On the Interbreeding of Horns - Austin, Nagaoka, et al. - diyAudio
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Old 2nd February 2009, 07:24 PM   #1
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Default On the Interbreeding of Horns - Austin, Nagaoka, et al.

Yesterday, Mssr. Phil Townsend and I traveled off the beaten path to the beautiful country ranch of Mssr. Serenechaos and his lovely wife Deborah.

What follows is the barest summary of the rather amazing things we heard.

First, we listened to the Austin-166's (with the 166-ES-R's, in baltic birch). Wow, very beautiful and smooth musical bass. Upright bass sounded just fantastic -- neither lean nor plump, just right. If you've been wondering how they sound after drooling over the diagrams, here's the answer: better than you can imagine.

The moment, I heard them, I thought I detected the slightest touch of a "woody" tone and Robert mentioned the sidewalls might need doubling. After a minute, my ears adjusted and I heard the touch of "wood" no more, only music. I placed my hands on the sides of the cabinet and there was barely any vibration with upright bass playing.

We listened to the Nagaoka Swans with FE108E-Sigma II's, a couple feet from the front wall (but not in corners). Hmm! Georgeous. They had a surprising amount of very clear bass, and they were placed a couple feet from the front wall but not in corners. The sound coming from them is enigmatically balanced -- they must be heard.

Robert performed a cool demonstration -- he pulled the head/neck assembly off each Swan, so we could hear that part by itself. All the bass disappeared of course, then he popped them back in and you could suddenly tell exactly what the Swan "body" contributes. Is there just the faintest touch of reverb from the chambers? At first I thought so but as my ears adjusted, it sounded completely natural. My ears often fool me.

We got a momentary listen to the Decware HDT with FE206E (complete with socket-wrench phase plug). This design has two passive radiators and an unusual folding scheme. Intriguing but we didn't have a chance to crank it for a serious listen.

We got a bit more of a listen to the FE138ES-R's in double-mouth BVR and there was something a bit off there. On the plus side, it sounded pleasingly robust on drums. For a Fostex, though, it lacked the midrange magic and actually sounded more like a conventional woofer, with a bit of boom somewhere in the (upper?) bass. The driver sounded like a conventional woofer to my newbie ears.

We could have stopped there and it would have been a remarkable day. But things were just getting started.

Robert has ~7-foot-tall stereo tapped subs in each corner, running fullrange and apparently not bi-amped. Yes, that's right -- they seem to be running fullrange off his small custom tube amp. They must be incredibly efficient. This sub setup is the best I've ever heard -- deep, deep, deep but no boom. As they were connected and disconnected many times (via banana plugs), I often had to verify if they were on or off, because they rolled in so smoothly.

Just to weird things up a bit, Robert has two horns from a JBL Paragon, and he has them on stilts cut to a height so that they can be temporarily mated to the Swans. Robert and Deborah put them on, then took them away, and repeated a few times, and all I can say is wow, wow, wow. Night and day. When they went away, Phil and I missed them terribly. Take them away, and your ears think you're listening to a little transistor radio (until they re-adjust which takes perhaps a minute). Very cool.

Then Robert let us listen (very carefully) to some cost-no-object $10k compression drivers sans the front-horn. Amazing detail in there!

We also listened to a ear-pleasing Radius compression driver in and out of the front-horn, as well as some JBL horn-loaded ribbons crossed at (I think) ~10k. The Radius was so beautiful that you would happily listen to it all by itself with no horn. And with the horn, it was sweeter still.

The most amazing demonstration was yet to come. Robert has created a Le Cleac'h petal-horn prototype (paper mache) and we listened again to the Austins with and without this front-horn. Wow, FE166ES-R's are already very warm to me, but the horn really transformed them into something warmer still, rich and soul-soothing. The paper mache sounded warmer than the aluminum JBL Paragon horns (which had the barest touch of zing by comparison, but not metallic per se).

So that was it. The best thing I heard that day was made of paper! It made me realize just how much there is to learn in audio, and how important the, um, listening part is.

Thank you Robert, Deborah and Phil for a fascinating and wholly unexpected sonic journey!

EDIT: Corrected the name of the Swan drivers to: FE108E-Sigma II's
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Old 3rd February 2009, 01:32 AM   #2
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Default Jeeezzz

For Gods sake ya'll
Now I have to build stupid *** horns... ****...

But I'll show ya... I'll only build mono...

God I hate it when I learn somthin new
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Old 3rd February 2009, 01:50 AM   #3
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Hi Phil, I took up your challenge and have been mono since this morning. Oddly enough, it's completely fine. Talk about "single driver," it's literally just one driver. Stereo now seems almost decadent.
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Old 3rd February 2009, 03:09 AM   #4
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Wow Robert, where'd ya learn all the adjectives?
Deb said it's the first time she's ever been referred to as "lovely," and I've never heard our place called a "beautiful country ranch."
Anyway, we sure did enjoy the both of your company.

--Forgot even put the super tweeters on the austins; same as with the swans, crossed in ~ 10k they do seem to help, even to people who swear they can't hear that high.

And I have to agree with Phil's suggestion for the BVR boxes for the 138s. They'll make decent firewood. Strange how a box could make something sound covered in felt or something.
But they have that same "family signature" as Phil's Makos, that muffled sound that loses detail. Worked better in the HDTs when I was breaking them in there, with an adaptor plate. Totaly wrong cab, but it sounded better. Go figure.
The drum part you liked was after listening to the 138 alone, and plugging in the notch filter, ribbon tweeter & tapped horns for low bass.

and hey, I wasn't trying to start a mono fad!
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Old 3rd February 2009, 06:29 AM   #5
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Hi guys

Informative post - thanks.

I noticed your comments about the BVRs. IIRC, both the BVRs mentioned are the simplified (short path) double-mouth cabinets. Also, I have not noticed these types of comments in relation to the more complex (longer path) double-mouth BVRs such as Harvey. So, if we are thinking that the design of the BVRs is a significant contributor to the "muffled sound that loses detail" could that be more specifically attributable to short path BVRs rather than the broader BVR concept? Just wondering.

Also, some folks have noted that good cabinet stability/floor coupling resolves some of the bass issues in the short path BVRs - have you found this in your experiments?

Apologies for the questions. Thanks again.

Cheers
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Old 3rd February 2009, 11:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by rcdaniel
So, if we are thinking that the design of the BVRs is a significant contributor to the "muffled sound that loses detail" could that be more specifically attributable to short path BVRs rather than the broader BVR concept? Just wondering.
Phil has a pair of Harveys, w/ enabled drivers.
They sound quite different than his maikos, not muffled, more bass. (they were set-up in corners, in a longer room also, when I heard them).

Quote:
Originally posted by rcdaniel
Also, some folks have noted that good cabinet stability/floor coupling resolves some of the bass issues in the short path BVRs - have you found this in your experiments?
Floor coupling--
I tried just the cabinets, three point contact w/ spikes, (used @ the time of the visit) and an extended width front base with spikes & one in back.
It seems to help, a little bit.
Nothing else was spiked, but I was trying everything to "give them a chance..."
Newest project, most money invested, obviously something wrong...

Seemed to be another one of those subtle things, nothing dramatic like putting a horn in front of a driver.

Phil said he had moved his maikos to a larger, more live room, and that helped. On a whim, I tried boards & a piece of glass on the floor, in front of the mouth. Very slight change.
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Old 3rd February 2009, 12:49 PM   #7
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--And, I haven't heard the earlier designed Replicon, or even Jensen Imperial which preceded them all, but don't recall hearing reports of the muffled tone from either of these.

So I would guess that yes, this problem is with these later "BVR" designs, not the concept.
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Old 3rd February 2009, 01:15 PM   #8
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99% of BLHs are BVRs. Even long path boxes like the factory ES-R cabinet. They're mostly just variations by degree on the vented box theme.

FYI, Maiko I have all but disowned, as I was pressured into designing something (nothing personal, nor any animosity) which I repeatedly said was severely compromised. As for the 138 box, I'm not especially sold on the unit, nor do I regard it as particularly suited to the load in question, but I was asked to do one, so I did.
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Old 3rd February 2009, 01:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Scottmoose
99% of BLHs are BVRs. Even long path boxes like the factory ES-R cabinet. They're mostly just variations by degree on the vented box theme.
Nomenclature; semantics...


Quote:
Originally posted by Scottmoose As for the 138 box, I'm not especially sold on the unit, nor do I regard it as particularly suited to the load in question, but I was asked to do one, so I did.
FE138ES-R - Dave, your dream came true...
thanks for blowing out the cobwebs -so the numbers looked better for a BVR than horn?
Not that I'll be buying a pair of these anytime soon, but that would certainly make for a fairly simple build.

Quote:
Originally posted by Scottmoose Yep. Middling Q is about right for this sort of load. Not sure about the excursion, but they should be OK for modest SPLs so long as they're not expected to blow the doors of a barn conversion out.
I'm not "especially sold on the unit" or the box anymore, just got too excited over what planet10 dave kept saying about it probably being the best driver fostex ever built, and thinking drivers don't always sound like graphs...
Live and learn.

I haven't given up.
The mids sounded nice when in the HDT, the notch filter take the peaks out, and the ribbon makes for very nice highs.
Maybe a Nessie tuned to the room it's in?
Sure worked well for that Feastrex @ RMAF...
Although that driver was totally out of this league!
r
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Old 3rd February 2009, 02:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by serenechaos

Nomenclature; semantics...
Without a well defined nomenclature, then we have no clear idea of what's being discussed without more details, a common problem on most audio speaker forums due to this Laissez Faire attitude, hence my coining the phrase 'BVR'. The vast majority of so-called BLHs only have horn loading over a very narrow BW well above its Fb and AFAIK why this cut-off is referred to as 'Fc' to differentiate it from the rest of its BW that's due to 1/4 WL loading.

A true FLH or BLH has horn loading over all its specified usable BW. Because of this, it's an impractical alignment in a typical HIFI/HT app that has a lower roll off below ~100-200 Hz depending room loading, so really, for all practical purposes, only BVRs should be considered for these apps.

GM
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