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Multiple speaker bliss!, Mixing speakers in a stereo system.
AudioKitten
post Apr 16 2012, 11:35
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I feel like I'm writing some kind of confessional for I'm sure I've committed some kind of high sin in audiophile land. The other week I was playing with my stereo and ended up connecting two sets of dissimilar speakers. One of each type of speaker in both my left and right channels. What amazed me is how good the combination sounded to me and that I hadn't before heard of multiple dissimilar speakers being used in home audio before.

What I'm pretty sure I'm responding to is the fact that my old speakers seem to add a certain amount of euphonic distortion that I like but pay for it in terms of clarity and resolution whereas my new speakers are clear and transparent but lack the "soft focus" effect that I liked. I found that adding the old speakers on top of the new speakers didn't seem to take away from the system's ability to resolve details but added the nice bit of fuzzy that I was missing.

Kosher, hardly! ...but I like it.

I was wondering how many other people used similar setups or what considerations I might consider as I develop my setup. The only community I've run across so far that mixes speaker types are guitarists but they also like to push single ended triode amplifiers to clipping so...
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Speedskater
post Apr 16 2012, 12:47
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Siegfried Linkwitz has recently been experimenting with a pair of small speakers near the listener, augmenting the main pair of speakers.

http://www.linkwitzlab.com/Watson/watson.htm


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AudioKitten
post Apr 16 2012, 13:14
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Wow, thanks! That's really cool. I'd never thought I'd find a good use for those little palm sized satellite speakers in a stereo setup but I might just have to play with a pair given that they're a dime-a-dozen on Craigslist.

Something similar that I've been playing with has been placing two of the speakers more centrally than the others. The outer speakers being in the normal 45deg from center positions and the other speakers being more 25deg. At the time that I was experimenting with it I was having left/right balance problems with my receiver (still am) so I can't really say what it does to imaging when the channels are known to be well balanced but, at least when it comes to poorly balanced sound output, I found that the speakers to the center helped fill in the "hole in the center" phenomenon but having all the speakers to the outside made the soundstage feel wider. I suppose that's pretty predictable.

I currently have all the speakers out to the sides because I found that tweaking the balance filled in the hole on its own and I like the wide soundstage. Maybe I should get a friend to blindfold me and ABX the arrangement because I'm not sure how much bigger the soundstage is in reality with all the speakers to the side.

The other thing I've tried is pointing half the speakers directly towards the listening position and half the speakers directly back at the opposing wall. It seems to increase the size of the "sweet spot" at the possible expense of clarity, but I can't be sure without blind testing.
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DVDdoug
post Apr 17 2012, 20:40
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If you like the sound... It's your system and you can do whatever you want!!! I'd probably put the second set of speakers in the rear. And, I'd use one of the soundfield on my Pro Logic reciever to put some delay & reverb in the rear. In fact that's how my system is set-up, and my rear speakers are different from my fronts.

QUOTE
I feel like I'm writing some kind of confessional for I'm sure I've committed some kind of high sin in audiophile land.
I'll give you one reason why this could degrade audio quality - Crossover networks introduce phase-shifts. Different speakers will have different crossover frequencies, so at some point in the frequency spectrum, the different speakers are going to be out-of-phase, and the sound will tend to cancel (causing a dip in frequency response).

Complicating this is that at in order to prevent a dip at the crossover frequency, the driver polarity is usually reversed. So, in a 2-way system the tweeter is reversed (relative to the woofer) , and in a 3-way system the midrange is reversed (relative to the woofer and tweeter). And, if you combine a 2-way system and a 3-way system, the tweeters will be out-of-phase (relative to the tweeter in the other system), etc.

If the two systems are at different distances from your ear, the different time-delays will also cause it phase differences and comb filtering effects. Sometimes this can be "interesting" or even pleasing, and it can and give a sense of "space" (such as when you reverse the polarity of one speaker). But, it's NOT "high fidelity". You can get similar comb-filter effects with rear-channel delay. (These effects can be minimized by lowering the volume of the delayed signal so that you never get 100% cancellation.)

QUOTE
I found that tweaking the balance filled in the hole on its own and I like the wide soundstage. Maybe I should get a friend to blindfold me and ABX the arrangement because I'm not sure how much bigger the soundstage is in reality with all the speakers to the side.
I'm sure you CAN tell the difference between the various speaker set-ups in a blind ABX test.

Of course with regular stereo, there are only 2 sound-sources, and the "center channel" and "soundstage" are an illusion. (Unless you've got 5.1 surround and the center channel is really there.) The results depend on the recording, the acoustics, perhaps speaker design, and whatever is going on inside the listener's head to create the illusion. This article about panning describes an experiment that showed how difficult it is to position something in the soundstage. His advice (for mixing engineers) is essentially to forget about trying to precisely position the vocals/instruments and just position everything left, right, or center. Even with everything panned left, right, or center, I assume that many listeners could still get the full-stoundstage illusion.

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The only community I've run across so far that mixes speaker types are guitarists but they also like to push single ended triode amplifiers to clipping so...
Right. The guitar amp & speaker cabinet are part of the "instrument" and they add to the character of the sound. Guitars usually don't sound "right" when recorded direct (without amp simulation) or when played directly through a hi-fi or PA system. High fidelity speakers (and the other parts of the hi-fi system) are supposed to reproduce the recorded sound accurately as possible without adding or subtracting anything.

Most audio equipment comes very close to meeting the goal and that's why most hi-fi amps sound identical (assuming the same wattage output without clipping, etc.) Speakers (and headphones) are the BIG exception, and all speakers sound different.

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Glenn Gundlach
post Apr 18 2012, 06:26
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QUOTE (AudioKitten @ Apr 16 2012, 02:35) *
I feel like I'm writing some kind of confessional for I'm sure I've committed some kind of high sin in audiophile land. The other week I was playing with my stereo and ended up connecting two sets of dissimilar speakers. One of each type of speaker in both my left and right channels. What amazed me is how good the combination sounded to me and that I hadn't before heard of multiple dissimilar speakers being used in home audio before.

What I'm pretty sure I'm responding to is the fact that my old speakers seem to add a certain amount of euphonic distortion that I like but pay for it in terms of clarity and resolution whereas my new speakers are clear and transparent but lack the "soft focus" effect that I liked. I found that adding the old speakers on top of the new speakers didn't seem to take away from the system's ability to resolve details but added the nice bit of fuzzy that I was missing.

Kosher, hardly! ...but I like it.

I was wondering how many other people used similar setups or what considerations I might consider as I develop my setup. The only community I've run across so far that mixes speaker types are guitarists but they also like to push single ended triode amplifiers to clipping so...


Not a new idea. We were selling stereo in the early '70s in Whitewater Wisconsin demonstrating 'double Advents" (I called them QuAdvents). One pair was vertical on 8 inch stands on the floor and the second pair horizontal immediately above the vertical pair. If nothing else is demonstrated how different room placement could dramatically affect the sound of identical units but turning them both on simultaneously was quite a revelation. Of course there were quite a few other pairs on display but Advent were a big seller usually teamed with a Marantz 22xx receiver and Dual turntable with a Shure cartridge. Hey, it was a college town with kids on a budget.

I still run QuAdvents to this day. A few re-foam jobs keeps them all in fine shape. We weren't the only ones doing this by a longshot.

http://www.kallhovde.com/advent/stacked-advent-b.pdf

If it works for you and you're happy, count yourself lucky.

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Nessuno
post Apr 18 2012, 07:33
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 17 2012, 21:40) *
I'd probably put the second set of speakers in the rear. And, I'd use one of the soundfield on my Pro Logic reciever to put some delay & reverb in the rear. In fact that's how my system is set-up, and my rear speakers are different from my fronts.


Surely it depends on which music you are used to prefer. I listen mainly to classical and can't get this multichannel thing. Haven't tried myself, but I imagine it will only worsen my listening experience. If I had to try, I'd put two more speakers in front of me, the way the OP and Linkwitz done.


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Apr 19 2012, 13:06
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 17 2012, 15:40) *
Speakers (and headphones) are the BIG exception, and all speakers sound different.


The same speakers sound profoundly different in different rooms, and are ABX-able if you move them a few inches or rotate them a few degrees.

Headphones have different measured frequency response when people try to measure the SPL at the eardrums of different listeners.

I share JJ's frustration with the fact that so much attention is still being paid to converters and amps when there is so much work to do with rooms, speakers and microphones.
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Gecko
post Apr 19 2012, 18:21
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To expand on what DVDoug said:

In theory mixing different speakers can also mess up your bass due to differing roll-off frequencies and the resulting differences in phase. This is especially true when mixing cabinet designs which have different roll-off characteristics (e.g. closed vs. ported). Actual results may vary. Googling images for "reggae soundsystem" produces some impressive results and they seem to be having fun.
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DVDdoug
post Apr 19 2012, 20:29
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QUOTE (Nessuno @ Apr 17 2012, 23:33) *
QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 17 2012, 21:40) *
I'd probably put the second set of speakers in the rear. And, I'd use one of the soundfield on my Pro Logic reciever to put some delay & reverb in the rear. In fact that's how my system is set-up, and my rear speakers are different from my fronts.


Surely it depends on which music you are used to prefer. I listen mainly to classical and can't get this multichannel thing. Haven't tried myself, but I imagine it will only worsen my listening experience. If I had to try, I'd put two more speakers in front of me, the way the OP and Linkwitz done.
Right!!! The goal of high fidelity is to accurately reproduce the recording.

biggrin.gif They took away my audiophile membership card when I started monkeying with the sound! Even worse, I listen to rock music! biggrin.gif

On the other hand... If you can simulate the sound of a concert hall (to some extent) in your living room, you might like it! wink.gif And, the artificial reverb coming from behind might even be a more accurate representation of the live musical experience. If you don't know anyone with a good home theater system, you might take one of your classical CDs to a home theater store and give it a listen. ("Soundfields" for stereo to 5.1 conversion are included on all receivers/systems with Dolby Pro Logic II.)

I assume there are digital 5.1 channel recordings (DVD's) of classical music with the real room-reverb. I know there are some 5.1 channel ambisonic recordings, but I have not heard one.

I do have lots of 5.1 channel rock-concert DVDs and most sound amazing. But of course, there is a lot of "artificial" mixing & panning so (thankfully biggrin.gif ) you don't get the true room-sound.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Apr 19 2012, 20:32
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Nessuno
post Apr 19 2012, 22:29
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 19 2012, 21:29) *
QUOTE (Nessuno @ Apr 17 2012, 23:33) *
I listen mainly to classical and can't get this multichannel thing. Haven't tried myself, but I imagine it will only worsen my listening experience.
Right!!! The goal of high fidelity is to accurately reproduce the recording.

Yes, it's in the name!

Oh, but… wait a minute… I've always thought that the goal of audio gears is to let me enjoy the music as better as possible! wink.gif


QUOTE
On the other hand... If you can simulate the sound of a concert hall (to some extent) in your living room, you might like it! wink.gif And, the artificial reverb coming from behind might even be a more accurate representation of the live musical experience.

You see, when I attend a concert (and I do this about once a week) I concentrate to hear the actual music, the one the instruments are making, not the sound of the hall. The acoustic of a large concert hall, even the most perfect one has not a value per se, but only inasmuch it helps you to enjoy music even in the actually not so favorable situation of being in a crowded place, far away from the stage, with other people all around you silently-but-not-too-much chatting, coughing, breathing… even snorting sometimes!
Ok, just kidding a little, nevertheless I will gladly exchange a seat in the last row at Wiener Musikverein for the conductor's podium in a bad sounding hall, I tell you, (with the Wieners still in front of me, of course! wink.gif) so what I try to reproduce at home is the podium, not the last row! As to say: larger than... live! biggrin.gif


QUOTE
If you don't know anyone with a good home theater system, you might take one of your classical CDs to a home theater store and give it a listen.

Ok, I'll see if I could try. But, and not to be biased, I know also that what could first makes you raise your eyebrows could also become uninteresting, if not tiresome in the long run: you wow for the first ten minutes, then struggle to concentrate!


QUOTE
I do have lots of 5.1 channel rock-concert DVDs and most sound amazing. But of course, there is a lot of "artificial" mixing & panning so (thankfully biggrin.gif ) you don't get the true room-sound.

Oh yes, I take this for granted: I like rock too and I understand perfectly well what actually makes a live happening experience so much enjoyable, or the cozy atmosphere of a jazz club and I understand that being able to reproduce that good mood is definitely a plus! smile.gif



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Ron Jones
post Apr 20 2012, 02:16
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QUOTE (Nessuno @ Apr 19 2012, 14:29) *
Oh, but… wait a minute… I've always thought that the goal of audio gears is to let me enjoy the music as better as possible! wink.gif

Close. The goal is to spend more on the equipment you use to listen to your music than some other guy. He who spends the most wins!

Audio really is a pretty amazing bit of science, though. It's precise and well-understood, yet at the same time that precision and understanding are meaningless to the experiences people will have. More art than science, really.
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Nessuno
post Apr 20 2012, 07:58
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QUOTE (Ron Jones @ Apr 20 2012, 03:16) *
QUOTE (Nessuno @ Apr 19 2012, 14:29) *
Oh, but… wait a minute… I've always thought that the goal of audio gears is to let me enjoy the music as better as possible! wink.gif

Close. The goal is to spend more on the equipment you use to listen to your music than some other guy. He who spends the most wins!

So I must throw away my two channel (22 years old!) main system and run to buy the latest super-multi-surround system DVDdoug is trying to sell me? biggrin.gif

QUOTE
Audio really is a pretty amazing bit of science, though.

Wrong! Dangerously wrong!
Just reach for the nearest Stereoph... (ahem wink.gif) audiophile magazine and you'll find plenty of perfectly sounding scientific reasons to throw more and more and more money on gears!
I can demonstrate you with a little of math that 24 bits are better than 16: the more bits the lower quantization noise and that's science.

But hi-fi is actually a matter of engineering (applied science, if you want) and being myself an engineer I know that it's all about targets. No engineer at work lifts a finger if they don't give him a target, then first of all verify for feasibility, then search a way to test for reached target. And once reached, adding more science adds only to costs, not to revenue.

Back to the topic at hand, my target as a classical listener is not to accurately reproduce the sound of an orchestra in a concert hall, but to accurately reproduce the music made by the instruments in the space in front of me and, in the very end, to enjoy the composer's and performers artistic choices, not concert hall designer's.

This post has been edited by Nessuno: Apr 20 2012, 08:05


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