Unless backed up by methodical and appropriate measurements, loudspeaker reviews can be very unreliable.
Acoustic measurements which reliably represent human perception of loudspeaker performance have yet to be developed. The basics are clearly in place though. Smooth frequency response both on and off axis, low driver distortion, low speaker cabinet colouration are all well established prerequisites for excellent performance.
The variables from there however are many. Clearly some speakers perform better in some rooms than in others and some are designed for specific placements.
Dispersion patterns and driver placements on the baffle have a dramatic effect on measured response at different microphone positions and distances. Reviewers who insist on a standard measuring position or distance that the speaker is not recommended for, can seriously mis-represent a loudspeakers performance.
Distortion is something we have always assumed was a critical indicator of sound fidelity. However, once it drops down to a certain level, it ceases to be a reliable indicator. Note the Panasonic digital amp receivers which Newform has so often endorsed. The distortion on the original XR45 model was 0.9% at its rated output of 100w/ channel. On this basis alone, the receiver would be laughed out of any room populated by audiophiles. However, upon hearing the receivers, many experienced audiophiles dumped their much more expensive, better measuring and well reviewed amplifiers for these cheap little lightweight receivers.
Ditto tube amplifiers which also add, in many cases, alarming departures from flat frequency response. But many rational people still love them!
Everyone hears differently and everyone listens for different things. Be very careful when a reviewer waxes poetic about a loudspeaker (or other audio component) whose measured response looks highly flawed.
Ditto for reviews conducted in poor listening rooms. Rooms that are highly unrepresentative of the average room have to be viewed as Distorting the review. If the reviewer doesn’t describe his room, and you are seriously considering the speakers based on his opinion, by all means email him and ask about his listening conditions.
Loudspeaker reviewing, whether in print or on the web, is a highly variable process so get as much background as possible on the reviews of loudspeakers which really interest you.
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