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The Blind Listening Experience
#322475 09/15/10 12:57 AM
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fredk Offline OP
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The most interesting part of the Saturday sessions at Axiom was the blind listening test. We were given a ranking sheet with various categories, shown the volume control and the switcher and left to our own devices.

In a brainfart moment, I left all my reference discs at home and had to make due with material at the factory, but in the end, I don't think it made any difference.

Maybe it was because this was the first kick at the blind listening can, but I found it difficult to characterize many of the differences. I found it hard to put into words what I heard. Most of what I write below, I figured out listening to others describe the two speakers, but before any of us knew what the two were.

The one thing that was dead obvious was the difference in sound-stage. Speaker 2 had a MUCH wider sound-stage than speaker 1. I could pick that out every time no matter what track I had on.

Everything else seemed to depend on the material. OK, maybe there was one other thing. On speaker one, female vocals were noticeably more forward.

I originally ranked speaker 2 as slightly better than speaker 1, but that did not sit well with me, even right after I handed my sheet in. I wish I had another opportunity to listen, but we barely got through everyone on the Saturday as it was.

Here are some of my impressions:

Female vocals: on some material speaker one sounded markedly better, on other stuff, there was no difference. When it sounded better, it was cleaner and more transparent. Like the singer was there with you.

Treble. Sometimes speaker one seemed to have more clarity and sometimes not. Sometimes speaker two sounded a little veiled and sometimes not. There was a definite difference, but it was not always easy to characterize. At times speaker 2 sounded a little smoother. This, combined with the sound-stage and imaging made it sound quite a bit better on some passages.

Sound-stage/imaging. Speaker two always had it on sound-stage and had a slight edge on imaging. In one passage where there was both cymbals and a tambourine, I heard the delicate sounds of both instruments clearly on speaker two, but it was kind of mashed together on speaker one. How to characterize it really confused me for quite a while.

Bass. In hindsight, its quite obvious why I heard what I did, but at the time this area was also quite confusing. On some passages, speaker two just sounded smoother and more balanced. It had (or seemed to have) bass that the other speaker didn't. On other passages it sounded a little bloated or fat. On close listening to individual instruments I just could not pick out what it was that 'more' about the bass.

The sheet helpfully hinted at the kick-drums, so I looked for passages with good kick-drums and damned if I could not consistently pick out a winner. The sounded pretty much the same I guess.

In the end I chose speaker 2 as slightly better over all, but in hindsight, I think they are, as Alan put it, "similarly good". Speaker 2 gets it on imaging and sound-stage, speaker one on clarity and the presence of female vocals.

Given the two speakers, the M3 gets a HUGE win on price.


Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!
Re: The Blind Listening Experience
fredk #322478 09/15/10 01:08 AM
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Nice to hear your thoughts on that fredk. Which one was 1 and what was labeled as 2?


I’m armed and I’m drinking. You don’t want to listen to advice from me, amigo.

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Re: The Blind Listening Experience
BlueJays1 #322480 09/15/10 01:27 AM
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Speaker 2 was the Axiom M3 and speaker 1 was the B&W.


I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you.
Re: The Blind Listening Experience
pmbuko #322483 09/15/10 01:43 AM
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I actually had two sessions with the speakers. On my first one I played at high volume a Police cover "Walking on the Moon" by the Dutch jazz group Yuri Honing Trio. Its a well recorded piece of drums, bass and sax that slowly build to a loud crescendo. I thought both speakers reproduced snare, kick drum, sax and string bass very well, though the B & W had more natural sounding cymbal hits than the M3, which was not as defined and more splashy.

I went back in after lunch to hear female vocals and played Eva Cassidy's cover of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". The B & W was more sibilant, more shhhhhy, than the M3 which was more natural with the female voice.

I gave the B & W the nod by a hair because I thought it reproduced percussion a bit better and I've gotten used to some sibilance in closely miked female vocals. However I would never purchase that speaker when the M3 is priced at less than a fifth of the cost of the B & W.


John
Re: The Blind Listening Experience
fredk #322485 09/15/10 01:51 AM
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Fred, good to hear your impressions. Yes, from your description, I'd agree that "similarly good" would probably be a fair judgment for you(no "huge", "night-and-day" or "blows away" nonsense).

Time and possibly equipment constraints likely wouldn't have made it feasible, but it would have been interesting if instead of just a preference test on speakers, a test on difference detectability on an item such as a cable, player or amplifier which is the subject of much audio fantasy, could have been included. Of course, Axiom is primarily a speaker company, so it's natural that the two speaker preference test was the one run.


-----------------------------------

Enjoy the music, not the equipment.


Re: The Blind Listening Experience
JohnK #322489 09/15/10 02:22 AM
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I expect that a party on Ian's dock with a band playing through a pile of M80s satisfied more audio fantasies than any cable test we could imagine wink


M60ti, VP180, QS8, M2ti, EP500, PC-Plus 20-39
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Re: The Blind Listening Experience
jakeman #322496 09/15/10 02:54 AM
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For me, too, it was a close call. There were several tracks where it could have gone either way. My very first impression (under 10 seconds) was the M3. After that some tracks went one way, some went the other. It boiled down to a female voice on a David Benoit/Russ Freeman track that was in front and more 3 dimensional with the B&W (and as John said, more sibilant - but with that more natural), but fell back and was a bit more flat with the M3. I also played track 1 of Classic YoYo (Bach) - Believe it or not, to me it was too clean on the M3 - if that's possible. It sounded better, but less natural. so the nod went to the B&W. As John said, for a fifth the price, there's NO question which I'd purchase; the M3.

Scott


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Re: The Blind Listening Experience
bridgman #322511 09/15/10 03:16 AM
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fredk Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: bridgman
I expect that a party on Ian's dock with a band playing through a pile of M80s satisfied more audio fantasies than any cable test we could imagine wink

Indeed. I agree with John that blown away is pretty much an over used nonsense term in audio, but I was truly blown away by the M80s on the dock. Clean high volume audio at 60' away from the source outdoors is an amazing feat for a consumer audio speaker.


Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!
Re: The Blind Listening Experience
JohnK #322513 09/15/10 03:20 AM
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fredk Offline OP
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Quote:
Yes, from your description, I'd agree that "similarly good" would probably be a fair judgment for you(no "huge", "night-and-day" or "blows away" nonsense).

Pretty much. Aside from the dock, the only time I was blown away was by the subtly in the difference in bass from cutting a 16 db peak in my room made on the overall sound. It should have been huge (and it sure looked that way in REW). It was not.


Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!
Re: The Blind Listening Experience
fredk #322514 09/15/10 03:21 AM
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The M80's do have huge power handling capabilities that you won't find in most speakers. That right there captures the essence of the M80 and I'm sure put a lot of grins on peoples faces.


I’m armed and I’m drinking. You don’t want to listen to advice from me, amigo.

-Max Payne
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