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

GMKF

VIP/Donor
Aug 15, 2017
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Munich
#21
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.
Very interesting... Any info on the crossover setup ?
 

bgupton

New Member
Sep 24, 2014
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San Francisco, CA
#22
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.
Is it too early to see some of the conceptual designs?

I like your thinking there and agree that the drivers and horns should really be designed as one. Of course, compromises have to be made regarding size when you are looking to sell to people who will use the speakers in more conventional rooms.

How would you apply your design thinking to a truly massive custom horn design like the ones I've posted? Do rooms like this help or just cause more issues that have to be worked out?
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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#23
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.
Thanks! Stavros is a hell of an engineer who also happens to hear very well...a rare combo, IME.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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#24
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.
I find it curious names escape you but you don't want to say I guess that's, ok. What are the qualities you value that you find lacking? I guess dynamics aren't on the list...
 
Jan 29, 2012
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#25
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.
So you came in...crapped on the thread and then offered no meaningful insight or details. Well done.
 
Likes: hbsry2001
Jan 29, 2012
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#26
I find it curious names escape you but you don't want to say I guess that's, ok. What are the qualities you value that you find lacking? I guess dynamics aren't on the list...
Don't waste your time. He' trolling the thread and adding zero value. Let's get back to talking about and showing pictures of great systems.
 
Likes: hbsry2001
Mar 19, 2018
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#27
It's like a lot of things; when you concentrate on one aspect of the overall picture, you end up sacrificing a lot of other things. I had a pair of corner horns for a number of years. They do some things well, (play loud, give a sense of unlimited dynamics), but other things not so well, (image, give a realistic sense of space, sound cohesive). I prefer direct radiators, multi-amplified.
 

bgupton

New Member
Sep 24, 2014
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San Francisco, CA
#29
Don't waste your time. He' trolling the thread and adding zero value. Let's get back to talking about and showing pictures of great systems.
This is the one that intrigues me the most. This pic only went around recently to my knowledge and my understanding is it is a room under construction. I haven't seen any mention to what he's driving these with and you can't see anything in the pics. Absolutely gorgeous, but I'm curious about the system and approach behind it.
Big Horn Speakers 1.jpg
 

lordcloud

Well-Known Member
Jul 5, 2016
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#30
As someone who is very much in the time and phase accuracy is the absolute first hurdle that needs to be crossed, camp..horns have historically not been my thing. Though I've heard some horn systems lately that have really turned my ear. They haven't been large, but they have been expensive. Sarduni Acoustics comes to mind. He uses first order crossovers and time aligned drivers, and I thought his speakers sounded wonderful.

I imagine if you go all out with a single full range driver, or a driver with a high frequency unit integrated, then time alignment would be less of an issue.

But beyond those things, they've always soundstaged too poorly for me. As was stated earlier, a wall of sound is usually what you get. Large, dynamic, detailed, sound...but still a big flat(ish) wall in my experience.
 

lordcloud

Well-Known Member
Jul 5, 2016
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Austin, Texas
#31
I've heard the Aries Cerat Symphonias a couple times here in Austin....if I were looking into horns, I would put them up at the top of my list as well.

They avoid many of the issues with horns, in my opinion, while retaining the strengths.
 

awsmone

Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2014
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Canberra Australia
#32
The two that most interest me in the enormous horn department are the Bionor and Western electric Silbatone
Klangfilm developed the spherical wave horn concept

These seem to be the largest movable horns I have seen and heard

Like everything it’s about implementation, for every bad horn, there are a load of conventional speakers that have issues

If DDK who could have anything has bionor and many others say it’s the best system they have heard, there is something in it

I have heard the Silbatone as well, and they are very impressive

Tonality and immediacy are to the fore

I love imaging, and not all horn systems image well, but this may be as much about placement

The OMA monarch interests me, wonder what Kedar thought of the imaging and soundstage

No one has mentioned the dual concentric like Westminster which are both horn loaded and point source

Once you go to bass, hornloaded bass, the higher order issues dominate over the implementation which is why many manufacturers err to direct radiators, JBL spent a lot of time on innovative mid and treble horns but have always stuck with direct radiator bass, I believe though I stand to be corrected , they understand the issues of horn bass, and of course the size issues
 
Likes: thomask

DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
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#33
Is it too early to see some of the conceptual designs?

I like your thinking there and agree that the drivers and horns should really be designed as one. Of course, compromises have to be made regarding size when you are looking to sell to people who will use the speakers in more conventional rooms.

How would you apply your design thinking to a truly massive custom horn design like the ones I've posted? Do rooms like this help or just cause more issues that have to be worked out?
My speaker uses a horn but is conceptually extremely different vs the large multi-way horn systems. Because it only needs enough gain to linearize the driver's rising response it is not as deep as a conventional horn, but also not as shallow as most modern "waveguides". It benefits from many of a horn's advantages, but is designed for a much smaller space... although it can play very loud. It seems to me like many people want to shoe-horn (oops!:)) a big horn system into a space that is smaller than it is intended for. For my preferences maybe a smaller system would do some things better in smaller spaces. But I can imagine the scale and dynamics of a large horn system like the ones pictured would be an amazing experience! I have not heard a walk-in sized basshorn before... hopefully one day!
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
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La Jolla, Calif USA
#34
So you came in...crapped on the thread and then offered no meaningful insight or details. Well done.

Jeffrey, apparently anyone having disagreement with your thoughts is trolling...is that correct?? Like I said, if you like horns..well good for you, but others are not so enamored. Personally, I cannot stand the fact that all the horns I have heard image poorly, are shouty, are almost impossible to sound of a piece if utilized with any kind of dynamic subwoofer, and are completely unrealistic as to tone and timbre. Dynamic, yes they are indeed that...but music isn't just comprised of dynamics....musicality has to have some factor. All of the above IMHO. YMMV.
BTW, what value are you adding to this thread...???? Except to try and rationalize your love of horn speakers, LOL.
 
Jan 29, 2012
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#35
Jeffrey, apparently anyone having disagreement with your thoughts is trolling...is that correct?? Like I said, if you like horns..well good for you, but others are not so enamored. Personally, I cannot stand the fact that all the horns I have heard image poorly, are shouty, are almost impossible to sound of a piece if utilized with any kind of dynamic subwoofer, and are completely unrealistic as to tone and timbre. Dynamic, yes they are indeed that...but music isn't just comprised of dynamics....musicality has to have some factor. All of the above IMHO. YMMV.
BTW, what value are you adding to this thread...???? Except to try and rationalize your love of horn speakers, LOL.
A troll draws you in with a provocative post but never satisfies with detail or knowledge of a subject. You got two of us to ask you what systems or implementation you've heard. And yet again you waste our time with general BS with ZERO details. No details of the implementation, brands, types of drivers, types of driver, etc.

A troll wastes your time, You my friend, are a troll.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
6,135
142
63
La Jolla, Calif USA
#36
A troll draws you in with a provocative post but never satisfies with detail or knowledge of a subject. You got two of us to ask you what systems or implementation you've heard. And yet again you waste our time with general BS with ZERO details. No details of the implementation, brands, types of drivers, types of driver, etc.

A troll wastes your time, You my friend, are a troll.

Really, you want me to name some of the horn speakers/systems that I have heard, so that you can demur and post why I am incorrect in my feelings...and that will do it for you...weak.:(

Like I said above, anyone that disagrees with you is a troll, isn't that right!!
 
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morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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Switzerland
#37
Really, you want me to name some of the horn speakers/systems that I have heard, so that you can demur and post why I am incorrect in my feelings...and that will do it for you...weak.:(

Like I said above, anyone that disagrees with you is a troll, isn't that right!!
Normally you aren't trolling but on this I gotta say you are. Flame suit on I guess is a bit of a giveaway. That and you come in way OT.
 

kodomo

Well-Known Member
Apr 26, 2017
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#38
there are ways to do it correctly

My horns system may not be giant, but it is quite big I guess. It was the optimum for what I wanted to achieve.

Yes, there are inherent problems like the distance between drivers the lobing it creates, and depth of the horns differing causing time alignment issues, horns colouring the sound etc. but they can all be solved. I know as I have solved them both measurably and aurally up to my standards, the information I have and the instruments I use to check them.

There are many things that a system like this dictates. One is space. I had to physically demolish walls and build a bigger room so that the sum of the drivers can be correctly heard. That meant I could not be too close to them while I had to be far to a back wall for acoustics purposes. The minimum distance for the exact aligned and correct distance for me was minimum 430cm away from the diaphragms. (this may be a problem for people and may even be prohibitive to have a system like this) My room is 10 meters deep, and 6meters wide for the most part, it gets wider further back.

Firstly time alignment. I have time aligned all my drivers using impulse response to my seating position, so I know and can test their alignment. There is no issue there, I can physically do this and measure it to confirm it. I have done this passively by physically aligning the drivers.

I have also used 1st order crossovers for the horn channels except for the tapped horn working below 40hz (3rd order) and the direct radiators working below 120hz (2nd order). There is a very important thing to do when using first order filters. For them to work you need to choose drivers and horns working together very very carefully and for their sums you need a flat impedance/response. It is impossible to have the ideal responses without any correction. So with the filter, I have also impedance correction on my crossovers. Otherwise a first order filter may not be (most likely) able to work against your driver/horn combination channels response deviations. It may try to filter a certain frequency while your driver/horn has a rising response there. A first order filter wont be able to do its job there unless it was flat to begin with.

Then there are certain limits to horns to sound good and physically work. One of them is, you can not push a horn below a certain limit. That lies between 1.5 to 2 times over its cutoff limit. Now, people claim to get it but what they generally do is, boost the driver there and actually get, not a horn loaded response, but a direct response from the driver. This not only also adds coloration but also distortion. The only place you can get away very close to cutoff is the midbass horn with a back chamber. Here you can reactance annul it and have a good response close to cf without audible problems.

Horns also colour the sound and "shout" when pushed too much to work wide-band. Generally a horn works for about 3 octaves and maybe a little more. You can get beyond it, byou can still measure flat but it will sound coloured and will beam. This again dictates what you can use as it dictates size and depth. That is why I could not use anything below 120hz to be horn loaded. If I had done it, I could not have aligned a horn that size both in height (the other channels would be too high, and upper end information which has narrower field would not be around my ear height) or it would not be aligned vertically which also sounds wrong to my ears and causes further phase and lobing anomalies. This dictated me that the biggest horn I could use can have a 1 meter diameter, hence my midbass. I also had different horn topologies at my place. I have found out that anything that plays above 60-80hz sound different in a bad way when the horn is folded and causes time alignment issues which can be heard. So I could not use horns and had to go with direct radiators.

All these are choices according to what is important to me to achieve what I think a good sound is. At the end, my choices dictated me my topology. 18hz to 40hz tapped horn, 40-120hz direct radiators, a 110hz cutoff tractrix with a 12" 285-2000 supravox modified with reactance annuling for 120-500hz, a 200hz tractrix with a 2" beryllium cd from 500 to 4500hz, a 1400hz JMLC horn with 1" beryllium cd for 4500-10000hz, and a fostex t500amkII for above that. These frequencies are not very exact as you can guess this is a first order system but these are the main band the channels are working.

So, for me, choosing the drivers very carefully, matching them with the right horns and using them in their intended bandwidths while having the right crossover altogether is very important. Also having a relatively flat impedance gets you a very good sound from the SET amp I use for my horns, which is great. I use solid states for my direct radiators and tapped horn.

The room is also very important, having the right homogenous decay and having a good response. I am sharing not only photos but also measurements as people tend to leave that generally. Here is my spl response and room decay (rt60). The SPL response was taken before room treatments were finished, the 70hz bump is gone and 100hz is much better but the rise towards 200hz but a little less pronounced. It is still there and can be seen to reflect in rt60 too. However as you can see, this is my room response from my listening point. It actually is +-4db for 18hz to 20hz which is for me a very good response. The decay in the room is also better than most of the studios I have been fortunate enough to be at!
 

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carolus

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2013
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Belgium (Brussels)
#39
My horns system may not be giant, but it is quite big I guess. It was the optimum for what I wanted to achieve.
Yes, there are inherent problems .....
Hi Kodomo.
Nice tech. synthese with plenty info (space, alignment, X-over, ideal Fr range, room ..... ).
Congrats with your modest horn set up & tuning (evolution).
It's music .... I like it.
Karel
 

Walnut Horns

Well-Known Member
May 11, 2015
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#40
After owning many different dynamic speakers over the years, a few years ago I commissioned Jeffrey Jackson to build me a 4-way horn system. No doubt horn systems take a little more effort to implement, but to me, the payoff was absolutely worth it. It has great tone, transparency, dynamics, effortlessness and jump factor that was discussed in another thread. Well designed horns, whether manufactured 60 years ago or today, do not suffer from the SQ issues that are so often attributed to them. I recommend hearing a pair if possible. I live in NJ and you are welcome to come listen.
 

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