Giant Custom Horn Systems - How they sound and issues with sonics

I definitely dream of one day building the ultimate system and room. I see what some of these crazy guys do with truly giant custom horn installations and they make me drool, but (like most of us) I've never had an opportunity to hear one of these crazy systems (see pics).

But I'm guessing at least a few of you have and others probably possess some theoretical engineering knowledge around the issues these giant horn systems might create, but I've never seen a thread that discusses the sonic pro's and con's of these systems.

Would love to hear some thoughts (even if it is just some pontificating on theory) regarding these types of installations. Let's discuss.
 

Comments

#5
I own a pair of horns. But I have never heard a pair of horns as large as those.

The problem with horns is that the drivers are spaced physically far apart. This is far from the point size ideal of speaker design, which means that they do not image as accurately as a pair of bookshelf speakers, or any speaker where the higher frequency drivers are located physically close together. Not only that, but the drivers are also at different distances to your ears, which means they often have issues with time alignment. Unless the crossover is designed very well, or some kind of DSP is used, there will be issues with bass sounding a bit off. If you imagine the sound of a drum, the high frequency "thwack" of the stick striking the skin will arrive at your ears first, followed by the sonorous "thump" of the drum.

My speakers are relatively small as far as horn systems go, but even they do not image as well as small speakers. I have heard larger horns than mine (Avantgarde Trio's) and they are even worse when it comes to imaging. Horns that large seem to emanate a wall of sound. Singers seem to have heads as big as the room. In my system, I have tried as best as I can to ameliorate the effects by using DSP.
 

bgupton

New Member
Sep 24, 2014
109
3
0
San Francisco, CA
#6
I own a pair of horns. But I have never heard a pair of horns as large as those.

The problem with horns is that the drivers are spaced physically far apart. This is far from the point size ideal of speaker design, which means that they do not image as accurately as a pair of bookshelf speakers, or any speaker where the higher frequency drivers are located physically close together. Not only that, but the drivers are also at different distances to your ears, which means they often have issues with time alignment. Unless the crossover is designed very well, or some kind of DSP is used, there will be issues with bass sounding a bit off. If you imagine the sound of a drum, the high frequency "thwack" of the stick striking the skin will arrive at your ears first, followed by the sonorous "thump" of the drum.

My speakers are relatively small as far as horn systems go, but even they do not image as well as small speakers. I have heard larger horns than mine (Avantgarde Trio's) and they are even worse when it comes to imaging. Horns that large seem to emanate a wall of sound. Singers seem to have heads as big as the room. In my system, I have tried as best as I can to ameliorate the effects by using DSP.
Yeah, I would assume that integration would be an issue, but I have to think that the guys building these crazy systems have considered that and perhaps how to get around it without necessarily resorting to DSP. I personally find pin-point stereo imaging to be fairly low on my list of most important sonic attributes, so that probably wouldn't be of concern for me.

I'm curious if this could be solved, in part, with simplifying these systems to 2 or 3 way drivers where the low frequencies are separate, but mids and highs are driven by a single (or 2 driver for a system using super tweeters) full range driver that uses a single huge horn. Admittedly, I do not know enough about the engineering here, but I have to think the guys building these types of huge custom systems are thinking about solving these integration issues in a way that horn builders looking to sell via retail channels simply can't do. I'm curious how they've done it and how successfully it has been accomplished in some of these very different custom approaches.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
6,135
141
63
La Jolla, Calif USA
#7
I own a pair of horns. But I have never heard a pair of horns as large as those.

The problem with horns is that the drivers are spaced physically far apart. This is far from the point size ideal of speaker design, which means that they do not image as accurately as a pair of bookshelf speakers, or any speaker where the higher frequency drivers are located physically close together. Not only that, but the drivers are also at different distances to your ears, which means they often have issues with time alignment. Unless the crossover is designed very well, or some kind of DSP is used, there will be issues with bass sounding a bit off. If you imagine the sound of a drum, the high frequency "thwack" of the stick striking the skin will arrive at your ears first, followed by the sonorous "thump" of the drum.

My speakers are relatively small as far as horn systems go, but even they do not image as well as small speakers. I have heard larger horns than mine (Avantgarde Trio's) and they are even worse when it comes to imaging. Horns that large seem to emanate a wall of sound. Singers seem to have heads as big as the room. In my system, I have tried as best as I can to ameliorate the effects by using DSP.

+1000

I would go even further to say that horns in general are good at certain things...like dynamic portrayal, but are very poor at too many other areas of sound reproduction to make me have any interest in them whatsoever. The failings of the horn is so far away from what I like to listen to, they are never a consideration whenever I have heard them....and I have heard some of the giant ones like you have posted. If you get a chance, do tell us what you think of them...you will either love them, or hate them...I doubt there will be anything in between, LOL.

Ok, flame suit on...:rolleyes:
 
Jan 29, 2012
1,602
748
210
#8
+1000

I would go even further to say that horns in general are good at certain things...like dynamic portrayal, but are very poor at too many other areas of sound reproduction to make me have any interest in them whatsoever. The failings of the horn is so far away from what I like to listen to, they are never a consideration whenever I have heard them....and I have heard some of the giant ones like you have posted. If you get a chance, do tell us what you think of them...you will either love them, or hate them...I doubt there will be anything in between, LOL.

Ok, flame suit on...:rolleyes:
Davey,
Please name the horn systems you've heard. Just like dynamic or panel systems, there are MANY different implementations of the horn systems.

Jeff
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,989
797
198
Switzerland
#9
I own a pair of horns. But I have never heard a pair of horns as large as those.

The problem with horns is that the drivers are spaced physically far apart. This is far from the point size ideal of speaker design, which means that they do not image as accurately as a pair of bookshelf speakers, or any speaker where the higher frequency drivers are located physically close together. Not only that, but the drivers are also at different distances to your ears, which means they often have issues with time alignment. Unless the crossover is designed very well, or some kind of DSP is used, there will be issues with bass sounding a bit off. If you imagine the sound of a drum, the high frequency "thwack" of the stick striking the skin will arrive at your ears first, followed by the sonorous "thump" of the drum.

My speakers are relatively small as far as horn systems go, but even they do not image as well as small speakers. I have heard larger horns than mine (Avantgarde Trio's) and they are even worse when it comes to imaging. Horns that large seem to emanate a wall of sound. Singers seem to have heads as big as the room. In my system, I have tried as best as I can to ameliorate the effects by using DSP.
In a not so large horn system, time/phase coherence is possible and if this has been dealt with properly then a horn can image just as well as the best cone/dome speakers. The reality is that most are not aligned correctly or use steep crossovers that make true time alignment impossible. These very large horn systems you have posted are going to have real physical difficulties in alignment...if possible at all. This then would, IMO, necessitate some kind of digital time delay (as a practical solution) to get all soundwaves at your ears at the same time. Then it will act as a point source...probably better than most because most point sources are still not time/phase coherent, which is a sad statement of what should be obvious but is obviously ignored as unimportant to a lot of designers.

There is no convenient way to do it with analog so either the phase relationships are suitable for time alignment and THEN the drivers are physically spaced to have the soundwaves reach your ears at the same time OR the large delays will hinder the speaker sonically and not let it live up to it's potential.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,989
797
198
Switzerland
#10
+1000

I would go even further to say that horns in general are good at certain things...like dynamic portrayal, but are very poor at too many other areas of sound reproduction to make me have any interest in them whatsoever. The failings of the horn is so far away from what I like to listen to, they are never a consideration whenever I have heard them....and I have heard some of the giant ones like you have posted. If you get a chance, do tell us what you think of them...you will either love them, or hate them...I doubt there will be anything in between, LOL.

Ok, flame suit on...:rolleyes:
Yes, Davey, let's hear not only the systems but your theoretical "list" of what horns are so poor at that you have no interest in them whatsoever. Then some of us who have come over to horns after decades with the other stuff can comment and list all the issues with the standard cone/dome speaker. Like all designs, implementation matters; however, it is also about absolute potential...and it is here where horns, IMO, pull ahead.
 
Jan 29, 2012
1,602
748
210
#11
Yes, Davey, let's hear not only the systems but your theoretical "list" of what horns are so poor at that you have no interest in them whatsoever. Then some of us who have come over to horns after decades with the other stuff can comment and list all the issues with the standard cone/dome speaker. Like all designs, implementation matters; however, it is also about absolute potential...and it is here where horns, IMO, pull ahead.
Morricab,
I really enjoyed hearing the Aries Cerat Symphonia at CES a few years ago. These speakers were a great representation of a unique and unusual implementation of a horn speaker and absolutely enjoyable. Also, the fit and finish was simply outstanding.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
4,109
1,175
328
Marina del Rey, CA
#13
Yeah, I would assume that integration would be an issue, but I have to think that the guys building these crazy systems have considered that and perhaps how to get around it without necessarily resorting to DSP. I personally find pin-point stereo imaging to be fairly low on my list of most important sonic attributes, so that probably wouldn't be of concern for me.

I'm curious if this could be solved, in part, with simplifying these systems to 2 or 3 way drivers where the low frequencies are separate, but mids and highs are driven by a single (or 2 driver for a system using super tweeters) full range driver that uses a single huge horn. Admittedly, I do not know enough about the engineering here, but I have to think the guys building these types of huge custom systems are thinking about solving these integration issues in a way that horn builders looking to sell via retail channels simply can't do. I'm curious how they've done it and how successfully it has been accomplished in some of these very different custom approaches.
somewhat OT, but did you end up selling your entire Shindo system - and are you thinking of doing horns now?
 
May 30, 2010
16,299
1,253
420
Portugal
#15
Yes, Davey, let's hear not only the systems but your theoretical "list" of what horns are so poor at that you have no interest in them whatsoever. Then some of us who have come over to horns after decades with the other stuff can comment and list all the issues with the standard cone/dome speaker. Like all designs, implementation matters; however, it is also about absolute potential...and it is here where horns, IMO, pull ahead.
Why should we transform every WBF thread in a court session? IMHO the objective of this thread is showing and talking about those fantastic and crazy giant sized horn systems, not our daily domestic reasonable sized miniatures ...
 
Jan 29, 2012
1,602
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#16
The largest horn implementation I heard was a modified Edgar horn system with upgraded drivers (Fostex 500 Tweeter, B&C DCM50 mid and Fane 8"), improved horns (Jeffrey Jackson) and with the gigantic seismic subs. All LAMM electronics and Micro Seiki 8000.

This system, although it was massive and had -50 WAF, ticked all the boxes for me. Sound stage, imaging and supreme dynamics.
 

carolus

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2013
77
62
68
Belgium (Brussels)
#17
.... IMHO the objective of this thread is showing and talking about those fantastic and crazy giant sized horn systems, not .....
I agree ...
Perso, a better way is to go listen this “giant horns” (full horn system) in vivo & talk with the owner (builder) about his “horn-tuning-art”, It give a better (honest) & good musical-horn-evaluation impression & opinion.
Karel
 

bgupton

New Member
Sep 24, 2014
109
3
0
San Francisco, CA
#18
somewhat OT, but did you end up selling your entire Shindo system - and are you thinking of doing horns now?
Yeah, I sold my entire system (and pretty much everything else I owned) when I moved overseas (Colombia). I'm somewhat on the fence about what/when I will build something else. I've been talking to Jefferey Jackson about a somewhat modest custom horn system (nothing like the systems posted in this thread), but haven't made any final decisions. I want to see how things play out over the next year or so before committing to anything "serious".
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
6,135
141
63
La Jolla, Calif USA
#19
I have listened to numerous horn based systems over the years...too many to remember them all. None did anything for me at all...none.
If you like horns, that’s great for you, but they are not of any interest to me whatsoever, based on what I listen for in reproduced sound. If...a BIG if, there is ever a time when I happen to hear one that changes my mind, I’ll be sure to report that.
 

DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
2,994
861
180
#20
Yeah, I would assume that integration would be an issue, but I have to think that the guys building these crazy systems have considered that and perhaps how to get around it without necessarily resorting to DSP. I personally find pin-point stereo imaging to be fairly low on my list of most important sonic attributes, so that probably wouldn't be of concern for me.

I'm curious if this could be solved, in part, with simplifying these systems to 2 or 3 way drivers where the low frequencies are separate, but mids and highs are driven by a single (or 2 driver for a system using super tweeters) full range driver that uses a single huge horn. Admittedly, I do not know enough about the engineering here, but I have to think the guys building these types of huge custom systems are thinking about solving these integration issues in a way that horn builders looking to sell via retail channels simply can't do. I'm curious how they've done it and how successfully it has been accomplished in some of these very different custom approaches.
I've spent years developing such a speaker and it's almost ready to go!

The horn is not conventional. It has enough gain to linearize the 4.5" driver it uses in the frequency range it needs it, so the horn and driver really need to be co-developed. They are an inseparable unit and this also determines you crossover points. So the entire thing needs to be designed right from conception, you can't "mess around" with xo points, etc... it's basically set in stone. The horn also needs to be designed appropriately so it can cover an extended frequency range, and this is where everything about conventional horn design goes out the window, not that it didn't before with the horn significantly altering the driver's frequency response while leaving it's high frequency response unaltered... In any case the horn covers 400-15000 Hz. A Fostex T500MkII augments the highs and a 15" Acoustic Elegance TD15H+ covers <400 Hz.

This also makes integration very easy, in fact you can listen to my speaker nearfield like a singe driver. You don't have a massive mismatch in mechanical impedance between drivers either, like you do with conventional high efficiency horns combined with direct radiator bass. Overall efficiency of the mid/high section (>400 Hz) is ~102 dB and xo is a single cap on the mid driver and tweeter, so a mid/small SET amp works great as long as it has enough gain.

One of my favorite things is that it lacks a dome or ribbon tweeter. IMO the highs are better than any conventional speaker, but I might be biased... ;) The speaker also has a near-ideal polar plot so it integrates with conventional living spaces very well, much better vs conventional speakers. Overall goal is to provide a 3-D immersive soundstage that conventional speakers rarely achieve, and do it in your living room... something conventional speakers almost never achieve.
 

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