LDLC and Speaker Competence.
Generally, it is accepted that people learn and absorb information differently, and lets be real here, LDLC does not fit the normal conversation about audio. In fact, it ignores the vast majority of it.
A way to discuss LDLC audio came to me when a customer was asking which was better, a tower speaker or a bookshelf speaker when a subwoofer is used at a crossover point that is higher than normal. The typical answer would be “it depends on how much you are willing to spend and how loud you want the speakers to go”. More audiophile-ish answers would revolve around “what is the application, but more specifically how is the application expected to perform”. In other words, “what do you want it to do?”, then use audiophile terminology to describe the sound you want.
To me, that feels ambiguous, vague, and any number of other words simply due to the fact that terms can be interpreted differently from person to person, but mostly it is an answer that I hate giving because it is not technically correct. The truth is that the technical aspect is more simple than one would assume.
The answer, in LDLC terms, is the speaker that is the most competent. And to me that competence is measured by the lowest distortion, lowest compression, and greatest efficiency across the bandwidth. This is how we engineer, design, and build our speakers.
The issue is that these aspects are hard to identify by the standard way of discussing speakers, so they are given terms and phrases to help encapsulate these engineering properties. Think of it as cooking: all of the ingredients are ratios of each other, and in this recipe there is distortion, compression, and efficiency. All three of these, in different proportions make up the verbiage used in popular reviewer terminology. We feel that this compartmentalizing of physics into terms that are descriptive is fine, however there is a far more simpler way to discuss audio when distortion and compression are retained and minimized to inaudible levels, and efficiency is maximized to the most advantage it can have on the design. So we made a guarantee in place of popular terms and phrases. This guarantee is found in the LDLC whitepaper, and it's called the F1 threshold curve. It guarantees that distortion and compression will not be audible for 70% of the stroke length of the driver, this is known as Xmax in driver engineering terms. This is important because most drivers have a very difficult time getting to that point due to the standard of engineering that is most popular, which is based on low demand measurements and results, these are known as TS parameters. Now when the driver is clean for 70% of its travel as minimum, the removal of distortion and compression and increase of efficiency is prioritized, you can automatically equate that to competence without over engineering. We aren't simply just over building drivers, we are actually engineering them to be competent. Over building would be seen in the efficiency metric and easy to spot.
So what exactly does this result in?
First of all, the majority of audiophile phrases and lingo can be tossed. Some might find that difficult to deal with, however the popular terms used are simply a way of describing the effects of different ratios of distortion, compression, and efficiency. The conversation narrows to dispersion or width of the sound stage which also coincides with imaging and projection.
From here the discussion is pretty simple. Let me draw some parallels for you:
Imaging and projection: good imaging and projections will track with sound and kick the sound into the room, giving it a very 3 dimensional sound, in other words, surround sound without the surround speakers.
Dispersion and sound stage: This has to do with the shape of the sound wave coming off of the driver cone or membrane. What this needs is a balance of efficiency over bandwidth and low compression. And not only low compression, but compression that is very linear, in other words, flat across the bandwidth. Important to note, dynamics and dispersion trade off with each other. If you want lots of dynamics, you have to sacrifice some dispersion and the other way around, which ultimately results in riding a fine balance of the speakers abilities.
So now talking about audio is very easy… there are only a few things that affect the character of the sound, and it is entirely possible for a bookshelf speakers and tower speakers to sound and behave identically with the only difference being the raw output ability, how loud they go.
And what this means is that it is much easier to buy a speaker for your needs, knowing that you will get the same quality sound with variations in sound stage and output abilities to suit your taste.