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Friday
Mar222019

Podcast #888: Crutchfield Speaker Comparison Tool

For years we have been saying that the only way to know how speakers will sound in your home is to listen them in your home. That isn’t always possible. Many online speakers companies do offer a no cost in home “Audition” of their speakers which truly allow you to hear what they will sound like in your environment. But even with that it's hard to A/B different sets of speakers. Perhaps you can have a few sets on hand and then swap out cables. But more than likely you will order a pair and if they sound good you’ll go with them.

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Crutchfield Speaker Comparison Tool

For years we have been saying that the only way to know how speakers will sound in your home is to listen them in your home. That isn’t always possible. Many online speakers companies do offer a no cost in home “Audition” of their speakers which truly allow you to hear what they will sound like in your environment. But even with that it's hard to A/B different sets of speakers. Perhaps you can have a few sets on hand and then swap out cables. But more than likely you will order a pair and if they sound good you’ll go with them.

That is until now. Thanks to a listener, Glen, he pointed us to a service (SpeakerCompare) offered by Crutchfield that attempts to simulate how a speaker will sound through their website using headphones. This tool simulates the sound of home and car speakers tand lets you compare sonic characteristics between speakers so that you can make a more informed shopping decision.

The following is directly from the Crutchfield website:

How it got Started

About 15 years ago, Bill Crutchfield imagined a new type of “virtual” store, where speakers could be demonstrated online — something that had never been done before. He hired a team of engineers and built a specially designed testing facility in Christiansburg, Virginia. After more than a decade of research, this patented Virtual Audio™ technology is now available on our website.

Now when you're shopping for speakers, you can compare two or more pairs by listening to sample music clips with select headphones to hear sonic differences between each model. We hope you'll find it a valuable addition to conventional shopping resources like reviews, feature lists, and specs.

Research and Development

Our engineers, led by Rick Wright, Ph.D., and Gary Gibbs, Ph.D., had to develop a process for simulating the differences between speakers online. Rick explains that it starts with the team’s anechoic chamber, an acoustically neutral room that uses sound-deadening material to eliminate reflections. The room is equipped with highly sensitive microphones to measure each speaker’s frequency response, sensitivity, power handling, and other attributes.

Next, they gather data on important details like room characteristics and how our ears work. They also carefully measure the audio characteristics of different headphones to account for any sonic coloring they may add to what you hear.

SpeakerCompare tailors your listening experience to the specific type of headphones you have, so that what you hear is comparable to auditioning speakers side-by-side in person. Gary sums up the process of comparing the relative differences of speakers virtually through headphones: “When you break apart each of these pieces, model them, and put them back together, we can simulate the experience of listening with speakers.”

To date, Rick, Gary, and their team have measured hundreds of different home and car speakers. Their ongoing work ensures new models are researched as they're released.

How SpeakerCompare Works

To try out SpeakerCompare, select two or more pairs of home or car speakers to audition, then select your model of headphones from our menu. (We currently have more than 100 to choose from, with more on the way.) Pick a genre of music to cue up a song sample, and hit play. You can then toggle between each speaker in real-time using two listening modes: equal power mode lets you hear differences in loudness as they naturally occur, while equal volume mode gives you a more direct comparison of tonal differences between your selected speakers.

Our Experience

SpeakerCompare does something. On our B&W P3 headphones we definitely heard a difference in the speakers we listened to (Klipsch Reference R-51M, Polk Audio RTi A3, Wharfedale Diamond 210, and Jamo S 803). The only issue we have is without having the speakers in front of us we have to take Crutchfield's word for it that they have accurately simulated their sound. Likewise, we have no way of knowing that the headphone characteristics were accurately accounted for either.

We do know that Crutchfield spent a lot of money and time working on this so it is unlikely that the are selling snake oil. Final point, the work that Crutchfield has done was in an anechoic chamber which is not how any of us live. So where does this leave us? To know how speakers will sound in your home, you have to listen to them in your home.

 

 

Download Episode #888

Reader Comments (2)

I hope Ara's vision of streaming in the future gets here soon, because right now the experience is very flawed for live events. Sure, with a paid subscription you can see much more of the event's activities throughout the day than you would get over, say, DirecTV. And the video quality, if your network isn't overwhelmed, seems better than even satellite. But the events aren't sitting on your DVR if you get up a little late and miss a 3am start. Indeed, if you miss the live feed of any segment you might have to wait for hours to see a highlight video. And then we have what happened at the first MotoGP race this year, when the subscription servers went down and people who paid a lot of money couldn't log in to see the feed.

March 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDP - San Diego

Crutchfield’s speaker comparison tool is a very cool feature when you factor in their excellent customer service and very customer-friendly return policy. While it may not tell you how a speaker will work in your room, it will at least get you in the right ballpark and ultimately reduce the number of speakers that get returned. You still get a 30 day trial period and low cost returns. Some people order three or four pairs to audition and then return the speakers they don’t want. This way they can narrow their choices down to one or two and not have to pay to return as many speakers, Crutchfield also benefits by not having to reduce as many perfectly good speakers to B stock in the process.

March 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRgb-orange

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