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Speakers

Are you waiting for the perfect speaker?

Some audiophiles are never satisfied, and never stop searching for perfect speakers. They should chill out, says the Audiophiliac.

For some audiophiles, the best sounding speakers are the ones they never hear. They've heard about them, read about them, fantasized about them, but for one reason or another never actually listen to these incredible speakers. The unheard ones remain perfect.

I've met so many audiophiles who obsess about the speakers they can't have, and if they actually get to hear them the fantasy fades. Their flaws come to light.

The ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 is terrific, but it's not The One.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I love my job -- I get to hear so many products. But, and I'm sorry to break this news, most of them aren't memorable. Few are outright stinkers, but even fewer are truly great. At any given time there are a few standouts, but I have yet to hear a speaker that everyone would love. No speaker can perfectly reproduce the sound of a human voice, acoustic guitar, piano, rock band or symphony orchestra in my living room. We've got a long way to go before that happens.

I've heaped praise on the ELAC Debut B6, for example, a great budget speaker, sure, but it's not the best speaker in the world, far from it. Some audiophiles who hear the B6 are disappointed, when the reality of what it sounds like doesn't line up with their expectations. That's also true for the even better ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 speakers, and even the greatest high-end speakers on the market. Imagining what they sound like and hearing what they really sound like are usually very different things.

Reading about the sound of a speaker, and reading speaker lab measurements that "prove" it's exceptional mean little when the speakers are heard in a room, or better yet your room. Then again, if you heard someone playing an acoustic guitar and singing in your house they might not sound that good either. Most living rooms are far from ideal places to hear music.

My advice: Settle down and enjoy the speakers you already own. Then, if you want something better, read a lot of reviews, and try to listen to as many of the ones that sparked your interest as possible. Let your ears be the judge.

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