PS AUDIO: Why it probably doesn’t make sense to hold loudspeaker designers to a flat spec

Paul McGowan writes:

My suggestion that it probably doesn’t make sense to hold loudspeaker designers to a flat spec certainly generated a few comments and one poster asked me not to fuel the fires of this “movement” because there’s already enough chaos in sound reproduction as it is – let’s not add more in the wrong direction.

While I agree there is certainly a lot of competing and confusing directions in high end audio today, I can’t help the fact that the point of the original post still holds true: striving for a flat loudspeaker response doesn’t make sense.  If that were the goal, which I do not believe it is for most designers, we’d be heading down a path of fostering bad sound in our homes.

I have two reasons for bringing this up: the first is to disspel a seemingly long held notion that what we want is flat when, in point of fact, we don’t.  The second is to let the newest crop of designers know it’s ok to go against the established view if it is in the service of music.

Let me summarize a few points for you made by our group of posters in the comments section plus a few of my own to help clarify.

Flat where?  On axis, off axis or both?
Flat at the measurement point or flat at the listening position?
What about the room?  It’s anything but flat.
Here’s something else to consider: the most sought after musical speakers in the world today are certainly not flat (not even close by electronics standards) and, in fact, no loudspeaker is.

The difference between a musical sounding speaker and one you wouldn’t want to listen to is the skill of the designer in tailoring the “tone control” of the speaker to what he believes sounds right – knowing all along he cannot achieve flat and doesn’t want to.

What you don’t want is to add a pleasing “sound” to your system because over time everything you play will have that same quality to it and that defeats the purpose of having a reference quality system.  What I am referring to wouldn’t be noticeable as a “sound” or coloration and this is where the skill of the designer comes into play.

We’re having fun, learning, discussing and hopefully helping a new crop of loudspeakers designers feel ok about building products that are musically satisfying first, measuring to some mythical standard second.

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