose tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars drawing hypothesis and seesawing back and forth between the two, or many other similar products.

This happens until he gets "wise" and gets "off the merry-go-round" and sees the light in a product that is both versatile and has the same performance as the fussy. Beware, this is an illusion.

Sooner of later the audiophile realizes that something must have happened to his electricity or the transformers on the street during the evening are now the same as they are during the day. 

This is the tipping point and he is almost guaranteed to err to the fussy again until the cycle continues for a few more years, hundreds of thousands, dealers that need to medicated, and lost wives. The good news is that he will eventually find bliss somewhere some how. 

Speakers choices matter less in itself than their room coupling...I know that the OP know that perfectly well and his thread question is only a pretext for friendly discussion ... Thanks to him ...

We need to know the room and needs first ...

Do you listen only heavy metal and amplified rock show or classical quartet and jazz ?

Anyway i am no more an audiophile ...😊 Lesson learned ...

I listen music in a perfect for me low cost system/room ...

The only criteria to know if your choices of gear/room are right is simultaneous musical/sound ectasy ... You have it or not.... Simple ... It is impossible to upgrade after that MINIMAL threshold of satisfaction , save if you increase by one or many factor of ten the cost of your actual system ... Simple fact from my experience ...I suppose that you have already electrical,mechanical and acoustical workings done right ...Ectasy come only after that ...Ectasy may come without high end component only good one ...It is my case and no i am not deaf ....

I suppose we search for music acoustically well done in a system /room  not high component bragging ...

What even is an "excellent room". That’s the most nebulous part of this abstract hypothetical. I find myself quite happy just avoiding obviously "terrible" rooms (also nebulous, but less so). I think a decent room can generally be made to shine with 2ch stereo, as long as you invest in careful setup and pick an appropriate size & spec of speaker to match room size.

But playing by the rules as you’ve posed - yeah I want NOTHING to do with any large & expensive "fussy" speakers. That just screams to me of some monstrosity with multiple cone drivers spread miles apart (incoherent sound), plus some crazy impedance / phase curve, wild frequency response, and a low efficiency that turns amp selection into some sort of Lord of the Rings style quest.

yes, but Eric is essentially proposing a million dollar system, so I'm assuming there will be professionals to take care of the room and all "fussy issues", making the judgement call irrelevant...

If you are a true audiophile you will get the fussy one so that you fuss with it until your fingers turn blue. Only then it will sound perfect 

Substitute 'spouse/partner' for 'speaker' and you'll have your answer. Musicians have addressed this issue forever, perhaps none better than Delbert McClinton when he sang "One of the Fortunate Few". https://youtu.be/RF_cQ3coetc?si=RdDOavxxCHFU7_b5


@panzrwagn got down with the issue with the analogy...

You can have the 'high maintenance' version that looks 10 but potentially will drive you insane on various levels....😜😖😣🤢...0>100>0 in as many milliseconds...

Or opt for 'versatile'....that which may not be 'perfect', but works well in a variety of 'situations' over the long haul...

...and since the universe we find ourselves in runs the gamut of ecstasy to unbridled terror in its' own fashion, I think I'll hold the hand I've been dealt.

There's enough surprises and ennui enough for this dolt to deal with, thanx....;)

The OP's question does not indicate any downside/trade-offs to owning the un-fussy speakers. Is it a trick question? 


I expect any loudspeaker to be set up according to the manufacturer's setup protocol. In respect of expensive speakers, I'd expect the dealer to do that. Beyond that, I'd choose the speaker that best works with the equipment and room it's going to be paired with.


@tk21 Personally I don’t think it is a trick question, but audiophiles often treat their gear like their children, and look to be their life-long care givers, so maybe there is a downside to owning a system that performs great no matter where it is or what gear it is paired with, and that is that the owner doesn't feel wanted.

Will never know, $400k for speakers is not in my budget. But lets say it was, I would definitely pick the ones that do it all without having to spend an extra million on special amps and cables.

I don’t know.   Give me two specific examples to compare and then we can see.