Spectra 1100, Brightness

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Chris Behrens2004-02-23 22:21

Andy, When I get a chance, I spend time audition speakers and I\'ve noticed that some conventional (i.e. dome tweeter) speakers sound more bright than my Spectra 1100\'s. My friend, who owns B&W Nautilus 805\'s swears that my speakers sound ”dark.” I\'ve never owned ESLs before so I don\'t have anything to compare them to. I like the sound, but I\'m worried that maybe something is wrong with my speakers. All the musical spectrum seems present, but it just doesn\'t sound so bright. Is this something that is common to all ESLs or does this indicate a problem. I hope there\'s nothing wrong because I\'d love to tell my friend that his VERY expensive B&Ws sound too bright! Thanks, Chris Behrens


Andy Szabo2004-02-23 22:21

I\'ll assume that you\'ve already adjusted the High Frequency Balance switch to the ”high” position. The switch\'s effects are not dramatic, but it does offer the ability to contour the very top-end response.

The simple answer is that no loudspeaker is perfect, and it is always the least perfect of any component in the system. Each design has its own particular set of limitations and compromises, which have been tailored to meet a specific selling price and intended market. No doubt, the designer\'s taste and listening environment are certainly part of the equation. Your comment ”I like the sound” is what really counts. If a speaker fits your budget, and you enjoy the music it produces, then it is a ”good” speaker. But that doesn\'t mean that another speaker won\'t have one or more characteristics that you like better. And of course, if that speaker is much more expensive, then chances are that it will be better in some way. You get what you pay for!

The more complex answer is that Acoustats have been sometimes criticized for a slightly rolled-off extreme top-end. I think this is a combination of 1) perception, and 2) electrical realities, as follows:

1) Perception: even though an narrow-dispersion ESL might measure reasonably flat on-axis, the total amount of high-frequency energy being delivered to the room may be less than would be delivered by a wide-dispersion tweeter. So, depending on listening position and room acoustics, the ESL may not sound as ”bright”.

2) Electrical Realities: remember that an ESL is a capacitor. Like any capacitor, its impedance decreases as frequency increases. Extending extreme top-end response would significantly increase transformer cost, and perhaps more importantly, would decrease the already low high-frequency impedance (currently about 2 ohms at 20-kHz). This is a classic trade-off between construction cost, providing a ”friendly” amplifier load, and getting that last ”nth degree” of performance.

But I wonder if it is the extreme top-end where you hear the difference, or just an overall difference in treble balance? Remember that room placement/acoustics will have a profound effect on the speaker\'s performance. Even if your room does not significantly affect the top end response, but does emphasize the bass, then the treble can sound lean by comparison. In any case, I doubt there is anything wrong with your speakers.

I\'m sure that you\'ll still be able to find many characteristics in which your speakers excel, compared to your friend\'s B&W\'s. Even if only on a performance-per-dollar basis, I\'m sure you got the better deal!

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