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Speakers Now, Or Forever Hold Your Peace of Mind

Buying speakers is sort of like buying a car: just about any will get you where you want to go, but some are more fun, some more expensive, some more glitzy, some more practical, some bigger and more complicated than they need to be, some are just not pleasant, some delight, some are fast. Like automobiles, speakers come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes, designs and colors. There must be more than 1,000 different speaker models to choose from, emanating from at least 100 manufacturers, and the sheer number of choices and the mysteries under the hood of each one can add to the dilemma of finding the right one. Trying to choose the right speaker is further complicated by a dealer’s showroom, where a number of variables can alter the basic sound of a box.

Last month I tried to uncover what makes speakers speak and what makes good speakers communicate some of music’s deeper content rather than just going through the motions. Briefly, Meadowlark Audio’s Pat McGinty said that the genuine article is a loudspeaker that reaches the listener somehow on an emotional plane, which grabs you, which gets you tapping your feet, which sends chills up your spine. He also said that an acoustic piano, because all its sound is right up front, is a good test for a speaker. Can’t handle piano? Chuck it. Do voices you’ve become familiar with through years of listening sound right? If not, look elsewhere. He also warned of speakers that sound too real, with exaggerated highs or lows, presenting something more like a caricature of a drum set or singer.

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