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theaudiophile 8th December 2012 07:37 PM

What gives the best sound?
So most multi ways look identical. A few drive units, which I have been told all cost a few dollars to manufacture, sometimes mass produced in China, a cabinet and usually a 4th order crossover because its easy to design on a computer and provides the most protection from drivers which misbehave.

Clearly there is quite a big difference in the end result you hear (between all multi ways) yet it all looks deceptively simple and unremarkable. What is the most important factor? Some say it's the drive units. Is it the combination?

norman bates 8th December 2012 07:54 PM

This could get ugly.

planet10 8th December 2012 07:54 PM

There are tons of conflicting trade offs to be made when designing a speaker. It is not at all simple.


jcx 8th December 2012 07:55 PM


This could get ugly.
...any thread with "best" in title

DF96 8th December 2012 08:12 PM

Could be worse: some people ask for/offer the 'ultimate'.

tinitus 8th December 2012 08:22 PM

what is they say....the more you know the worse it gets

norman bates 8th December 2012 08:31 PM

yea, remember when we could hear a song on an AM radio and think it sounded awesome ?

Our ears tend to get more and more critical as we continue in this hobby.

Some of us have to "un-learn" just to enjoy music not on our own specially tweaked out systems designed just for our ears only.

norman bates 8th December 2012 08:39 PM


I'll give it a whirl, I have nothing better to do right now.

Lets start with perfect drivers, totally pistonic, no resonances, no energy storage, no extra harmonics generated, and make them have high sensitivity so they don't sound constipated. Now let's get some drivers to play well with each other (say woof and tweet). Do we go minimal phase or super steep ? And where are we going to cross and why ? Oh yea, lets throw in the dispersion patterns also. And I hope it will meet your volume level, music type, room size, etc.

After all that, the room screws with much of your effort. You learn to use everything together. You flavor it with this amp over that amp, swap out some cables, move a coffee table, etc.

Then you pray you don't feel like trying anything different, but in the back of your mind you know that this setup had better detail, that setup was more dynamic or fun, and oh yea, that other setup you had smoked the other 2 in the voice department.

I know what I like, but tastes can change over the years also. And you can get more critical of how things sound. I do know it is good to have your old stuff lying around. Rearranging is a nice therapy for me. It's like I have my own stereo store to play with. I've revisited systems I had and go "ewww, I said that was an excellent setup ?" like my pioneer b20 and piezo crossed at 5khz. Now my ears hear the lack of detail and dispersion past 2khz probably and classify it as "bad".

It can be never ending.

dewardh 8th December 2012 09:08 PM


Originally Posted by tinitus (
what is they say....the more you know the worse it gets


Imagine yourself a phonon, recently escaped from an oboe's bell, wending your way to the ear of a listener far removed in space and time. Wait, that's not even possible, you say . . .

BlueWizard 9th December 2012 10:34 AM

Perhaps the first question we need to ask is, are better speakers better? And my answer is YES.

Using commercial examples, If you hears the 999/pr Bowers Wilkins 683, they sound pretty good, nice warm bass, clear mids, crisp highs. But then you listen to the B&W CM9 which are 1799, these are incredibly clear and detailed speakers, and now you are in another world of speakers. But then you listen to the B&W 803 for 7500/pr, and the clarity and life-like sound will practically make you weep. And those ... are not the best speakers out there.

The first thing you need, is the ability to design your own drivers. Yes, there are some nice general purpose ready-made drivers out there, but it helps to be able to control every aspect of design and manufacturing.

For example, if you intend to use 2 bass drivers in a 2.5-way system, you might have them custom make 12 ohm drivers, which will result in a a workable 6 ohm impedance.

Making a fully pistonic driver is nice, but I suspect a ridged cone is going to have a limited frequency response. In a standard single driver full range speaker, the driver is not pistonic. At low frequency the entire driver cone moves, but at midrange, only the center section moves, and at high frequencies, only the very center dome area moves. The problem is, the high frequency comes and goes so quickly, that there isn't time to overcome the inertia of the full cone. That is why you see 'whizzer' cones attached to full range speakers.

So, general quality of components play a role. You can buy a woofer for $25 or you can buy a woofer for $250. Same with tweeters, you can select a basic tweeter for $20 to meet your needs, or you can spend $500 on a precision matched pair of high quality tweeters.

The point is, there is always a for the money element to any speaker design.

Next, crossover design; do you just assume the nominal impedance of the speaker - 8 ohms or whatever? Or to you measure the precise impedance at the crossover frequencies? Do you sufficiently understand the nature of the drivers to select the right crossover slope? For example, if you use Dayton Reference Aluminum drivers, they have a nasty break up just above with working frequency limit. Which means if you crossover in the typical ranges of a 2-way speaker, you need steep slopes to make sure you have sufficient attenuation when you reach that break up region.

Next is selecting the drivers themselves. If you want bass drives for a 2-way system, they you have to decide if you are going to sacrifice bass or midrange performance. As the bass goes down, so does the midrange. If the Midrange falls to low, it can go below the low limit of your tweeter. But to get the midrange up, the bass also comes up. Where and how much are you willing to sacrifice?

Despite manufacturer frequency response claims, most woofer are in their best working range below 1khz. Some are functional up to barely 2khz. So, what are you willing to sacrifice in one area to gain in another area?

That's one of the reasons I perfer 3-way speakers, it is lot easy to find drivers that work comfortably in their design range. Yet, 3-way systems have their own set of problem. 2-way, when done right can be superb ... when done right.

Then we move to cabinet design. YG Acoustics mills both their speaker driver cones, and their speaker cabinets out of blocks of aluminum. The Magico speakers have a complex ridged internal metal framework. Good speakers have many internal braces to make the cabinet as ridged and resonance free as possible.

Then there is the timing of the speaker. Some high end speakers, align the voice coils of all the drivers to get better time alignment. That makes for some funny looking but great sounding speakers.

Yes, all tower speakers pretty much look alike. But, what determines the price, is how much engineering you want to put into them, what expense are you willing to spend on quality of components, and how much time are you willing to dedicate to designing, testing, redesigning, test, and redesigning again. How much tweaking and measuring are you willing to do to get it right? And when it doesn't work, are you willing to and can you afford to abandon the design and start over?

And how much time and expense are you willing to spend to educate yourself to the level necessary to truly create stunning designs, even at an amateur level? And if you expect to work at a professional level, then plan on an engineering degree, years of apprenticeship, good natural instinct, and someone to provide you with near unlimited resources?

Don't all cars look pretty much the same? What makes a Hyundi worth what it is worth, and what makes a Rolls Royce worth what it is worth?


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