"Aggressive". Fair Criticism of Some Horn Speakers and Designs? If So, What Causes it?

SeagoatLeo

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Feb 24, 2015
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I’d add that Avantgarde is really the only commercial horn that is buyable today with dynamic driver company service and dealer dynamics.
I've heard the Trios with Basshorns several times. They don't sound seamless to me, just loud and disjointed. The cheaper Volti's sounded great to my wife and I as well as friends. Testing was with percussion classical, rock and jazz. No listener fatigue with the Volti's.
 

the sound of Tao

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Jul 18, 2014
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Is it a fair criticism? For which models and brands?

And if so, is it the speaker design or the amps interacting with the speaker? Or something else?
What are your thoughts in this Caesar?

Why launch into an understanding of horns with a focus only on negative concerns? Surely if you are looking to a balanced understanding of horns then you need to also consider the virtues as well as constraints of horn design.

I ask you, what do you believe the advantages of a well designed horn might be? Have you any experiences in this at all and can you also contribute effectively to this discussion?
 

Audiophile Bill

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Mar 23, 2015
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I've heard the Trios with Basshorns several times. They don't sound seamless to me, just loud and disjointed. The cheaper Volti's sounded great to my wife and I as well as friends. Testing was with percussion classical, rock and jazz. No listener fatigue with the Volti's.

Hi,

Unfortunately I don’t think I have ever seen Volti showed this side of the pond. Their designs look really interesting and I would love to hear their horns.
On the trios - only heard at shows myself but it wasn’t their integration that I found fault with but their synthetic tone. I can’t put that down to the speakers or the electronics which was their own solid state offerings with digital on both occasions. Dynamic and quick yes.
 
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assessor43

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horns in the right system the right room can sound glorious but in the wrong system and played too loud they can sound "shouty".
 
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Robh3606

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I would have to say that the best bass I have heard was from Bruce Edgars 4 way all horn system. He had a seismic sub that integrated with his Titan 3 way system. The speed and impact were really impressive but a big box for sure.

Rob :)
 

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jeffrey_t

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Actually, I agree with you that sealed is not the way for the reasons you describe.

I also agree about horn bass done right. Dipole bass can also be superb and natural (a huge electrostatic panel or planar magnetic can make convincing bass as well from a tone/texture perspective).
Absolutely agree regarding huge electrostatic panels. Several years ago I heard the top of the line Soundlabs driven by OTL's at a show and was very impressed.
 

Duke LeJeune

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What are your thoughts in this Caesar?

Why launch into an understanding of horns with a focus only on negative concerns? Surely if you are looking to a balanced understanding of horns then you need to also consider the virtues as well as constraints of horn design.
In my opinion Caesar raises the issues that many, if not most, audiophiles have with horns. I welcome his questions, challenges, objections, whatever, as he's giving us horn guys the invitation to crawl out of our comfortable niches and speak up.

As for focusing on the negative, that's actually MOST of what I do as a designer. Imo a worthy loudspeaker system must do two things:

First, it must do SOMETHING so well that you can focus on that quality and suspend disbelief and get lost in the music. That something can be timbre, imaging, coherence, PRAT, envelopment, presence, slam, disappearing act, whatever, or (better still) multiples thereof.

Second, the speaker system must NOT do anything so poorly that it collapses the happy illusion just created. THIS is BY FAR the hardest part.

And imo it is perfectly appropriate to challenge horns over the shortcomings that many exhibit, and which perhaps a few (but hopefully growing) number do not. Ime it is doing something distractingly WRONG (rather than failing to do anything magically RIGHT) that is most likely to trip up a horn system.
 
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SeagoatLeo

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Feb 24, 2015
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Hi,

Unfortunately I don’t think I have ever seen Volti showed this side of the pond. Their designs look really interesting and I would love to hear their horns.
On the trios - only heard at shows myself but it wasn’t their integration that I found fault with but their synthetic tone. I can’t put that down to the speakers or the electronics which was their own solid state offerings with digital on both occasions. Dynamic and quick yes.
They have a tractrix tweeter and midrange but with a conventional woofer on the Rival and Razz models (haven't heard the all horn Vittoria). They remind me of the Harbeth 40.1, so easy to listen to and easy to drive. The trios I heard twice were dynamic and quick but like you said synthetic sounding. The integration problem was using all tube equipment, SET amp on one. My dynamic speakers make the music sound as a whole, not parts. That's my experience.
 
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the sound of Tao

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First, it must do SOMETHING so well that you can focus on that quality and suspend disbelief and get lost in the music...

Second, the speaker system must NOT do anything so poorly that it collapses the happy illusion just created. THIS is BY FAR the hardest part.
Duke that is also the way I work, I also believe that you first look to the strength and then improve the constraint or weakness and turn it into a new potential. I’m lucky to have one of the best design jobs I can imagine, I work helping designers to better design themselves. I work with student designers and also as a designer realise being a student for life is a core part of the gig.

In my post though I fell into the trap of just starting with the negative when I really should have started with the positive. I should have added at the front “Great questions Caesar” and then gone on to asking him to also consider the positives of horns as well as the constraints. I spose we are all a work in progress and most certainly I see myself that way... and with quite some ways to go. :)

In functional analysis traditionally there are strengths (+) weaknesses (-) opportunities (+) and threats (-). I've always figured that the inverting phase of positive and negative and return is an important part of the analysis strategy. It keeps us moving forwards but in a balanced framework.

Starting with identifying what is essential and a positive (+) perhaps helps us to understand what are the central valuable qualities that work already so that we can be aware and determine if we are willing to modify or lose those qualities when trying to improve other areas of weakness. Look to what we love and then work on that we don’t.

Like if we see as a fundamental horn potential perhaps in how horns can sound in ways natural as a strength of horns but then achieving reach (as separate to quality) of bass can so often thematically be a horn weakness. If in improving the reach on the bass we make the horn sound synthetic then maybe dealing with the constraint isn’t worth losing a core strength. I’m only at the beginning of my working with horns so I’m just trying to get my head around identifying the strengths and weaknesses and now looking towards the opportunities and the threats.

Much like you I look to the strengths as well as the weaknesses. This I do with working with design students. After a lot of time trying to see what works best I believe it’s important to see first what is good in a thing as well as then where it then needs work. Much of what we do is focussed on the part that needs the help but identifying the positive is essential and equals (and for me also pre-empts) looking to the negative as well.
 
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jeffrey_t

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It's a long story (since '68)....
On a A8 format:
+ For the "low" range I built a copy (-s) of the ElectroVoice "Patrician IV".
+ It is a scaled up (+ - 30%) version of the Klipschorn.
Intern folded 3 times & with the same advantages of a corner speaker & with the corner / floor / side walls are being part of the horn.
+ The (DIY) Patrician IV uses an (old) EV driver EVM18B " in a factory chrome version ... very chique.
+ From DIY experience (Scala & klipsch & Patrician) there is a heavenly difference in a smooth driver reproduction between drivers 15 " or 18" .... (or even bigger, see Patrician II)
+ benefits; high efficiency horn/ low amp-power requirement / low distortion / & sternum palpable real bass (low) ....
- cons; installation in the room corners, limited frequency range (250Hz .... 300Hz), a WAF to haggle (!) in the common listening room (musical scène).
+ Due to the limited frequency range (250 ...300Hz), it is a challenge to extend the basic low range 300Hz with a coherent "low / mid" 300Hz to 1200Hz (maximum 2 octaves) & best in a total horn concept (ex. WE66A & Iwata-s)

The total tuning (X-over & sound power) is a different art & savoir faire .... to make everything (horns) sound symbiotic ...

It's music ...
Karel
you should share a picture of this interesting horn speakers.
 

Jake Purches

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Jun 17, 2015
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Very few horn systems are devoid of coloration. The nature of the horn is to amplify, so any coloration or distortion in the driver is going to be magnified. Plus you have the effect of the horn itself, and the hard edge of the mouth that causes a termination shock. Better designs are those that have a torus on the bell to make a softer impedance match to the air. Horns done well require a lot of research. For me they are for people who like the sound.
 

Tim Link

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Feb 12, 2019
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Very few horn systems are devoid of coloration. The nature of the horn is to amplify, so any coloration or distortion in the driver is going to be magnified. Plus you have the effect of the horn itself, and the hard edge of the mouth that causes a termination shock. Better designs are those that have a torus on the bell to make a softer impedance match to the air. Horns done well require a lot of research. For me they are for people who like the sound.
Horns do amplify but this can allow the driver to play louder without distorting than a driver without the benefit of a horn. The music signal gets amplified just as much as any driver distortion or coloration so the ratio remains the same. The downside to horns that I find is that noise from the amp or pre-amp gets amplified regardless of the volume level so when listening at lower levels the music is quiet but the amplifier is still as loud as ever. But that's a signal to noise ratio issue more than a coloration issue. I think you are right about the termination shock and other diffraction issues inside the horn being an audible problem with some horns.
 

DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
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Very few horn systems are devoid of coloration. The nature of the horn is to amplify, so any coloration or distortion in the driver is going to be magnified. Plus you have the effect of the horn itself, and the hard edge of the mouth that causes a termination shock. Better designs are those that have a torus on the bell to make a softer impedance match to the air. Horns done well require a lot of research. For me they are for people who like the sound.

We just compared a JMLC 330 Hz horn with and without rollback. The horn without was trimmed just after 90 degrees so it has a tiny bit of rollback, the other horn had full 180 degree rollback, which is the maximum practical for a molded composite horn.

There is indeed a difference and the horn with rollback is clearer and more articulate near Fc. I think this could be avoided if you crossed over high enough so there isn't any sound with a low enough frequency to diffract around the edges, but in my horn I place the electrical xo at the same point the SPL decreases at the low end, which is about 400 Hz in my Fc = 330 Hz JMLC horn. So in my speaker the rollback is indeed an advantage and does remove distortion.
 

totaldac

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Aug 17, 2012
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