Not many stereo systems can come close to reproducing the peak levels of live music. In fact, I’ll step out onto the ledge and say you’ve never heard a speaker that can even come close to live levels. I know that I haven’t. And, yet, we believe our systems get close to the sound of live music.
Often, what we want to be true just simply isn’t. I know, it’s as painful as when I tell people their speakers need a subwoofer. They don’t like to be told that because the story they bought into from the speaker manufacturer was that it’s “full range”, dipping its toe into the 20Hz region. No, it probably isn’t. Just like no, your speaker isn’t hitting 120dB peaks like instruments can.
For example, did you know a piano can hit peaks of 110dB? Electric keyboards 118dB, a piccolo 120dB, a trumpet 113dB, and a symphonic orchestra peaks of 120dB to 137dB are common.
I have been convinced for quite some time, as was our codesigner in the upcoming PS Audio loudspeaker line, the late Arnie Nudell, that a speaker’s inability to hit these peaks without distortion or compression is a key factor in getting us closer to the sound we all crave, live unamplified music.
To be clear, I am not talking about playing music at loud levels. Quite the contrary. As my readers know I believe every track of music has a perfect volume setting within a room. Too loud or too quiet beyond the perfect and we lose the magic inside the music. But once you listen at the proper levels, is your system—both electronic and speaker—capable of hitting the same loud peaks a musician does?
The answer is no. And if you think that’s incorrect, have another thought.
Over the next few days, we will spend some time looking and learning together on the subject.
In the meantime, I have a bit of homework for you. First, download and read Keith Howard’s exceptional piece on the subject in the May, 2018 edition of HiFi News.
Second, if you want more, watch my video on the subject of why manufacturers don’t routinely build high-efficiency speakers.