Some thoughts on ASR and the reviews

I’ve briefly taken a look at some online reviews for budget Tekton speakers from ASR and Youtube. Both are based on Klippel quasi-anechoic measurements to achieve "in-room" simulations.

As an amateur speaker designer, and lover of graphs and data I have some thoughts. I mostly hope this helps the entire A’gon community get a little more perspective into how a speaker builder would think about the data.

Of course, I’ve only skimmed the data I’ve seen, I’m no expert, and have no eyes or ears on actual Tekton speakers. Please take this as purely an academic exercise based on limited and incomplete knowledge.

1. Speaker pricing.

One ASR review spends an amazing amount of time and effort analyzing the ~$800 US Tekton M-Lore. That price compares very favorably with a full Seas A26 kit from Madisound, around $1,700. I mean, not sure these inexpensive speakers deserve quite the nit-picking done here.

2. Measuring mid-woofers is hard.

The standard practice for analyzing speakers is called "quasi-anechoic." That is, we pretend to do so in a room free of reflections or boundaries. You do this with very close measurements (within 1/2") of the components, blended together. There are a couple of ways this can be incomplete though.

a - Midwoofers measure much worse this way than in a truly anechoic room. The 7" Scanspeak Revelators are good examples of this. The close mic response is deceptively bad but the 1m in-room measurements smooth out a lot of problems. If you took the close-mic measurements (as seen in the spec sheet) as correct you’d make the wrong crossover.

b - Baffle step - As popularized and researched by the late, great Jeff Bagby, the effects of the baffle on the output need to be included in any whole speaker/room simulation, which of course also means the speaker should have this built in when it is not a near-wall speaker. I don’t know enough about the Klippel simulation, but if this is not included you’ll get a bass-lite expereinced compared to real life. The effects of baffle compensation is to have more bass, but an overall lower sensitivity rating.

For both of those reasons, an actual in-room measurement is critical to assessing actual speaker behavior. We may not all have the same room, but this is a great way to see the actual mid-woofer response as well as the effects of any baffle step compensation.

Looking at the quasi anechoic measurements done by ASR and Erin it _seems_ that these speakers are not compensated, which may be OK if close-wall placement is expected.

In either event, you really want to see the actual in-room response, not just the simulated response before passing judgement. If I had to critique based strictly on the measurements and simulations, I’d 100% wonder if a better design wouldn’t be to trade sensitivity for more bass, and the in-room response would tell me that.

3. Crossover point and dispersion

One of the most important choices a speaker designer has is picking the -3 or -6 dB point for the high and low pass filters. A lot of things have to be balanced and traded off, including cost of crossover parts.

Both of the reviews, above, seem to imply a crossover point that is too high for a smooth transition from the woofer to the tweeters. No speaker can avoid rolling off the treble as you go off-axis, but the best at this do so very evenly. This gives the best off-axis performance and offers up great imaging and wide sweet spots. You’d think this was a budget speaker problem, but it is not. Look at reviews for B&W’s D series speakers, and many Focal models as examples of expensive, well received speakers that don’t excel at this.

Speakers which DO typically excel here include Revel and Magico. This is by no means a story that you should buy Revel because B&W sucks, at all. Buy what you like. I’m just pointing out that this limited dispersion problem is not at all unique to Tekton. And in fact many other Tekton speakers don’t suffer this particular set of challenges.

In the case of the M-Lore, the tweeter has really amazingly good dynamic range. If I was the designer I’d definitely want to ask if I could lower the crossover 1 kHz, which would give up a little power handling but improve the off-axis response.  One big reason not to is crossover costs.  I may have to add more parts to flatten the tweeter response well enough to extend it's useful range.  In other words, a higher crossover point may hide tweeter deficiencies.  Again, Tekton is NOT alone if they did this calculus.

I’ve probably made a lot of omissions here, but I hope this helps readers think about speaker performance and costs in a more complete manner. The listening tests always matter more than the measurements, so finding reviewers with trustworthy ears is really more important than taste-makers who let the tools, which may not be properly used, judge the experience.


Amir would want us to believe  that the resurgence of tube products and the associated happiness tube owner experience is based on something other than sound? No blathering about bias, coloration, nostalgia, etc can explain this. The simple fact is that many very experienced and respected audio experts and enthusiasts get from tubes something that they didnt from sold state. Designers like John Curl and Nelson Pass readily admit that they are unable to duplicate in their designs aspects of tube amp performance. They are unapologetic because they understand and have an open mind to the reality that there are things that cant be explained and are scientifically untidy. Their respective egos have been satiated by industry admiration and user respect.

This is very simplistic but I see ASR as having two sides...

The first is the review side...which is about numbers and measurements and if you participate in these threads, you better bring numbers and measurements...these are not threads for discussing feelings, preferences or theories.  Nor do they attempt to do the detailed listening tests with stereo pairs in small and large rooms we would like to see in order to better correlate measurements with sound and preferences.

The second side is everything else...for example, here is a thread about what speakers people own...some own speakers that do well on the ASR tests, others do not.  But no one is "attacked" and numbers aren't required.  Feeling preferences and theories are ok on these threads.

And, at the end of the day, ASR calls out what they see as BS and as shoddy workmanship...who else does that?  And aren't they entitled to their opinion?

I would have no objections if Amir just posted his measurements and stopped at that point.  If you dont see the condescension, just in Amir's posts on this thread, you are not looking very closely. 

@steve59 - That's somewhat my impression also as there is a lot of faux science and shallow claims.  I've tried wading through a few threads to see if I can learn something (like optimizing streaming audio quality) and it always ends with some guy saying digital audio hasn't improved since the 80s and people are wasting their time/money then a group echoes those sentiments and it's the end of the thread.  I prefer diyAudio when I'm trying to actually learn or repair something technical.  There's a valid reason why someone may want a statement piece strictly for aesthetic purposes, which most audiophiles understand.  That said, Amir's older posts tend to encourage bad behavior, while his newer posts have called for civility more often than not.  Something else to be aware of is there are plenty of people that are monetizing this mindset, with ASR having its own dealers within its forum and also the Chinese audio firms pushing products into their reviews.  It's not much different than Audiogon.  Anyone thinking ASR is a nonprofit strictly involved in research is very naive.


@mapman - I went down a Chinese DAC rabbit hole recently, just to see how they compare to all their chart-topping ASR measurements.  The Topping D90 III was one of the worst pieces of garbage I've heard, despite being at the top of Amir's charts.  Sound is rounded off and utterly flattened to where it sounds worse than my much older Sabre-based DAC on my Yamaha A8.  ASR members claim all DACs sound the same --there's even a thread dedicated to it!-- and I've found this to be the opposite of truth.  In fairness, the SMSL/VMV DACs aren't bad for the price, but have their own weaknesses and even ones within the line with the same ESS chip sound slightly different, which ASR does not acknowledge.