Different Music, Different Speakers?

Do you need to buy different speakers when you listen to different music genres?

Andrew Walker talks about the technical aspects of speakers.

Different Music, Different Speakers?

Are there specific types of speakers for different types of music? It's really for me an odd question, but it's discussed a lot. I hear people on audio forums and things all the time talking about, "That's a great rock speaker, but it doesn't do jazz well", or "It's great for quiet classical music, but it doesn't rock out if you put something with some heavy bass beat on it." Now, why this is strange to me is a fundamentally well-designed good loudspeaker is a good loudspeaker period. If it's a neutral design, it's going to sound good with anything you throw at it; not a specific type of music, any music genre that you decide to play is going to sound as good as the original recording.

Here's the key; a good neutral loudspeaker that's well-designed will show up flaws in a bad recording. And unfortunately, there are lots of bad recordings out there. There are also some spectacular recordings. It doesn't matter if we're talking about rock, classical, jazz, punk, EDM, whatever you want to talk about, there are good recordings and there are bad recordings. I find it very strange that often people will associate bad sound from a recording with something that the loudspeaker or their audio system is doing wrong when that's not necessarily what's happening.

Now, when I hear people talking about a good classical music speaker, but it doesn't do rock well, I right away think about the technical things that could be going on. It may have a slightly tipped-up high frequency that sounds nice on classical music with strings and things, gives them an ethereal open quality to the sound. But when you put on a badly mastered rock recording that's bright to begin with, it might blow your head off. That's one thing that I think people are talking about in that case.

The other thing is dynamics. When I hear somebody say that speaker's really good if you listen to small ensemble music or jazz trios or jazz quartets, but it doesn't do big orchestral classical works or rock music properly, I'm going to bet that there's some dynamic limitations in that speaker. Maybe it's not comfortable either from producing a lot of distortion or resonances or whatever, playing at louder levels with more complex music. But again, this is a technical aspect about the design of the loudspeaker.

The opposite I hear is a speaker that is said to be good for rock music, maybe it's a little toned down on the top end, so it's not going to sound so bright and so thin. Maybe the woofer section is tuned a little higher in frequency to give you a real good bass punch, but maybe it doesn't have great extension. So now when you play that speaker, you play jazz or classical music on that good rock speaker, maybe it's a little bit dull sounding, maybe there's not good bass extension, and it sounds boomy on those things. But again, this is all tied to the loudspeaker.

I know that people have their preferences and again, I never ever am going to tell you what you're hearing or what your preferences are. Your preferences are just that. If you like the way a particular speaker sounds on rock music and you only listen to rock and nothing else, just pick that speaker. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. Be aware though that if you put on other recordings and it doesn't sound very good, there's probably some technical problems with the design of the speaker.

This is one of the reasons I always suggest when you're auditioning new audio equipment, whether you buy from an online company like us and do a trial, or you go to a dealer and listen to a piece of equipment or loudspeakers, I always recommend playing different types of music. Maybe even play something you don't think you're going to listen to, because tastes change over time. Again, a well-designed speaker will sound as good and as faithful to each recording, whether it's good or bad, no matter what type of music is. It's a total misnomer to suggest that, well, that's a rock speaker or that's a jazz speaker or a classical speaker. What I see in those cases are speakers that are just not well-designed. A good well-designed speaker is just that and will do excellent on any musical material out there.

I hope that answers that question for some of you that use these terminologies about that's a rock speaker or whatever. Thanks a lot for watching.

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