I'm one of those "snake oil" guys, but you'd best think again if you assume I'm just another yahoo blindly enamored with high dollar everything.
Electronic components make a difference. So do cables. If you go into a mastering house, one of those places you take your finished master recording to be "mastered" into an album quality product fit for stamping into CDs, you'll see something amazing. There are electronics that cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are cables that sometimes cost thousands of dollars. It isn't priced like that because someone sold the whole world of mastering houses a load of serpent fluid. Engineers made these decisions when audio recording and production reached the point that recordings were within a few decibels of the live performance. The engineers who made these arcane devices made them with expensive discreet capacitors, resistors, transistors and other components. Sometimes they use high purity copper wire, sometimes silver. They use this stuff because the changes that are made to the sound of our recordings is some kind of black magic. The signal is distorted, but in a way which makes the ear very happy.
Every one of the components in your stereos and HT rigs change the sound from the original recordings. The secret of audiophile and studio gear is to use expensive components to work some kind of synergistic magic, so that the speaker elements that throw air waves at you make you think you're listening to a live performance. And guess what? The frequency response curve isn't as important as what your ears are telling you.
That may sound like some kind of audio heresy on the scale of wife swapping or something, but it makes sense if you understand what it represents, and that's the boundaery of the waveform bumping against your eardrums. And think, how many speakers with fairly flat frequency measurements sound flat, lifeless, or downright bad? One flat speaker can have you walking away, while another speaker can fix you in the listening position until hunger or the store closing (or your significant other) yanks you away? And even more interesting, another speaker with a few deviations in the frequency response can sound much better. And even more, a frequency graph will tell you absolutely nothing about how deep the soundstage is or how well the speaker images. And here's a kicker: a flat high end curve can still sound as shrieky and unpleasant.
You might be horrified to know that the frequency curve at your listening position can undulate like the Alps. But it obviously makes you happy or you'd send the speakers back with a letter as subtle as a napalm strike, right?
The reason a speaker sounds incredible is all about the synergy between the crossover, cabinet and speaker elements. And even your source, amp and cables figure into this. Your system is a musical instrument, just like a violin, and the more cost put into it, the better it's going to sound. A few of you get defensive when it's implied the Axiom line can be improved, despite the knowledge that Axiom themselves have and are continuing to upgrade their designs. And how many times have you read "These Axiom speakers are a great buy for the price
," or "An unbeatable value for the price
Hint: things can be better. How much better is up to debate and in person listening, but still. Axiom isn't putting B&W, Sonus Fabre, Thiel or Vienna Acoustics out of business. And let's face it, there's a company called Aperion which might be showing up the Axioms in a few ways as they are.
Some of you might scoff, but others might like to click here
to peek into the mind of a speaker maker of some renoun, Tony Gee, famous among the DIY community as well as a few speaker company heads. This guy doesn't fool around. Articles like these among others are evidence that using high end components can improve the sound of a speaker, sometimes dramatically.
Before I even heard of Skiing Ninja, I'd decided I was going to contact Axiom and see if I could convince them to employ these high end components in their crossover. In fact, I'm determined to. You might ask why I'm being so picky over a speaker line as highly regarded as the Axiom. I could just take the easy route and go buy some B&Ws, Vienna Acoustics or Thiels, but I really want to buy some Axioms. It's because they captured my heart, from the elegance of their speakers to the people who make up the company. But I'm a studio guy and an audiophile, and I want some Axioms made with as little compromise as I can afford. Both for my stereo and my studio room to use as monitors.
In fact, if some of this discussion nudges the good people up north to produce a line of high end speakers along with the stuff they sell now, I'd be more than happy. I'd pay twice the price for an M600, for example, which could go toe to toe with anything from B&W, Sonus Faber, Thiel or Vienna. They would be more lovely, and they would be more affordable. And the old lines could continue to sell just fine. I don't think anyone would have any problem with that.