Guitar listening and speakers

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
CliffK
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Guitar listening and speakers

Post by CliffK » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:24 am

Whether listening to vinyl or digital, do there seem to be speakers especially suited to classical or acoustic guitars or lute played alone? Just the instrument itself without other instruments.

What qualities of sound are we looking for? Tone and timbre reproduction etc? Balanced with no boomy exaggerated base? Clarity? Precision? Other attributes?

For example, I am trying out some Rega1 bookshelf speakers in a small room. Recently, I got them used and shipped for $150. Retail was about $500 a decade ago. Here is an old review.

http://stereotimes.com/speak121305.shtml

I am thinking that for listening dedicated to just the guitar solo larger speakers that can handle symphonic music are not necessarily needed. ?
Michael Thames 2010 It Spruce/BR
Rockbridge SJ cedar/mahagony 2007, cutaway, inlay

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:13 am

Purely guessing, I'd say there's probably less top-end than bottom-end, so I personally would go for big bass.
I've always been a fan of floorstanders, although recently I've decided that their footprint is a nuisance, so I'd like bookshelves and a bass bin. Maybe your best bet is to keep the Regas and think of adding a bass bin to them later?
I think any modern speaker will give you sufficient top-end anyway, even if there's more than I imagine.
You'll want neutral sound too, but there seems to be less of a problem there than there was in the 70s.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

soufiej
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by soufiej » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:10 pm

The Rega speakers are very good choice for guitar oriented music, if you are of the mind a guitar should actually sound like a guitar. They came out of England and were designed for a company dedicated to producing affordable yet "high end" audio products. Rega is best known for their turntables which have been around since the 1970's and have always been considered excellent high value products. Their CD players are among the best in their price range and twice that in most cases. That's the basic idea Rega sells, a lot of music for not a lot of money.

Coming from England, the Rega line of speakers tended towards what would have been termed "the BBC balance" which places a strong emphasis on the midrange and vocal qualities of reproduced music. Probably, the most well known of the British speakers would have been the landmark LS3/5a (https://www.google.com/search?q=ls3%2F5 ... e&ie=UTF-8) which was designed by the BBC to be used in mobile monitoring situations. Quad is another well known British speaker (https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1CAAC ... uwu5CVbjeQ) which has survived as a true legend in audio since 1957. You can expect many of the best qualities represented in these loudspeakers to be present in the Rega's. If you've ever heard American speakers divided into East Coast sound and West Coast sound, the Rega's lean more towards the East Coast sound, more a classical music speaker than a rock and roll speaker. Bass is somewhat tame while taut and mids are expressive. Think of a good cup of English Breakfast tea vs a cup o' Folgers.

The BBC sound could be described as generically flat/neutral frequency response with a fidelity to the source of reproduced music. And that's where your question becomes less simple and more difficult to answer. British speakers designed around the BBC ideal tend to have strengths which the average listener would likely miss, if not dismiss, as not being important. For the listener intimately familiar with the qualities of live music, however, nailing the musical flow and momentum are often of prime concern. Either placing the performer within your room or you within the original performance venue are talents of the British designers you should find evident in the Rega's. The Rega's score high on the points related to what would you have heard at the original performance. Dynamics are somewhat limited in any small loudspeaker due to the available excursion of the low frequency driver's voice coil. While the small bookshelf Rega probably wouldn't be your choice for live performance level reproduction of a full symphony, they should do nicely for guitar music and with judicious use of the volume control will do well with any sort of live music source.

Two things you should realize about high end loudspeakers which are, IMO, somewhat critical to achieving best performance from any high end loudspeaker, but particularly British speakers, are; first, the speaker is the least important part of the system as it only puts out what has been put into it and, secondly, the room is as much as 90% of what you perceive from any audio system.

The first rule goes to the computer speak concept of "garbage in = garbage out". In other words, what you feed the speaker in terms of quality in the system in front of the speaker, particularly the source player, will be what you get out of the speaker. Feed the Rega a crummy signal from a cheap source player or a poorly designed amplifier and you will hear the results of where corners have been cut in front of the Rega. Therefore, you don't need to spend big money on electronics, cables and such but if you want to drive the Regas with a cheap mass market AVR receiver, that's what the Rega's will show you in terms of musical flow and less tangible values such as "presentation". Given the right equipment in front of them, the only real draw back to the small Rega's is their extension in the lowest octave though they should be more than adequate for the range of a six string guitar. Otherwise, a lower cost Rega sounds virtually identical to a larger, more expensive Rega. Matching the "personality" of the various pieces is a good idea with a speaker like the Rega. So you might want to consider auditioning some other British electronics to go with your new speakers.

In terms of the room, it begins with the physical interface between the loudspeaker cabinet and the stand on which they sit. Do not cheap out and just plunk the Rega's down where they fit, it will no doubt be the worst location you might have chosen. Read a bit about stands before you expect too much from the Rega's. Stands like the Sanus BF31B are better than placing the speakers on or in a cabinet but they are lightweight and will not fully support the speaker in terms of fidelity. Stands like the Bowers & Wilkins - STAV 24 S2 are heavier and provide more mass to lock the speaker in space. They will be even better if you can fill the tubes with sand. Buying the right stand will improve the performance of your speakers more than you may realize at first but the benefits will become obvious after you have accustomed your perceptions to the stability a stand can provide.

Then read about how to properly set up and place your speakers within a listening room; https://www.google.com/search?q=loudspe ... e&ie=UTF-8

Ideally, a listening room is dedicated to the audio system alone but most domestic rooms can suffice. Often with a domestic room the speakers can be moved in or out of position to enjoy music with very little disruption to the flow of traffic.

Spend a bit on cables for your new system. Not a lot but a little. And most definitely connect your speakers "in phase".

The speaker has relatively high electrical sensitivity (90dB @ 1 watt) and a non-complex impedance load. A well designed and well built amplifier of about 20-30 watts should fill a medium sized room with the realistic presence of a live performance. When buying an amplifier, remember that doubling the wattage ONLY gains you about +3dB of volume potential. The "potential" resides at the top of the volume peaks meaning transient attacks will be ever so slightly cleaner. Otherwise, most listeners will average less than five watts RMS for most music and quite often less than 2 watts are needed with an efficient speaker like the Rega.

Depending on your own musical values, the Rega speakers, when set up well and fed a high quality signal, can prove to be a good sized bite of the high end at a very reasonable cost. Without asking more questions and listening to your specific desires, that's the best I can do for now. If you have any questions, please follow up.

astro64
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by astro64 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:24 pm

A guitar does not go below 83 Hz in normal tuning. So you don't need speakers with tons of bass. Any good set of "Bookshelves-Size" speakers that are placed well away from walls with the tweeters at ear level height placed on good stands will do. I have B&W CDM1, SE's. Magical.

CliffK
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by CliffK » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:17 pm

Thx guys.

Astro64, I set it up as you recommended on stands and am moving them out from wall in steps to optimize. Listened to some of Tanenbaum’s Sor, Carcassi, Brouwer exercises; some Al Petteway, some Paulo Bellinati so far. Sounds great to me. Will tweak set up more as I go, tweeter height fine now and next is distance from wall.

The point about 83hz leads to the conclusion that for a modest CG and acoustic guitar specific stereo set up in a listening-practice-studio room properly set up “bookshelf” type speakers can work very well and be cost effective. That’s what I am trying to achieve in my redo of a small second floor room with bookshelves on two walls, desk, rug, and two windows with curtains. These little Regas have clarity, precision, and balance and render guitar tone and timbre well.
Michael Thames 2010 It Spruce/BR
Rockbridge SJ cedar/mahagony 2007, cutaway, inlay

astro64
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by astro64 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:47 pm

Getting distance from the walls will help with imaging, the perceived depth and breadth of the sound stage. Not that critical for solo guitar, of course, but it can still add something to good recordings, e.g. being able to tell if the guitar was set back in the soundstage for a more relaxed sound or placed close in front. I find classical guitar easy to get to sound good for most sound systems. Its frequency range and sound timbre doesn't put big demands on the system. String instruments seem much more tricky for many sound systems. They can sound harsh quickly, especially in forte passages.

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George Crocket
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by George Crocket » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:41 pm

Hi soufiej. Welcome to the forum and thanks for your contribution. Please introduce yourself here.
George
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
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CliffK
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by CliffK » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:17 pm

Soufiej, thx for your thoughtful suggestions and background info. Just setting up the little Regas today and listening to several artists they sounded really nice. Clarity, precision, balance. My goal is a cg-acoustic guitar specific system for one small dedicated practice listening room. I have various components in other rooms that I will draw on. I do have a Rega Apollo cd player which I quite like, Thorens turntable, Revox 215B for cassette, and other components. Your point on wattage well taken. My goal as to sound fits your description of the British approach and hopefully a cg will indeed sound like one.
Michael Thames 2010 It Spruce/BR
Rockbridge SJ cedar/mahagony 2007, cutaway, inlay

albert-canuck
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by albert-canuck » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:10 am

My best speakers are my Acoustat 2+2 and classical guitar music sounds very convincing played with them. The speakers are very clear and fast reproduce a lot of detail. The rest of the system has Ray Lumley M100 tube mono block amplifiers and a Threshold T3 preamp. The rest of the system has a modded Lenco L75 turntable with a ZYX Universe II cartridge and Jeff Rowland Consummate phono amplifier. For digital I have a Calyx Femto DAC and a Bryston BDP-2 music server. And some other stuff ... Kind of a pricey system ($35K) but everything was bought used and works well together.

My more modest setup also sounds good and uses Tetra 406 speakers and Forte Audio model 3 preamp and Forte model 5 amplifiers. A tweaked Thorens TD-146 turntable with an Ortofon OM-40 cartridge for analog. A Teac UD-503 DAC and Faroudja DV-1000 DVD player for a transport for digital.

For smaller speakers I have used a pair of Monitor Audio MA700 gold mkII speakers that sound very good and have a small footprint. They are reasonably priced and look great. With a tube amp for warmer sound and a turntable they would make a great system.

There are many ways of putting together a nice stereo, especially if you buy used. There are many vintage quality pieces that are a bargain.
1979 Ramirez 1a 10 String
1992 Paulino Berbabe M50
1968 Taurus model 56
2005 Dan Lankford 8 Course Renaissance Lute
2008 000 Bertoncini
2005 Breedlove C25 Northwest Classic
old German Lute Guitar
1982 Yamaha G231 II (first guitar)

Zen
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by Zen » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:05 am

I can highly recommend the BBC-designed LS3/5a for reproduction of all acoustic instruments, including the guitar. They’re not cheap, however (although they do represent good value) and require quality equipment upstream as well.
The time between the notes relates the color to the scenes.

CliffK
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Re: Guitar listening and speakers

Post by CliffK » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:00 pm

AC, great components! Yes indeed to bargains in used equipment. That is all I have bought in the moderate range over the years but folks need to keep in mind the possible need for fresh capacitors, refoam of speakers, etc. which is part of the audio hobby aspect.

When I started a New Year’s project to repurpose for cg practice-listening a small room in the house the question of what would be good choices for a cg/acoustic specific set up particularly per speakers. As the room is decidedly small and it is cg only focus and not orchestral, jazz, or pop music then I began thinking about what good quality small speakers could work. The cg-accoustic music I have is mostly on cds so that would be the format for this room. I can listen to vinyl or cassette in a different room. Considering small speakers for a small room led to the “bookshelf” category which seems to vary per size. Placement on stands though. This process and budget led me to the Regas. I have a vintage McIntosh solid state integrated amp I plan to use when recapped. I have a Rega Apollo player to use. So a simple system costing used 150 for Rega speakers, 650 McIntosh, 350 Rega Apollo...all preowned and about 30 percent of price new.

Zen, agree on the classic LS3/5as but out of my budget unfortunately.
Michael Thames 2010 It Spruce/BR
Rockbridge SJ cedar/mahagony 2007, cutaway, inlay

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