What is the best way to assess audio gear

Been trying to find this for a while but no luck. Is there a set of terms used to assess audio.
Like sound stage , highs, mid, low. Or is that it

Not sure what your question is. I suggest typing "sound" in the wikipedia search bar.

The first thing to give you an idea of the performance of audio is a frequency response curve. Generally you want a 'flat' frequency response curve (any peaks and valleys within +/- 3db of the mean. Generally you would have to Google to see if someone did the measurements and produced such a curve for a particular piece of equipment.

You can get into a bunch of details on all the difference specs (which is a bit beyond what I can explain well enough). The guys over at audioholics.com could give you a better answer than what I can.

Aside from the scientific approach, it comes down to what sounds good to you. Best to do side by side comparisons of what you are looking at.

there are some general specs you can look at but in the end its about what sounds good to you as anyone can make a speaker that has a 20-20k Hertz response range but that does not mean they all sound the same, everyone does different wear to the hairs in their ears which will cause you to hear things differently than the person next to you so things like separation and what sounds best is subjective.

there are some different trains of thought such as do you want the flattest response curve to your ears or do you want something that will make your preferred music type sound best but that is different then the best way.

Assessing audio can be pretty nebulous as folks use some terminology interchangeably and things are so subjective based on preference and how people's ears react to sounds. Some things are really easy to quantify - "bass is super overwhelming", etc, but other subtleties are hard to describe many times. I'd suggest watching some reviews on the HeadFi YT channel and see what terminology they use frequently. Then you can start researching the terms to see if there's good definitions and descriptions of each.


In terms of measurements of speakers there are several useful ones. On-axis frequency response, waterfall plots, power response, impulse response, THD/or better yet, graphs with individual distortion components. The problem with these is that to make sense of them, you need to know some amount about acoustics/speaker design to interpret the data - And a healthy amount of experience listening. Another problem is that rarely any hifi/high-end speaker manufacturers publish this data (in the case they even bother doing the measurements for themselves.)

I would say best way to purchase speakers is to loan test pairs from a shop and listen to them at your own house. It's especially useful, since room is the second most important factor (after speakers) in the audio chain.

In the case you want to express your listening experience to others, I suggest you accustom yourself to the audiophile lingo by listening to and reading reviews.

As far as terms go there's: soundstage, highs/treble, mids, lows/bass, and timbre (pronounced tam-burr) which is a word to describe the unique qualities of the sound that are difficult to measure but easily perceived. If you want to do measurements yourself you will need an oscilloscope and have a working knowledge of sound physics in order to interpret the data.

Check the price. Obviously any of your $2000 cables are going to provide MUCH better sounding audio than some cheap ebay cables. AudioQuest for the win!


Just to be clear, faftek is being a bit sarcastic ;)

Cables just need to be of good manufacturing quality, but any copper cable should do. Wire gauge is a factor depending on distance, but $50 on cables is generally plenty.

In most cases in audio price will be representative of quality. The two main exceptions are Bose products, and the snake oil sold in the cable market.

As far as an introduction to measuring speaker quality goes, just focus on speaker quality for now ;)

Wouldn't Beats be an exception as well? Or did you leave that out because it's fairly obvious?

Freaking christ people.

1: frequency response is useless. Frequency response is measured with a bunch of equipment that either does not mimic the human ear at all, or does a shitty job of it.

Unless you are the terminator, frequency response is stupid. ALWAYS find a way to listen to a product. If you can not find any way at all, talk to people and find someone you trust to give you some guidance.

2: expensive digital cables are dumb. Expensive analog cables may or may not be dumb.

Sorry to tell you guys this, but there are people far more fortunate then us lovely bunch, and they have a 200K+ audio setup. Sometimes you literally have the best of everything you can buy, and the ONLY think you can do to improve the system is 2K dollar rca cables.

Trust me, I have seen/heard it.

3: price doesn't mean shit unless you are talking about audio note. Audionote is one of if not the only company that literally makes everything. They make their own capacitors, resistors, wire, transformers, and everything in between. THEN price means something.

4: terminology is retarded. You have bass, mid bass, mids, mid highs, highs. Those are not fancy audiophile terms, those are terms to describe actual frequency ranges.

Sound stage is pointless because different people perceive sound stage differently. So its personal preference.

Here is the bottom line. I have been to a number of audio shows. For every rule of thumb or guideline someone comes up with, I can give you plenty of situations where those guidelines break down.

The only way to properly judge audio is to not give a shit.

Go find some speakers. Sit down, shut up, and listen. Do you like them? Does the audio come across clear and realistic? If so great. If not move onto something else.

You're missing the point. Flat on-axis frequency response is a standard, in the same way color temperature of 6500K, gamma of 2.2 (or 2.4) etc. are standards for monitors and TV's. If a record was mixed and mastered with flat FR speakers, and you are listening to it on flat FR speakers, you are getting what was the record was meant to sound like. This comes to the original meaning of HiFi - reproduction of sound with high fidelity.

Frequency response also gives a speaker designer plenty of other useful data; It gives a very good idea of the delayed response of the speaker (resonances), impulse response (fourier transformation of FQ), group delay (1st derivative of phase) etc.

On-axis frequency response, though, is obviously all there is to a speaker sound quality, as important, or more important, is the power response - The total amount of radiated sound energy the speaker outputs as function of frequency.

If you're a budding producer or audio engineer I would suggest reading,
Loudspeakers - For Music Recording and Reproduction by Philip Newell and Keith Holland.
This book is the Holy Grail of speaker theory and application in a reference environment for audio production and engineering.

If you're after high quality active monitors, I would recommend Focal, Adam, Genelec, Neumann and Unity Audio. Particularly, Unity Audio's Boulder MKII's, Neumann KH 420's, Focal SM9's and Adam S4XH's.

Really just qualitative means of comparing speaker for my self any way, its way easier if you have points of reference.


You know the best most natural sounding speakers in the world are designed by trial and error and actual old fashion tuning?

I wonder why that is?

Look, I have listened to plenty of speakers that claim to be tuned for FR and god knows what else. They all sound like shit.

I play the bass guitar and I can tell you that it sounds far more accurate on a non FR speaker than a fr speaker.

And ultimately my point is that for something to be reproduce perfect sound, there are thousands of small factors that go into it.

NO ONE has ever and will ever master each and every little factor. And the catch is that the more you try to make something as perfect as possible the more easily a missed factor can screw up the whole damn thing.

Listen to this. Its a system that will never test well. The guy is actually playing a duet with himself through the speakers. Can you tell the difference.

I could, but it was very hard to tell. And before you say it is because of the video. Please know I was actually in that room while the video was being shot.

Sure, and plenty of measurements every step of the way.

You don't "tune" for FR when designing speakers. It's actually not that hard to get a flat on-axis frequency response on a speaker with a given passband, it's everything else that is hard (Power response, low distortion, extending the frequency range, phase linearity etc.)

Speaking of which, I'm sure Audio Note's speaker designers worked very hard to make that flawed concept of a speaker to sound acceptable or even good. I'm also pretty sure they cost a lot for how compromised they are.

If you mean electric bass sound from a bass cabinet, instrument speakers are almost never made to have flat FR, in fact, the elements are intentionally made to color the sound that you would get from the pick-ups. For music CREATION this is fine, but for reproduction (of the high-fidelity sort) that's a no-no.

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