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What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

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What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby Mustang Martigan » Sun Jul 12, 2020 1:38 am

I'll be buying my first pair of monitors once I can decide between the Focal Alpha 50's and Kali LP6's. The Adam T5V's were also on my list, but their lack of a front port knocked em off.

Anyone tried both the Alpha's and LPs? Since my indecision in delaying the purchase, I'm probably gonna order both pairs and keep the ones I like best.

I would, however, like input from someone who knows monitors..
Are there certain things I should do / listen for? I just don't wanna realize, down the road, that I picked one cuz it reproduced sound so well that it was hidding flaws. I read that about the T5V's, which is the other reason I dropped em from my list.

Thanks.
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:42 am

I'd say to be careful that you're assessing them for accuracy not impressiveness. I don't think that's a real word but hopefully it makes the point. It's easy to be fooled into thinking a set of monitors have lots of bass extension or are very detailed by some subtle built-in eq boost.
Listen to some good reference tracks and listen out for anything that sounds a bit forced or harsh in the high mids or a bit woolly or flabby in the bass.
If you've got a decent set of headphones to compare them with use those as well.
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby RichardT » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:43 am

I think it depends what’s important to you.

For me, what’s important are

- clarity. How much detail can you hear?
- balance. Is the frequency response smooth and (sufficiently) extended?
- naturalness. Do instruments sound like real instruments in a real space?
- dynamics. Can the speakers reproduce musical dynamics convincingly?
- imaging. How clearly are instruments represented in the stereo field?

I listen in the near field, and at quite modest levels, so power is not that important to me.
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby James Perrett » Sun Jul 12, 2020 2:51 pm

A couple of things I'd think about...

Can you reliably hear very small changes in eq (1dB or less) with them?
Does well recorded speech sound natural?
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:55 am

James Perrett wrote:A couple of things I'd think about...

Can you reliably hear very small changes in eq (1dB or less) with them?
Does well recorded speech sound natural?

^^^^^

Also, listen out for aliasing distortion, this can be a real deal breaker, with certain types of music, like piano, and pure sounds, some monitors are vulnerable to this.
It’s like a buzzing, or beating at high frequencies, and can almost sound mechanical, I don’t have enough knowledge to say exactly what causes this, but some speaker designs can aggravate it, and it can’t be cured.
It’s easy to spot, just listen out for any buzzes or strange distortions, piano is good for showing this up, or a choir, or solo soprano.
If you’re into Rock or Pop, or any type of high energy drum based stuff, you may never notice it, it tends to mask it, but it can pop up when you’re least expecting it.
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:21 am

Arpangel wrote:Also, listen out for aliasing distortion....

Speaker drivers (and driver/cabinet interactions) can generate all manner of nasty analogue distortions, but aliasing is a peculiarly digital form of distortion that can only come from converters... not from the speakers themselves.

My twopenn'eth is much as others have said. A good monitor reveals details. So take some tracks you're familiar with and listen out for the monitors that reveal things you didn't know were there!

And avoid the monitors that make everything sound lovely or exciting. A good monitor will reveal that some commercial tracks sound terrible!

The voice test is a very good one indeed, as is solo piano. After that I listen to the low end to assess how clearly I can separate bass instruments, both in terms of pitch but also timing. How do bass notes start and stop?

Then there's the midrange resolution -- as James says, a good monitor really will allow you to hear the subtlest of EQ and dynamics changes. A poor one will leave you wondering it the bypass is switched on.

And listen at both high and low levels -- especially at low levels. Can you still hear everything at low volumes? A lot of speakers just don't seem to work at low levels.
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Re: What to Listen for when Trying out Monitors.. Focal Alpha 50 or Kali LP6

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:03 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Also, listen out for aliasing distortion....

Speaker drivers (and driver/cabinet interactions) can generate all manner of nasty analogue distortions, but aliasing is a peculiarly digital form of distortion that can only come from converters... not from the speakers themselves.

My twopenn'eth is much as others have said. A good monitor reveals details. So take some tracks you're familiar with and listen out for the monitors that reveal things you didn't know were there!

And avoid the monitors that make everything sound lovely or exciting. A good monitor will reveal that some commercial tracks sound terrible!

The voice test is a very good one indeed, as is solo piano. After that I listen to the low end to assess how clearly I can separate bass instruments, both in terms of pitch but also timing. How do bass notes start and stop?

Then there's the midrange resolution -- as James says, a good monitor really will allow you to hear the subtlest of EQ and dynamics changes. A poor one will leave you wondering it the bypass is switched on.

And listen at both high and low levels -- especially at low levels. Can you still hear everything at low volumes? A lot of speakers just don't seem to work at low levels.

OK Hugh, I’ll say it sounds very much like aliasing distortion, but technically isn’t.
It’s definitely related to the actual speaker, it’s a "dirty" top end, on some sources.
I’ve had this in the past, and had to change monitors, certain monitors seem prone to it, that’s all I can say. I look out for it now, it’s easy to spot, and it’s very unpleasant, and exactly what causes it isn’t exactly clear to me.
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