Consumer Reports February 1976 Loudspeaker Tests and Rankings

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Treker, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. Treker

    Treker Super Member

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    This is my third posting of a loudspeaker test and rankings article from the archives of Consumer Reports. This one is from the February 1976 issue, and includes several speakers that are favorites here on AK, such as the EPI 100, the KLH Model 6, and the Large Advent. And while I expect there will be some disagreement with the rankings in this particular report (for example, the Advent is ranked near the bottom), I hope that everyone will still find it interesting reading.

    And now on to the article.

    “Medium-Priced Loudspeakers”

    “It’s easy to spend $600 or more on a pair or loudspeakers for a high-fidelity stereo system. But before you start thinking about spending more than $200 for speakers, consider how much you would really get for the extra money. The best speakers tested for this report would give most listeners about as much fidelity as they could want – and for only about $100 to $130 per speaker.”

    ACCURACY IS THE KEY
    “Far more meaningful than power of deep bass as a standard for judging speaker performance is accuracy, or fidelity, of reproduction. The ability to change electrical input signals into sound that corresponds almost exactly to them is, after all, virtually a definition of the high-fidelity loudspeaker’s job. Moreover, accuracy is one of the few objective standards for rating performance; differences in individual taste make it hard to say just how a good speaker should sound otherwise.”

    “Most of the speakers demonstrated impressively high accuracy. The top-rated Avid 102 earned a higher score than any speaker we’ve every reported on; 91. But the EPI 100, with an accuracy score of 90, was virtually indistinguishable from the Avid in accuracy. Indeed, the first 11 speakers in the Ratings are within eight percentage points of each other. CU has found that even trained listeners can’t readily tell which of 2 speakers is more accurate when the two are eight points or less apart. That’s not to say those 11 models sounded alike; even models with identical accuracy scores sounded different from one another. One significant reason: Departures from accuracy that did occur came at different points on the musical spectrum.”

    A SPECIAL CASE
    “The subjective judgments of CU’s listeners have almost always corroborated out laboratory tests for accuracy. But this time, listening failed to confirm the high accuracy score (89) that our instrument tests recorded for the Micro-Acoustics FRM2. That speaker just didn’t sound as good to the listeners as did others with similarly high scores. The test data revealed the reason: a sharp rise in the midrange, from 1000 to 2500Hz, when measured directly in front of the loudspeaker. But that alone didn’t explain the panel’s observations: A contributing factor was ‘directivity.’ Between 1000 and 2500 Hz, the Micro-Acoustics beamed a very narrow cone of sound energy – much narrower than that beamed by the others speakers over the same frequency range. As a result, listeners at a ‘normal’ distance of eight to ten feet would hear these midrange sounds primarily as beamed from the speaker; they would hear little of that sound reflected from room surfaces. Such directivity would only exaggerate the effects of the speaker’s midrange sounds. It was those peculiarities that the listening panel picked up.
    We therefore felt it would be misleading to let Micro-Acoustics’ high objective score stand. A statistical analysis of listening-test data showed that reducing the original score by four percentage points, to 85 per cent, would result in a score in line with our overall judgment of this loudspeaker.
    It should be noted that the effect of this speaker’s high directivity would be much less audible in a very large room. Listening could be pleasant if you can sit at least 16 feet from the speaker; then you’d hear more reflected (reverberant) sound. The Micro-Acoustics’ anomaly was virtually inaudible in CU’s listening room from 20 feet away. The effect can also be reduced by angling the speaker toward a side wall.”

    RECOMMENDATIONS
    ”Listeners looking for a fine loudspeaker at a moderate price should be quite content with any one of the 11 units with accuracy scores between 83 and 91, so long as the speaker’s power needs are suitable to the receiver to be used and to the listening room. All offered comparably high accuracy – albeit different sounds, as we’ve explained. Overall quality was a shade higher with models that finished high in the top 11: the Avid 102 ($130), the EPI 100 ($100), and the B.I.C. Venturi Formula 2 ($120). (Among those three, bass capability was superior with the Avid.)
    Another fine speaker was the Marantz Imperial 5G, at $100. We check-tested its brandmate, the Marantz Imperial 5, which lists for $80. Though the cheaper model has a plainer finish and grill than the Imperial 5G, its high-accuracy performance was the same.”

    “It’s best if you can audition speakers in the room where you plan to install them (they won’t sound quite the same anywhere else). So look for audio dealers willing to lend out speakers for a trial period – they do exist.
    Chances are, though, you’ll have to listen in a dealer’s showroom. With luck it will have listening facilities acoustically shielded from outside distraction. And with luck it will have a way to switch almost instantly from one model to another; direct comparison between speakers is invaluable. But don’t compare more than two models at a time; stick with the preferred model and go on to the next.”

    “Whether you can audition or not – you may not have the option – insist on return privileges. They’re your only salvation if you’re disappointed in the way a speaker sounds when you get it home.”

    RATINGS
    MEDIUM-PRICED LOUDSPEAKERS
    “Listed in order of ability to reproduce sound accurately; models scored equal in accuracy are listed in order of increasing price. Differences of about 8 percentage points or less in accuracy are not readily resolved by ear (see story). Except as noted, all have a walnut-grain vinyl finish and balance control(s), if any, at the rear. Dimensions are in order of height, width, and depth. Prices are list, rounded to the nearest dollar; discounts are generally available. All were judged Acceptable.”

    AVID 102 – Accuracy – 91%
    EPI 100 – Accuracy – 90% - A Best Buy
    B.I.C. VENTURI FORMULA 2 – Accuracy – 88%
    MARANTZ IMPERIAL 5G – Accuracy – 87% - A Best Buy
    LAFAYETTE CRITERION 2001 – Accuracy – 85% - A Best Buy
    MICRO-ACOUSTICS FRM2 – Accuracy – 85%
    REALISTIC OPTIMUS 5B – Accuracy – 84%
    DYNACO A35 – Accuracy – 84%
    TEMPEST LAB SERIES 3 – Accuracy – 84%
    JANSZEN Z210A – Accuracy – 83%
    PIONEER PROJECT 100B - Accuracy – 83%
    FAIRFAX FX300 – Accuracy – 82%
    KLH MODEL SIX V – Accuracy – 81%
    ALTEC MODEL THREE – Accuracy – 80%
    AUDIOANALYST A76X – Accuracy – 78%
    ADVENT Utility Cabinet – Accuracy – 78%
    RECTILINEAR MODEL X1b – Accuracy – 67%


    For those that are interested, following are links to my two previous Consumer Reports Speaker Review Article posts:

    Consumer Reports May 1970 Loudspeaker Tests and Rankings - http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=484524

    Consumer Reports July 1973 Medium-Priced Loudspeakers Test and Rankings - http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=486249
     

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  2. CarnahanBB

    CarnahanBB Super Member

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    Man, I love reading these! I like the fact that these reports are written for a more educated audience. Or at least it seems that way when you compare the way more recent CR articles are written.
     
  3. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    I did enjoy the pair of Avid 102's I had, except for the cheesy vinyl veneer...
     
  4. Treker

    Treker Super Member

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    Yeah, I agree with you about the "cheesy vinyl veneer". It seems that the mid '70's was about the time when the industry was in the middle of the switch to vinyl veneer as the standard from the real wood veneer used earlier in the decade. At about this time it seems that some manufacturers were offering both vinyl as well as real wood veneer versions of their speakers. For example the Marantz Imperial 5 (vinyl veneer) and 5G (wood veneer) speakers mentioned in this article. They were the same speakers, just with different finishes. I'm sure this was all just a cost saving measure on the part of the manufacturers that would allow them to advertise a lower price for their products. This was a very competitive period of time for the industry.
     
  5. kirk57

    kirk57 Some guy on the Internet Subscriber

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    Having subscribed to CR back in the 70s, I found that their conclusions about what was best rarely agreed with what I liked. Looking at the list above, I'd rather have the Advents than the EPIs, (I've had both) and they are at opposite ends of the list.

    I still have some of the CR guides, and they are fun to read, even when I disagree with them.
     
  6. Treker

    Treker Super Member

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    In one of the previous articles CU made a very strong point of recommending to listen to any speakers you plan on purchasing and then to let your own personal listening test and tastes be the final deciding point. They also make the point that all of these speakers are "Acceptable" to use their term, and are of overall very good quality, so it was actually hard to go too far wrong with any of them.

    I personally haven't owned the EPI's (I'm keeping my eyes out for a pair), but I did own a pair of Advent's back in the early '80's, and found that I didn't particularly care for them all that much. I think it would be interesting to get another pair and listen to them head-to-head against my Dynaco A25s and Polk Monitor 7s and see if I still feel the same way.
     

     

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  7. classic carl

    classic carl Without Music, Life Would B FLAT. Subscriber

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    Although I have not owned the EPI 100, I have owned the Large Advent since 1976. I still have two pairs in my son's bedroom. He listens to them daily. I also have a pair of Epicure Model 2.0 that I'm listening to right now.

    The Burhoe inverted dome tweeter was used in both EPI models and in my opinion there is no comparison between the smooth sounding Burhoe tweeter and the Henry Kloss designed fried egg tweeter used in the Large Advent. I do like the sound of the Advents, but I have never heard a pair of Advents that can hold a candle to any EPI or Epicure that I've heard.

    This is not meant to agree with Consumer Reports nor start a flame war. I'm just pointing out that opinions vary and the CR report is one man's opinion. Mine too is just that, another man's opinion.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2012
  8. RoyC

    RoyC Well-Known Member

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    Agreed...the choice of crappy veneer was unfortunate, as the Avid cabinets were otherwise heavy and well built.

    Of the speakers on the list I have experience with, I am not at all surprised the Avid's and EPI's are at the top, especially as it may pertain to a comparison between the Avid 102 and Large Advent. The 102 and 103 are excellent speakers.

    Roy
     
  9. chicks

    chicks Lunatic Member

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    How would you rate the later Advents? I have a pair of 5002's, which don't seem to have the bass hump that my previous NLA's had. But musical memory is notoriously short...
     
  10. goldleaf

    goldleaf Super Member

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    I love these posts. Thanks.
     
  11. cnh2

    cnh2 Super Member

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    Interesting. I have a pair of EPI 100Vs sitting on top of a pair of OLA (Advents). The Advents are powered by a Pioneer SX 3900, the EPIs by a Pioneer SX 838 (those early Pios seem inherently "warmer" to me so it's hard to compare the two without having them on the same amp).

    That said. Obviously some apples and oranges here. The tweeter goes to Burhoe by a margin. The full range dynamics, well the Advents dwarf the smaller two way 8" so what can one expect? They can put out a LOT of sound and dig much deeper then the EPIs.

    It would be interesting to compare the two to some earlier Kloss's, like KLH. I have a set of 17s that I'm pretty sure would have no problem hanging with the EPIs even up high and, again, have better lows and are probably just a smidge better with vocals? That said, the burhoe tweeter is still one of my favorites!

    But it is fun to see what others think, or rather what we "hear".

    cnh2
     

     

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  12. classic carl

    classic carl Without Music, Life Would B FLAT. Subscriber

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    I agree that the OLA's go deeper than the Epicure 2.0 that I have. As mentioned earlier, I have not heard the EPI 100, and I have not heard the early KLH speakers either. I definitely agree with you about the Burhoe tweeter though. :thmbsp:
     
  13. jlovda

    jlovda Things I loved from the 60's and 70's Subscriber

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    AR offered birch and (and I think) plywood as an alternative to walnut veneer.

    Having a cheaper cover was import as I could never afford the optional walnut cases for my Scott units then.

    When did black paint hit the market?
     
  14. dgunnr

    dgunnr Marantz Owner

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    Thank you for sharing these awesome archive reports from the past. I own 2 sets of Marantz HD-880. Looking forward to seeing the reports on these if you have them.

    We wrote about the Marantz 2252b recently, I did not know you also posted this thread. Thank you again, some of the best threads I have seen.
     
  15. Sam Cogley

    Sam Cogley Last of the Time Lords Subscriber

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    The article is wrong, and sales materials are available on the web to prove it. 5s had cloth grilles, 5Gs had molded acoustic foam. It was the same across the Imperial line.
     
  16. zebra03

    zebra03 All Audio - NO BS

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    I would really like to see an original review of a Pioneer HPM150. Does anyone have one or can they point me in the right direction ?
     

     

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