Would you buy a pair of speakers by just looking at the measured freq. response?

Would you?  Or you have to listen first?

Personally I think the freq. response only tells so much of the speakers.  At the end of the day, you have to listen.


No. I don’t look at frequency responses. Professional reviews and personal auditions only.


Off-axis response, impulse response, dynamic range, distortion, all matter. 

I also have to say that, by the same token, I wouldn't buy a subwoofer and configure it based on published specs either.  The speaker in the room is a very different beast than the speaker in the lab.

Maybe add a little. I’ve come to learn that certain reviewers like a ragged response in the tweeter. I do not. Mind you, I did not first look at the response and hten decide what to like, I really disliked two speakers I had listened to in person for having a treble response I found unlistenable, then I read the reviews with measurements and went AHA!!

That ragged, up and down response between 3 to 10khz really bugged me, but the (very important and famous) reviewers praised both these makers for the same reasons, calling one a poor man’s version of the other. Ugh.

Also, a speaker like modern Dali, many models have stepped up mid-tweeter response. I can hear it and you can see it in the plots.  BTW, this design has it's uses I just am not looking for that.

So, while I would never buy based on measurements I’d probably avoid a few based on them.

If measured well that would absolutely influence my buying decision all other things aside because I have been around enough to take that info for what it’s worth but buying any speakers without hearing first is risky business. If you do it buy used so can resell or buy with a suitable return policy only.  Otherwise be willing to take a financial hit especially for pricey high end items.  

Use the frequency response graph as a preliminary filter (kind of like tossing away candidates that didn’t go to college when reviewing résumés), but don’t ever buy speakers from a store or seller that doesn’t have a decent return policy and/or allow at-home auditioning of equipment because the room you set the speakers up in is equally important as the natural response curve of the speakers because the acoustics of the room will heavily dictate which speakers work out for you and which ones won’t.


PS On a related, but separate note, I wouldn’t really hesitate to rely heavily on a frequency response curve if researching in-ear-monitors or headphones. Totally different situation there, and part of why I consider headphones a lot easier to pin down.

Overall no. It tells nothing how the speaker sounds. Kinda similar to an amp with .0007 THC (oops, I meant THD). Doesn't tell you how the amp sounds at all.

Yes It’s true that precision microphones used to measure frequency response tell you nothing about how speakers sound. Go figure! 

Measured frequency response is all you need to make an informed decision.

Listening is just so fake (like a reality show).



Sure as long as the impulse response and the waterfall also look good with an earthworks or better microphone and a competent test setup technician…..

my way of saying this is either a brilliant or idiotic OP ? 

Many years ago, a magazine did a review of a Dunlavy speaker with a remarkably flat response, both on and off axis, very little resonance evident in the waterfall plot, and the closest thing I ever saw to the ideal impulse response.  I thought it showed promise of being the best speaker I had heard until I actually heard it; it wasn’t bad, but it sounded dry, and lifeless compared to some speakers that did not test so well. 
We should also keep in mind that frequency response tests are only rough approximations given that ideal testing setups are hard to achieve.  In Washington State, there is a testing company that has a test chamber inside of a nuclear reactor that was never commissioned.  The chamber is something like 500 feet long and nearly as wide.  The company guarantees accuracy of a speaker response test down to something like 35 hz.  This makes me wonder about tests done under less ideal conditions.y

No, that's just hoping the speakers actually are to your liking and hope is not a plan

Actually, speakers are the audio component where there is the best correlation between measurements and sound.

However, I would never buy a speaker based on measurements, because, while they tell you a fair amount, they don't tell you enough.


@deKay - LMAO

@yoyoyaya - Love the handle!

@OP - Look at your speakers as a musical instrument. They will sound different in every environment. Most houses are not built for good sound reproduction from our systems. You have to tailor a system for each room.

I LOVE my Dynaudio’s. The same exact setup sounds amazing in one room in the house…. But… when I take the same system and put that in my bedroom it sounds awful. 

So, point is that stats don’t mean all that much. Speakers, like instruments, are personal preference and no amount of statistics should sway you away from your ears.

Just like a guitarist seeks ‘their sound’ (or voicing) you will do the same thing with you speakers.

Most of this I am sure you already know as I am not revealing any great secret knowledge as this has all been repeated ad nauseam.   

On any equipment I buy, which is pretty much everything I buy, I do exhaustive research on manufacturer history and reputation if I am not already familiar with them. I pour over all the reviews I can find with emphasis on actual user reviews first, and hobbyist publications second. While I do look at the specs, they are a very minor part of my evaluation, and I completely ignore reviews that use bench lab gear to pick apart specifications. Especially where speakers are concerned, I look for user reviews from users who like the type of music I like. Glowing reviews about how great classical music sounds don’t do me any good because I don’t listen to classical music. 

Your personal ears and what sounds best to them will always be the only thing that matters in the end. If everybody had an identical set of ears and taste of what sounds good to them, measurements would be meaningful. Obviously that will never be the case. I used measurements to build my house of stereo, not to pick my equipment.

At the factory, frequency response is measured at very low volume level at a constant signal with the microphone placed in the optimum location. (+/- Xdb @ 1 watt, 1 meter).  It shows nothing of the character of the speaker when things really get going.

I'd be kinda like buying a car based on measured sound levels with a mic positioned at center console position going 30 mph on a pefectly flat surface.  Not much of an indicator of whether or not it has the potential to create a possible medical emergency for passengers over 70 when you stomp on the "gas", or try to impress seasoned auto-crossers during cornering, or test the effectiveness of shoulder harnesses when you lock up the brakes.   Or, whether it just gets you from Point A to Point B as quietly and comfortably as possible. 

You gotta listen to 'em.

I will tell you a great way to pick a speaker. Look for Canadian  built speakers that were designed in the national research  council s anecchoic chamber and decide if you want to buy a God awful  speaker or not. If you want an awful speaker pick one of those the higher the cost the worse the speaker  if you want a better speaker pick anything  else. By the way I am just telling it the way it is about our speaker industry.  There are a few good speakers made here but I have yet to listen  to a good speaker that was design in that chamber. 

As @erik_squires said, frequency response is but ONE measure that is important. Maybe not the most important one either. But yeah, I look at frequency response curves to see if a speaker is jacked up in a range I don’t enjoy or if they’ve added a bass bump to make up for not have great bass extension.

Sadly, many manufacturers in the mass consumer market don’t even publish a frequency response curve but only say meaningless ranges like 40Hz to 20KHz without even telling you the +/- dB levels in that range.

So "no" I’d definitely not buy speakers based on ONLY their frequency response curve.  Impedance is important too and knowing how low it can go and at what frequency can tell you if your amp is even capable of driving them well. 

Unless you were a very specialized collector, would you buy a car without driving it first?

Post removed 

This question is so easy it makes me wonder if it was written by a 'bot to generate user engagement.

No more than I'd  purchase a piece of art based on its written description. 

While it's not the only factor, frequency response is indeed one of the main considerations in my speaker procurement. Ideally, the speakers you're interested in should have a home audition period of at least 30 days with a favorable return policy. I followed this approach for my main system in the living room. I went through two rejections before finally settling on the third set, which is my current speaker. The entire procurement process took me a literal six months to complete.

Acquiring my second set of speakers for the master bedroom proved to be a lengthier process. I was particularly interested in the Burchardt S400 mkii, which is sold by a direct sales company. Although they offered a 45-day in-home auditioning policy, there was a cost of approximately 100 euros for return shipping. Despite this, encouraged by positive reviews from trusted reviewers and user feedback, I decided to give it a try. During that time period, I invested significant time and effort, more than with the first set, in making room acoustic adjustments, SPL measurements, and repositioning to fine-tune the speaker performance. After the speaker are fully broken in and a month's daily listening, I made up my mind to keep them.  It's been almost a year now, and I haven't regretted my decision since. This is how much time and effort I took to acquire speakers.  Is it my dream end-game speaker? Well, no, but it's certainly the speaker that brings me joy in music listening within my current budget or the investment I'm willing to make at this moment.

I believe it's crucial to audition the speakers in your own space. Before making a purchase, it's essential to conduct thorough due diligence by shop auditions and studying reviews and user feedback to narrow down the final list. Frequency response is a key consideration for my screening process but I would never, and I believe no one should, make a purchase solely based on that factor without conducting a home audition because the actual response performance is always room dependent.

While the ears can tell the difference in sound between a paper cone, aluminum, ceramic, soft dome vs. hard dome, is there a measurement out there that can measure these things?

The original question in this post is an important one, vitally so for an ambiguous assumption inherently made in its wording, and taken up by the many responses that follow. This assumption concerns the phrase “to listen first”, generally interpreted to mean, anywhere.

It is my sense of things that an accurate listening for change, both better or worse, can only happen specifically, a single component change at a time, in the familiarity of one’s own system; with one’s established knowledge of its specifically selected components; of amps, DACs, servers, preamps, cabling, isolation, grounding, sources, and power supplies; within the familiarity of one’s own listening space and its unique pattern of reverberant air. Each our listening abilities is built on this foundation of familiarity.

It is also rarely discussed that never do the systems at dealer showrooms or elsewhere sound as good, or half as good, than that of our own systems. Of course it can only seem so - never mind the common fact of improper set-up, the psychological bias of familiarity immediately puts us in a position of compromise in our not being as capable of perceiving the nuance of something new and unaccustomed, and in typically taking preference for the known and comfortable.

Now, never mind one’s lack of familiarity with the entire ‘system’, a simple consideration of just one component in that entire unfamiliar system in its unfamiliar room would render any personal gauge of how it sounds, irrelevant; there being­ just too many unknown variables to account for.

It is for this reason of contextual familiarity that I only seek out those reviews, either professional or by those select members of audio forums who have established systems and listening rooms to gauge their findings by. In turn, I too base my abilities to listen on specificity, on my listening muscle memory of a system I built with the resonant intimacy of a room I know, through my ears and in my listening place.

All other kinds of general ways I ‘first’ listen, do not and cannot count, in my journey to understanding what anything one speaker, component, or room sounds like.


In friendship, kevin.

OP yes…there is a German company that makes a laser scanner of the cone or diaphragm in motion in comparison to the input signal…. You might be surprised how poorly some materials do at reproducing the input…..



Ot would be really interesting to hear if the comparison has a direct positive correlation with perceived sound quality. Microphone flat frequency certainly does not. 

@ghdprentice this issue is other confounding variables. The scanner is measuring cone breakup modes … sometimes the ( in the example i am most familiar with a very popular and expensive paper 5” mid is often out of phase with the input…. So add in a mid cabinet, inert or not, a large or small baffle and even a simole filter network and correlation…might prove elusive….

My prefered designer is a measure and listen guy….. ( since 1977 )

There is no replacement for how the speaker sounds in your room.   While so many things can be meassured, you would have to know how it applies to your unique conditions and taste, and even then there is so many variables. 

With bigger speakers it can be quite challenging to get the possibility to sample them in your own room, though!  :-) 

That actually inspired the dream speaker review series on my channel, Stjernholm Reviews, where the Silverback Listening team and I sample dream speakers in individual listening sessions to try to deliver some sound perspective from different listener profiles.