Originally Posted by The Monkey
I've found that in several of the "high end" stores here in Manhattan, I have been seriously underwhelmed when listening to some of the special setups they have. Normally, I would attribute this to room placement and other environmental factors, but their listening rooms tend to be decently designed from my limited experience. Generally, I have found these setups to be bright, shouty, and often played just way too loud. I understand this is a broad generalization, but I do find it curious that it has been a pretty consistent experience for me at these stores. Singer, Lyric, and Park Avenue Audio all come to mind. Of course, perhaps my inexperience with top-flight speaker systems is at work here, but I don't know.
I'm not really surprised, I think most people that have a fairly limited experience with high-end audio might think of that kind of sound as what high-end is supposed to sound like. That's certainly what my Krell/Wilson experience was - and those are two of biggest, most well known names in high-end.. There is also a certain set of people that simply want even the tiniest flaw in a recording to be ruthlessly revealed with ten thousand floodlights - rendering perhaps 5% of their music collection listenable. I can't stand that approach, but I also don't like when a system is so warm and forgiving that detail is stamped out, and any kind of ambiance in the recording is lost.
If a demo is being played too loud, I just walk out. There was a really fascinating article on Tyll Hertsens blog about what happens to your hearing when you are exposed to music at a level that is too loud. Here's the gist of it:
"Generally speaking, the acoustic reflex kicks in at about 85dB SPL for single frequency tones, but may activate as low as 75dB SPL for broadband sounds like pink noise or music. I was surprised to hear the number was that low; 75dB SPL is about what I would consider a solid, but not loud, listening level. My normal listening level is about 70dB SPL, and I think most would consider that a fairly modest level.
Armed with the above information, let’s walk into a demo room at a trade show playing their system at 85dB SPL. Within about 100mSec --- way before you take your seat in the sweet spot --- your acoustic reflex kicks in. With 55dB SPL self-generated noise from the muscles now tensing in your ears, and a 20dB attenuation to the lower half of the audible spectrum, the signal to noise ratio drops to a miserable 10dB in the lows and some mids, and will appear to have a significantly tipped-up frequency response."
A salesman that is blasting music is not someone I want to talk to, or buy anything from.