SPEAKER TIPS for
by Steve Deckert
came to me the other day, a pleasant young man who was
very intelligent, he needed to install a new computer
here in the shop. (We won't get into what happened to
the old one!)
brought in a pair of speakers, one pictured at the left, in
hopes that I could repair them for him. I could see he thought
they were really good speakers... and I didn't have the heart
to tell him otherwise. I hope he doesn't bump into this page,
or if he does, I hope he appreciates the education.
he left it dawned on me that so many people are like him, victims
of ignorance, and by no fault of their own... really. So I thought
I would just snap a picture of his speaker and use it as a visual
aid to help educate the average person of the mass stereo crazed
BEWARE - HERE WE GO!
speaker above looks pretty impressive doesn't it! Gee, with
six drivers, the largest one being a 12", it's almost amazing
it doesn't cost that much. If you were standing at your favorite
stereo superstore looking at this speaker you might think the
same thing. Your eyes caress the thick aluminum high tech looking
components... and basic logic dictates that with six speakers
it has to be better than some of the other cabinets in the room
that have less! Then you notice situated just below the triple
tweeter array a label that says DIGITAL READY. Well you're sure
that must be good because everything today is going digital
right? And some of the other speakers don't say that. Your mind
begins to race and you pace around the room pretending to look
at other speakers while the fantasy of showing these to your
friends finishes playing out in your head. The salesman finally
shows up and you ask him to play them for you. He turns them
on and a'la your preconceived expectations, it sounds great,
and loud too. Okay, okay, enough of that... Let's just get into
the individual components and see what's really taking place
cabinet has the vinyl wood grain look finish, vs. real wood.
The salesman explains that's why they cost less. Boy was
completely un-braced back of the cabinet is only 1/2 inch
thick. Any time you knock on the sides or back of a speaker
and it sounds like a hollow closet, you can be assured it
is not a high quality cabinet.
12 inch woofer at the bottom of the cabinet.... is a passive
radiator. A passive radiator is a speaker cone that has
no magnet or voice coil. It simply has a weighted center
that resonates at a certain frequency. It is an alternate
way of "porting" a speaker box. A passive radiator
like this costs around $2.00 ea. in mass quantity and here
you thought it was a woofer!
the 12 inch passive and to the left is an 8 inch woofer,
which you thought was a big midrange/midbass unit (one of
the more technical aspects of the speaker.) In the photo
I have it removed and sitting just in front of the cabinet.
I wish it had come out in the photo, but this 8" woofer
has a smooth poly cone, black in color, with a photographic
silk-screened or printed pattern of kevlar so that it looks
like an expensive kevlar cone.
to the large midrange above the 8 inch woofer we see an
impressive looking device, all screened-in with a complex
phase shield in front of the cone. You've seen in magazines
that more expensive speakers have these. It's unfortunate
that this almost huge midrange that looks machined out of
aluminum, is nothing more than a 10 watt 5" paper cone
sealed back midrange hidden behind an elaborate plastic
finally moving to the right we have not one but three tweeters!
The top tweeter is one of those horizontal ribbon or leaf
tweeters that are suppose to be of the best there is. The
two rather impressive looking machined tweeters below that,
like the "leaf" tweeter above them, can be found
to be nothing more than a couple of $1.00 paper 2"
tweeters and a round piezo tweeter stuck behind a plastic
housing that looks like a "leaf" tweeter.
see, if this speaker actually had what it appeared to have,
that is to say high tech machined aluminum drivers, the components
alone would run almost $700.00 for each speaker. Add the cabinets/grills/crossovers
etc. and you'd be at around $1,100.00 ea. The irony is that
if you found and old Yamaha, or JBL speaker with the real components
this speaker tried to look like, they would never have this
many drivers, because, generally, it doesn't sound good.
signs are easy to remember:
on the cabinet, sound hollow... walk away.
the cabinet, could you do it with ease?... walk away.
the speakers... see any plastic?.... walk away.
finally realize that there is no such thing as really great
speakers that somehow cost a fraction of what they should. Use
common sense. In the hierarchy of quality, 1 being the lowest
and 10 being the highest, today's example rates a 2.5
I have to say to Kenwood and everyone else who does this is,
"Shame on you!" There should be a warning label like
cigarettes have that say "Imitation High Quality Speakers."
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2007 2008 by Steve Deckert