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Home Audio Speakers: Ever Hear "Horns?"

RatherAnOddball

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Hello, thanks for reading.

On the verge of getting my vinyl rig up-and-running again, I'm beginning to research speakers, as the pair of Bose I've got at the moment aren't comparable even to my best set of headphones in terms of fidelity and "involvement."

I'm particularly curious about a type of speaker I've been reading about called "horn." Apparently they were quite common during the mono era; they operate on the same principle as the cones of Victrolas or the in-cabinet amplification systems of stand-alone 78 players, but due to numerous advances in engineering, construction and materials, they now boast some audible advantages over typical speakers - at least for intimate listening at sensible volumes.

I'm just trying to round up more first-hand impressions, at the moment, and having recently found a couple threads on this forum about headphones and vinyl, thought perhaps I might have some luck getting an intelligent appraisal of this style of speaker by asking here at StyleForum.

Thanks very much, take care.
 

Full Canvas

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It's been a few days since Artisan Fan took on the world in this arena. Maybe the SF audio mavins don't have the energy for another knock-down drag-out discussion?


___
 

RatherAnOddball

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Oh, sorry - I hadn't any idea it had come up before. I'll do a more thorough search. I wouldn't mind igniting a powder keg of debate, but if it's already been done...
 

Sprezzatura2010

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Well, just about anything you can buy will be an improvement on Bose. There are as many different-sounding horns as there are direct radiators. Some have distinct cupped-hand colorations, others are free of them. Frankly, most of them suck, but the best ones are probably the best speakers made. Horns are also a subset of a broader category called "waveguides," some of which increase efficiency but others just do pattern control. A speaker with uncontrolled dispersion, such as one with a 5"-8" woofer and a tweeter mounted flat on a baffle, will simply never sound good. The midrange is always going to suck outside of a tiny spot because the timbre of the reflections will be so different from the direct on-axis response. Waveguides control the directivity of the tweeter at the bottom of its passband, so that instead of spraying sound all over the place at the bottom of its range, it covers the same area as the driver below it. Another way to control directivity is by using a coaxial driver for the mids and highs. Tannoy, KEF, and Gradient do an outstanding job with that approach. The best speakers I've ever heard, the original GedLee Summas, employ probably the most sophisticated waveguide design out there right now. And not surprisingly, they have just about the best measured performance of any speaker yet made.
 

RatherAnOddball

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Thanks very much for the technical information, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about Bose - I steer all family, friends and even enemies well clear of them. I own a pair of Bose only as a result of their being gifted to me.

What are your feelings about the current offerings* at GedLee Summas? Any of those worthwhile, compared against the competition?

*I assumed from your use of the term "original" that you are referring to a speaker no longer in production, or perhaps to a speaker offered by the company before a change of ownership. If not, then sorry for the confusion.
 

Sprezzatura2010

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The original (15" B&C woofer, 1" B&C compression driver, irregularly-shaped fiberglass cab) Summas are still available. I think they're $3500 each or something like that, made to order. The Nathan10 and Abbey12 are smaller offspring of the Summa. They use the same basic technology (OS waveguide with proprietary foam plug, top-tier B&C drivers, design by Dr. Earl Geddes) but in smaller packages. Also, he offers DIY packages in addition to the made-to-order service.

I've not heard the Nathan10 or Abbey12, though a friend of mine has recently finished a pair of Nathan10's and recently wrote me a long rave thanking me for pointing them out to him. I plan on taking my next free weekend to fly up and hear them.

If I wasn't inordinately happy with the sound of my current mains (modified Tannoy System 12 DMT II's, with a 12" variant of their Dual Concentric driver) I would likely spring for a triplet of Abbey12's to put across the front of my main system.

It's also worth mentioning that the Summas are designed as a system, with multiple subwoofers employed to achieve even and smooth bass performance across a wide listening area. In the bass the room is one's enemy, and remote location of multiple subs is currently the only way to get any real bass fidelity.
 

Sprezzatura2010

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Originally Posted by mcpaul
to bright, not my thing.

Some horns (Klipsch and Avantgarde come to mind) are bright. Well designed ones, not so much.
 

Artisan Fan

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Horns are not my favorite type of speaker.

Pros:
They capture dynamics well.
Very efficient...They can run on small amounts of power.

Cons:
Very expensive for ones that sound good like Klipsch and others.
Tend to be bright sounding.
Tend to make a honking sound.

Overall I would suggest planar speakers like Maggies and Martin Logan or standard box speakers. It would be helpful to know what your budget is and then I can make some recommendations. Also your musical tastes and room dimensions would be valuable.
 

bachbeet

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My last two sets of speakers have been Thiels. I'm very happy with them.
 

Sprezzatura2010

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Originally Posted by Artisan Fan
Cons: Very expensive for ones that sound good like Klipsch and others. Tend to be bright sounding. Tend to make a honking sound.
You've never heard a modern waveguide/horn, such as a Gedlee Summa or Tom Danley's Unity and Synergy horns, have you? Avantgarde and that kind of shit doesn't count as "modern" horns. Nor does anything I've seen from Klipsch. For that matter, would you consider Tannoy Dual Concentrics, which use the cone of the woofer as a waveguide for the tweeter, "bright" and "honking." (If so, you'd just further reinforce what we already know, that you can't hear for shit.) Likewise, what about KEF or Gradient, which use a similar principle on a smaller scale? Well-designed wavegudes are always going to be more high-fidelity (accurate) than well-designed conventional box speakers, because they won't have the polar response flaws in the crossover region that ruin the midrange of most speakers out there today.
 

Artisan Fan

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I like the Tannoy speakers quite a bit. The Kensingtons are quite nice. Not impressed with KEF or Gradient based on listens at shows.
 

Full Canvas

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Originally Posted by Full Canvas
It's been a few days since Artisan Fan took on the world in this arena. Maybe the SF audio mavins don't have the energy for another knock-down drag-out discussion?


___


Seventeen days later . . .


Originally Posted by Artisan Fan
Horns are not my favorite type of speaker.

Pros:
They capture dynamics well.
Very efficient...They can run on small amounts of power.

Cons:
Very expensive for ones that sound good like Klipsch and others.
Tend to be bright sounding.
Tend to make a honking sound.

Overall I would suggest planar speakers like Maggies and Martin Logan or standard box speakers. It would be helpful to know what your budget is and then I can make some recommendations. Also your musical tastes and room dimensions would be valuable.


Originally Posted by Sprezzatura2010
For that matter, would you consider Tannoy Dual Concentrics, which use the cone of the woofer as a waveguide for the tweeter, "bright" and "honking." (If so, you'd just further reinforce what we already know, that you can't hear for shit.) Likewise, what about KEF or Gradient, which use a similar principle on a smaller scale?

___
 

A Y

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Originally Posted by Full Canvas
Seventeen days later . . .


Some colleagues of my sister make houseflies fight each other because they think it will tell them how the brain works. (What it tells me is that some brains like to make videos of two flies glued to sticks playing patty cake accompanied by a cheesy rock soundtrack, but I digress.). Are you bringing this experiment closer to the human realm by inciting audiophiles? I've got plenty of glue if you bring the sticks.

There are some other really cool waveguide-based speakers out there that sound good, too. Amphion's Xenons have a cardioid response down to 150 Hz. Their cabinet design looks like a big microphone with its many perforations to effect its polar response.

--Andre
 

username79

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Had some Lowthers.

Absolutely beautiful sounding. Very involving. Colored, of course, but that's something you enjoy if you have Lowthers and tube amps.
 

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