A Discussion on Speaker Dynamics

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by J-ROB, May 4, 2018.

  1. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    I'm 50s technology myself, so I don't have any problem with it.

    But I like 40s technology better, followed by 30s technology.

    If you really want dynamics, 30s technology is the ticket.

    --Open baffle with short horn waveshaping element on front of woofer-- no stored energy. No time lag, no smear.
    --Super high grade drivers, cost no object in fact
    --High Qts extremely well damped woofers. 18" woofers with light cones under 2oz.

    That is a 1936 Western Electric Mirrophonic system!

    FAR FAR beyond anything else in dynamics. Don't expect to fit it in your car, however.

    An then there are various compromise to evaluate. Sealed box would be my preference for smallish home speakers looking for dynamics. Bass reflex is basically a trick to jack up LF per cu.ft., one that can sound pretty good generally, at a cost.

    And I'd go for light paper drivers, highish Q and compression driver HF. More power and higher damping factor will not make a slow, heavy, high xmax driver super fast, although it can improve things.

    Haha--just found a vid of yours truly demoing the Mirrophonic Model 2. Never watched it before. Looking pretty burnt on the last day of the show there, Roberts!:tongue:

    Last edited: May 4, 2018
  2. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    High Qts, eh?
    Makes sense* on an open baffle, but not what I'd expected for other flavors of enclosure.

    to me, that is -- not like I really know anything about this stuff.
  3. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    Moving a heavy cone a long distance, stopping on a dime, and going the other way? Seems like a basic inertia problem.

    Power and damping factor helps but why not take on an easier job?

    The tradeoff is ultimate extension, but super LF is not where dynamics in music happen. Maybe Jurassic Park soundtrack but not generally.

    Anyway, I think that turning off fast is as important as the rise time. I want a high Q response. Stored energy is a dynamics killer.

    I can speak in technological terms but my real argument is experiential. Once you hear a large scale open back LF rig like that WE "W" baffle, that experience sets a standard in some vital ways. Fast and very agile.

    That's why we dragged that 600lb. per side speaker to Germany, to give people a chance to hear it. And, to the high end plastic speaker manufacturers, if you can't beat an 80 year old speaker, what are you doing there?:beat

    Actually, speaker manufacturers are the biggest fans of our traveling museum demos. This stuff is not practical in any way, but it does illustrate some important principles.
    TubeHiFiNut, je2a3, billfort and 3 others like this.
  4. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    Ahh, OK, I must've misinterpreted your previous post. I thought you were generically espousing high Q drivers in enclosures as well as for open baffle implementations.

    My belief is that most of the loudspeaker developments post WE/the "talkies" was driven by an interest to domesticate loudspeakers (literally). The aforementioned 600 lb behemoth wouldn't have even fit (or fit into) Jay Gatsby's home terribly well.

    ... and then stereo came along (for better or worse).

    But I digress.
  5. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    Some high Qts driver work great in boxes, sealed boxes. Take the classic WE Altec 755A, for example. Works on an OB, works in a sealed box, works in a leaky box, back horn, etc.

    Before hifi, say 1950, radio and jukeboxes were the sound machines, and the same speakers used in the big theater systems, Jensen-style field coils were the best speakers for that too. Same with electric organs.

    With the introduction of Alnico V in the 40s, it became possible to have speakers that didn't need a power supply to work. The field coil 12" of the TOTL EH Scott radios gave way to the 12" WE 728B of the TOTL Capeharts.

    Really good speakers in the early days of hifi were still big however, and miniaturized or at least domesticated versions of the archetypal theater topologies.

    I register some 35hz energy from my 728Bs in 4 cu ft sealed cabs on an RTA and can hear same on a frequency sweep, but it really kicks in above 50hz. This is a fairly big box by today's home standard, but, sadly, it is all I can get away with.

    Making matters much worse was the shift to the imaging/soundstaging aesthetic in the 80s, wherein dynamics was not a primary objective, and could even negatively impact the desired illusion of everything nicely arrayed in a showbox. A speaker with squashed dynamics and a touch of HF boost with do that just fine, better in fact than a super punchy "forward" speaker, which many of us are liking again these days.

    I think of the Spica TC-50 and Celestion SL-600 of the 80s. Imaged like crazy, flat portrayal with no punch and snap. Everybody loved them, including me. However, I soon came to my senses on the bigger picture.

    Back then, and even now, I liked Snells. They have good snap per cu.ft. and an open, lively sound. Still have two pairs, E and K. Also, Fried TLs from my hometown of Philly, but I like the LF more than the HF on those.

    How to get dynamics on par with large theater speakers in a 2 cu.ft. or less box? Good question! Let me know if you find it. I think compromise is unavoidable.

    The first thing that has to happen is that skilled designers need to recognize that dynamic portrayal is a desirable goal, which is happening more and more. The worst that could happen is that consumers have a wider range of presentations to select from. A chamber music fan might be happy with lower dynamics than a reggae or techno freak. And there are still a lot of people listening and evaluating in the imaging/soundstaging mode who aren't missing the dynamics. if this is a hidden secret, it is hidden in plain sight.

    I don't pay too much attention to the contemporary speaker market, but I have heard Zu and Volti speakers with decent dynamic portrayal and somewhat manageable size.

    I got to hear the US Army Blues, the Army's top jazz ensemble, last week. NO speaker will portray the dynamics of an 18 piece brass jazz orchestra. A five piece trumpet line will kill any loudspeaker on a wicked horn stab. Near take you head off!


    Couple vids at the bottom of the page. Great band...but they didn't "image" as well as many high-end speakers.:p
  6. marantzfan

    marantzfan Administrator Staff Member

    In the original thread "Why do Most Speaker Suck at Dynamics?" in the Meadowlark Forum, there were really two seperate conversations going on at the same time.

    In the interest of continuing what are really two excellent (but different) conversations moving forward, I've created this thread and moved some posts over here.

    Please proceed gentlemen. ;)
    JimPA likes this.
  7. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    (FWIW) I have that same wry thought often when listening to live music (amplified or au naturel).
  8. mhardy6647

    mhardy6647 Señor Member

    PS and also FWIW -- I do think a separate discussion, maybe even a forum, on ways to dynamic Nirvana is a good idea.
    I was gonna start one myself, since the topic is leads to places way different than the PM was asking about in his thread... but it's a gorgeous day in NH, Mrs. H is chasin' spring migrants (birds, that is) in NJ, and I had some chores to do.

  9. Prime Minister

    Prime Minister Site Owner Staff Member

    And we aren't listening to the same thing. With recorded music the best we can hope for is to recreate what the mic "heard". Which is a very different thing then what an audience member will hear anyway.
    I sang opera, on and off, for a few decades. God only knows how many hours I've stood beside an open grand piano. So that experience, for me, programmed into my head what a grand piano should sound like.

    To a person sitting in the audience, that Piano would have been a totally different experience.

    Had someone, for some reason, have decided to record that, it would have been a third, totally different experience. So which one is right?

    Imaging is a view of the recording made possible by the mic, and the reproduction of that recording through the system behind it. It's a cool add on to the recording that gives us an actual "image", or something resembling that image, through our ears instead of our eyes. Whether you like it or chase it, it's just another aspect of the hobby.
    dogscanskate likes this.
  10. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    Well, I was answering the original question in the other post. I didn't sense two discussions at all.

    Trying to make two discussions out of it, in my mind, obviates the recognition of socio-historical factors that got us where we are today, which is surrounded by undynamic, boring-ass box speakers.

    First we have to own the history of loudspeaker development and understand the logic that got us here, when the first exemplars of the technology did not exhibit the problem we now suffer.

    I usually catch 3-5 concerts a month, sometimes more. Every genre. I find that there is a lot less detail, HF energy, and imaging in live music than in hifi. Much of what is valorized by the industry and adherents are by-products of microphone placement and the reductionistic character of recording technique.

    While fidelity to live music is an often-cited foundational myth of hifi audio, the reality is that audio has taken turns that have little to do with live music and much to do with audiophile wankery and techno jibber-jabber.

    For my ears, a good attempt at capturing musical dynamics is an essential characteristic of a speaker. The biggest distortion in audio may be the perversion of the sense of scale of live performance. How people can listen to a five foot wide window of soundstage with squashed dynamics and excessive sizzle, and somehow convince themselves that this is realistic is lost on me.

    Maybe because many listeners don't have the frame of reference to realize these limitations?

    The speakers I critique can provide musical enjoyment in spite of their limitations, for sure, but adjustment of our evaluative program away from the idealistic fantasies of the imaging-crazed 80s high-end aesthetic towards a more musically appropriate set of criteria would help us get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves, the topic of the "other" thread.
    dogscanskate likes this.
  11. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    Interesting comment. Even with my addiction to big horns, I can't quite bring myself to part withmy original Snell Type A speakers.
  12. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    The only experience of that performance you can bring to your home is the recording.

    The system that best recreates what you felt, your emotional response, is the best system.....for you.

    That's what I look for in my systems.

    Just my opinion.
  13. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member


    And in the proper reproduction of dynamics, size most definitely matters. ;)
  14. Prime Minister

    Prime Minister Site Owner Staff Member

    No amen from me.
    I've never heard a system of any kind that accurately reproduced the scale and dynamics of a live orchestra. So it all comes down to tradeoffs and choices. I don't see how a five foot window is any more or less of a tradeoff then a 10 foot window. Neither one captures the real performance. It just reflects a different set of tradeoffs and priorities.
    StevenZ likes this.
  15. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    We all have to make compromises...with the possible exception of the big WE system that @J-ROB was demonstrating in the video or the similar big theater system a friend has in his listening room.

    My horns or the systems @billfort , @marantzfan and others listen to every day may come close but, again, size matters.

    I've owned and listened to more speakers over the past 45 years than I'd care to admit. Where dynamics are concerned, big horns come far closer than anything (with the possible exception of big Electrostats - different compromises) to ringing my "dynamics chime".

    If your experience is different, that's cool. We each hear with our own ears. ;)

    And....as always.....YMMV. :)
  16. Prime Minister

    Prime Minister Site Owner Staff Member

    My issue wasn't around horns or Altecs and the dynamics they produce. I've spent lots of hours at @billfort s house, and his system is easily amongst the top 3 I have ever heard. Price no object.

    My objection was to the notion that a 5 foot window into the music was somehow unrealistic, while a 10 foot window, or whatever size you feel those bigger speakers create, isn't. They are BOTH unrealistic. The owners of those systems were just willing to make different tradeoffs or compromises.
  17. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    I think we are both saying the same thing. ;)

    One person's acceptable compromises are another person's "fingernails on a chalkboard". ;)

    I think that I make myself eminently clear that I only speak for me.....my ears.....my biases.....my brain.....my perceptions.....my enjoyment.

    One of the reasons that The Haven is so refreshing is that there is a recognition that different audiophiles like different gear and we can still constructively discuss stuff without the ABX (or some other group) police dropping in to tell me that my preferences can't possibly be correct for me and that I need to reorient my thinking to the orthodoxy of the day.

    OK.....rant mode off. ;)

    Back to your regularly scheduled programming. :)
    marantzfan likes this.
  18. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    i agree. I used to record the Philadelphia Orchestra and most of that scale and dynamic contrast doesn't make it onto the tape, ever.

    I will say, though, that with a good recording a 113dB/W Mirrophonic system intended for a 3000 seat theater helps. And the window is a lot wider than 10 ft wide. It is room filling wide, even in a very big room.

    The speakers are each about 8 feet wide, after all, without wings.

    I'd argue that this offers a major improvement over a five foot window for orchestral reproduction. I like to play Mahler 5 on it at shows.

    Also, having that open baffle 2x18" bass below 300hz makes the presentation a lot faster and more open than most bass bins or subwoofers. It turns off instantly. Very huge difference that is difficult to describe in a way that would convince someone who has not heard it, let alone a skeptic.

    So, yeah, there is a continuum of orchestral scale reproduction, even if the upper end does not approach an actual orchestra.

    I'd love to wheel a pair of Mirrophonic M2s onto the stage of The Academy of Music, longtime home of the Philly Orchestra where I have heard dozens of concerts and site of early WE stereo experiments in the Stokowski days, to see what they sound like in a real amphitheater, but that is unlikely to happen.

    And then there's Deep Purple Made in Japan at stadium levels...that's fun too.
    Last edited: May 5, 2018
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  19. dogscanskate

    dogscanskate Junior Member

    Shouldn't dynamics be linked to scale? In a small room, when instruments are bigger than life (scale to fit the acoustics and size of the room) I believe it leads to a caricature of the musical performance. Feeling a 3' snare drum in a small room is something I remember that sounded so awkward.

    What is lifelike in a listening room? If a system puts me on stage with the musicians, it becomes unbearable to me. Do you factor scale in your set-ups? Just curious..
  20. J-ROB

    J-ROB Senior Member

    I think a lot of that comes from close mics. The overhuge, hyperdetailed sonic image is pretty weird but audiophiles seem to get used to it and like it. The giant acoustic guitar and King Kong sized female vocal combo is an audiophile standby. You would think Tuck and Patti are 20 feet tall Goliaths from the LPs and Patti's mouth is so wide she could munch down whole cantaloupes like M&Ms.

    On the other hand, many instruments, such as electric guitars and blues harp, both of which I play, are really big in the room even with a small 8" Fender amp. Recorded, they often come out sounding too small to sound real. Maybe the mics aren't catching the massive amount of reflected sound you get in a room? An open back amp seems almost non-directional in a smaller room. BIG.

    Lack of realistic dynamics and scale are not total impediments to musical enjoyment, but if realism becomes part of the aesthetic these factors could use some further attention generally in hifi audio, in both recording and playback.

    There is an argument that smaller, dynamics, scale, and even bandwidth compromised setups are more comfortable in small rooms but this can often get away from some important contributions to realism.

    But I don't think realism is really that important to audiophiles, although they say it is and probably believe it.
    John Frum and dogscanskate like this.

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