yes I pretty much agree with everything in your last post, but I thought that texture and microdetail go hand in hand with speed, and that in most cases low speed will compromise
microdetail and that high speeds with compromise texture (becoming thin, cold), which is why I found your comment interesting that the CK10 has both exceptional speed and texture in the same package.
Not specifically no. Texture is more the ability for the driver to create variations in the note. If we think of a sine wave, we have a rise before the peak and a fall after. A sine wave is smooth, but real audio is ragged and varied. Texture is more so the ability to portray these variations. In terms of a drum hit for example an earphone that doesn't have a high amount of texture will just have the hit. You'll hear the whack or thump and that's it. A well textured note will show you more. It will portray the strike, resonation, and roll off of the sound. An example from another thread I was discussing a cello. An artist was playing a piece and I was discussing some differences between the DBA-02, RE-ZERO, and Custom 3 in how the information was portrayed. With a low amount of texture, you would hear the note played. With more texture, you could start to perceive the string resonate and cello body resonate. With a lot of texture you could perceive how the bow stroke and released from the string, the resonation and decay of the string vibration, and the resonation across the cello body. The cello was played in a medium sized room in front of a small audience. You could gain a sense of how the cello filled the space and the echo in the room. More texture and micro detail brings out these aspects. Now speed alone doesn't provide this. An earphone can be fast and present very little information. Part of the "BA sound" is the problem of not adequately presenting the variations during the rise and fall of the notes. The notes in many cases are too short. The rise and fall happen fast enough where only a small amount of information can be portrayed. The BA driver can be super fast, but that doesn't mean it will articulate all the information in the audio track. The SE530 is an example of this. The note decay is very fast on that earphone. Notes are very short, very thin, but the drivers are very fast, very clean. The presentation ends up being a bit hollow/ghostly in a way because the thickness and texture is sucked out of the presentation. Notes in a way lack the length of time to present a high amount of information. A slow driver can have articuation. The MTPG for example is a slightly suggish driver. The treble is smoothed a good bit and the earphone gets somewhat blurred with complex pieces. However, it has a thick note with texture. The note is drawn out enough to allow time to convey those variations and bring through more info, but the driver isn't fast at all. The CK10 is a unique earphone in that it mixes both high speed and an ability to draw out the note. BA based earphones like the ER4, Custom 3, and UM3X are like this too where they are BA based but not so much of a "BA sound."
What does speed offer then? Well speed alone is a good measure of how clean or blurred an earphone will be when presented with complex information. A fast earphone will be able to effortlessly present a lot of information, separately, where everything heard is unique in source. It's where you can have 10 instruments or 10 singers all going at once and you can pick out each one of them separately. A lot of earphones aren't good enough to do this. Part of the need for this is not just speed. To actually separate out all the sounds and create a self "entity" of each in perception, the earphone needs to be good about a lot of things including texture and dynamic range. A big part of this is the ability to portray a well sized sound stage that isn't just big but also spacious with both the ability to create proximity and distance. The ability to create a multi-dimensional perceived space lets the sounds sit in individual spots, separated and unique. Speed alone doesn't create this but speed does keep this clean and not blurred. Dyanmic range and articulation/texture create the space, and these along with speed allow an earphone to both bring out and separate a vast amount of information all at once. One of the best earphones I've used to day for doing this is the UM3X although it's quite forward in presentation (puts the singer right in front of your nose forward, claustrophobic to some). Earphones like the ER4 and Custom 3 are pretty close. The Custom 3 is an exceptional example of being able to create a well spaced and linearly spaced sound stage and it does it so well because it has dynamics and texture. It's speed isn't the best but being a BA it's quite good even though I'd call it a slightly muddy earphone by BA standards. Then again, I'd call the ER4 muddy too, but relative to how bad dynamics can be, this doesn't really mean much. The muddiest BA is darn clean and detailed by dynamic standards.
So how important is speed? Well, for me I want enough speed to not have the information presented in a muddy manner. I want the earphone to be fast enough to deal with complex info and not noticably blur information together. A lot of the better earphones do this well. The MTPG might be on the low end of what I might accept, but it's noticeable enough to bug me. A BA based earphone like the Custom 3 is fast enough not to notice unless you directly compare against a faster earphone like the CK10 that can show you the little details that get blended together. From blind use, it's really not enough to notice via normal use. I personally tend to focus more on other things, mainly texture because it so strongly impacts the amount of information presented as well as providing the necessary information to create a perceptible stage space. There is a lot of information lost when there isn't texture and good articulation of the note. Second is dyanmics. I seek both the ability to portray quiet information quietly and loud information with a high amount of energy. It's oddly hard to find earphones that can go to both extremes well. Dynamic range helps define articuations better which helps with the sound stage as well as emotion and energy in the music. For me, speed comes after these things because it has less of an effect. Speed just keeps the info presented from getting blended together and incoherent. There will also be some limitation to how much detail can be presented, especially with higher frequency information. If the driver is too slow, top end detail tends to smooth or blur some and you lose some edge, sparkle, and some of that bite on the top end.
In the end, I think it's all about showing as much of the original source information as possible as well as presenting that information as balanced as possible. There are just a lot of factors other than just speed that get you this.
Edited by mvw2 - 9/26/10 at 11:58pm