PA and fidelity. Oxymoron?

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On several occasions I have heard club type PA speakers (large ported woofer with horn mid and horn tweeter) driven by reasonably good hi-fi gear and noticed a very nice sound stage, clear highs without harshness and generally pleasing sound. My guess is that the controlled dispersion and high efficiency of the horns may have been a part of what I was hearing (very dynamic open sound with clean sharp attacks).

So what has been your experience? Is my hearing that bad or is there such a thing as high fidelity PA speakers?

PA equipment and bad sound do not always go together. PA equipment generally uses high efficiency designs out of necessity, and high efficiency is one key to true high fidelity sound. Where most PA speakers get a bad rap is in using cheap components, or poorly implimenting the design. There are good PA speakers out there, too.
I, for one, feel high efficiency is a must if you want to create the illusion of a live event. If you want to get more aquainted with high efficiency loudspeakers from people that swear by them, visit the High Efficiency forum at the Audio Asylum here:
My main system uses 12" Tannoy 16ohm PA speakers, with really big Alnico magnets. I am using them with foster horn tweeters. I am driving them with a SET amps.
They sound very natural and deliver a powerful sound without any strain. The efficiency is the real issue, for all the reasons mention previously.
I have a friend who I built a pair of speakers for, his girlfriend fried the drivers. He now uses a pair of 15" PA speakers with big horn tweeters. They sound really good.

I have heard really crap PA cabs as well(all tizz and boom). If you spend the time researching then I don't think you could fail to be happy with some of the PA drivers.

The only slight issue I might have is they need a bit of volume going through them to open up and deliver their bass potential. I put this down to their usually stiff suspension.

Saying "PA speakers" is no different from saying "HiFi speakers" PA systems come in a huge range of designs & quality from the carpet covered junk on ebay to multi-thousand dollar line arrays. Even some so-called "top" manufacturers have created some serious junkyards and continue to do so.

Although I'm sure some would make for interesting home use (after all, the Klipsch Horn is a classic horn loaded PA) most would require a more than comfortable volume level to reach their potential. They are also designed to project the sound further than your living room. Modern designs assume the use of bi or tri amplification with time/phase aligned crossovers (the drivers are generally not mechanically aligned) to achieve their best performance. Unless you want to invest heavily in some XTA DP226s or Lake Contours you might be disapointed.
PA gear has the potential to sound lovely, though there are some problems, generally with getting a dead enclosure and getting a nice top end.

I firmly disagree that you need an XTA controller for PA kit to sound respectable. For serious DIY I cannot see how passive crossovers have much of a place left with the DCXs and affordable measurement kit as cheap as it is at the moment.

Current system: 1" compression driver on RCF H100 clone crossed 1.5kHz acoustically to a P.Audio Winner 12S in tops cabs and at 110Hz to P.Audio C18-650EL is very solid Bass-Reflex enclosures tuned to 40Hz (or 25 when needed)

I have A-Bd some Behringer passive Truth 8"/1" monitors (which went astoundingly flat except for a slight 1.5dB peak at 2.5khz and a 2.5dB peak on axis up top which doesnt' really go away off axis due to the waveguide diffraction) both eq'd flat (like +/- 1dB from 500hz and up, thank you kX drivers) and the dynamics the pro-sound kit gives you is just absolutely addictive. Most hi-fi kit doesn't quite do it anymore on large orchestral works or rock (none of the hyper compressed shank so often heard these days) after getting used to prosound drivers.

BTW, anybody wanting a really nice cheap pair of "hi-fi" speakers who doesn't mind a slightly bright top end (but all withing less than +/- 2dB in the mids and above) should have a look at these first imo. Solid cabinett and for less than one could build them. Surprizingly clean waterfalls too. Only add-on would be a Grille cause they look a little different, but that's about it.

I'll agree that both the Behringer DCX and the Truth series offer a lot of value for the money but I think you need to go into the DCX as AES/EBU to hear it at it's best. Incidently the new Behringer sub (2092) looks to be a great deal.

Your boxes sound interesting, I'd be interested to know how the phase response between the boxes looks.
You mean phase like this?

Measurement outdoors. Indoors I set a 2nd order Bessel HP filter at 120Hz and some 4th order filter (phase inverted) on the sub around 90hz for an effective in-room cross at 110Hz.

My system sounds just fine using a SB Live (kX drivers) output (resampled to 48kHz in foobar 2k) through a Yamaha MG10/2 mixer and analog input into the DCX.




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