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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
November 2000

Measurements Matter

This month we publish our long-awaited review of the Talon Audio Khorus loudspeakers, complete with measurements from Canada's National Research Council. I commend Talon for their willingness to send a third Khorus, which is a rather large and heavy speaker, to the NRC for testing in one of best anechoic chambers in the world, especially given Talon's professed goal of "designing our loudspeakers to have even frequency response in listening rooms." While it's true that an anechoic chamber is not a listening room, it's beyond debate that it is as standardized an environment for measuring loudspeakers as exists. Listening rooms vary in size, shape, construction methods and materials, furnishings -- all of which affect the way sound behaves in them -- but these variables are not present in an anechoic chamber, which literally eliminates all reflections and makes it possible to measure a loudspeaker and only a loudspeaker. Even though Talon Audio doesn't agree that the measurements we do necessarily matter when it comes to their speakers, the company did step up and send us a speaker to measure, and this is a show of generosity and guts.

But more important than any particular thing they indicate about the Khorus speakers, the measurements we published along with the Talon review show why we endeavor -- and pay -- to publish measurements in the first place. I was able to hear the Khoruses at Grant Samuelsen's house during the period that Grant was reviewing the speakers. I've heard Grant's current lineup of electronics in his purpose-built listening room more than a few times, and I can remember very distinctly a visit I made immediately after HI-FI '99 in Chicago. Grant was using his Levinson No.39 CD player directly into his Essence mono amps to drive the Audio Physic Avanti Century speakers, and the sound was glorious, rivaling anything I heard at HI-FI '99. So it was with more than a little knowledge of and sympathy for the sound of Grant's system that I visited to hear the Talon Khoruses.

I came over a few weeks after the speakers had arrived, and then knowing that they were supposed to take a great amount of break-in to sound their best, I visited again a number of weeks later. I can't say the speakers changed sonically from one visit to the next; perhaps Grant's diligent break-in regimen had done its work earlier in the review period. But what I heard was consistent from recording to recording. The Talon Khoruses presented a pleasant view of the music that was never hard, grainy, or edgy. They were listenable speakers, never offending the ear or re-creating music in a ruthlessly revealing manner.

But I also found that the Talons have an obvious subdued quality in their upper midrange and throughout their treble region. This gave the speakers their friendly nature, but it also obscured some fine detail. Anyone who has read my reviews knows that I am not one to grumble about smooth and sweet sound -- the ProAc Response Fours that I used as my reference speakers for more than three years were this way in spades -- but the Talons were doing something altogether different.

After I heard the speakers a second time, I predicted to Grant and later Doug Schneider that the measurements would show "something like a 5dB trough around 2k." But "predicted" is the wrong word. I heard what the speakers were doing in terms of their frequency response and simply conveyed this. Now our measurements show it graphically, and this is why we take the time and spend the money to include our measurements: to complete the sonic picture of the components we review and let you know more of what you will hear if and when you audition the products in your system. Yes, for now we only measure speakers, and not even all of the ones we review, but our goal, as expressed in previous editorials, is to measure every piece of equipment we evaluate -- eventually.

I urge everyone to keep in mind that what I report hearing from the Talon speakers is the product of listening to another audiophile's system, one that I've heard a number of times but don't know as intimately as its owner does. There's no direct replacement for firsthand experience with an audio product, so you should read Grant's review of the Khorus for a comprehensive listening evaluation of the speakers.

But also make that extra click over to our measurements, which bulk out the sonic picture of the Talon speakers -- and any other speakers we measure at the NRC. You may not only discover that they shed more light on a product you are interested in purchasing, which is never a bad thing, but also prove that anechoic measurements do matter.

...Marc Mickelson

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